Environmental Management

, Volume 43, Issue 6, pp 1321–1329 | Cite as

Assessing Local Knowledge Use in Agroforestry Management with Cognitive Maps

  • Marney E. IsaacEmail author
  • Evans Dawoe
  • Krystyna Sieciechowicz


Small-holder farmers often develop adaptable agroforestry management techniques to improve and diversify crop production. In the cocoa growing region of Ghana, local knowledge on such farm management holds a noteworthy role in the overall farm development. The documentation and analysis of such knowledge use in cocoa agroforests may afford an applicable framework to determine mechanisms driving farmer preference and indicators in farm management. This study employed 12 in-depth farmer interviews regarding variables in farm management as a unit of analysis and utilized cognitive mapping as a qualitative method of analysis. Our objectives were (1) to illustrate and describe agroforestry management variables and associated farm practices, (2) to determine the scope of decision making of individual farmers, and (3) to investigate the suitability of cognitive mapping as a tool for assessing local knowledge use. Results from the cognitive maps revealed an average of 16 ± 3 variables and 19 ± 3 links between management variables in the farmer cognitive maps. Farmer use of advantageous ecological processes was highly central to farm management (48% of all variables), particularly manipulation of organic matter, shade and food crop establishment, and maintenance of a tree stratum as the most common, highly linked variables. Over 85% of variables included bidirectional arrows, interpreted as farm management practices dominated by controllable factors, insofar as farmers indicated an ability to alter most farm characteristics. Local knowledge use on cocoa production revealed detailed indicators for site evaluation, thus affecting farm preparation and management. Our findings suggest that amid multisourced information under conditions of uncertainty, strategies for adaptable agroforestry management should integrate existing and localized management frameworks and that cognitive mapping provides a tool-based approach to advance such a management support system.


Cocoa production Ghana Farm management Shade trees Theobroma cacao Agroforestry Cognitive mapping Local knowledge 



We would like to thank all participants in this study. We are also grateful to the Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana, for research support. We acknowledge the field assistance of J. Hagan and constructive comments of two anonymous journal reviewers. Financial support for this study was provided by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marney E. Isaac
    • 1
    Email author
  • Evans Dawoe
    • 2
  • Krystyna Sieciechowicz
    • 3
  1. 1.Faculty of ForestryUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Faculty of Renewable Natural ResourcesKwame Nkrumah University of Science and TechnologyKumasiGhana
  3. 3.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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