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Development trends in taungya systems in the moist lowland forest of Nigeria between 1975 and 1980

J.B. Ball and L.l. Umeh
Federal Department of Forestry, Ibadan, Nigeria


This paper investigates trends in the development of two taungya systems in southern Nigeria between 1975 and 1979-1980. The two systems are traditional taungya, where the farmer retains the proceeds of the food crops raised during the establishment phase of the forest plantation, and departmental taungya, where employees raise the food crops and the forest authority retains the proceeds The area of land devoted to traditional taungya has declined very slightly, but there has been a large decline in the number of farmers participating. The reasons for this are not clear. The area of departmental taungya has declined considerably for administrative and financial reasons. The system is likely, however, to expand in at least two states from 1981. The economics of the two systems became much more favourable between 1975 and 1980 because of increases in forest fees and volume yields as well as agricultural prices. There are also large potential reductions in costs, despite increases in wages. It is recommended that monitoring of the taungya systems continue but that socio economic studies be included in the future.


One of the most challenging problems of modem times is the production of sufficient food and forest resources to sustain the ever-increasing world population. The problem would be greatly simplified if one type of land use would expand without impinging upon the land needed for other purposes. Unfortunately, the fixed nature of the world's land resource base makes the realization of this ideal impossible. Accordingly, each new upward spiral in the demand for land may be expected to contribute further to competition and possible conflicts between existing land uses. In Nigeria, this competition for land is increasing because of population upsurge, industrialization, urbanization, and farming. According to Allen (1981), farmland covers nearly 35.9 million ha or 39.5 per cent of the total area of the country. Only 0.3 per cent of the farmland area consists of plantations and agricultural projects. Most of the land has been impoverished by shifting cultivation and has a low productivity. A system of management that would accommodate the production of different natural commodities on the same piece of land becomes most desirable.

It is in this light that taungya, a healthy marriage between agriculture and forestry, is considered a dynamic tool of resource management. It was first introduced to Nigeria in Sapoba, Bendel State, some 54 years ago, but quantitative data were not generally available until recently. The information that had been produced was brought together in 1975-1976 by Ball (1977), and the present paper is an attempt to update that review and to detect trends in the development of taungya in Nigeria.

Taungya Systems

There are basically two types of taungya systems, called, in this paper, the traditional and departmental systems. The traditional taungya system is the earlier and more widely practiced of the two in the tropics. It is widely practiced in Nigeria. Under it, local farmers are recruited by the forestry department to undertake arable farming in allocated areas within a forest reserve. The size of the farm ranges from 0.4 to 2.87 ha, depending on the total land the department plants in the season as well as the size of the farmer's family.

Each Year the farms are demarcated and allocated between November and December. The farmer clears the bush, burns the slash, and generally prepares the site between January and March the following Year. There is little or no cost to the forestry department. Under certain conditions, the forestry department cuts down the big trees in the reserve before the farmers move in. Onyeagocha (1966) stated that farmers in the Emo River Forest Reserve were reluctant to accept farming of areas stocked with large trees. Even when they accepted it, they took a long time to prepare the sites, and the forestry programme consequently ran late. To avert this situation, all remaining trees are usually poisoned after exploitation for timber but before agrisilvicultural operations start. After site preparation the farmers plant crops according to specifications laid down by the forest department. Soon after, the forestry department interplants forest tree seedlings with the farm crops using paid labour. In the first year the farmers tend the food crops as well as the forest trees. Between July and October in the first year the farmers harvest most of their crops. They store enough for their families and for planting the next season and any surplus is sold. In October they may plant a second crop such as maize, which they harvest in December or early January of the second year; however, the forestry department may by then have taken over the tending of the tree crops. The farmers sometimes continue raising crops for two to three years, after which they are allocated another plot in a new area. Farmers who have not tended the tree crops well are not given new allocations.

Departmental taungya was introduced in the Cross River State of Nigeria in 1971. The scheme is operated by forest labourers who may have no previous experience in farming. It differs from traditional taungya in that:

The State of Taungya in Nigeria

The total area of traditional taungya farms in Nigeria in 1979 was 9,226 ha; this is a decrease of about 3.6 per cent since 1975 (table 1). Only two states, Oyo and Ondo, increased their area, whereas taungya in Cross River, Imo, Kwara, and Ogun states declined. Most states could not increase their acreage because of lack of funds and a reduced number of farmers participating in the practice Anambra State does not practice taungya officially, but forest workers still intercrop food crops with trees. There are no data from Anambra state on this.

Only Cross River and Ogun States still carry on departmental taungya, and there was a sharp decline in the area cultivated in 1979 compared to 1975. Ondo State stopped the practice because revenue realized on food crops usually went to the agricultural division of the ministry. The state's Pulpwood Afforestation Project has reactivated the practice and about 250 ha of early maize, cowpeas, and late maize will be planted in 1981. Anambra State is also planning to reactivate departmental taungya in the 1981 planting season.

In 1975, more than 70 per cent of the plantations in the moist lowland forest zone were established under one of the taungya systems. No reliable data are available for 1979, but the proportion is believed to be approximately the same. Some states have been allowing farmers to cultivate their taungya farms but have not been able to plant the trees because of lack of funds. This development can lead to overrecording of the plantation area, and it could result in the forest authority's losing control of all or part of the forest reserves.

In 1975, there were 24,427 traditional taungya farmers in the southern states of Nigeria. It was estimated that 19,500 people had casual employment for six to ten weeks of the year in traditional taungya farms, but no reliable figure could be obtained of the numbers in one family who worked on the taungya farms.

TABLE 1. Area of Taungya Farming in Southern Nigeria in 1975 and 1979


Area (ha)




  1975 1979 1975 1979  
Anambra 858 - 153 - No licensees after 1975. Unrecorded intercropping by forest labourers.
Bendel 4,606 4,596      
Benue - 220 - -  
Cross River 818 770 992 385  
Imo 494 25 121    
Kwara 621 98 - - No taungya since 1978 because of lack of forests.
Ogun 704 460 61 20  
Ondo 1,264 3,000 121 - Stopped because produce goes to agricultural division;will be reactivated in 1981.
Oyo 202 55 - -  
Totals 9,567 9,224 1,448 405  

TABLE 2. Number of Farmers and Area of Traditional Taungya in Southern Nigeria in 1975 and 1979


No. of farmers

Average area allotted (ha)

1975 1979 1975 1979
Anambra 2,120 - 0.40 -
Bendel 11,376 12,000 0.40 0.40
Benue 180 220 1.00 1.00
Cross River 3,580 1,021 0.23 2.00
Imo 1,220 121 0.40 0.26
Kwara 1,202 177 0.52 2.87
Ogun 807 1,150 0.87 0.40
Ondo 3,122 3,000 0.40 0.26
Oyo 1,000 55 0.20 1.00
Total 24,607 17,744    
Weighted average     0.39 0.50

In 1979, however, the number of taungya farmers had fallen to 17,744 (table 2), despite the facts that the area of traditional taungya remained nearly the same and that in some states taungya farms were not planted with trees. This decline may reflect the continuing lack of recruits to traditional taungya farming (Olawoye 1975; Ball 1977). Another factor affecting employment in taungya farming has been the recent introduction of universal primary education; there may be fewer young family members available, resulting in an increase in casual employment during land preparation, mounding, and harvesting.

In 1975-1976 1,221 jobs were created in departmental taungya, either in growing or in processing the food crops. No reliable estimate is now available, but the figure has been considerably reduced because the area has fallen considerably (from 1,448 ha to 405 ha) and because none of the cassava crop is processed into gari. It is anticipated that departmental taungya will increase in Ondo and Ogun states from 1981 onwards.

In Nigeria the agricultural crops cultivated in traditional taungya farms are many and varied (table 3); they are chosen because of the dietary habits of the farmers' families or the available markets rather than because of their interaction with the tree crop.

Yams, maize, and vegetables, which make the greatest demands on soil fertility, are grown first, followed by cassava. A second crop of maize may be grown, but it is low-yielding and is generally used for seed the following year.

In departmental taungya the only two crops grown are maize and cassava. In Cross River State, in rare cases, two crops of maize are grown, the second being for seed. A new development is that the Ondo Afforestation Project will introduce cowpeas in 1981.

In the past, it was forbidden to grow certain crops, such as cocoa, rubber, plantains, etc., because they were permanent or semi-permanent crops that competed with the forest crop and could lead to alienation of the forest reserve if they grew long enough. Crops such as rice or guinea corn were banned because they are aggressive root competitors, and tobacco was banned probably because of root eel worm. Spreading cassava was also banned, and in Bendel State, where taungya started some 40 years ago, all cassava was forbidden. These rules have now been considerably relaxed. Plantains may be grown in Ogun, Ondo, and Oyo states as boundary markers and in Bendel State throughout the plot. Rice and guinea corn are raised in Bendel, Kwara, and eastern states.

The tree crops planted in Nigeria are Gmelina arborea, teak (Tectona grandis), opepe (Nauclea diderrichii), and white afara ( Terminalia ivorensis) (table 4) .

Generally the licensees are responsible for tending the tree crop from after planting until they harvest the final food crop, which is usually cassava. In Bendel State, however, the forestry department staff do the lining out and pegging while the licensees plant the trees. This practice can lead to problems, as poor planting and lack of weeding have been noted at several centres in other states and in some places there has been deliberate damage to trees.

TABLE 3. Crops Grown in Private Taungya in Southern Nigeria in 1975

State Crops (in decreasing order by area)
Anambra Yams, cassava, maize, rice
Bendal Yams, maize, cassava, rice, plantains, vegetables, cocoyams, beans
Cross River Cassava, maize, yams, cocoyams, plantains, vegetables, guinea corn, groundnuts
Imo Yams, cassava, maize, rice
Kwara Yams, maize, cassava, rice, vegetables, guinea corn
Ogun Cassava, yams, maize, vegetables, rice
Ondo Yams, cassava, maize, plantains, vegetables
Oyo Maize, yams, vegetables, cassava

TABLE 4. Tree Species Planted in Taungya Farms in Some States of Southern Nigeria in 1975

State Tree species (in decreasing order of importance)
Anambra Gmelina arborea, teak ( Tectona grandis)
Bendel G. arborea, teak, opepe, white afara (Terminalia superba)
Cross River G. arborea
Imo G. arborea, teak, white afara, opepe
Kwara G. arborea, white afara, teak
Ogun G. arborea, teak, opepe
Ondo Teak, G. arborea, white afara, opepe
Oyo G. arborea

Economic Trends

There have been several changes in the factors affecting the economic and financial returns of taungya since the last review. Those considered here are:

These changes have been used to recalculate net discounted revenue (NDR) in the basic models for G. arborea and teak that were used before (Ball 1977). The reason that NDR is used as a basis for comparison and not economic rate of return (ERR) is that ERR in some cases gives such a high figure as to be misleading. The interest rate used for the NDR calculation was 8 per cent. The systems considered are traditional taungya, departmental taungya, and direct planting (i.e., no taungya). With the current higher benefits and lower costs an increase has occurred in NDR (table 5).

ERR, calculated for direct planting for the two species, increased for G. arborea from 5.8 per cent in 1975 to 18.0 per cent in 1980; corresponding figures for teak were 4.0 per cent and 6.6 per cent. The comparison of ERR shows that the rate of return has increased considerably with G. arborea, due to both the lower costs and the higher returns used. With teak the returns have increased slightly, due mainly to the lower costs.

Departmental taungya has continued to show for both species the best returns, followed as before by traditional taungya and direct planting. It must be stressed that these increases are true only for the figures used in this calculation, and organizations considering taungya options should collect data relevant to their locale.

For G. arborea in traditional taungya and direct planting systems, the NDR appears to be more sensitive to increases in revenue than to reductions in costs, whereas in departmental taungya reduction in costs and increases in forest fees had an equal effect. Because of high costs early in the rotation for both departmental taungya and direct planting, the NDR for teak in them appears to be more sensitive to reductions in costs than in traditional taungya. With traditional taungya, it appears equally sensitive to decreases in costs and increases in revenue (table 6).

TABLE 5. Comparison of NDR (Net Discounted Revenue) for Gmelina arborea and Teak with Different Systems of Establishment (in naira/ha)


G. arborea

Teak ( Tectona grandis)

Traditiona taungya Departmental taungya Direct planting Traditional Departmental Direct planting
1975 195 387 - 113 - 163 - 109 - 479
1980 1,942 2,489 1,639 8 464 182

TABLE 6. NDR for Teak and Gmelina arborea in Traditional Taungya, Departmental Taungya, and

System Species Direct Planting Change in basis NDR (in naira/ha) due to Sensitive to:
25%cost reduction 25% forest fee increase
Traditional G. arborea 178 506 Fees
  Teak 90 95 Both
Departmental G. arborea 423 506 Both
  Teak 292 96 Costs
Direct G. arborea 221 506 Fees
  Teak 138 17 Costs

Although in the 1980 calculations lower cost figures were used for the inputs, there may still be opportunities for further reducing unit costs, possibly by incentive schemes or by some degree of mechanization. Two types of incentive are considered: one is to provide forest workers with subsidized food from departmental taungya and the other is to provide them with some assistance in land clearing, crop processing, and crop storage. In the first case, a 25 per cent reduction in costs is assumed, as well as a 25 per cent reduction in agricultural produce revenue. In the second case, an increase of N290/ha is divided between the costs in years 0-2 inclusive (table 7).

These incentives are believed to be very generous, so that the NDR for G. arborea is reduced to just below that for direct planting. With departmental taungya, the 25 per cent reduction in agricultural revenues, representing subsidized food for the workers, would have virtually no effect on the NDR for both species, provided there was also a reduction in costs of 25 per cent.

However, it is not reasonable to expect these reduced costs to be achieved immediately. With the introduction of new techniques and incentive schemes, a period of worker and supervisor training will be needed. While this is happening costs will be higher than the basic model, and alternatives were therefore considered with a cost increase of 50 per cent. Another calculation assumed that most of the costs of the basic model were incurred quickly but that the land preparation costs were N500/ha rather N162/ha. This increase may arise because of the need to have the job done on contract or with high mechanization (table 8).

Departmental taungya remains a useful method of increasing the returns from teak, but because it is done twice with the G. arborea model the returns are below traditional taungya. If the cost of clearing in the basic model is too optimistic then the effect on returns from G. arborea will not be too great. Introducing wages for direct supervision also does not reduce the returns greatly.

There are also proposals for increases in forest fees; alternalively, the yields used may be conservative in some cases. If a 25 per cent increase in returns from the forest crop is assumed, the direct planting system with teak shows little increase in NDR because of the long rotation. The other alternatives however, all show significant gains.

TABLE 7. The Effects on NDR of Incentive Schemes for Traditional and Departmental Taungya (in naira/ha)


G. arborea


  Trad. Dept. Trad. Dept.
Basic model 1,942 2,489 8 464
Reduction of agricultural revenues and all costs by 25 per cent - 2,445 - 441
Incentives to farmers of N290/ha spread over years 0-2 1,590 - - -

TABLE 8. Effect on NDR of Cost Increases (naira/ha)


G. arborea


  Trad. Dept. Direct Trad. Dept. Direct
Basic model 1,942 2,489 1,639 8 464 - 182
50 per cent increase in costs 1,643 1,528 1,188 -281 - 131 - 471
*500 land preparation - 2,151 1,301      

The net establishment costs (years 0-2 for G. arborea and 05 for teak) indicated that departmental taungya shows a net benefit because of the assumed high revenue from gari; the maize crop is grown at a loss (table 9).

A comparison of the figures for traditional and departmental taungya with the cost of direct planting indicates net financial benefits to the forest authority. Traditional taungya with G. arborea nets N287/ha and with teak, N212/ha; whereas departmental taungya with G. arborea nets N750/ha and with teak, N750/ha.


There continues to be a demand for land for traditional taungya. The desire to farm on forest land is not necessarily caused by a shortage of agricultural land but rather the inherent fertility of the forest land. Agrisilviculture has not succeeded where there is fertile agricultural land.

The area of traditional taungya farms in Nigeria declined very slightly between 1975 and 1979. The area of departmental taungya fell considerably, due to administrative problems and difficulties of funding. It is expected that departmental taungya will expand from 1981, in Ondo and Ogun states in particular.

The number of traditional taungya farmers has fallen, whereas the average area they cultivate has increased. The reasons for this change are not clear. It might be expected that traditional taungya farmers cannot farm a larger area because they are predominantly older than 45 years (Olawoye 1975), and they may not be able to draw on many family members because of the spread of full-time education. They may, however, be employing more casual labour, or the standards of maintenance may have fallen. No information is yet available on this.

Problems with transport from villages to farm areas continue and may increase since the sites for new plantations are becoming further away.

Farmers are still reluctant to fell large trees or to pay for it to be done. Some forest services are poisoning these trees, but others are reluctant to do so because of possible harmful side-effects.

Problems of discipline and control continue. Few states issue licences or charge a fee (which could be refundable).

Incentives could be introduced for traditional taungya farmers. One possibility is to assist them to add value through processing and storage of their crops. To do so would be to reduce the benefits of traditional taungya, but these are sufficiently high to bear such a reduction.

TABLE 9. Establishment Costs and Benefits of Plantations

Species System Cost (naira/ha) Benefit (naira/ha) Net Cost (Benefit) (naira/ha)
Gmelina arborea Traditional 369 0 369
(years 0-2) Departmental 1,361 1,455 (94)
  Direct 656 0 656
Teak Traditional 315 0 315
(years 0-5) Departmental 1,232 1,455 (223)
  Direct 527 0 527

A cash bonus might even be introduced for tree crops that have been successfully established. Subsidized food could be provided from departmental taungya at little loss of return provided there is an increase in productivity.

Agricultural yields from departmental taungya continue to be low, but the appointment of agricultural officers to schemes in two states should improve the situation and demonstrate to other forest services the value of such personnel. These projects may also be a source of data on the agricultural component.

An analysis of economic trends shows that large changes occurred in economic and financial returns between 1975 and 1980. The reasons for these are increased prices for agricultural crops, increased timber fees, increased forest yields, and (potentially) reduced costs, despite large increases in wages. The calculation of net discounted revenue for various alternatives shows that:

The need to continue monitoring trends in taungya systems has been demonstrated by the large changes that are reported in this paper, even over so short a period as four to five years. The economic figures presented here are, however, indicative only, and calculations should be done with reliable local figures for individual projects.

Socio-economic studies are needed on benefits accruing to the farmers, the forestry employees, and the nation.

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