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Understanding the Multidimensionality of Climate-Smartness: Examples from Agroforestry in Tanzania (lay summary)

This is a lay summary of the article published under the DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-92798-5_13

Published onApr 19, 2023
Understanding the Multidimensionality of Climate-Smartness: Examples from Agroforestry in Tanzania (lay summary)

Tanzanian farms growing food and wood for fuel are climate smart    

Researchers have encouraged Tanzanian farmers to grow different crops alongside each other or to grow wood for fuel. They said that making such “climate smart” changes could help farmers adapt to changing weather patterns, while making their farms more sustainable.

Ideally, climate smart practices should meet 3 goals. First, they should help farmers increase food and resource production on their farms. Second, they should improve farm resilience by helping farmers adapt to problems like drought or changing rainfall patterns. And third, they should reduce the amount of greenhouse gases farmers produce.

Here, researchers looked at whether intercropping (growing different crops alongside one another), and growing trees to provide wood as fuel, would meet these 3 climate smart goals.

Researchers talked to farmers who grow their own wood to use for cooking. Many of these farmers also use stoves specifically designed to use less wood, and so the researchers wanted to see how these two factors contribute to climate smart goals like farm productivity and lowering greenhouse gases. 

The researchers collected information from 110 farmers, about how much wood their trees produce, and how long that wood lasts for their family.

In other studies, which ran from 2015-2016, the researchers focused on intercropping practices in comparison to growing a single type of crop. Working with local farmers, they set up nearly 400 plots, growing either maize or cassava, and intercropping with plants that increase soil fertility, specifically legumes (beans and peas). They wanted to see if intercropping could help farmers produce more food, and if growing drought resistant crops like cassava and pigeon pea could make farms more resilient.

To measure the success of these practices, the researchers looked at the yield, or amount of wood or food, produced in each case. They also measured how much the land produced overall when the yield from different crops and resources was combined.

In most cases, they found that these practices did help farmers to meet climate smart goals.

Farmers’ wood yields varied depending on the type of trees and where they were planted. Nevertheless, some of the farmers were able to produce enough wood to last their families 6 years. The use of improved cooking stoves also meant that these families spent 32% less time gathering wood, and that their greenhouse gas emissions were reduced by 62%.

They found that intercropping maize with pigeon pea often lowered maize yields. But when they measured yield in terms of the combination of crops, the land was more productive with intercropping. They add that including a drought-resistant crop like pigeon pea also seems to increase farm resilience.

With cassava, intercropping led to much lower yields. They suggested that this drought-tolerant and resilient crop might need to be grown alone or with other crops not tested here. 

The scientists added that future researchers should pay careful attention to how they measure success or failure, and to trade-offs between different goals that could affect the value of climate smart practices.

They noted that including farmers in the process can help scientists understand how well these practices are likely to work on farms. 

The study was a collaboration between scientists from Tanzania and Germany.


Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) has three goals—productivity, resilience and mitigation. Rarely are these accounted for in CSA programming or the scientific evidence that supports it. Here, we evaluate the climate smartness of CSA-based agroforestry practices in Tabora and Dodoma, Tanzania using unpublished data from earlier studies. Firstly, a study of on-farm wood production and its use with the improved cook stove (ICS) was used to ascertain the productivity and mitigation effects of CSA. Next, intercropping experiments of maize or cassava with pigeonpea and/or G. sepium provided information on the production and resilience benefits of CSA. It was found that agroforestry practices (shelterbelt, trees on contours and intercropping) supplied up eight tons per hectare (t ha−1) of wood—enough to support a five-member family for up to 6 years when using ICS. Employing ICS also reduced the time spent in cooking (20%) and fuelwood collection (32%), and reduced gas emissions by 62%. Generally, intercropping pigeonpea or G. sepium enhanced farm production (as noted by a land equivalent ratio greater than 1) and agroecosystem resilience through crop diversification by using suitable intercropping arrangements and including a drought-resistant crop. Using the latter two in semi-arid Dodoma enhanced crop production across seasons and sites. Our analysis shows that adopting CSA-based agroforestry and intercropping practices is beneficial. However, these benefits are not universal. It also illustrates other key principles for understanding multidimensionality of CSA objectives, including the need to: select appropriate indicators, ensure designs are robust for heterogeneity, examine trade-offs, and conduct participatory evaluation of CSA.


This summary is a free resource intended to make African research and research that affects Africa, more accessible to non-expert global audiences. It was compiled by ScienceLink's team of professional African science communicators as part of the Masakhane MT: Decolonise Science project. ScienceLink has taken every precaution possible during the writing, editing, and fact-checking process to ensure that this summary is easy to read and understand, while accurately reporting on the facts presented in the original research paper. Note, however, that this summary has not been fact-checked or approved by the authors of the original research paper, so this summary should be used as a secondary resource. Therefore, before using, citing or republishing this summary, please verify the information presented with the original authors of the research paper, or email [email protected] for more information.

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