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Background info

Adour Garonne watershed (administrative regions, Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Occitanie).

In the Adour-Garonne watershed, different types of climate exist. Firstly, an oceanic climate predominates in the western part of the watershed. It is characterised by mild temperatures and relatively abundant rainfall spread throughout the year. The proximity of the Pyrenees can reinforce the rainfall in winter and spring. In the Toulouse region the semi-continental climate is characterised by greater temperature differences between winter and summer, accentuated by the distance from the sea. Rainfall is lower than on the coast, except on the edges of the hills.

Indeed, near the Pyrenees and the Massif Central, we find a mountain climate, with temperatures decreasing with altitude, colder winters, snowy with more precipitation, and cool and humid summers. Finally, in the south-eastern part of the basin, to the east of the Toulouse region, we find a Mediterranean-influenced climate, characterised by mild winters, hot summers, a lot of sunshine, little precipitation and frequent violent winds.

Thanks to fertile soils and a favourable climate, agriculture is one of the major economic activities of the rural territory of the Adour-Garonne watershed. Large areas of pine forest (Landes forest) were cleared in the 60s to provide farming lands to French citizens (farmers) repatriated from Algeria. It is home to a third of French farms and provides 230,000 direct or indirect jobs. The variety of relief, climates and soils has generated a great diversity of production, the main orientations of which are: field crops, cattle, sheep and goat rearing, mixed farming and large areas of wine growing.

Occitanie is number one for organic production in France. Region Nouvelle-Aquitaine is similar. They share this watershed. Access to water is a big concern as there will be an increasing shortage in the years to come. Shifting farming practices, and incorporating agroforestry, has the power to re-establish the water cycle.

 

Location

Adour Garonne Watershed

20 year vision

In the next 20 years, in the South-West of France, the agricultural population expects a global modification of the climatic context and of the environmental and agronomic components:

  • decline in biodiversity
  • soil erosion
  • decrease in the amount of freshwater availableclimate change: increased droughts and short periods of rainfall.

The aim of the landscape restoration project is :

  • 100% of agriculture’s carbon emissions offset by reintegrating trees and hedges into its agricultural territories and by generalising agroecology.
  • 5 million jobs created: with a potential of 500,000 direct jobs and 2 million indirect jobs created, agroforestry is a lever for economic development in all food sectors.
  • 30% reduction in irrigation needs: thanks to covered and regenerated soils and landscape restructuring, water management on farms can be significantly improved.

 

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4 Returns

Although the agro-ecological transition is a long process marked by failures and successes, it allows farmers and local stakeholders to take partial ownership of its governance.

The perfectible examples observed on the ground are inspiring. More than perfect success stories, it is the energy that drives change that inspires farmers. However, it is necessary to bear in mind that robust numerical references are essential to justify the relevance of a transition.

City, countryside, agriculture, forest, etc. This compartmentalisation has no place when considering the extent and diversity of agro-ecological practices in France. This is why a transfer of knowledge is important in the context of an agro-ecological transition that raises issues (food, soil fertility, maintenance of territorial dynamics). The aim is to rediscover the common sense, ingenuity and versatility characteristic of the farming world.

Trees well managed and a co-management of resources create positive dynamics. This helps to find a balance between ecology and sustainable growth. Agroecology gives the opportunity to optimize working time and makes sense from farmers’ point of view.

Trees well integrated into value chains enhance living conditions, providing attractive landscapes, healthy food, sustainable resources and biodiversity.

The fertile landscape contributes to creating jobs that make sense and which are themselves part of this transition. It is a support for education, especially education on local issues.

> social cohesion

> inclusivity/participation

Biodiversity

The diversification of crops and the presence of cover crops enrich plant and animal biodiversity: mycorrhizae, insects, birds, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, etc. which will enhance root networks and aerial parts, as a support, food resource or habitat. Trees contribute to animal well-being by providing shade and fodder for the animals.

Water

Plants influence the water flows in a territory. Quality, quantity and availability are inseparable because a well-occupied soil (on the surface and in depth, thanks to a dense root tissue) will play a triple role: purifier, tank and buffer.

Plants enhance biological activity and soil biodiversity, which favours root symbioses and allows plants to mobilise and draw on the available water stock in the soil, like a sponge. The natural drainage provided by the roots encourages the infiltration of water into the soil.

Fertility

Plants capture nutrients (e.g. nitrates) and buffer excess water. As a result, the quantity of soluble elements in the water tends to decrease, its quality increases and the costs of treatment decrease.

The soil cover of leguminous foliage fixes nitrogen, protects the soil and serves as fertilizer. Crop residues, leaves and roots provide organic matter and minerals. The roots of the trees allow the assimilation of minerals from the deep layer of the soil, through the breakdown of the bedrock.

Climate

Agriculture, which is both a source and a sink of carbon, is often singled out as the main emitter of greenhouse gases. However, depending on how the agroecosystem is managed, it can be a solution that contributes to mitigate climate change, thanks in particular to the storage of carbon in the soil, not forgetting the more numerous and diversified local outlets for agricultural products (polyculture).

If all the arable land in the Adour-Garonne watershed stored the average amount of carbon sequestered annually by Agr’eau farms, 3,956,040 teqCO2/year would be stored, or the average annual emissions of 527,000 inhabitants.

If this land stored as much carbon as the 20 farms most advanced in the Agr’eau “produce and protect” approach, agriculture in the South-West would store the average annual emissions of more than 1 million inhabitants.

The economic impacts of agroecology, and in particular agroforestry, depend strongly on the technical and organisational choices made in running the systems. Nevertheless, some trends can be identified:

– these practices are opportunities to diversify agricultural systems

– they can limit dependence on external inputs

– they increase the overall productivity of systems by maximising biomass production for the same unit of land

– they limit yield differences from one year to the next by buffering climatic effects.

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