Agroforestry Systems

, Volume 54, Issue 2, pp 103–113

Smallholder perceptions of agroforestry projects in Panama

  • A. Fischer
  • L. Vasseur

DOI: 10.1023/A:1015047404867

Cite this article as:
Fischer, A. & Vasseur, L. Agroforestry Systems (2002) 54: 103. doi:10.1023/A:1015047404867


The potential effects of agroforestry systems on conservation and development have been well documented. Panama has seen a substantial rise in the number of projects with an agroforestry component in the 1990s. There has been insufficient research on the actual impacts of these projects on smallholders and of farmers' attitudes towards these systems. This study explores the perceived socioeconomic and environmental impacts of five agroforestry projects in Panama. A total of 68 smallholders were administered semi-structured interviews. In addition, 13 agroforestry experts from NGOs, government departments and research institutes were interviewed, and their responses were compared with those of the smallholders. While the projects led to an increase in the standard of living by providing wood products and fruit for domestic consumption, farm income levels generally remained unchanged. This was due primarily to limited market development, the lack of marketing organizations and poor access roads. In terms of environmental impacts, the farmers' responses suggested a slight decline in slash-and-burn agriculture, and an increase in tree planting activities. Some environmental benefits were observed by farmers, including reduced soil erosion, increased soil fertility, and improved quality and quantity of water sources. Nevertheless, slash-and-burn agriculture was still the norm for the majority of farmers. Most farmers continued to harvest wood from primary and secondary growth to meet their domestic wood requirements, rather than relying on trees planted in agroforestry projects. The main obstacles preventing increased agroforestry adoption included insufficient agroforestry extension, inappropriate project design or management (such as top-down management approaches, and the use of food incentives), smallholders' economic constraints, and larger policy issues. Recommendations are proposed to improve project design and management, and to address the economic and policy constraints.

agroforestry adoption environmental impacts nonparametric test socioeconomic impacts strcutured interviews 

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Fischer
    • 1
  • L. Vasseur
    • 3
  1. 1.School for Resource and Environmental StudiesDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.Ecology Action CentreHalifaxCanada
  3. 3.Department of BiologySaint Mary's UniversityHalifaxCanada
  4. 4.K. C. Irving Chair in Sustainable DevelopmentUniversity of MonctonMonctonCanada

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