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Agroforestry: Reducing Hunger and Poverty in Rural Communities Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Ben-pam Koto, Zimbabwe Nov 18, 2006
Environment , Technology , Food Security , Poverty , Sustainable Development   Opinions
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According to a report by Pinstrup-Anderson and Pandya-Lorch (2001), the global demand for food (cereal and meat) is rising yet farmers in both developing and developed countries are experiencing slow growth in agricultural production. This is mainly due to, among other reasons, inadequate extension services to link researchers and farmers and insufficient or improper use of inputs. This has seen some countries in the sub-Saharan region become faced with serious food insecurity. This includes some countries in southern Africa such as Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. This is true for most developing countries.

These countries are not only faced with serious food insecurity but serious poverty as well. This poverty is dire in the rural areas where the majority of the poor live and depend on agriculture for income and food security. The major problem faced by these resource-poor farmers, who basically rely on agriculture for a source of both their nutrition and income, is low productivity. Both crop and animal productivity is low, which results in low food availability and little or no surplus for sale. This reults in hunger and poverty in these communities.

Low crop productivity is mainly due to low and declining soil fertility. Soil fertility is low and declining due to reduced use of inorganic fertilizers and continuous cropping. The resource poor farmers can not afford the fertilizers in sufficient quantities and sometimes do not apply the fertilizer at all on some of the lands. This is mainly because the farmers can not afford the fertilizers especially after the intorduction of the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme in 1989 to 1991 when fertilizer subsidies were withdrawn.

Livestock productivity is also low due to the long dry seasson where pastures dry up, become scarce and can not sufficiently support the livestock populations, particularly cattle. This results in low calving, and sometimes, death of the animals. This again reduces or narrows both the food and income base.

There is, therefore, a need to address this issue to alleviate the living standard of the bulk of the rural population, mostly women, children, the aged and in this era of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which has rendered many individuals seriously ill, living in poverty and faced with hunger and sometimes malnourishment. One possible solution is through the use of relatively inexpensive means is by employing agroforestry at the household level.

Agroforestry is an art and science that has been practiced traditionallly but has over the years been improved scientifically mainly to make it more effective and to integrate it into he modern farming systems and technologies. It involves the integration of trees into the farming system. Trees are grown on the same piece of land spaced both spatially and in time for many reasons that include soil fertility improvement, soil and moisture conservation, provision of wood for fuel, poles and timber, food in the form of fruits and grain, fodder for livestock, biodiesel, and income generation among other products.

The system mainly requires that the trees be grown in alleys, or among crops, along contours, along the fence or on falllowed land and in many other ways that are prescribed for different production systems. The systems increase agriultural production if effectively employed. They also have other products and benefits including income generation through the marketing of products from the agroforestry systems (fruits, poles, timber, fuel wood, biofuel, etc.) and from increased or enhanced agricultural production. Soil erosion is also reduced or prevented, which protects the environment. Deforestation is also reduced since the farmers obtain their fuel wood, poles and timber from their farmlands and from what they have grown. Income is boosted and can sometimes alleviate poverty and empower women. Food insecurity is also reduced through increased production and production of fruits and grains by the agroforestry species.

Some of the agroforestry species that can be grown for various purposes (soil fertility improvement, livestock fodder, live fencing, biofuel production, fruit production and multipurposes) include Sesbania sesban, Calliandra species, Leucaena species, Jatropha curcus, Tephrosia vogeli, Cajanus cajan, Eucalyptus species, Acacia species and some fruit trees. Herbs can also be intergrated into the system, for example, Moringa oleifera.

Practising agroforesty or integrating agroforestry into the farming systems can potentially improve the livelihoods of the resource-poor rural population, can empower members of the communities including women through projects such as small dairy projects supported by agroforestry fodders or stock feeds and generally increase agriculrural production, conserve the soil and prevent or reduce environmental degradation, improve nutrition of the population, etc. with minimal investment of cash capital (funds)

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Ben-pam Koto

I am a Zimbabwean and Shona. I once worked as a teacher in Manicaland District of Zimbabwe and in Matebeleland South District. In these areas I came across various cases of children having the kind of social problems that are briefly highlighted in the article. I also come across one particular lady who had a case similar to the old lady in the article. Her story touched me so much that even though I have no blood relation with her, I always think about her.

AIDS and poverty are the other issues seriously affecting some communties and as such this is also briefly highlighted.

The article is so brief because I have a very tight programme with my college work. I have a passion for writing and hope one day I will get the kind of time to do that.

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