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Adoption potential of fruit-tree-based agroforestry on small farms in the subtropical highlands


Worldwide, fruit-tree-based agroforestry systems have been only modestly studied, although they are common on smallholder farms. Such systems based on apple (Malus spp.), peach (Prunus spp.), and pear (Pyrus spp.) are common in northwest Guatemala as low intensity homegardens and are known to increase total farm productivity in communities where farm size is a limiting factor. This study investigated the potential for adoption of fruit-tree-based agroforestry by resource-limited farmers using ethnographic investigation and linear programming simulations of farm activities at the household level. Two communities with differing demographics, infrastructure, and access to regional markets were selected based on the presence of extensive fruit-tree-based agroforestry. The influences of family size, land holdings, and tree and crop yields on the optimal adoption levels of fruit trees were evaluated through a comparative study of the varying social and physical infrastructure present in the two communities. Fruit-tree-based agroforestry was potentially more attractive to relatively prosperous families or those with larger land holdings. Improvements in fruit-tree productivity and interspecies competition were of greater importance where family land holdings were smaller. The inability of families to produce sufficient food to meet annual needs, poor fruit quality, and lack of market infrastructure were identified as constraints that limit adoption. The complementarity of production with the dominant maize (Zea mays) crop, home consumption of fruit, and the potential to generate additional cash on limited land holdings were identified as factors promoting adoption of fruit-tree-based agroforestry.

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The authors are deeply indebted to the families of Chuculjulup and Cabrican, Guatemala for their contributions and the personnel of ICTA, in Quetzaltenango for their support and collaboration. The principal author was supported by an E.T. York Presidential Fellowship, University of Florida, and by a Bowen fellowship from the National Security Education Program. The study was also supported by a USDA/Initiative for Future Agricultural and Food Systems CSREES grant to the University of Florida (Center for Subtropical Agriculture), Gainesville, FL., USA.

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Correspondence to J. G. Bellow.

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Bellow, J.G., Hudson, R.F. & Nair, P.K.R. Adoption potential of fruit-tree-based agroforestry on small farms in the subtropical highlands. Agroforest Syst 73, 23–36 (2008).

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  • Farming systems
  • Guatemala
  • Homegardens
  • Linear programming
  • Livelihoods
  • Mixed cropping
  • Orchard
  • Pyrus