Contents - Previous - Next

This is the old United Nations University website. Visit the new site at

Applicability of agro-forestry systems

Gerardo Budowski
Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE), Turrialba, Costa Rica


At present agro-forestry is suffering from oversale and wishful thinking rather than being based on an objective analysis of what it can and cannot offer. To build up the scientific credibility of the discipline and to provide a useful instrument for those who want to promote agro-forestry practices, researchers should a/ways compare the potential of agro-forestry with that of monocultures Such comparison must carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each system from both biological and socio-economic perspectives. To facilitate such a comparison, a recapitulation of qualitative and a few quantitative assessments, based on Costa Rican experiences, a literature review, and discussions with practicing agro-foresters, is presented. It is hoped that these assessments-to be refined on a continuous basis-will serve as guidelines to research themes, for promotion and extension campaigns, and for evaluations a posterior).


In a recent consultative meeting of the International Council for Research in Agro-forestry, held in Nairobi and which concluded only nine days before the initiation of this workshop, l had the privilege of participating in one of the four working groups, with the aim of producing an appraisal as well as guidelines on plant management in agro forestry systems. The discussions and the resulting conclusions, soon to be published together with the background papers, all proved to be extremely useful to the subject that had been assigned to me by the organizers of this workshop, and it was inevitable that it moved me to rewrite the paper which I had prepared in Turrialba, Costa Rica, in March 1981.

The lesson is, of course, that agro forestry is in a dynamic state of knowledge and reappraisal, full of pitfalls and often grossly overrated in its role to help rural populations. As the draft conclusions of the Nairobi working group forcefully state: "agro forestry should not be considered as a panacea to cure all evils of land management nor is it of uniform applicability. In specific areas agro-forestry is useful, e.g. in reclaiming land which has been degraded by defective other uses, or in augmenting production on good land in high input systems, by managing suitable plant associations. In other areas, other land use systems are to be preferred" (ICRAF 1981).

A similar word of caution was voiced in a recent paper by the new director-elect of ICRAF, Dr. Bjorn Lundgren (Lundgren 1979:526): In the promotion of the agro-forestry concept, there has been no limit to the alleged positive influence of trees. Sometimes this has achieved almost mystical dimensions-the frequent talk about 'miracle trees' is one aspect of this. Although it may sound like a lack of imaginative thinking, it must be flatly stated that there exist no miraculous influences of trees on soils. It is often mistakenly supposed that any tree crop has the same stabilizing effect on the soil as the natural forest. This is as wrong as to say that a managed maize field is ecologically equivalent to a savanna.

Moreover, there are other stereotyped images that must be clarified concerning agro-forestry. Is it practiced only by the rural poor? Is it restricted to marginal land? Can it be true, as stated in a famous report to IDRC (Bene et al. 1977:43), that "more than half of all land in the tropics, although too dry, too steep, too rocky to be classified as arable land, is suitable to the practice of agro-forestry"?

The more one learns about agro-forestry, the more one discovers that it includes productive and stable systems on all kinds of climate, soils, and under various social conditions. Many of these systems are very old, covering centuries of empirical knowledge. People who have been exposed to various agro-forestry practices as a result of training in this field are actively reporting (or rather discovering) systems, along routes they had previously travelled without ever noticing them before (Budowski 1981a).

Although agro-forestry has mostly been reported to be practiced by the rural poor (Michon 1981; Nao 1981; Avila et al. 1979; Bishop 1979; Fuentes Flores 1979; Wilken 1977), good case studies are also coming forth concerning highly productive systems by small farmers (Beer 1981; de las Salas 1 979). After all, coffee, tea, and cocoa, when cultivated under one or several strata of "shade" trees (that also produce timber, add organic matter, recycle nutrients, diminish weed growth, and provide a variety of other products and services), can be legitimately regarded as part of agro-forestry systems, whether they are raised on small or large farms, or in very huge enterprises, such as Jari Florestal in Amapa, Brazil (Briscoe 1981).

It is, therefore, possible to see agro-forestry as a land-use technique that applies to both low-capital, low-input farming where self-supply is aimed at, and high-input, capitalintensive operations where the highest possible yield is aimed at; both systems having in common that they must be sustained; that is, productivity must be maintained.

Actually, as many authors have pointed out, notably Lundgren 11979), "agro-forestry as a form of land use is primarily considered as a desirable replacement or improvement of land use systems that are degrading under the pressure of increased population densities in areas with low inherent potential for intensive agriculture." He adds: "In the humid tropics this is often synonymous with areas under various forms of shifting cultivation." For the American humid tropics one may reasonably replace "shifting cultivation" with "extensive grazing" because this is, in terms of area affected, the principal cause of land degradation, as witnessed by millions of hectares of worthless secondary brush that has reinvaded abandoned pastures, themselves carved out at the expense of the rainforests (Budowski 1981a).

Lundgren (1978a) in a report for West Africa makes the additional point that "the economic and nutritional output from the land must not only be sustained at present low levels but must be substantially increased to meet the requirements of an increasing population and increasing demands for social and economic development"-a generalization that is valid for all the low-input agro-forestry practices throughout the tropical world.

A Yardstick to Judye Applicability

To be justified, the practice of agro-forestry must equal the performance of any alternative, notably monocultures. It should be judged according to both economic and social, short- and long-term aspirations; depending on the feeding requirements and land-use patterns, the areas devoted to agro-forestry can cover a small or a large part of the land used by rural communities.

Basically, agro-forestry involves agricultural systems where trees are added in time or space or both to annual or perennial crops or grasses or combined with animals (Combe and Budowski 1979); the combinations are many.

For adequate assessment they need to be compared with monocultures of either annuals or perennials without these trees (or for that matter the same trees in monocultures). Comparison may by no means be easy because often the monocultures have no parallel in agro-forestry or vice versa, or, if they exist, they may not be found side by side under comparable conditions. Moreover, such evaluation is complicated by various short- and long-term economic projections concerning, for instance, the value of wood or the present and future estimations of environmental damage (for instance, erosion, use of pesticides in monocultures) and, even more so, by the appraisal of social and cultural factors, themselves complicated by a dynamic evolution in time that is difficult to foresee.

Nevertheless, this evaluation is considered a most useful exercise for all those who want to promote agro-forestry and eventually transfer various of its forms to other areas, without unduly preaching on the basis of faith instead of careful scientific appraisal. As described by Steppler and Raintree (1981) at the recent ICRAF consultative meeting on plant research and agro-forestry: "ICRAF considers itself as an honest broker in promoting agro-forestry. If other land-use practices are better qualified, it implies that ICRAF will make this clear and refrain from introducing agro-forestry practices where they are not warranted." This approach should become a credo for all those working in agro-forestry. With this objective in mind, a list, with emphasis on the humid tropics, of advantages and disadvantages of agro-forestry practices as compared with monocultures, has been compiled in the present paper. Its purpose is to serve as a basis for discussion and future evaluations. The compilation is based on discussions with practicing agro-foresters and on a review of the literature (notably, de las Salas 1979; Chandler and Spurgeon 1980; Beer 1981; Mongi and Huxley 1980; Raintree 1981; ICRAF 1981).

Biological Aspects



Economic and Social Aspects




These appraisals of advantages and disadvantages are obviously incomplete. Moreover, they cannot pretend to cover the whole array of agro-forestry possibilities. However, they can provide a framework for the evaluation of existing systems and for the design of new ones, particularly in assessing their applicability and chances of success. They could constitute a basis for a series of questionnaires when the promotion of certain agro-forestry practices is desired. Finally, they can help to define a series of possibilities for research. Then, as new and more homogeneous descriptions of agro-forestry systems enter the literature, these preliminary appraisals may be considerably refined, enlarged, and used to help, at least in part and where applicable, in the quantification of those systems, including their testing, validation, and continuous evaluation.


Agro-forestry and forest laws, policies, and customs

S. Kolade Adeyoju
Joint ECA/FAO Agriculture Division, Economic Commission for Africa, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


Agro-forestry is an evolving land management technique. Two of its antecedents, taungya and agrisilviculture, derived from the foresters' desire to retain substantial portions of their countries' land area for their enterprise. Therefore, these systems have for a long time been restricted to the estates managed by the forest services. The increasing popularity of the systems with the foresters was due largely to the availability of cheap labour for plantation establishment in addition to the palliatives of the systems against the protagonists of forest dereservation. However, because of the narrow but overriding forest regeneration values attached to taungya or agrisilviculture, and also because the policies were incoherent, the forest departments were unable to elaborate the objectives and regulations into attractive development schemes. Changing socio-economic factors, particularly the land-use resource base, compel a meaningful review of the erstwhile incompatibility of the various sectors. Agro-forestry seeks not only to realign the two major land-use sectors with revamped output per unit area but also to offer alternative development strategies for rural areas. This new enterprise will succeed only if the objectives are clearly identified, policy guidelines formulated, and practical laws and regulations enacted. Inevitably, the forest services must improve their institutional capability and introduce genuine incentives to enable them to realize the potentialities of the emerging enterprise.


By their nature, policies and laws are concerned with the future. Decisions are never made about past actions. Rather, one is always deciding what to do now or in the future. Similarly, laws are usually made to curtail, if not prevent, the occurrence of anti-social behaviour. In contrast, customs are based on historic norms and often provide valuable background for policy decisions and legal frameworks. The way in which agro-forestry is influenced by policies, laws, and customs is both historic and contemporary.

As an enterprise, forestry must change its objectives from time to time. In the early stages, foresters had limited objectives, largely concerned with forest reservation, wood production, and establishment of efficient forest services. In recent years, there has been a sharp distinction between goals, means, and processes of forest policy to the extent that ideas such as the maintenance of efficient forest services, creation of forest research organizations, and public awareness of the benefits and value of scientific forestry, previously regarded as important policy objectives, are now correctly classified as part of the means and processes for the attainment of goals. For the realization of objectives or goals, forest laws and agro-forestry must be construed, respectively, as regulatory tools and resource management techniques.

Land upon which agriculture and forestry are inseparable, together with its related institutions, is significant to a country not merely for economic reasons. It is also important in terms of the individuals who use it and who, in turn, affect the prevailing political institutions. There can be no doubt that in the tropics private ownership of land by families, clans, or ethnic groups has been the bane and strength of agriculture and forestry. Thus, agro-forestry, which combines these two enterprises sequentially or simultaneously on the same piece of land, is probably a palliative in the short run but also a potent land management technique if backed by pragmatic policies and regulations.

Forest Regeneration

Forest laws are relatively new in most tropical countries; in some, they are non-existent. Some particular beliefs have prompted them in areas where they exist. The first was that a large portion of the superficial area of each country should be secured-consecrated, as it were-for forestry. Although this concept may have derived from the notion that forestry was incompatible with other land uses, in recent decades this belief has been justified by the proven environmental and scientific benefits of the natural vegetation. The second belief was that, because of the long gestation of the principal.crop *timber), an exclusive land management or monoculture for production was needed. This belief was consistent with the prevailing level of technology and phytological knowledge. Because the idea of cultivated forests and industrial plantations was still far-fetched and the wood-processing plants were designed for huge logs, the forestry policy-makers had to propagate a legal framework that could secure a freehold and pre-empt the claims of other rural land users. Thus forestry became insulated and an opponent for many land users. The fact is that where they have been promulgated, forest laws have been seen as a once-and-for-all exercise; they were imposed on traditional communities who did not fully comprehend the reservation of large parcels of land for the sole purpose of timber production.

Slowly, it dawned on foresters that the age of blanket forest land reservation must give way to intensive management of the land as justification for a hold on the prime resource (land). In this connection, forest regeneration, the continuity of the resource, or the creation of new crops became the new focus through which economic factors have been brought to bear on forest laws and regulations. Thirty or forty years ago, most tropical countries depended solely on natural regeneration, so forestry policy-makers introduced regulations that were designed to ensure natural regeneration. The Tropical Shelterwood System (TSS), adopted in Nigeria with modifications from a Malayan system, was pursued with a network of instructions that became entrenched almost as codes.

The problem was that the policies on natural regeneration of heterogeneous forests were founded on economic grounds, but only a few forest crops were economically viable. Therefore, the vast majority of the species did not benefit from the regulations. Also, the policies presumed a technological standstill. Thus it became necessary to shift emphasis from natural regeneration to artificial regeneration.

Most francophone countries have constituted artificial regeneration into a separate entity called fonds forestier, with its own statutes, regulations, and specialized staff. In contrast, the anglophone countries have tended to establish regeneration funds administered by their respective forest services and dependent upon the parent ministry and the central treasury. In the latter, the lack of autonomy or special recognition of the peculiar needs of forest regeneration has been exacerbated by the ad hoc disbursement of pertinent funds. The result is that, whereas the francophone countries have elevated forest regeneration programmes into parastatals able to carry out a fairly schematic forest replenishment, the anglophone countries have come to rely heavily on cheap but restricted techniques without any substantive legal framework. It is no surprise then that taungya, agrisilviculture, and agro-forestry, which have been more widely accepted in the English-speaking countries than elsewhere, developed as a socio-economic palliative rather than a well-designed and formalized means of resource generation.

In other respects, the French and British viewpoints on forest protection and regeneration were, during colonial times, very close if not identical. For instance, the British introduced laws and regulations for the protection of forests and forest products against trespass, theft, and fire. They compelled exploiters to establish seedlings to replace felled trees. Moreover, individual farmers were obliged to nurse, maintain, and protect seedlings of classified species on their farmlands. This particular obligation not only lacked incentive but also raised the fundamental question of land ownership and sharing of benefits, which is crucial to the agro-forestry concept.

Similar regulations were introduced in many francophone countries. For example, in the Republic of Niger, 15 species of special economic interest to the colonial administration were protected, even though they were growing on peasants' farmlands. The consequence of the somewhat arbitrary forestry regulations in Niger is that the trees are without effective protection despite the heavy penalties for harm done to them. In Nigeria, Niger and elsewhere, these or any other laws that control the use of property of private owners without providing compensation for the control are a negation of cooperative development. Such laws are counter-productive and have missed a great opportunity to propagate agro-forestry.

Over the last 15 years or so, several countries have received substantial loans from the World Bank and other financial institutions for the establishment of forests. These new investments are accompanied by regulations that compel loan recipients to guarantee as far as possible a desirable level of technical inputs for the establishment of tree crops and their maintenance until the end of the rotation when they can be put to economic use. Due to the specific objectives inherent in these foreign investments, the production of multiple goods and services characteristic of agro-forestry is hardly feasible. Thus, although more and more countries are now able to regenerate vast areas of degraded forests with international financial assistance, the possibility of agro-forestry is not enhanced. However, it has been proved in Kenya, for example, that the returns from agricultural production in the World Bank industrial plantations have a minimal effect on the financial rotations of the forest stand.

Policies and Customs

Agro-forestry policies and customs are, at present, not definitive; they are evolving gradually in response to a variety of physical and socio-economic constraints. There are policy elements and trends that favour multiple use of forest lands and the spread of such practices to production systems previously viewed as incompatible with forestry. However, the rapport between agriculture and forestry is neither sudden nor novel. Indeed, to some extent, it is an old solution to a new set of problems.

Hill cultivation, or taungya, as practiced in Burma, is the precursor of tropical agro-forestry. Its development had its roots in the desire of foresters to exploit the valuable teak in its natural habitat while causing little damage to the economy of the peasants. This necessitated replanting the forest to minimize soil erosion; and for this the cooperation of the farmers was needed.

Agrisilviculture as practiced in lowland African forests is a variant of taungya. Again, the policy element derives from the desire on the part of forest services to provide rewarding vocational opportunities to local communities experiencing shortened fallow periods with decreasing agricultural productivity. To curtail farmers' destruction of the forests and also retain their hold on the land, forest services have had to resort to a give-and-take policy. In other words, foresters concede temporal tenurial rights to farmers on forest lands in exchange for labour inputs for forest crop establishment. The underlying policy decision was largely political, although the economic advantages to the forest services in terms of availability of cheap labour for forest regeneration have become overwhelming.

Taungya and agrisilviculture were intuitive in concept and therefore fortuitous in the long run. Although the antecedents and inspiration for agro-forestry, they were far less deliberate and purposeful. The reasons for the recent development of agro-forestry are many (Adeyoju 1980). One is that the increasing rural population has experienced agricultural land shortages that compound food supply problems. Because of the population growth, land-use practices have become less rational, and in many locations the monocultural practice of agriculture or forestry has become increasingly untenable.

On the basis of resource allocation, it is now generally agreed that the realization of benefits in one economic sector may be harmful to that of another. There are, for instance, pertinent questions about opportunity costs and the time-scale of resource allocation that cannot be ignored. Thus, in developing countries the case for reserving land exclusively for forestry or agriculture is not always justifiable if, in the critical short run, the land can be made to yield a variety of goods and services. In an era when food shortages are growing and when international food aid is losing its appeal even among recipients, the choice between agriculture and forestry land uses, or betwen food and cellulose production, is becoming sharper, direct, and unassailably in favour of the former

In such situations, agro-forestry proffers an alternative. It is noteworthy because, in general, the resource inputs are aimed at a production mix of goods and services that will cater to many members of a community. Also, because agro-forestry is an enterprise that is not intended solely for the forest estate, it can be aided by changes in agricultural laws and customs that permit a revitalization of misused lands. In this regard Uganda's experience with forestry interludes on private farmlands is interesting as the interludes have been observed to ameliorate the harmful affects of fertilizers and pesticides on agricultural production In such situations, forest crops provide not only biological protection but also a critical balance in otherwise deteriorating ecosystems.

Agro-forestry policies must be deliberate and geared toward the elimination of competition between two enterprises. The central policy issues must be the unifying factors. These may be determined through an examination of the physical state of the land and the general economic objectives for the country. Perhaps cost-benefit analyses of agro-forestry in different locations versus those of single uses would reveal the main ingredients of policy and permissible customs.

The recent trend in Nigeria, and elsewhere, of establishing villages primarily for forest regeneration and maximum food crop production during the first two years of forest plantations is a policy breakthrough. The capital outlay on low-cost housing and basic social infrastructures is more than compensated by the volume and variety of food crops produced, the low failure rates in nursery work and seedling transplantation, the provision of regular employment for a large and increasing labour force, and the unparalleled opportunities created for ethnic harmony (Adeyoiu 1978). Although a similar policy of allocating housing estates in urban areas to large employers of labour such as banks and industrial firms also has benefits, the policy within the forestry setting is especially enviable because it seeks to redress the imbalance between the urban and rural areas. Agro-forestry villages constitute a viable alternative to development schemes, many of which introduce heavy machinery, create unemployment, ruin the ecosystem, alter the basis of traditional societies, and turn ordinary people into strangers in their environment. Forest villages may well be a trump card for policy-makers.

Law and the System

The implementation of agro-forestry systems can and has been aided through contracts, agreements, permits, and licences. The legal implications of these terms differ, but they are all based on a relationship between the forestry department, which to all intents and purposes owns the forest land, and the farmer who is the tenant of the forest. Generally, they include clauses that govern the entry to, and use of, forest land by farmers and also reserve the forestry department's power to punish defaulting farmers.

In a comprehensive study of agrisilviculture, King (1968) examined the legal framework in vogue. He classified the terms of agreement first into those acceptable to the forester and second into those expected of the farmer. On the face of it, it may appear that the tenurial conditions are generous, but these conditions restrict cultural practices to those that cause minimum biological impairment to the forest crop establishment and exact maximum labour input from the farmer. For instance, some of the clauses typical of licences require that the cultivators not plant specific crops; not plant crops within specified distances of the tree crop; replace seedlings that have not survived at the farmer's expense; undertake work in other parts of the forest estate on other jobs for a specified period; not engage in certain weeding practices; not construct houses or buildings in the forest reserve without authority; not transfer rights or sub-let the land allocated; and deposit a certain amount of money against breaches of the agreement.

However, on the credit side, there are provisions for the farmers to hold forest land free of rent; plant farm crops among forest trees; cut, collect, and remove free of charge from the area allotted all timber and firewood less than a certain size for personal use; make charcoal free of charge; be given due notice for termination of the agreement; and for competent cultivators to be paid rewards and bonuses.

The fact that the terms of various agreements are overwhelmingly in favour of the forester can be easily understood because the prerogative of the rulers or lawmakers is to provide for those actions that are compatible with their objectives. As the landowner, the forest service has unequal rights with the cultivators. Nevertheless, the rights of use conceded to the cultivators should be expanded by special considerations rather than by strictly legal principles and precepts. Moreover, the cultivators of forest land generally live below subsistence level and deserve flexible and practical concessions in the choice of crops to plant and the spacing used. Foresters should appreciate the need for reviewing the terms, conditions, and incentives to arrange, where and if possible, more equitable conditions.

What Should Be Done

Agro-forestry policies and laws hinge critically on the nature of land tenure. The three aspects of tenure - economic, social, and political-are not only interrelated but are also the customary points of view from which the performance of land-use sectors is evaluated. However, a more meaningful evaluation of land-tenure institutions can be made from the viewpoint of agro-forestry production.

Certain aspects of forest tenure are oblivious of agro-forestry both as a regeneration technique and as an enterprise outside the forest estate. The present forest tenures and laws do not permit private investment, let alone encourage the adoption of agro-forestry by private individuals. Yet in the land-use sectors, such as agriculture and livestock production, the record of achievements by public agencies, even in socialist countries, has been most unimpressive. In many tropical countries, particularly in the dry and arid zones, there is increasing evidence that within the limits of existing village technology, people are now interested in family plantations. But, given the present laws and codes, the villagers are uncertain whether the wood they produce will belong to them. A clear and positive relationship between effort and reward is a necessary condition for local participation in agro-forestry. This is part of what the new policies and laws should seek to ensure.

The laws that compel farmers to take care of trees on their farmlands and for such trees to yield income to government when harvested must be rescinded. Full ownership of trees must be vested in those who own the land. This should be a long-term arrangement whereby villagers have some security so that investments are encouraged not only in individual trees but also in afforestation of deforested or fallow lands. The farmers will then be free from legal factors influencing their judgement of what trees are appropriate as well as from the frequent harassment by forestry protection staff for noncompliance with the law. Also, they will be able to take the initiative in private plantation establishment; they will have incentives to work with the forest service in finding ways to manage the local woodstock for diverse goods and services.

Lesotho, a small, hilly, highly eroded country whose economy is primarily based on livestock, has succeeded in operating a set of incentives for agro-forestry. Under the Anglo-American Woodlot Project initiated in 1973, the chiefs who own the land have become increasingly receptive as a result of certain strategic provisions. First, the project (otherwise the Forestry Division) made a solemn pledge to sell the harvested firewood to the local community in the first instance at the subsidized rate of one-third of the price of firewood imported from South Africa. No firewood is sold until the needs of the local community have been fully met, after which the rest may be auctioned at economic prices. Second, section 18 of the Forest Act 1978 states, inter alia: . . . (1 ) all monies collected under this Act whether from tariffs, fees, charges or otherwise shall be paid into a special fund; and . . . the Minister may after consultation with the Minister of Finance, determine, by order, that such percentage as may accordingly be determined of the monies received under subsection (1 ) from a forest reserve be allocated to the benefit of the community of the area within which that forest reserve lies.

Indeed, it has been determined that 20 per cent of all revenue collected shall be set aside for the development of the chiefdom in which the plantations are situated (D.F. Davidson, personal communication). These incentives are so popular that the project staff are now inundated with offers of land, and the critical limiting factor is the executive capacity. Moreover, because there is a willingness to surrender land for woodlots, it is now relatively easy to constitute and gazette such plantations into permanent forest estate in a country that previously had no state forests of any kind.

The understanding of policy as setting a course of action implies that policies affect resource use over time, but it does not necessarily imply that the use will be uniform or continuous over time. This aspect of resource policy is not fully appreciated by those who have responsibility for land-use policies in tropical countries. Both agriculturalists and foresters have rigid viewpoints and fear losing a metre of their territory to other uses. Although they are policymakers/advisers, they are not well-disposed to change. In view of how difficult it is to read the future and to make significant changes in land use, flexibility is an absolute essential in forest and agricultural policies. Gould (1962) has therefore stressed: "permanence and stability may create a false air of security while really leading to obsolescence and irrelevance in an expanding economy. A process of continuous planning is needed to balance the use of forest resources." This process should be predicated on the meeting of evolving needs and on the flexible combination of labour and capital with land in an expanding economy. Because agro-forestry has demonstrably unique technical and socio-economic roles to fulfil, it is compelling for the policy-makers in the main sectors concerned- agriculture and forestry-to make it work.

Two decades after independence, most countries are still operating with colonial forest policies and laws. During this period most developing economies have been restructured through numerous development plans, and, of course, forestry activities have expanded considerably. Yet, most forest services still retain a colonial structure lacking planning units. Invariably, the director or chief conservator of forests is in charge of forest policy and laws formulated long before he or she joined the service and with which the staff are largely unfamiliar. Published and up-to-date policy statements and laws do not exist, and thus forest services have operated for years without declared objectives, work programmes, and implementation strategies. In these circumstances, the approach to agro-forestry is ad hoc and sporadic. Forest services need to take urgent steps not only to strengthen their structure with planning and policy co-ordination units but also to enunciate categorical policy guidelines on forest land tenure, regeneration strategies, and the role of private investment. Perhaps it is not too early to suggest that in the rapidly expanding economies there should be challenging career opportunities for full-time legal experts in the forest services.

A statement or pronouncement that some particular course of action should be, or will be, followed does not of itself establish a policy. It is merely a policy recommendation or the expression of what some individual or group feels should be followed. It will only become the policy of the larger society if enough of the members accept this course of action and actually follow it. The choice of courses of action and their acceptance by enough people to establish them as actual policies is a gradual, incremental, and, in some respects, evolutionary process. What appears to be an abrupt policy decision may actually be the culmination of a number of gradual changes in knowledge, viewpoints, and objectives on the part of many people. In these respects, the consensus would seem to be that agro-forestry has evolved in one form or another with generations of foresters and that it is being increasingly accepted as having a special role as a management technique with particular reference to vast areas of misused lands. Our real need is, therefore, not to search for an entirely new and different process but to make the existing process more effective. That is why we need to improve the appropriate policy and legal framework so that it consolidates the gains that have been made.

Contents - Previous - Next