Agroforestry program aims to protect Congo Basin rainforest while increasing yields for farmers
Rural farmers in Cameroon are boosting returns on their investments by introducing agroforestry techniques to their agricultural practices. Agroforestry involves integrating tree crops into both farming and ranching systems. While farmers attest to higher yields and better incomes, proponents also note that the model keeps carbon in trees, thereby fighting climate change. FSRN’s Ngala Killian Chimtom reports.
A group of farmers in Nkenglikok, a small village about 30 miles from Cameroon’s capital Yaounde, welcome officials from the World Agroforestry Centre, or ICRAF, with a song. The organization introduced agroforestry practices here ten years ago with a pilot project that has since proven itself to be successful.
Agroforestry is a system of intensive land management that integrates fruit trees and crops on the same land for the purpose of optimizing the benefits of their biological interactions.
“With the integration of improved fruit trees in the farming system like plum, mango, pears or plantains, farmers now can be able to harvest some of these fruits while waiting for coffee that they don’t even eat, they only see people coming to carry it to a market,” explains Kuh Emmanuel, who used to farm mostly cocoa and coffee for market sale, as well as vegetables for family consumption. He says the integration of fruit-trees into his field has helped to stabilize and vary his income.
“Farmers in the domain of agroforestry have a stable lifestyle because the fruit trees integrated and medicinal plants cause them to harvest throughout the whole year, rather than waiting for coffee that comes only at the end of the year,” says Emmanuel. “When I started, I was doing mainly gardening, growing vegetables without integrating as much fruit trees. By the time that we got the technology in grafting, marketing, rooting of cuttings, we had now to start planting on our farms and now we have plums, mangoes that are already producing; and I would say that that has generated income ten times what we used to have.”
Most of the trees inter-cropped here are non-timber, fruit-bearing varieties. Dr. Zac Tchoundjeu, Regional Coordinator of ICRAF for West and Central Africa, explains the intent of the program from its beginnings.
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