, Volume 59, Issue 3, pp 173-186

Agroforestry research and development in southern Africa during the 1990s: Review and challenges ahead

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The International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF) initiated in 1987 the Southern Africa Regional Agroforestry Programme in partnership with the national research systems in Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania to address the problems of low soil fertility and consequent low crop and livestock production, low cash income, and shortages of fuelwood and timber that are common to most rural households in the region. This paper synthesizes agroforestry research and development during the 1990s from a regional perspective and emphasizes scaling-up of promising technologies. The problem of nutrient-depletion can be overcome using nitrogen-fixing and fast growing tree/shrub species, such as Sesbania sesban, Tephrosia vogelii and Gliricidia sepium, as short-duration planted fallows in rotation with crops. Intercropping of food crops with coppicing trees, annual relay intercropping and biomass transfer technologies were found to be appropriate for soil fertility improvement under specific conditions. Tree fodder banks greatly increase fodder production and enrich livestock diets with protein supplements. Rotational woodlots were developed to meet fuelwood and timber demand and reduce pressure on natural woodlands. Research has identified the potential for a number of indigenous fruits in the region to supplement the food needs of rural families, improve their nutritional status and generate cash income. Achieving the ultimate goals of ensuring food security, alleviating poverty and sustaining the environment will require a massive scaling up of adoption of these agroforestry technologies. Key strategies to accomplish this include: increasing the benefits and targeting of agroforestry technologies (for example, through providing substitutes for costly inputs, improving diversification, marketing and processing of agroforestry products, and employing GIS-based targeting techniques) and information-sharing, training and collaborative partnerships in implementation and dissemination of agroforestry options with all major stakeholders (farmers, non-government organizations, extension services, educational institutions, and policy-makers).

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