The Food Forest Program is a simple, replicable and scalable approach. By planting specific types of fast-growing trees, fruit trees, hardwoods and food crops in a systematic manner over a four year period, families can positively change their lives forever. Food Forest consist of permanent agro-ecological system that provide families with sustainable food sources, livestock feed, products to sell, fuel wood and a significant increase in their annual income.
Food Forest Program methodology follows a phased approach that begins with mobilizing resources and stakeholders, then guides farmers through a series of steps, over the course of up to four years, through which they learn to design, establish, and manage their Food Forest before graduating from the program.
The five-phase approach includes:
Mobilization – In the first phase of the approach we hire project staff and meet with relevant stakeholders (government reps, community leaders, and potential partners) to solicit their support and formalize the project. With the help of stakeholders we identify interested farmer groups, lead farmers, and participants, and host orientation workshops prior to pursuing training and extension activities.
Protection – Phase II through IV comprise the phases of Food Forest establishment. In the protection phase we provide farmers with the skills and resources needed to protect their Food Forest sites. Farmers achieve this by planting green walls around the perimeters of their sites. They then plant fast-growing fertilizer trees throughout their sites, often in alleys among their crops, to further stabilize their soils and enhance fertility.
Diversification – As the green walls grow and soils become increasingly fertile, farmers begin to diversify the products they grow in their Food Forests. During this phase, farmers plant higher-value vegetables, fruit, nut, and timber trees. They also learn increasingly advanced skills and techniques that will help them manage their Food Forests more effectively and sustainably.
Optimization – In the fourth phase, farmers will learn to adopt advanced Food Forest planting and care, integrated pest management, and conservation techniques that optimize and ensure the long-term health, productivity, and profitability of their land.
Graduation – The fifth and final phase of Food Forest Program approach consists of transitioning ownership of the project to the farmer groups to continue supporting each other as a team in the on-going development and management of their Food Forests and marketing of products. Projects are concluded with a graduation ceremony during which we recognize the efforts and accomplishments of farmers, staff, and other stakeholders, and present farmers who have completed the program with Master Food Forest Certification.