Growing Acacia albida as a permanent tree crop, on farmlands with cereals, vegetables and coffee underneath or in between, is an indigenous agroforestry system in the Hararghe highlands of Eastern Ethiopia. However, there is practically no systematic record or data on the merits and benefits of this practice.
The paper presents the results of an investigation into the effects of the presence of A. albida on farmlands on the yield of maize (Zea mays L.) and sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L. Moench). Twenty seven plot pairs each consisting of one plot underneath the A. albida foliage cover and the other in the open, away from the tree-on farmers' fields, in a 40 km radius around the Alemaya College of Agriculture, were sampled and the yield components analyzed. A statistically significant increase in crops yields by 56% on average was found for the crops under the tree canopies compared to those away from the trees. This increase was caused by the improvement in 1000 grain weight and number of grains of plants under the tree, indicating that the trees enhanced the fertility status of the soil and improved its physical conditions in terms of crop growth.
Additional benefits from the A. albida trees include supply of fuelwood and fodder. Quantitative estimates of these outputs as well as their monetary values are presented in the paper. However, in order to realize these benefits to a discernible extent, higher stand densities of the tree than at present are required.
Based on an enquiry about the farmers attitude towards A. albida, the prospects for an extension of this promising agroforestry technique are discussed against the background of the state and trends of development of agriculture in the area. It is surmised that despite some shortcomings like the relatively slow and highly variable growth of A. albida and a conflict with the spreading cultivation of Ch'at (Catha edulis Forsk.), the prospects of extension of this technique are good. It is recommended that its propagation should be incorporated into the programmes of the extension agencies of the various governmental agencies concerned with land use.