The Role of Trees in Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture in the Tropics
by Roger R.B. Leakey, Department of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Cairns, Australia.
Shifting agriculture in the tropics has been replaced by sedentary smallholder farming on a few hectares of degraded land. To address low yields and low income both, the soil fertility, the agroecosystem functions, and the source of income can be restored by diversiﬁcation with nitrogen-ﬁxing trees and the cultivation of indigenous tree species that produce nutritious and marketable products. Biodiversity conservation studies indicate that mature cash crop systems, such as cacao and coffee with shade trees, provide wildlife habitat that supports natural predators, which, in turn, reduce the numbers of herbivores and pathogens. This review offers suggestions on how to examine these agroecological processes in more detail for the most effective rehabilitation of degraded land. Evidence from agroforestry indicates that in this way, productive and environmentally friendly farming systems that provide food and nutritional security, as well as poverty alleviation, can be achieved in harmony with wildlife.
Read the full report here (1mb PDF)