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6.1 Fuelwood and Other Single Product Programmes
6.2 Multiple Output Programmes
6.3 Strengthening Household Tree Management
6.4 The Scope for Farm Forestry for Household Use

Cultivating of trees on and around smallholdings can achieve a number of purposes for the farm family. It can provide direct access to products needed for household use such as fuelwood, construction materials, fruit and other arboreal foods. It can provide inputs into the farm system such as animal fodder and green mulch. It can help decrease the rural smallholder’s exposure to environmental risk by increasing protection against soil erosion and degradation. And it can increase the stability of the farm system by adding to the diversity and seasonal spread of farm products.

Programmes to encourage farm forestry for household use are, therefore, usually the most direct way to help farmers strengthen or create the kinds of tree management systems described in Chapters 1 and 2. As these are low intensity forestry strategies which bring little direct financial gain (though other benefits and indirect gains may be substantial), production will rarely achieve the same dramatic results as farm forestry programmes which take advantage of significant market incentives. Tree management will not involve the use of high labour and capital inputs. Often, cultivation of trees as part of a farming system will be intricately linked with other agricultural activities.

Fodder - a farm forestry product

Tree management will be more active where there is the prospect of indirect financial gain, for instance because of increases in crop or animal production through the effective use of agroforestry systems. Although the focus here is on production for subsistence and household uses, there is no clear dividing line between these types of activities and more market-oriented farm forestry activities; any surpluses are apt to be marketed where that is an option.

6.1 Fuelwood and Other Single Product Programmes

Many of the recent programmes to involve smallholders in tree growing have had the objective of increasing household supplies of fuelwood. Most have attempted to achieve this with on-farm production systems designed around this single output. Experience suggests that such narrowly focused approaches to farm forestry need to be reevaluated.

In Malawi, for example, the Wood Energy Programme was designed to increase the rural availability of fuelwood by providing seedlings of fast growing, high yielding species to farmers in wood-scarce areas. Few farmers were found to be interested in the programme, and only 10 percent of the targeted plantings were realized. Surveys suggested that this was in part because there was only a limited perception of scarcity: as long as fuelwood could still be collected without paying for it, farmers had little incentive to plant fuelwood-producing trees. On the other hand, people were quite interested in growing trees for construction poles (with fuelwood being produced as a by-product), and many were already engaged in tree cultivation for this and other purposes by transplanting and managing naturally germinated seedlings (Energy Studies Unit, 1981).

Other experiences have suggested that, even where it is recognized that fuelwood is in short supply, local people are rarely motivated to grow trees only for fuel - except perhaps where there are markets for it. In Nepal, rural people’s overriding concern is for multipurpose fruit trees and for tree fodder for their buffalo, and not for trees to produce fuelwood (Campbell and Bhattarai, 1982). In drought-stricken areas of Senegal, it has been found that people are interested in planting trees for fodder, shade, fruit, gum arabic and construction materials, but not for fuelwood, especially where fuelwood is still available from trees killed by the drought (Hoskins and Guigonis, 1979). In North Yemen, people are much more interested in planting trees for environmental protection rather than for fuelwood (Aulaqi, 1982). Experiences such as these tend to discredit the general belief that fuelwood shortages can be isolated from other problems for the rural poor, and that planting single purpose fuelwood trees is an appropriate response.

People often prefer multipurpose trees

Tree planting, however, is only one of a variety of responses to fuelwood scarcity. Other possible local responses such as increasing the time spent to collect wood, changing cooking habits or using less wood by switching to the use of alternative fuels such as straw and dung, may involve fewer costs and have greater benefits than planting trees specifically for fuelwood. People are interested in growing trees, but for other perhaps more highly valued reasons. It is important to note, however, that people fully expect to get fuel from trees which have been planted for other purposes.

A tree - for fuelwood use only?

6.2 Multiple Output Programmes

Some of the programmes which have encouraged tree growing to provide multiple outputs have achieved a significant success. This experience reinforces the assessment that farmers widely value trees for a variety of inputs into their household and farm systems, and seek trees which provide as large an aggregate as possible of such benefits. They seek tree growing strategies which fit into their production system with minimum cost.

In Central America, the Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigacion y Ensenanza (CATIE) has persuaded 90 farmers in the Piedades Norte area of Costa Rica to plant approximately 50 000 trees by encouraging different types of planting strategies, such as live fences, shade trees and windbreaks. A variety of multi-purpose species were made available at local nurseries, and farmers were quick to incorporate trees into their farming systems. In a recent survey, these farmers gave several motives for planting the trees; although they frequently specified a principal reason, they always mentioned alternative or complementary uses as well (Jones and Campos, 1983).

Other less direct benefits such as soil improvement and increased agricultural production can also provide a motive for tree growing. In the 1960s, an Indonesian programme on the island of Timor attempted to reduce soil losses by terracing the steep volcanic slopes of the Sikka region, but this was found to be a very expensive and labour intensive operation. In 1972, a farmers’ cooperative introduced hedgerow planting of Leucaena along parallel contours. A local Catholic mission helped to further coordinate the effort, and after ten years over 45 000 hectares of degraded lands had been partially terraced. The primary aim of the project has been soil conservation, but farmers have gained other substantial benefits as well. The hedges also provide green manure for fertilizing the soils and fodder for livestock, as well as fuelwood (Metzner, 1976; Jones, 1983).

Preventing soil erosion has also been a significant component of other programmes. In Nyabisindu, Rwanda, low-input farm forestry has been incorporated into smallholder farming systems threatened by soil erosion. The Pro jet Agro-pastoral has encouraged the establishment of trees and hedges on degraded smallholdings as part of its effort to improve local agricultural production and livestock development. Around 170 local tree nurseries produce over 5 million seedlings annually, 30 percent of which are fruit trees. As of 1981, 3 000 hectares of croplands had been improved through tree planting, and an additional 4 000 hectares were under erosion control (Behmel and Neumann, 1982).

Wide variations in base-level soil fertility, cropping patterns and agricultural practices from site to site will result in variations in the agricultural response to tree planting. Nonetheless, a substantial body of research suggests that growing trees with agricultural crops provides benefits in terms of improved soil fertility, water retention, soil temperature and other related characteristics which affect crop production (Chandler and Spurgeon, 1979; de las Salas, 1979; MacDonald, 1982; Huxley, 1983; Arnold, 1983; Nair, 1984; Catterson, 1984).

It has been reported that in an Azadirachta indica windbreak project in the Majjia Valley of Niger, millet yields have been increased by 23 percent. Between 1975 and 1980, over 100 linear kilometres of trees had been planted, each kilometre of windbreak protecting at least 10 hectares of agricultural lands (Bognetteau-Verlinden, 1980). Studies in Burkina Faso and Senegal have indicated increases in millet yields by an average of 50 percent on land under Acacia albida tree canopy (Direction des Eaux et Forets, 1965; Felker, 1978). Another study in Burkina Faso which compared 47 tree-enhanced plots with 48 control plots reported average increases in millet and sorghum production of 10 percent on the former (Wright, 1983; see also: Gulick, 1984).

On the other hand, while trees can generally be a productive part of a farming system, tree planting may have negative impacts on crop yields and trees may hinder livestock production. The extent to which farmers actually plant trees on their lands will be determined by their perceptions of the balance between the costs and benefits which are involved. Where trees and wood are plentiful, the reasons for planting them may not be compelling. Where trees and wood are scarce, tree cultivation may require significant sacrifice and effort, and these perceived costs may be greater than the benefits which may accrue.

It is characteristic of these types of farm forestry programmes that farmers bear complete management responsibility for growing trees on their holdings. The contribution of supporting agencies is confined to providing technical advice and occasionally inputs such as seedlings.

Baskets full of free seedlings - easy to transplant

Since many of the outputs can only be obtained by having trees as part of the farm system, tree growing at this level often coexists with communal forestry. In the hill areas of Nepal, for example, farmers tend to grow fodder and fruit trees on their own land, and rely on communal forests and plantations for their supplies of fuelwood and construction timbers. In many situations, however, planting at the household level may be preferred over communal woodlots because of the greater control this permits over management and access to the benefits. It has been widely observed that where private and communal tree management coexist, survival and growth rates are higher in the former.

6.3 Strengthening Household Tree Management

Farm forestry activities for household production must make sense both at the project level and from the perspective of individual farmers. Where programme objectives coincide with local priorities, prospects will be promising. The scope of these programmes, however, will be determined by the extent to which rural women and men believe they will benefit by them.

There is much to be gained by concentrating efforts on making incremental improvements to existing land-use systems. In many cases, indigenous land-use and tree management practices may provide an important base for the introduction of other innovations. Technical interventions which are compatible with existing practices have the advantage that their impact may be more easily perceived and their effects more readily understood by local farmers (Raintree, 1983).

In Costa Rica, where traditional agroforestry systems are already well-developed, interventions have focused on “fine tuning” these systems in order to increase their overall productivity. Farmers have volunteered, for example, to test new types of shade trees for their coffee plantations (Budowski, 1983).

It may be useful to investigate if land-use practices in other areas are evolving in a way in which farm forestry can be incorporated. In Kenya, for instance, increased pressures for agricultural lands reduced the number of easily available trees. Wood has undergone a transition from being an abundant free good to a commodity of value, to be protected and perpetuated (Brokensha et al., 1983a). A recent study of the tree cover in the Kakamega District, which is under tremendously high population pressures, discovered that nearly 80 percent of the rural households had planted trees on their land. Perhaps even more importantly, a large number of the farm households raised tree seedlings in their own nurseries. An unexpected finding was that there appears to be a direct correlation between population densities and tree cover: the higher the population, the greater is the area of land devoted to growing woody biomass (van Gelder and Kerkhof, 1984; Bradley, 1984).

Even within the same community, some people will be more interested in planting trees than others. Their interest may be defined by their land ownership position, their financial status or by their access to other resources such as seedlings and technical advice. Ultimately, a farmer will be interested in growing trees if there is a technical option available which is responsive to the household’s needs.

Farm forestry programmes should therefore reflect the needs and potentials of individual farm units. Since these will be different from household to household, introducing several different strategies will allow farmers to choose an appropriate option, instead of having to decide whether or not they wish to adopt a single technique (Raintree, 1981).

In some cases, especially where rapid changes in the rural sector have been taking place, farmers may not yet perceive the emergence of fundamental land-use problems which require their attention. There may be no perception that fuelwood shortages require long-term strategies to meet future demands. In such situations, it is desirable to link the solution of unperceived or low priority problems with the solution of perceived high priority problems (Raintree, 1983). The introduction of multi-purpose tree growing systems can be especially appropriate.

In practical terms, the backbone of most programmes will be the quality and availability of technical advice to the appropriate women or men farmers as well as the extent to which these farmers can easily obtain the desired types of planting materials. Although rural people can often obtain naturally germinating seedlings, nurseries may be able to provide a broader range of species, including improved varieties or introduced exotics (where appropriate) as well as seedlings which may otherwise be difficult to germinate and raise. Seedlings which are grown under controlled conditions also provide a degree of quality control and selection from strong parent stock. The nursery can also be a focal point for demonstration and extension activities.

Better seedlings from the nursery?

It is extremely important that nurseries are responsive to the local requirements. They must be able to produce seedlings which are in demand and which are environmentally appropriate. Demands for wood products, fruits, nuts, edible leaves and shoots, animal fodder, tannins, dyes, bark, fibres, medicines and various gums and oils can be a significant incentive for people to plant trees. The most appropriate mix of species which a nursery may stock can only be determined if local people are directly involved in the species-selection process. This can be accomplished through the use of surveys, interviews and discussions which incorporate the views of all segments of the population, particularly of women, who are most often responsible for collecting fuelwood, food, fodder and other forest products.

When new types of trees or new ways of incorporating trees into agricultural systems are introduced, demonstration plantings will almost certainly play an essential role in establishing local confidence and support. Regardless of the theoretical advantages of novel planting techniques or of new species, or the fact that they may be widely used in other parts of the world, local farmers are likely to view such approaches sceptically until amply proven. Once men and women farmers are convinced of the advantages of new techniques or species, however, widespread adoption can follow very rapidly.

Women know fuelwood

6.4 The Scope for Farm Forestry for Household Use

Farm forestry for household production activities which focused on single benefits such as fuelwood have often not proven sustainable over the long term. Programmes which have incorporated multipurpose trees into agricultural production systems have received broader support. Agroforestry strategies can help reduce soil erosion and increase agricultural production because of complementary effects between trees and crops, and can also improve the human environment.

Encouraging farm forestry in order to meet subsistence needs is especially appropriate where trees may improve the conditions of people living at the margins of rural poverty. Because the approach involves the optimal integration of trees and agricultural crops (not the maximization of the production of woody biomass as in most market-oriented farm forestry approaches), the trade-off between food crop and tree crop production will seldom be an issue. Because these strategies are characterized by low intensities of management, the availability of labour will not generally be a problem.

There are several important constraints to this type of forestry, however, which are recurrent in other social forestry strategies. Perhaps the most significant is the question of land and tree tenure. If farmers are unable to ensure that they will see the benefits of their investments in planting trees, they will usually be unwilling to invest; if the size of a farmer’s landholding is very small, there will be important trade-offs between trees and agricultural crop production, as trees generally do not produce the basic staple food.

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