A key solution for improving the livelihoods of subsistence farmers is to improve their income through agroforestry. As soils are depleted from erosion, repeat cropping and over grazing, there are few options to improve agricultural productivity. Inorganic fertilisers are commonly used in western countries but are not affordable or available to subsistence farmers. The best solution is to reintroduce trees to the farm land.
Trees help to heal the land. Canopies protect soils from damaging winds and intercept valuable air-borne sediments. Some species, like acacias, are leguminous and able to collect nitrogen from the atmosphere and return it to the soil. Tree root systems have the ability to access nutrients deep in the soil profile and deposit them back into the topsoil as they shed their bark and leaves. Trees also encourage micro-organisms in the soil profile, which play a very important role in improving the soil fertility.
In addition to improving agricultural productivity, trees diversify farm products and therefore reduce risk. Trees can be grown for fodder, timber, edible fruits and seed or for medicinal purposes.