The International Agroforestry Conference 2023 proved to be a resounding success, attracting 181 delegates from various sectors and geographical locations. This was the first international agroforestry conference in Ireland and it was heartening to see such large numbers of interested people from the Island of Ireland, Europe and further afield attend. The event provided a platform for knowledge exchange, networking, and discussions on the latest developments in agroforestry practices. The conference aimed to explore innovative practices, share research findings, and foster discussions around agroforestry and the multifaceted benefits that it can provide. It also aimed to unite what is a diverse group of interested stakeholders and provide a venue for positive collaboration and knowledge transfer. The conference reached out to a broad range of interested people, which included farmers, advisory services, agroforestry education extension services abroad, private forestry industry and academic institutions which included UCD, Kinsale College, Bangor University, QUB, and SETU. 181 people came to Bantry for the conference, 20% of these represented the United Kingdom, Europe, South Africa, and the United States.
Farmer Engagement: A significant portion of the conference delegates, almost 70%, comprised of farmers, some of whom were IAF members. However, the large number of newly interested farmers attending clearly demonstrated the increasing interest in adopting agroforestry under
the agroforestry measure that is available under Ireland’s new afforestation programme. Premium rates have increased to €975/ha/yr and farmers can now draw agroforestry support premium with organic support premium. The farm walks were particularly well-received and attendees found the farm visits to the 3 successful agroforestry pilots which were funded under the last forestry programme to be most informative and said it was a wonderful opportunity to see such successful agroforestry innovation in practice and the visits helped them to decide agroforestry was indeed a viable option for their farm.
Educational Focus: Representatives from schools and colleges contributed to the educational aspect of the conference, emphasising the importance of integrating forestry and agroforestry concepts into educational curricula both in Ireland and in other European countries. The conference served as a platform to explore opportunities for educational outreach and awareness.
Industry Insights: The forestry industry was well-represented at the conference, providing insights into the commercial aspects of agroforestry. There were discussions around sustainable
practices, market trends, and the economic viability of integrating trees into agricultural landscapes. The industry highlighted the need for training both for foresters and farmers.
Academic Discourse: Academia played a crucial role in presenting cutting-edge research, discussing the latest advancements, and fostering a spirit of innovation. The inclusion of academic perspectives added depth to the discussions and laid the groundwork for future research collaborations. A number of researchers displayed posters of their latest research in the stands area.
Conference delegates were treated to a diverse array of presentations and discussions that showcased the multifaceted benefits that agroforestry can provide. From improved animal welfare, soil health, and enhanced biodiversity to increased resilience against climate change.
The first International Agroforestry Conference on the island of Ireland successfully united a diverse group of stakeholders, fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange. The event’s emphasis on global perspectives, farmer engagement, and multi-sectoral representation underscores the importance of agroforestry as a sustainable land use practice with multifaceted ecosystem service benefits. The conference proceedings will undoubtedly serve as a valuable resource for those looking to further explore the integration of farming, forestry, and sustainable land use practices.
The Irish Agroforestry Forum would like to thank the Forestry Division of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine for providing funding and support for this conference. We would also like to thank our EURAF colleagues, particularly Gerry Lawson, Patrick Worms (World Agroforestry) and Tim Pagella (Woodland Forum) for speaking at the conference and all that attended.
Videos of the Conference Farm walks and interviews with farmers are available here. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKxoieQxn5ZCk9vlenyyL8Q
Conference Proceedings and presentations are available here
Videos of the conference presentations will also be available on our Youtube channel in the coming weeks when available.