Climate Change Disaster

I am receiving reports from several SSA countries that many crops have been destroyed by drought and/or flooding in recent weeks so no food is being produced!
It may be that in these countries only trees will survive in the future?.
Apart from Moringa, what other trees can be suggested to small farmers?


@Roger_Gietzen is an Agroforester who does a grat deal in design and promotion of syntropic systems.
@Michael_T_Cooley is an Agroforester who does consultation work in Africa.
@Luke_Little is ECHO Florida’s tree specialist and grew up in West Africa.
@Bryan_Beachy is a fruit tree expert who has tried lots of different trees, systems, and approaches to trees in agriculture. He also has seen what trees survive natural disasters in Haiti.
Hopefully, these men can encourage you by suggesting some tree species they have had success with in their contexts!

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This topic of growing trees is an practical alternative for our communities. We have had crops washed away due to heavy downpours

What trees I would recommend depends on the primary focus of the farm and how much they are willing to manage the trees. There are few trees that do well in prolonged flooding situations, but many that can help with drought.

For syntropic farming, you can plant basically any trees on the farm, but the farmer needs to know what niche the tree fills in regards to stratum and life span. They also need to be willing to prune the trees regularly to maintain correct sun exposure for all levels of the system.

If you are just looking for some species that are good for interspersed tree planting then gliricidia and inga are well proven options. They will create some resilience to drought (inga would do better with brief flooding), but not nearly as much as a syntropic system.

I hope this is helpful and the other guys mentioned also have a wealth of knowledge to share too.


Roger, thank you for the advice. We shall come back once we have questions to ask .

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There are, of course, the classic tropical soft fruits - mango, papaya,… For protein, starch, and/or oil: edible (seed) acacias, breadfruit and breadnut (Artocarpus spp.), mesquite (Prosopis spp), Maya nut (Brosimum spp), coconut, avocado, banana/plantain (Musa spp., not botanically a tree, but perennial root system), tropical almond (Terminalia spp.), Inca nut (Plukenetia spp.), cashew, Canarium spp., numerous palms. (ECHO published Franklin Martin’s “Palms for Development”.) Dead trees can be used to grow edible fungus.
I have articles/books/references on all of these.

Macauba: a promising tropical palm for the production
of vegetable oil

Edible Acacias

I would agree with Roger’s summation (of course!) and add to the list that Robert gave with nitrogen fixers such as Leucaena and Gliricidia, or trees such as Inga as a row mulch species to grow crops between for better resilience to drought and flooding, also as Roger mentioned. Alley-cropping can be a very simple way to build crop resilience and incorporate trees into a farm system.

I always recommend the following 4 vegetable trees in the tropics: moringa of course, chaya, chaom (climbing wattle for edible fencing), and ketuk (sweetleaf). And of course any hardy and reliable fruit and nut trees. Edible bamboo is also a must on any farm for its many uses.

We think and teach in functions needed, which will differ from person to person. Having household (and community) conversations about what is available, what needs they fill, and gaps throughout the year is key.

Indigenous species are sorely ignored - we don’t need e.g. moringa around the world, we have our own treasures to tap into.

Here are tools we use in Malawi:

This flyer is continually updated with Malawi foods (from the sustainable nutrition manual) highlighting indigenous, native species: SNM Flyer Malawi Food List (2022.07.18 updated).pdf - Google Drive

Sustainable Nutrition Manual (SNM): Food, Water, Agriculture & Environment Free manual, flyers, drawings, and posters Sustainable Nutrition Manual | Never Ending Food

I would like to change the focus from “climate change” to best management practices for “climate resilience”. No matter what the seasonal weather variation or long-term climate variation throws at us. Best management practices in relation to planting crops such as trees (the focus of the question) should be founded on calculating long-run income per hour. Also, an important factor in flooding management is “water mastery”. Developed countries, particularly those not beset with extreme environmentalist “fragile earth, no human management allowed” ideology make changes to their water management or watershed management systems to improve their long-term productivity. That takes high-income cropping systems to free up money for reinvestment in water mastery solutions and local community organizing with government funding from taxation or private investment in water management such as improved drainage canals and dams, etc. When water is being “mastered” there is generally more available and stored for irrigation and more water moving into the underground water table, and more water being stored from water harvesting from diversion or terracing and also for hydroelectric and municipal use. Roland Bunch discusses the fact that lack of fertility is exacerbating the effects of short-duration lulls in rainfall that with more fertility don’t set the crop back much but with poor farming practices create severe droughts. Roland has been suggesting that we intercrop with perennial legumes both herbaceous and tree legumes. You can also put organic matter in the planting hole and develop microswales that lead additional water into the planting stations not completely refilled. On a small scale using human urine can make a huge difference in fertility when used with organic matter in planting stations but scaling up may require more legumes intercropped in the system to restore fertility. I would not suggest that we need to focus exclusively on trees just because we have a flooding problem. Trees succumb to flooding in many cases worse than crops. When a crop is flooded out often the crop can be replanted but when trees are underwater too long a long-term investment is just plain gone. That is why water high-income focus cooperation in a whole region, optimized by a push by the church which has the most capacity for wide-ranging cooperation in best management for water mastery is best. Let me give you some examples Arizona or the flood gates in New Orleans that should have been built to help prevent the hurricane Katrina disaster but were not due to concern for species of fish and as a result 1000 human lives were lost. Guava is generally more flood tolerant of all the tropical fruit trees and has some drought tolerance also. Coco yam or taro likes a year-round wet feet environment. Raised beds are often good options in flood-prone areas. Sunken beds are better for drought or dry season production. If you are making enough money through high-income production and tracking income per hour most often you can afford some loss from an occasional flood and still regroup and pull through. With subsistence or sustainability focused production in lieu of high-value, high-income per hour cropping you are more vulnerable to a flood because you are not generating money but depending on what you grow for your own food. And here in Africa we have a lot of highly educated youth that would love to be praised by the adults for helping parents track income per hour and also we have adults who would love to be recognized as great contributors to their communities by setting an example of tracking income per hour so that the rest of the society can benefit and the savings used to invest in flood control and in recooping from natural disasters.