Restoration of the forest ecology through agroforestry
Agroforestry is an intensive land use management system that combines trees and/or shrubs with crops and/or livestock. Trees are usually planted along with coffee and cocoa crops for shading, improving soil, and product diversity. Some of the tree species preferred in agroforestry systems include; Ficus nantalensis, Artocarpus heterophyllus, Maesopsis eminii, Mangifera indica, Markhamia lutea and Persea americana.
Benefits of agroforestry
Agroforestry ecosystems provide ecosystem services classified into four categories; 1) provisioning services, 2) regulating services 3) social and cultural services, 4) supporting services. These are illustrated below;
The regulating services include; climate regulation and carbon sequestration (Salmond et al., 2016), run-off control, nutrient regulation and water regulation. The provisioning services include; provision of wood, fiber and fuel energy. Approximately 13% of the world’s primary energy is obtained from forest. They also provide honey by supporting growth of bees, and fresh water from underground aquifers that are protected by the trees. Crops growing in the under-story of forests are a source of nutrition to mankind. The supporting services include; soil formation through weathering actions of the tree roots, and nutrient cycling by decomposing actions of leaves, branches and roots. The social and cultural services include; species conservation, recreation activities in forest gardens, aesthetics i.e. beauty and ornament created by agroforestry trees and spiritual enrichment e.g. the Nakayima tree (Pterygota mildbraedii Engl) in Mubende district, central Uganda which today is said to have supernatural powers for healing, fertility wealth and good health. The population ought to benefit from these goods and services provided there are no hindering challenges.
Challenges in agroforestry
Access to the forest ecosystem goods and services is compromised mainly among impoverished farming communities in rural areas. This is due to reduced forest cover arising from forest degradation. The degradation is in the form of poor timber harvesting methods (Figure 1) and forest conversion into agriculture and settlement. The farmers who attempt to plant trees on their farms alongside crops and livestock are also faced with a number of challenges as illustrated below;
The main challenges include; long maturity periods of trees, and spoilage of soil by some species of trees, tree pests and diseases, destruction of trees by tenants, thieves, and wrangles with neighbors, poor markets, poor seedling quality and forest fires. Fires occur during dry seasons mainly due to rampant bush burning practices as farmers prepare for next season’s planting especially by neighbors. Farmers also are discouraged by long maturity periods of trees. They (farmers) have to wait for over 20 years to harvest timber products, say, Pine trees (Pinus spp.) Investments in agroforestry may thus not help farmers meet their short-term needs . There is also a challenge of spoilage of soil by Eucalyptus spp. trees that drain soil and scorch nearby crops. Land planted with this tree may not be used again in subsequent seasons. The other problem is tree diseases whereby trees’ leaves turn yellow and eventually dry away. Additionally, farmers who rent out their land already planted with agroforestry trees face the challenge of the destruction of these trees by the tenants. This is because tenants do not want to allow trees to grow fast and compete with their crops. There is also a problem of wrangles with neighbors and thieves who steal both newly planted tree seedlings and mature trees. Wrangles ensue from most proximal neighbors when Eucalyptus trees are planted close to their land boundaries. Neighbors fear that trees will drain water from their land and scorch their crops. There is also a problem of tree pests mainly termites, baboons, and crickets which eat parts of planted trees.
There is need to encourage farmers and other stakeholders to practice on-farm tree growing alongside crops and livestock (agroforestry) besides the above challenges. This will enable them meet their wood needs while sparing the central forest reserves. The use of tree planting incentives and engaging different agro-forestry stakeholders is almost inevitable to address the above challenges.
Stakeholder engagement in agroforestry interventions
Agroforestry interventions require the engagement of different stakeholders (SH) who are mainly individuals, groups, or organizations, who may affect, be affected by, or perceive themselves to be affected by a decision, activity, or outcome related to agroforestry. These may generally include; farmers who provide land for planting the trees, farm workers who provide labour, traders involved in forest product exchange and extension workers who give technical guidance. Since agro-forestry stakeholders vary in different countries, here are some examples in selected countries.
In Western Ghats, India the SHs include different groups of tribes who own the land on which trees are planted, local leaders who mobilize farmers to plant trees, Community Based Organizations, Non-Government Organizations (NGO) and local government who provide technical and financial support to tree growers, farmers and farmer groups, religious institutions and local politicians (Nath, Schroth, & Burslem, 2016). In china they include; farmers, communities, government, NGOs (Lin & Lin, 2015). These have roles similar to those already mentioned in other countries. In Ghana, they include; Universities involved in agroforestry research, government forestry agencies that regulate tree planting, farmers who do the actual tree planting, traditional leaders and communities who manage different agroforestry fields on behalf of their people (Mayers, 2005). Agro-forestry stakeholders in Nigeria include; The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources (FMA & NR) that plays a very important role in land use planning and forestry development through the Federal Department of Forestry. The Federal Ministry of Environment (FME) under which there is Federal Department of Forestry and National Council on Environment (NCE). From the private sector there is Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), Nigeria Environmental Study Team, Natural Resources Conservation Council (Present status of the forestry sector of Nigeria). In Uganda, agro-forestry SH are farmers (Figure 2, right) and farmers groups who provide land and do actual planting of trees, forestry project staff who provide inputs, district and Sub County officials (Figure 1, left), National Forestry Authority, NGOs, Ministry of Water and Environment, National Agricultural Research Organization, and Forestry Colleges (Peskett, Schreckenberg, & Brown, 2011). They also include religious, cultural, political leaders, Civil Society Organizations (Tumuhe & Kiguli 2019). These have different interests, capacities and challenges in their effort to promote agroforestry. Each stakeholder ought to be dealt with using specific approaches. These approaches are in four categories; empowerment, further involvement, continuous engagement and further consultation. Stakeholders if well identified and analyzed may significantly contribute to the success of agroforestry interventions say use of incentives.
Farmers plant trees expecting several benefits. There is need to provide incentives to farmers to attract them into tree planting. These incentives may include; tree seeds and/or tree seedlings, cash incentives, tax benefits and cost sharing programs. These incentives seduce farmers to plant trees. In Uganda, research has shown that potential tree farmers can be attracted by non-cash benefits e.g. farm inputs, poultry, apiary projects and trainings. Farmers may be taught how to establish and manage trees and the advantages of tree planting. Training may be done by NGOs, or government institutions. Tree seedlings may be given out to farmers at Sub County or village level. Farmers ought to be given tree seedling of their preferred species. Cash payments may also be distributed to farmers who have trees on their farms so as they don’t cut them but instead plant more. This could be a monthly or annual payment on the farmers’ bank accounts. In Uganda annual payment of 18.7 U.S. dollars per hectare was once given to farmers to motivate them to conserve their trees. Other incentives may include farm tours, livestock, and beehives projects
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