CIESIN Thematic Guides

Indigenous Agroforestry Systems

Agroforestry is an integrated approach to land use that is characterized by the deliberate maintenance of trees and other woody perennials in fields and pastures. In "Indigenous Agroforestry Strategies Meeting Farmers' Needs," Alcorn (1990) explains that these strategies help meet the demand for a variety of goods and services, while insuring the forest is not destroyed.

In "Pineapple Agroforestry," Khaleque and Gold (1992) describe an indigenous system employed among the Garo community of Bangladesh. Changes in land tenure and influence of market are the two predominant factors behind the evolution of pineapple agroforestry. Table 1 presents pineapple agroforestry system components.

Soemarwoto and Conway (1991) explore the diversity of vegetable plants, fruit trees, and animals in "The Javanese Homegarden." Compared with rice fields on Java, the homegarden has a greater stability over time and is buffered more against pests and diseases. Products of the homegarden are more equally shared among members of the household and village. In the future, the homegarden should be a viable alternative to monocropped field agriculture.

Apart from their potential as a diversified source of food and fodder, farmers also maintain forests in agricultural settings for other purposes. Mathias-Mundy et al. (1992) describe two examples in "Indigenous Technical Knowledge of Private Tree Management": the Acacia Senegal in Sudanese savannas, which are tapped for gum arabic, and living fences in Costa Rica, which are used to demarcate farm boundaries.