, Volume 59, Issue 2, pp 97-106

Trees and farming in the dry zone of southern Honduras I: campesino tree husbandry practices.

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Forest cover in the dry zone of southern Honduras has suffered drastic reduction, largely as a result of the marginalisation of small farmers onto formerly wooded hillsides. In four case study communities, the relations between the area's human population and the remaining tree diversity were investigated through a combination of interviews, focus group meetings and inventories. Inventories on 10 farms in 2 communities found an average of 57.6 standing trees (above 2 m in height) and 9388.3 live stumps and seedlings of tree and shrub species (less than 2 m in height) per hectare in recently cropped fields. Tree management practices were found to include the selective promotion of naturally regenerated trees valued by farmers for their products, the elimination of unwanted trees due to competition with crops for light and space, and pruning to reduce competition. Farmers listed 41 species as being actively protected, although protection was largely concentrated on a subset of 5 (Cordia alliodora, Swietenia humilis, Lysiloma spp., Enterolobium cyclocarpum and Albizia saman, in that order); they also described broadening their species preferences in the face of scarcity of preferred species. The study questions the common perception of dry zone farmers as being responsible for continued elimination of tree diversity, and highlights the potential of the management of natural regeneration for meeting the livelihood needs of small farmers.

This revised version was published online in June 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.