Agroforestry Education for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods: A Case Study of the Nyabyeya Forestry College, Masindi, Uganda

Gift O. Okojia[1]


Education, development and rural livelihoods are interlinked. Technical-level training produces middle-level personnel who are essential in the process of improving agroforestry education. Currently, Nyabyeya Forestry College is the only tertiary institution offering forestry, agroforestry and bee-keeping training at the technical level in Uganda. This paper highlights the evolution of agroforestry training at Nyabyeya and its role in improving livelihoods of rural communities. Although forestry training in Uganda started in 1932, agroforestry training was introduced in 1993 to provide technical personnel for organizations that are promoting agroforestry. The content of agroforestry in the curricula increased gradually, from being topics in 1993 to full modules in 1996, until agroforestry became a separate two-year diploma course in 2000. To ensure that trainees are adequately prepared, 38 teaching modules were developed. The curriculum includes 50% classroom and 50% practical work. To implement this curriculum, the college is equipped with trained staff, agroforestry demonstration plots, a tree nursery, an arboretum and a plantation. The college also utilizes the nearby communities and study tours to various parts of the country to reinforce the practical aspects of the training. The paper identifies competition from other tertiary institutions, remote location and declining support to colleges as major constraints to the improvement of agroforestry education. It recommends that more resources be invested to continuously review the curricula, maintain and expand the learning resources, strengthen collaborative linkages and outreach activities to match the quality and relevance of agroforestry education with the needs of stakeholders.


1.1 Education, Development and Rural Livelihoods

Education, development and sustainable rural livelihoods are inter-linked. The type of education and for whom it is available shapes a given society. It also influences people's ability to use tree-based rural livelihoods in more sustainable way. The overall aim of education is to prepare people to become active and informed citizens who are able to contribute to the economic and social development of the society.

1.2 Importance of technical personnel in adoption up process

Technical-level training provides middle-level personnel, who work as front-line staff to disseminate of innovations, which in turn enables rural communities to adoption sustainable tree-based livelihoods. Considerable progress has been made in agroforestry research and dissemination in Uganda since 1987. To accelerate adoption of ecologically and economically sound agroforestry innovations; it requires intensification of dissemination of improved agroforestry technologies in the areas where such work has been going on for some time. It also requires developing a national strategy that will also cover regions in which applications of improved agroforestry technologies for sustainable livelihoods are still in its early stages.

Figure 1 Eucalyptus seedlings integrated with beans on a farmland for sustainable livelihood and food security for rural communities.

Uganda is one of the least urbanised countries in Africa. Close to 84% of Ugandans live in rural areas and are pastoralists or practise subsistence agriculture. The 2002 Population and Housing Census confirms that 88% of Uganda's population lives in the rural areas (The New Vision 14 Jan 2003 p.16).

Land-use pattern in Uganda as of 1993 was 54% pasture/arable land, 21% forests/other protected areas, 14% water/wetlands and 11% cultivated land (NEMA, 2001). Although agroforestry has now been accepted as a productive and a sustainable alternative land use system, hence a sustainable rural livelihood, the dissemination of agroforestry technologies is seriously constrained by shortage of people with the skills and knowledge to research and promote agroforestry (ICRAF, 1993). Technical-level training has a major role in producing middle-level workers and in generating useful academic experiences for developing tertiary level education. It is effective training for producing frontline extension and development workers, teachers, technical assistants, research assistants, agribusiness workers and field supervisors (Zeleke and Temu, 1999).

In October 2000, a diploma course in agroforestry was launched at the college to produce technical-level graduates who will utilise knowledge and skills in agroforestry as a land use system in which the graduates set up their own enterprises, or help stakeholders to set up rural-based enterprises. The target is to serve the 88% or more Ugandans who live in the rural areas by introducing and managing appropriate agroforestry technologies in their respective agroecological zones.

1.2 The History, Vision and Mission of the College

1.2.1 The History

Currently, Nyabyeya Forestry College is the only tertiary training institution offering training in forestry, agroforestry and beekeeping at technical level in Uganda. The college is located in Masindi District in Mid-western Uganda. It is 245 km mid-west of Kampala City.

Technical Forestry Training in Uganda started in 1932 at a Forest School in Kityerera in Mayuge District, South-eastern Uganda. It offered mainly practical training to in-service staff of the Forest Department. The Forest School closed in 1936 due to outbreak of sleeping sickness in the areas. The Forestry School was moved and reopened at Nyabyeya Forestry College in 1948 to occupy buildings, which became vacant after refugees from Poland left the refugee camp at the end of the 2nd World War. A 2-year certificate course in forestry also started in June 1948 and a 2-year in-service diploma course in forestry started in 1955 for up-grading forestry certificate graduates which continues up to today.

1.2.2 The Vision

To be a centre of excellence in technical and practical training in forestry and related natural resources, and for research, development and application of appropriate forestry technologies in Uganda and beyond.

1.2.3 The Mission

To provide quality technical human resource in forestry and related natural resources, so as to achieve sustainable natural resource management and utilizaton for the benefit of the communities and the business enterprises utilising the forests.


Agroforestry is a traditional practice in many parts of Uganda, for example, the integration of trees into the coffee-banana system in the Lake Victoria Crescent and the parkland savannah system with selected trees in the north of the country. Nielsen (1995) presents evidence that agroforestry has been practised in Uganda for more than 5000 years while formal agroforestry research dates back to 1935. Recommendations for agroforestry (mainly shade trees) were developed with regards to cash crops, coffee in particular. Contour hedgerows were recommended in the Kigezi highlands in 1937 (Raussen, et al., 2001).

Since 1990, Nyabyeya Forestry College has been visiting agroforestry research sites in the country during the study tours. The College has also been participating in workshops and seminars on the development of agroforestry for sustainable rural livelihoods in Uganda. These interactions with stakeholders in agroforestry gradually led to the introduction of agroforestry education into the curriculum for certificate forestry in 1993. In 1996 and 1998 agroforestry became full modules in Diploma Forestry and Certificate Forestry Courses, respectively. Agroforestry then became a separate 2-year Diploma Agroforestry course in 2000. The Certificate Bee keeping Course that was introduced in 2000 also included 60 hours of agroforestry module.

The formation of the African Network for Agroforestry Education (ANAFE) in April 1993 strengthened agroforestry education further at the college. This was a direct fulfilment of ANAFE's objective to strengthen multi-disciplinary approaches to land use education, especially by incorporating agroforestry into teaching programmes (Temu, et. al., 2001).

The College thus became an active member of ANAFE and started the process of scaling up agroforestry education. In 1993, the College started teaching agroforestry as topics, which covered 20 hours, for an examination paper that consisted of 3 sections of Community Forestry, Agroforestry and Forestry Extension. In 1994 the College participated in the National Workshop on Agroforestry Education in Uganda through sponsorship of ANAFE. This further increased the College's interest in agroforestry education. In 1995, through support from the Regional Land Management Authority (RELMA) the curriculum for Diploma Forestry Course was reviewed. Therefore in 1996 Agroforestry became a separate module covering 90 hours.

In January 1998, through support from MS Uganda (Danish Association for International Cooperation), the curriculum for the Certificate Forestry Course was also reviewed and it made agroforestry a separate module covering 60 hours. June 1998, the college initiated a partnership for establishing agroforestry demonstration plots. ANAFE provided funding while the Forestry Resources Research Institute (FORRI) provided technical guidance for establishing and managing the plots. ANAFE has been providing regular support through the Regional Agroforestry Training Team for Eastern and Central Africa (RAFT-ECA) for maintaining these plots and implementing agroforestry curriculum.

In April 2000, a group representing 17 stakeholders developed a 2-year curriculum for Diploma Course in Agroforestry through the highly participatory process of Developing a Curriculum (DACUM). The DACUM process identified 13 spans of jobs, which could be performed, by a graduate of diploma agroforestry course. It also grouped the competences required for performing these jobs into 38 teaching modules. These modules are taught in five Academic Departments of Community Forestry (20), Environmental Forestry (09), Forestry Engineering (01), Forestry Management (07) and Forestry Utilization (1). The curriculum for Diploma Agroforestry course covers 50% theory lessons and 50% of practical fieldwork to develop both knowledge and skills. And the students are allocated plots in the demonstration farm where they practice various aspects of agroforestry for improving incomes food security of rural communities.


Poverty alleviation is not possible without the modernisation of the agriculture and forest sectors and more sustainable use of forest estate. Poverty alleviation, sustainable forest management and sustainable agriculture and livestock management are inter-linked (UFSCS, 2001). Hence, the integration of trees into farming systems results in economic, social and environmental benefits for land users.

To improve the quality and relevance of agroforestry education for sustainable rural livelihoods in Uganda, the College has a number of opportunities:

3.1 Collaboration and networking

The college collaborates and networks with various international and national organizations that are developing agroforestry innovations to exchange resources and information to scale up agroforestry education.

The Government of Uganda has continued to provide funding, infrastructure and staff to facilitate technical level training in forestry, agroforestry, beekeeping and carpentry. Development partners such as Norwegian Agency for International Development (NORAD) and MS Uganda (Danish Association for International Coorporation) have supported technical training in the college and outreach to the nearby communities.

The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and the African Network for Agroforestry Education (ANAFE) have provided funding and technical guidance on curriculum development, establishment and management of the agroforestry demonstration plots and donated literature for teaching agroforestry.

At national level, the College together with Forest Department, Uganda Forest Sector Coordination Secretariat (UFSCS), the Forestry Resources Research Institute and Makerere University - Faculty of Forestry and Nature Conservation are members of the Uganda Forestry Working Group (UFWG). The UFWG succeeded in including favourable policy statements No.6 (on farm forestry) and No.10 (on education, training and research) in the Uganda Forestry Policy - 2001 and Priority Areas 4.6 (Agroforestry) and 4.11 (Forestry education) in the National Forest Plan - 2001 (MWLE, 2001 b).

Box 1: The Uganda Forestry Policy statements 6 and 10

Policy Statement 6 on farm forestry states: tree growing on farms will be promoted in all farming systems, and mechanisms for the delivery of forestry extension and advisory services will be developed (MWLE, 2001 a).

Policy Statement 10 on education, training and research states: the government will support sustainable forest sector development through appropriate education, training and research (MWLE, 2001a).

The College is now a zonal coordination centre representing the Lake Albert Crescent Agro-ecological zone of the Uganda Agroforestry Development Network (UGADEN). This zone covers the three districts of Masindi, Hoima and Kibale in mid-western Uganda. This has provided opportunities for the college to increase its outreach activities, thus, scaling up the impact of agroforestry for sustainable tree-based livelihoods in Uganda.

3.2 The Poverty Education Action Programme

The Poverty Education Action Programme (PEAP) sets out a broad strategy for poverty eradication in Uganda. Within this, the Plan for Modernization for Agriculture (PMA) includes agroforestry as one of the innovations that can contribute to improved livelihoods of poor people within forestry, agriculture, fisheries and livestock. This creates an opportunity for scaling up agroforestry education in Uganda since many development actors are now taking up agroforestry. There will therefore be a need for technical personnel to serve as frontline staff in promoting large-scale adoption of improved agroforestry technologies for generating income in rural areas.

UFSCS (2001) found out that in Uganda, small-scale tree producers will plant trees if they are suitable and beneficial to their farming systems, and thus support their strategy for improving household incomes. Where poor people with small land holdings have integrated trees with farming, there has been and improvement in income and food security.

Figure 2 Maesopsis eminii stand at Nyabigoma village on the way to Nyabyeya Forestry College, Masindi, Uganda

3.3 Integration of agroforestry into other courses

All the four curricula in the college now have modules in agroforestry. The curricula for certificate and diploma forestry as well as certificate bee-keeping courses all include modules on agroforestry in addition to the separate 2-year diploma course in agroforestry. The trainees learn skills of integrating improved agroforestry technologies in livelihood activities of rural communities.

3.4 Trained Staff

Five staff members teach core modules on agroforestry while 15 other staff members teach shared modules that are essential for applying agroforestry education to real life situations.

3.5 Agroforestry demonstration pots

The process of establishing agroforestry demonstration plots started in June 1998. Over the years the agroforestry trees and shrubs have grown and now demonstrate selected agroforestry technologies. The trainees weed and manage the plots and tend the livestock as part of their practical training that will prepare them to assist rural communities to sustain rural livelihoods (Appendix 1)

3.6 An arboretum

The College has 3 ha of arboretum consisting of over 50 species of indigenous and exotic trees. The trainees and farmers from neighbouring communities learn and assess the growth characteristics of the various trees. They discuss and determine how suitable the various can be integrate into agricultural landscape.

3.7 Plantation

The college has 94 ha. of Pinus caribaea (Caribbean pines) plantation grown for training purposes. It was partly established through the taungya agroforestry system since 1996. The neighbouring communities grow annual agricultural crops (beans, maize, upland rice, groundnuts) for the first two years of the plantation. They are then allocated new areas when the tree canopy closes. The taungya (partial overlap of agricultural crops and plantation trees) provides food security for the small-scale farmers who are cultivating on the training forest plantation.

Figure 3 Part of the Pine plantation - young forest in the middle and the mature forest in the background at Nyabyeya Forestry College - Masindi, Uganda.

3.8 Outreach and open days

The College has outreach programmes to indigenous community groups in Masindi District such as Budongo Local Carpenter's Association, Bwinamira Fish Farmers Association, Nyabyeya Community Tourism Association, Budongo Forest Community Development Organisation, Budongo United Women's Association and Karongo Functional Adult Literacy Organisation. Such outreach activities to enable the students and local communities to participate in using products and services from agroforestry innovations for improving livelihoods. Tree nurseries, tree planting, beekeeping, fishponds, handicrafts, soil conservation and gender issues are some of the outreach activities.

Figure 4 Two students discuss management of back yard tree nursery with a farmer during outreach.

The College also holds open days during which the stakeholders visit the College and become aware of training courses offered at the College. Senior government officials, farmers and school children make guided tours of the College during open days. The news media also includes salient training activities while informing the public about the Open Day events.

3.9 Study Tours, Field Attachments and Special Projects

The College organizes study tours to various parts of the country that are actively involved in agroforestry research, development and dissemination. AFRENA-Uganda sites at Kifu, Mukono and Kabale District, Vi Agroforestry Project (Masaka) and Mt. Elgon Conservation and Development Project (Mbale and Kapchorwa)) are some of the regular destinations for our study tours. These tours help to reinforce the practical aspects of the training and also help in exposing the trainees to their potential employers.

Figure 5 During study tours students visit farms where agro forestry and soil conservation are practiced in Kabale District in South -western Uganda.

During July-September vacation some students get attached to organisations that are promoting agroforestry research and development, for instance, District Farmers Associations, Beekeepers Associations, Agricultural Research and Development Centres, and National Research Institutions. They write summary reports to highlight the experiences acquired during field attachment. Copies of these reports are deposited in the college library.

Special project is a compulsory research paper for certificate and diploma courses. Students identify topics on issues associated with development or adoption of agroforestry innovations. The special project strengthens the ability of agroforestry graduates to serve as research technicians or social development workers with rural communities.


The college faces a number of constraints, which have slowed down the process of scaling up agroforestry education:

4.1 Competition from other tertiary training institutions

The college faces stiff competition for students from universities and other tertiary training institutions. Seventeen (17) universities, 15 health training institutions, 3 agricultural training institutions and 6 national teachers colleges compete with Nyabyeya Forestry College for high school students who study Physics, Chemistry, Biology and/or Geography and Agriculture at Advanced Secondary School level.

Hence, some of the candidates who apply to join Nyabyeya Forestry College for agroforestry diploma course end up as privately sponsored student at universities

4.2 Remote location

The college is located in mid-western Uganda, 245 km from Kampala city. Masindi, which is the nearest town, is 32 km east of the college. This makes communication between the college and its stakeholders expensive and difficult to sustain as most service provides concentrate their outlets for offering basic amenities within urban areas. The college also experiences inconsistent electricity supply from the national power company.

The college has inconsistent telecommunications and is not yet connected to the internet. The mobile telephone network covers a few spots of the college campus. Due to the remote location it is difficult and expensive to organise practical work in some modules such as mushroom production and sericulture, which are being practised near large towns. Inputs for the demonstration plots also are expensive because veterinary services and agrochemicals have to come from Masindi town. Hence, rural communities do not easily adopt income-generating activities that require intensive use of inputs.

4.3 Declining support to the college

In 1998 as a result of restructuring of the Public Service, the college was transferred from Ministry of Water, Lands and Environment to the Ministry of Education and Sports. However, when the Ministry of Education and Sports was drawing its mid-term plan the college was still in the former Ministry. The college is scheduled to be included in the next Education Sector Investment Plan. This has led to a decline in support to the college during the transition period (1998 to 2003).

The established infrastructure at the college requires expansion to match the increasing number of courses and students. This is being constrained by the limited support during the transition period. The college has not been able to purchase the relevant scientific tools and equipment, hence it is not able to collect data from the agroforestry demonstration plots. Due to the declining support, the college is also not able to review the curricula regularly to keep pace with emerging challenges.

The old students of the college do not return tracer cards, thus, the college finds it difficult to update data on the alumni and the extent to which they are applying the agroforestry education in their occupations.


It is recommended that the constraints identified in the paper be minimized or resolved altogether so as to:

There is need for more resources be invested to continuously review the curricula, maintain and expand the learning resources, strengthen collaborative linkages and outreach activities to match the quality and relevance of agroforestry education with the needs of providing and sustaining livelihoods of rural communities through agroforestry innovations.


Agroforestry education at Nyabyeya is contributing in a humble way to poverty reduction in Uganda by producing the much-needed technical personnel in the fields of agroforestry, forestry and beekeeping. The college graduates are prepared to work as front line development agents in agricultural and natural resources management. The participation of the key stakeholders in the development of the college curricula ensures that education offered at the college remains relevant to country's needs of achieving improved and sustainable livelihoods for rural communities.

In Uganda, small-scale tree producers will plant trees if they are suitable and beneficial to their farming systems, and thus support their strategy for improving household incomes. Where poor people with small land holdings have integrated trees with farming, there has been and improvement in income and food security


The author acknowledges the contribution of the Principal (Mr Wilson Kasolo) and the staff of Nyabyeya Forestry College towards preparation of this paper. Mr. Clement Okia of Uganda Agroforestry Development Network (UGADEN), who provided peer review of the paper. The College Secretary, Mr Ernest Mugara who typed the paper. To all these persons, the author is very grateful.


Aage R. and Kasolo W. 2001. Nyabyeya Forestry College Master Plan 2001- 2005. Unpublished pp.9-11.

ICRAF. 1993. Agroforestry for Improved Land Use: ICRAF's Medium - Term Plan 1994-199. Nairobi, Kenya p.26-27: ICRAF

NFC. 2000. Nyabyeya Forestry College Prospectus 2000 - 2002. Unpublished p.4.

NFC. 2002. Nyabyeya Forestry College: Progress Report for agroforestry demonstration plots from July 2001 - June 2002 - Unpublished.

Katende, A. B., Birnie, A. and Tengnas, B. 1995. Useful Trees and Shrubs for Uganda. Identification, Propagation and Management for Agricultural and Pastoral Communities. Technical Handbook No.10, RSCU, Nairobi, Kenya 710 pp.

Nsita A.S., Balikuddembe L.S.M. Gwali S. Sebahutu G., and Temu A.B. (eds). Nyabyeya Forestry College Curriculum for the diploma course in agroforestry - ANAFE, ICRAF, Nairobi, Kenya 75 pp.

NEMA. 2001. The state of the environment report for Uganda 2000/2001. National Environment Management Authority. Uganda Government, Kampala Uganda pp.16-17

Nielsen, F. 1995. History of agroforestry. Unpublished concept paper - FORRI, Kampala, Uganda.

Temu, A.B. Rudebjer, P.G. and Zougrana, I. 2001. Networking educational institutions for change: the experience of ANAFE. ICRAF Training and Education Report No.46. 24 pp.

The New Vision 2003. Uganda getting too crowded? In: The New Vision Vol.18 No.12 Tuesday January 14, 2003 p.16. The New Vision Printing and Publishing Corporation Ltd. Kampala. Uganda.

UFSCS. 2001. Review of Forestry Initiatives. Volume 1: Synthesis Report. Uganda Forest Sector Co-ordination Secretariat, Kampala, Uganda pp 23

Zeleke, E. and Temu, A.B. (eds). 1999. Introducing agroforestry: a teaching guide for the technical level. Training and Education Report No.45 ICRAF, Nairobi p.2.


Status of agroforestry demonstration plots in January 2003

The agroforestry demonstration plots were established to provide training aids.

Plots No.

Demonstration Activity

Plot Size



Bee forage (Apiary)

0.16 ha.

Well established bee forage
Calliandra calothyrsus

Fish pond


Walls constructed, water not yet supplied into the pond but not stocked - Consulted Kajjansi Agriculture
Research Station for fish fries


Homegardens (near homesteads)

0.16 ha.

Planted with:
Bananas (Musa spp.)
Coffee (Coffea canephora)
Fruit trees (Mango, oranges).


Boundary planting

Boundary of Giricidia sepium, Tephrosia vogelli


Alley cropping/hedge row cropping

0.16 ha.

Inter-cropped with maize
Hedge rows of Calliandra calothyrsus, Senna spectabilis are well established


Scattered tree species in beans

0.2 ha.

Tree ssp. Planted include:
Mangifera indica
Maesopsis eminii
Schinus molle


Scattered trees in coffee and bananas

0.16 ha.

Coffee doing well under Albizia chinensis


Scattered trees in cocoa + bananas

0.16 ha.

Cocoa doing well under Ficus natalensis and Albizia chinensis


Screening trials

0.16 ha.

Currently planted Albizia chinensis with Moringa aleifera only.


Poultry and piggery units

0.10 ha.

Piggery stocked with 1 boar, 3 sows, 9 piglets

7 and 8

Mulbery tree species

0.16 ha.

Mulberry (Morus alba) species under screening/multiplication


Pineapple planting

0.16 ha.

01 ha. planted with good-looking pineapples (400 suckers).


Improved fallow

0.01 ha.

Cajanus cajan

College Paddocks

4 Cows
2 Heifers
3 male calves

4.0 ha.

1 calf & cow died - October 2002.
District Veterinary Officer has been treating the cattle on request and payment.

[1] Nyabyeya Forestry College, Private Bag, Masindi, Uganda. Tel/Fax: 256-(0)465-20370; Email: charlesa@ecforest.org.ug