Failing to plan, is planning to fail

Agroforestry isn’t rocket science. It can be far more complicated than that. Planning for an agroforestry venture means keeping abreast of many moving parts. Each which may come with its own set of risks and uncertainties.

All of which can leave new producers or even seasoned veterans pondering where to start.

In all cases though, failing to plan is equivalent to planning to fail. Agroforestry has many built-in feedbacks and buffers that make these systems resilient and productive under variable conditions. But that doesn’t mean they can’t fail. Or at a minimum, become a costly exercise in self education.

This is the first in a series of articles intended to highlight where agroforestry ventures can fail. Exploring these areas before you start, can help you identify if agroforestry systems are best suited to meet your goals. And best suited to your time, talents and resources.

Five things to consider before starting your agroforestry (ad)venture

If you want to put yourself on a path to success, there are five key areas you should explore before establishing a new agroforestry planting. Each consideration requires an honest self evaluation of your resources and abilities, and some research into the available options.

I’ll cover each area in more detail in subsequent posts, with insights into how you should evaluate your options and potentials with respect to:

  1. Markets;
  2. Finances and Resources;
  3. Production Setting;
  4. Production Systems; and,
  5. Support.

An investment of your time in planning can avoid costly disappointments after shovels are already in the ground.

Prelude to Planting: Set Goals

Start with a clearly stated goal or goals. Why are you interested in agroforestry? Is it production diversification? Or are your primarily seeking conservation benefits? Are you trying to generate an income stream or offset costs? Maybe a bit of each of these?

Hope is a powerful motivator, but it shouldn’t be the cornerstone to your operational goals. Likewise, ‘it seems kinda neat’, is probably not a good basis from which to start a serious planning exercise. Take time to think through and articulate your goals.

If you can’t set a meaningful goal, that should be your cue to invest in self-education before advancing with your agroforestry designs.

Once you have established a clear set of goals, then work through each of the five planning areas to determine if an agroforestry venture is right for you.

In my next post I’ll cover market considerations you should investigate before starting into your agroforestry planting.