The agroforestry movement in Sweden

Report by Mauricio Sagastuy, EURAF's swedish delegate

Book Skogsträdgården (the forest garden) written by Philipp Weiss and Annevi SjöbergIn this article I want to present the current situation of agroforestry in Sweden. My name is Mauricio Sagastuy. I am a teacher on the subject of agroforestry at Angereds gård, an adult education center within the green sector, and I am one of the two Swedish delegates in EURAF.

In Sweden there is a big “movement” of forest-gardening. There are many people, organizations and networks that are working to create diverse and biologically rich forest gardens. Two of the most important actors in forest gardening in Sweden are Philipp Weiss and Annevi Sjöberg. They educate people about forest gardens through workshops, social media and through their blog. Moreover, they wrote the book “Skogsträdgården” (the forest garden) in 2018. This book won the price of the year´s gardening book in Sweden in 2018, which created a bigger interest in the general public to work with and promote forest gardens. Forest gardens are usually small-scale in Sweden and they are mainly found at people´s homes, small scale farms and in some public parks and schools. Forest gardens are usually practiced as a “hobby” or for educational purposes and they are most often not so profitable agroforest systems. This is due to the countries’ high labor costs and a colder climate that inhibits close spacing of the plants and a slower biomass production rate compared to warmer countries.

 

 

 

Active members of Agroforestry Sweden

On the other side, bigger and more profitable agroforestry systems are gaining slowly more popularity in Sweden. Two of the most important organizations working for bigger scale agroforestry systems are Agroforestry Sweden and Angereds gård. Agroforestry Sweden was created in 2016 and it is a non-governmental organization that serves as a platform to promote agroforestry in Sweden. They contribute to the “agroforestry movement” especially through networking events. Moreover, the land management school Angereds gård is teaching farmers and interested people how to create profitable agroforestry systems in Sweden since 2019

The beginning of an agroforestry system at Angereds gård, where students learn about profitable agroforestry system

These organizations are two examples that reflect the growing interest among practitioners and researchers for promoting agroforestry in Sweden. Windbreaks and alley-cropping are the two agroforestry systems that are most promising for Sweden´s agriculture. Several farmers are starting to create alley-cropping systems. Kjell and Ylwa Sjelin are two organic farmers that are working with cereal production and animals. They are one of Sweden´s first large scale agroforestry-pioneers. In their farm they work with forest renewal with pigs, forest gardens and they also have one of the most well-established alley-cropping systems in Sweden since 2015. Moreover, there are several farmers and researchers that are creating windbreak and alley-cropping demonstration sites that could help agricultural land in southern Sweden. Southern Sweden is the most fertile land of the country and it is characterized by a windy environment, a plane landscape and large-scale monoculture agricultural fields. Windbreaks or shelterbelts could increase yields in this region, while at the same time help pollinators, increase biodiversity and help this region mitigate and adapt to future climate changes

Alley-cropping at Vattholma, Kjell and Ylwa Sjelins agroforestry farm.

Forestry is an important industry in Sweden, and it is characterized by large-scale unsustainable clear-cut practices. These practices are damaging the local ecosystems and decreasing the lands productivity in the long term. However, there is also a growing number of forest owners and practitioners that are working towards more sustainable and diverse forestry practices. For example, since 2019 the organization Plockhugget is teaching forest owners how to work with so called “nature-based forestry practices” where instead of clear-cutting the forests they cut individual trees in a forest. In the long term this leads to higher profitability for forest owners, better wood quality (since the trees and forests are older and thus more valuable) and nature conservation. Angereds gård among other organizations is also teaching farmers and forest owners how to diversify their income through the cultivation of different non-timber forest products. 

 

High quality wood harvested by Plockhugget as an example of nature-based forestry practices

 

Finally, silvo-pastoral systems are traditional agroforestry systems in Sweden. Historically, cattle, sheep and goats used to graze in the Swedish forests, which lead to large impact on the structure and composition of the forests. Today, these semi-natural pastures with bushes and trees are seen as cultural landscapes that should be protected due to their natural and cultural values. Subsidies are given to farmers that practice this type of land-use.

Nowadays, there are around 200 farmers working with this type of cultural landscape, using approximately 15 000 ha. They are organized in a national association called “Svenska Fäboföreningen”. For more information on silvo-pastoral systems in Sweden, please take a look at here.

These organizations and practitioners are just some of the many examples that illustrate the growing interest of the general public in agroforestry in Sweden. For further information click on the links below.