Agroforestry policy development in England: a question of knowledge transference

October 2023
Rosemary Venn, Sara Burbi


  • Limited evidence for knowledge transference in critical policy documents.
  • Ecosystem Services as a framework cannot guide a re-imagining of our food systems.
  • Agroecology as a framework is not supported in policy despite abundant research and support.
  • Agroforestry policy in England should be rooted in agroecological principles and form part of a land-use framework.


Agroecology as a concept for reimagining food systems has grown in popularity and is now used in several food and agriculture policy frameworks around the world. While there is a significant body of research around agroecology, its origins, applications, and as a much-needed transition pathway to sustainable food systems, there is limited understanding on how agroecology may be situated within policy frameworks and how agroecological knowledge may be used to inform decision-making. In England, as the Government’s post-Brexit subsidy scheme – the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMs) – is developed, various sectoral actors are employing different frameworks in attempts to deliver multiple objectives around land use, food, agriculture and biodiversity. This paper reviews 3 influential frameworks (Sustainable Development Goals, Ecosystem Services, FAO’s 10 Principles of Agroecology) and assesses the degree to which they contribute to the development of agroecologically-oriented policy in England. With a specific focus on agroforestry as an exemplar agroecological approach, this paper contributes to the limited policy literature on agroecology. Using thematic and content analysis, nine policy documents pertaining to agroforestry were reviewed, resulting in a ‘degree of embeddedness’ being assigned to each framework. Results showed that all three frameworks had a low degree of embeddedness in policy; in other words, none of the frameworks considered have been coherently integrated into current policy documents. With such urgency to halt environmental degradation, biodiversity loss, climate breakdown and food insecurity, the apparent lack of knowledge transfer within critical policy documents is noteworthy. This paper concludes with a set of broad policy recommendations, applicable at both the EU and national level, alongside a set of recommendations specifically for agroforestry policy development in England.

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