Agroforestry is a beautiful way to produce crops. The essence is to create a usable forest. The forested hilltops capture rain and the roots allow it to flow underground making its way downhill over a matter of months rather than minutes as runoff. To create a forest we look at the canopy and fill up the space similar to how a forest is structured. While many crops get higher yields when grown alone, total farm outputs are higher in an agroforestry system. In areas of the coast that have not been displaced by colonialism we can see the traditional agroforestry system which once dominated to coast. Areas such as ours displaced by colonialism have been deforested forgotten this system. Having a poly culture gives the system greater nutrient and carbon capturing ability, greater disease resistance, erosion control and high diversity of yields meaning better nutrition for people and soil.
We need to think about sun/wind/water, stacking the canopy, sacking the roots (deep roots, wide roots), and functions such as medicine, fiber, nitrogen fixers, pest repellents, and food meaning vegetable, fruit, flavor, starches.
We start with stacking the canopy. On the coast our over-story is coconuts. Coconuts fall into just about every category. They provide roofing material, antibacterial cloth, fuel for fires, cooking oil, water, probiotics, alcohol. They allow plenty of sun to penetrate their branches for the plants below. Their roots are wide and branching. The width of their reach brings in many nutrients making their leaves excellent mulch. The highly branched nature of the roots allows them to hold onto soil making them perfect in valley bottoms affected by floods. Here is a pretty picture about how amazing they are.
Learn how the coconut tree provides all-around benefits — from its husks and roots to coconut oil — through our infographic “Plant of Life: An Infographic on Various Coconut Uses.” Use the embed code to share it on your website or visit our infographic page for the high-res version.
Under the coconuts in an upper mid story of mangoes, citrus, bananas, papaya are traditionally grown. Some non-traditional but useful trees are noni (medicine), breadfruit (which mulches itself very effectively and provides a starchy fruit), jack fruit, and sour sop.
In a lower mid story are plants like coffee and cacao with high market value, sunn hemp for fiber, beneficial microorganism attractant, bee and goat food, and nematode repellent, pigeon peas for nitrogen fixation , bee and goat food, delicious high protein peas, Moringa for medicine and vegetables.
Below these are plants such as sweet potato, taro, pumpkin which all have leaves for vegetables as well as starchy parts and act as ground covers. The under story is a good place for herbs as well.
Here is an example diagram of an integrated farm model.