The potential of traditional treegrowing schemes

Growing trees is already an intrinsic part of most smallholder production systems (Smith et al, 1996; Simmons et al, 2002; Summers et al, 2004; Hoch et al, 2009), which shows that smallholders already have the interest, motivation and the skills and resources to grow trees for their own purposes. However, the smallholder-driven tree-growing initiatives generally show some important differences to the plantation schemes envisaged by external actors. Most important, nearly all smallholder-driven tree-growing schemes are low-input systems (Hoch, 2009) in which, instead of systematically planting seedlings of one species in a larger area, a variety of different techniques, ranging from natural regeneration through protection, transplanting or simply promotion of the species present, are adopted. Smallholder systems also avoid the application of fertilizer and pesticides, and also waive time-consuming treatments. In addition, smallholders confine tree-growing activities to periods when the agricultural workload is low, or combine tree-growing efforts with agricultural activities, for example weeding.

Due to the lower number of trees planted, local tree-growing schemes are naturally less expensive than the establishment of larger plantation areas. The costs per tree may also be lower due to the less sophisticated and more extensive nature of the technologies adopted. Especially when trees are grown together with perennial crops, the cost and time input is almost zero as the trees benefit indirectly from the regular management of the perennial crops (Hoch, 2009). These low-input strategies, which require minimal investment, apart from being applicable without external subsidies, are associated with a low level of risk and are extremely robust against price variations (Byron,

2001; FAO, 2001b; Shanley et al, 2002; Medina, 2004). On the other hand, local farmers often use less suitable genetic material and tend to completely ignore meaningful silvicultural treatments. This may negatively affect the performance of the plantation and, in the worst case, endanger the success of the growing activity (Almeida et al, 2006).

But smallholders do not necessarily grow trees for generating income. More commonly they grow trees for the production of fruits, medicine, timber and other subsistence purposes. Often the trees are simply favoured to provide environmental services to the agricultural crops such as for soil protection, windbreak, shade and nutrient enrichment (Summers et al, 2004). These benefits are especially important for smallholders with only little land (Nair, 1993). From a financial point of view, smallholders tend to prefer the production of NWFPs, as they provide more immediate and regular benefits than wood and timber. This is often more important than the prospect of a high total income in the long term. Also the cultivation of perennials such as cacao and - more recently - oil palm (Elaeis) tend to be highly lucrative (Hoch, 2009). Although generally avoiding high investments, when attractive marketing opportunities emerge, farmers have also proven their capacity to intensify, adapt and extend their traditional tree-growing systems (Hoch et al, 2008) as, for example, shown by the management of natural stands of agaĆ­ palms (Euterpe oleracea) in Brazil, and ita palms (Mauritia flexuosa L.) in several parts of the Amazon, camu camu (Myrciaria dubia (H.B.K.) McVaugh) in Peru, and teak (Tectona grandis) in Indonesia (Maturana, 2006).

For smallholders, growing single trees is better suited to their capacities than the management of plantations, as it excludes possible risks, combines well with daily routines and the flexible application of their own workforce, and depends on local technologies under their own control. Hence, for subsistence, forest goods and services as well as for marketing relatively small quantities, smallholders' traditional production systems tend to be much more effective and flexible than plantation schemes promoted by external organizations (Hoch, 2009).

0 0

Post a comment