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Reports of the working groups

Working group on research needs
Working group on training and extension
Working group on systems management

Working group on research needs


The widespread existence of stable and productive multistrata and multicrop associations in the humid tropics (including, in some cases, the incorporation of domestic animals) suggests these may be an optimal land-use system for the region. The fact that so far such traditional mixtures have received but scant research attention must be attributed in great part to the separation of the agencies which have responsibility for trees, food and other crops, and animals, respectively, and which have each demanded a share of land for their particular production activities.

With increasing population pressures on land and shortage of both food and timber, such a separation is no longer justifiable. To date, foresters have taken a lead in promoting agro-forestry activities, but clearly a proper integration of agronomy, animal husbandry, and forestry must take place. The research approach implies a true interdisciplinary spirit and not competition between disciplines. Through the provision of information, funds, and technical assistance, international organizations that sponsor agro-forestry research can act as catalysts in promoting such integration. The concerned agencies must work together to determine the conditions optimal for mixed production (agro-forestry) as well as those for monocultures. They must begin with an identification of existing land-use systems, their needs and constraints-biological, economic, and social.

The experience that exists in the humid tropics should be collated; common tree, crop, and animal associations should be identified and their roles within the land-use system investigated. In regions where agro-forestry practices do not exist but appear desirable, there should be a search for the most advantageous integration of crops, animals, and forest species in an attempt to reach sustainability, optimal sustained production, and conservation of the environment.

To be successful, agro-forestry systems must be flexible, resilient, sustainable, economically attractive, and acceptable to local populations. The following outlines some of the key areas for research.

Existing and New Agro-forestry Systems

Species Composition

Economic Aspects

Social Aspects

Support Services


Working group on training and extension

Training applicable to agro-forestry can be either formal (primary and secondary schools, technical certificate and diploma courses, and undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes) or non-formal (in-service or short-term training).

Formal Training

In primary and secondary schools, the curricula already contain agriculture. Agro-forestry principles should be introduced so that agriculture and forestry are no longer compartmentalized. Emphasis should be placed on the environment and the role of trees, food crops, and livestock within it. Current teaching materials need to be revised so that they reflect this emphasis, and practical work-for example, encouraging pupils to plant trees in the school garden-should be included.

Technical training at agricultural, forestry, and animal sciences colleges or schools should introduce the concept of agro-forestry as an integrated form of land use.

Undergraduate training should include practical exposure to the multiple use of land so that students derive an integrated view of land management. Students of forestry, agriculture, and animal sciences should be brought together in at least one course on land management which embraces the various disciplines and includes the concept of agro-forestry. A specialized course on agro-forestry is not necessary, but agro-forestry should be highlighted in other courses wherever possible.

Postgraduate training, in addition to emphasizing research in agro-forestry, should incorporate courses on land management. Such courses should stress the role of agro-forestry and should be offered to students of agriculture, animal sciences, forestry, etc.

Non-formal Training

Non-formal training in agro-forestry should be encouraged for all people who are responsible for the related disciplines, especially the teachers of formal training courses. In-ervice training can provide professional staff with the opportunity to gain experience and new ideas, and it may be undertaken on a South-South basis, sometimes across continents.

Universities should play a key role in non-formal training, as they provide a favourable environment for it. Research institutes and government departments could also provide training. Centres which have informed staff, appropriate infrastructure, research and study facilities, and field experiments should be used for agro-forestry training. International agencies may provide financial assistance and help in the organization of such courses. ICRAF is planning to initiate a programme of in-service training, and the UN University has been training a limited number of scientists on an international basis since 1978.


Priority should be given to the inclusion of agro-forestry in training at the technical and non-university levels, as technical personnel carry out the actual work in the field. The first step is to train, perhaps through non-formal courses, teachers of these personnel so that they can provide the right type of leadership. Funding for non-university level training should come from national governments and, where necessary, international agencies.

Public Enlightenment

Introducing agro-forestry to the people is necessary. Radio programmes, newspaper articles, posters, and displays at agricultural shows are possible avenues.

Each country should form an agro-forestry committee that would include people from a range of disciplines and interests in land use and include the ministry of information. This committee would put forward ideas to national information services or other appropriate channels.

Publicity material, as with the composition of the national agro-forestry committees, depends on each country's circumstances. Universities should be enlisted to produce material, which may need translating into local languages, and could include posters, literature, films and filmstrips, and tapes for radio. The dissemination of such material could be done by various national agencies, including cooperative unions, adult education services, and the like.

Demonstration and experimental plots, sited in key locations and worked by field staff and selected local farmers, are essential. These should be financed by various national bodies and organized through the national agro-forestry committees.

Motivation of farmers is vital and can be aided by governments through guaranteed purchases of certain products such as pulpwood.


Working group on systems management

Managing agro-forestry production means organizing three basic elements-labour, land, and capital. Each presents constraints as well as resources for management. In addressing the issue of how to combine these inputs, one should not lose sight of the time requirements-both for crop- tree decisions and for longer-term development interests.

Labour in agro-forestry systems is mainly provided by small farmers, and this is the most critical input in systems management. Labour is limited, and the farmers have priorities. They will usually prefer to give their efforts to activities with guaranteed food or other outputs. Agro-forestry requires additional labour input, especially in the establishment of trees; however, in some circumstances direct labour savings are possible. Farmers are frequently employed off the farm, and this fact should not be overlooked by agro-forestry planners. Agro-forestry systems that call for combinations that cut across the traditional division of labour of a particular culture or community, for example between men and women, are likely to be poorly accepted.

Agro-forestry may mean a re-organization of the sequence of labour inputs that conflicts with other activities. In short, labour cannot be defined simply as the number of workdays required. If farmers must forgo or make short-term production sacrifices, incentives are necessary.

In the African humid tropics, land is less of a constraint than is labour. Agro-forestry should mean both trees in the fields and crops in the forest. In other words, agro-forestry as a system has production goals and conservation goals, depending on needs and resources. In management decisions regarding land, the great majority of the constraints derive from ownership or tenure. A tenant or other user may wish to plant trees but be prohibited by the owner because tree planting may confer rights of use. Although land tenure in many countries is changing rapidly, it may be distinct from that which is officially described. Tenure seems, therefore, to have more important implications for agro-forestry than does land availability.

Institutional Framework


Legal Instruments

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