Published by the Sustainable Agriculture Programme of the
International Institute for Environment and Development
Tree Products in
GATEKEEPER SERIES No. 28
The Gatekeeper Series of the Sustainable Agriculture Programme is produced by the Interna-
tional Institute for Environment and Development to highlight key topics in the field ofsustainable
agriculture. The Series is aimed at policy makers, researchers, planners and extension workers
in government and non-government organizations worldwide. Each paper reviews a selected
issue of contemporary importance and draws preliminary conclusions of relevance to develop-
ment activities. References are provided to important sources and background material. The
Swedish International Development Authority and the Ford Foundation fund the series.
J.E.M. Arnold is at the Oxford Forestry Institute, Department of Plant Sciences, University of
Oxford, Oxford, OX1 3RB, UK. An earlier version of this paper was presented at a workshop on
forest policy convened by the Agriculture and Rural Development Department ofthe World Bank
in December 1990.
GATEKEEPER SERIES NO. SA28 1
2 GATEKEEPER SERIES NO. SA28
TREE PRODUCTS IN AGROECOSYSTEMS:
ECONOMIC AND POLICY ISSUES
Trees in agroecosystems occur in two distinct places: they are planted and managed in the farming
system, and are managed in neighboring common property resources (CPRs) to provide inputs
needed in order to complement those available from on-farm resources. These non-forest sources
of production are becoming increasingly important with the growing decline and degradation of
nearby forests and the increase in demand for fuel, fodder, and other products. As expropriation
by the state, privatization and encroachment reduce common property resources and overuse
degrades those that remain, so there is a general trend towards greater reliance on on-farm
The paper does not deal with production systems that take place wholly within the forest namely
systems based on shifting cultivation on forest land, or forest land which is locally owned but
operated for forest outputs rather than agricultural inputs as these are influenced more by policies
and practices related to the use of forest land and forest resources than by agricultural policies and
practices. It does, however, review trends in the use of, and rural reliance on, forest products;
examine the role of CPRs as a source of these products; and characterise trends in the growing and
management of trees in farming systems. Throughout, the impact of national policies and of
programme and project interventions on these two sectors is examined in the respective sections.
Forest Products and the Rural Household Economy
There are three broad categories of use of forest products: direct use by the household as fuel, food,
etc; inputs into the agricultural system such as fodder and mulch; and sources of rural household
income and employment.
For most rural people foods derived from forests, or from trees they maintain in their farming
system, add variety to diets, improve palatability, and provide essential vitamins, protein and
calories (Falconer, 1989). The quantities of forest foods consumed may not be great in
comparison to the main food staples, but they often form an essential part of otherwise bland and
nutritionally poor diets (Table 1). Forest and farm tree food products are also widely used as snack
foods between meals, eaten while working in fields, while herding and so on.
In addition to these supplemental roles, forest and farm tree foods are extensively used to help
meet dietary shortfalls during particular seasons of the year; helping bridge "hunger periods"
when stored food supplies are dwindling and the next harvest is not yet available. Forest and farm
tree produce are also valued during the peak agricultural labour period, when less time is available
for cooking and people consume more snack foods.
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Table 1: Some common nutrition problems and the potential role of forest food
(Falconer and Arnold, 1988)
due to inadequate food consumption
causing reduced growth, susceptibility
to infection changes in skin, hair, and
Vitamin A deficiency:
in extreme cases causes blindness and
death: responsible for blindness of
in severe cases causes anaemia,
weakness and susceptibility to disease:
especially women and children.
common in areas with a maize staple
diet; can cause dementia, diarrhoea,
common throughout southeast Asia;
among those with rice diets causes skin
Vitamin C deficiency:
common to those consuming
monotomous diets; increases
susceptibility to disease, weakness.
Forest food with potential for combatting
Energy rich food which is available during
seasonal or emergency food shortages,
especially nuts, seeds, oil-rich fruit and
tubers: eg. the seeds of Geoffroea
decorticans, Ricinodendron rautanenil, and
Parkia spp; oil of Elacus guineensis, babassu,
palmyra and coconut palms; protein-rich
leaves such as baobab (Adansonia digitata);
as well as wild animals (eg. snails) incl.
insects and larvae.
Forest leaves and fruit are often good sources
of Vitamin A; eg. leaves of Pterocarpus spp.,
Moringa oleifera, Adansonia digitata, the gum
of Sterculia spp., palm oil of Elaeus
guineensis, bee larvae and other animal food;
in addition fats and oils are needed for the
synthesis of Vitamin A.
Wild animals including insects such as tree
ants, mushrooms (often consumed as meat
substitutes), as well as forest leaves such as
Leptadenia hastata, Andansonia digitata.
Forest fruit and leaves rich in niacin such as
Adansonia digitata, fruit of Boscia
senegalensis and Momordica balsamina,
seeds of Parkia spp., Irvingia gabonensis and
Forest leaves are especially high in riboflavin,
notably Anacardium spp., Sesbania
grandiflora, and Cassia obtusifolia, as well as
wild animals, especially insects.
Forest fruit and leaves often supply the bulk
of Vitamin C consumes, especially good
sources include fruit of Ziziphus mauritiana,
Andansonia digitata and Sclerocarya caffra,
leaves such as Cassia obtusifolia, and the
gum of Sterculia spp. are also good sources
of this vitamin.
The third main role of forest foods in the overall nutritional system is in emergency periods such
as floods, droughts, famines and wars. In famine periods energy rich foods such as roots, tubers,
rhizomes and nuts can provide an important buffer.
Where people have had relatively unrestricted access to forests, forest food is often particularly
important for poorer groups within the community. While forest gathering activities are not
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restricted to the poor, the latter depend on these activities to a greater extent. They are therefore
most likely to be affected by a reduction in the availability of such foods as the forest resource is
reduced, degraded or becomes inaccessible to them.
The role that forest food plays in household nutrition has also changed with penetration of rural
markets by new food products and with changing tastes. Some studies indicate that emergency
uses of forest resources are dwindling as people rely to a greater extent on food purchasing
(Falconer, 1989). In many regions forest food is no longer consumed and knowledge about its use
is vanishing. Elsewhere, markets for forest foods have grown rapidly for example, that for
bushmeat in West Africa. However, even where consumption is not declining the nutritional
diversity of the gathered food may have decreased.
The impact of declining consumption of forest food varies. In some cases these changes have led
to a poorer quality diet; most notably a greater reliance on purchased food reduces dietary
diversity. Perhaps the worst impact is that poorer people's food options are being progressively
reduced, especially during seasonal and emergency hardship periods.
Reduced availability of or access to forest resources may lead to problems with fuelwood supply.
Yet decreasing availability of wood does not necessarily lead to shortages of fuel. People respond
spontaneously to decreases in fuelwood supplies through a number of adjustments. For those with
land the adjustment process may include using more of the woody material grown on their own
land, and making changes in cropping patterns to include species such as pigeon pea (Cajanus
cajan) which provide woody residues which can be used for fuel. For others, it may mean
collecting fuelwood from resources further afield. Others may become more careful and
economical in the use of available supplies, and shift to other readily available biomass fuels such
as crop residues and dried dung (Dewees, 1989; Leach and Mearns, 1988).
Where rural fuel shortages do exist, the issue may be less one of physical scarcity than of labour
shortages, constraints on access, or culturally determined patterns of behaviour (Dewees, 1989).
Thus, the task of obtaining fuel may be becoming a greater burden because women have more to
do, as is widely reflected in fluctuations in gathering seasonally which coincide with seasonal
cycles in agricultural or other pressures on their time (Cecelski, 1987). This makes it no less a
burden or problem, but alters the likelihood that tree planting will be a sufficient, or even
Many systems rely on tree cover to restore nutrients to the upper layers of the soil, either by
intercropping suitable tree species with the farm crops or by gathering green mulch from trees off
farm. Crop cultivation in the Himalayas, for example, is dependent on access to a substantial area
of forest from which to cut and carry leaf mulch to maintain soil fertility. Increasing pressure on
such systems can reach the point where the forest can no longer sustain the repeated offtake.
In many agroecosystems, notably dryland systems where ploughing and sowing have to be
compressed into a short rainy season, the numbers of animals needed are considerably higher than
can be sustained from feed produced within the farm system, and can only be maintained if the
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farmer has access to grazing or fodder off-farm. Forests, woodland and areas of scrub are often
the principal complementary source, and tree fodder is often the key source of livestock feed in
the dry season and in periods of drought.
Numerous pressures have combined to reduce the availability of livestock feed. The irrigation
of land previously under dryland crops or pasture, the shift to short stemmed low stover but high
grain yielding grain crops, and shifts away from cereal crops are some of the changes occurring.
At the same time, privatization and land degradation have widely reduced feed availability on
public lands. The available responses irrigated fodder crops, stall feeding, substituting animals
with tractors tend to require more intensive use of capital or labour and therefore are not available
to the poor.
Income and Employment
There is a wide range of forest products which rural people gather, produce and trade in order to
derive income. Gathered products include fuelwood, rattan, bamboo, fibres, medicines, gums and
wild foods (Falconer and Arnold, 1989; de Beer and McDermott, 1989). The main groups of
traded products which are processed in the household or small enterprises are furniture and other
products of wood, baskets and mats and other products of canes, reeds, grasses, etc, and
handicrafts (Fisseha, 1986).
The extent of such small enterprise operations reflects the size of rural markets for forest products,
and the dispersion of these markets across large areas with a relatively poor transport infrastruc-
ture. Small forest based gathering and processing enterprises provide one of the largest sources
of non-agricultural employment and income to rural people at a time when rural households are
having to look to non-farm employment and income for a growing share of their total livelihood
(Kilby and Liedholm, 1986).
Many people depend on sale of such products as fuelwood and rattan to supplement their farm
income year around. Others engage in such activities seasonally, either to exploit raw materials
or markets available only at particular periods, or the labour available in slack agricultural
months, or to meet seasonally induced cash needs such as agricultural loan payments or school
fees. Others resort to them during emergencies for example, more people becoming involved
in gathering and sale of fuelwood in years when agricultural conditions have worsened.
The seasonality of activities is often dictated by the availability of the product or raw material,
or by the demands of other activities such as agriculture. For example, in northern Brazil, Babassu
palm kernels are gathered and processed during the agricultural slack period. During this period
the income earned from these activities represents more than a third of the family's overall budget
(May et al, 1985). As the markets for many locally processed forest products are dependent on
rural people's purchasing power, they too are tied to the cyclic nature of agricultural incomes.
Tree based income and employment opportunities are particularly important to the poor because
of ease of access and very low thresholds of capital and skill needed to enter and engage in most
of them. They also enable a high level of participation by poor women, who often dominate
activities such as mat and basket making which may be performed in or near the home, thus
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allowing them to combine these income earning activities with other household tasks.
However, returns to labour from many forest-based activities are marginal, and markets for the
products may be vulnerable to introduced substitutes. Moreover, diminishing forest stocks are a
particular threat to small enterprises, as they are seldom able to create or conserve their own tree
resources. Their forest raw material problems are often worsened by unfavourable harvesting
controls, exclusive allocation to large users, complicated licensing or auctioning procedures, high
prices due to state monopolies, and monopoly distribution systems. Thus, while forest based
activities provide a means of income earning for a large number of rural poor, many may not be
sustainable in the future (Falconer and Arnold, 1989).
Common Property Resources
Patterns of CPR Use
Rural people draw much of their forest products from areas of forest, woodland and 'waste' land
to which they have access as common property resources (CPRs). These outputs often constitute
a major component of the overall agricultural system filling gaps in the resource and income
flows from other resources, and providing complementary inputs often critical to the continued
functioning of agricultural and household systems.
The nature and magnitude of the relationship varies with the characteristics of the surrounding
ecological and agricultural systems. In India, for example, there are three broad categories
(Arnold and Stewart, 1989):
In the arid and semi-aridregions, land allocation and encroachment have steadily reduced the
area of CPR lands, which are commonly heavily degraded and under effectively open access
usage. A large proportion of the dryland draught animals are maintained on these CPRs, and
fodder and fuel are the two most important outputs. The relative importance of CPRs varies
significantly between households, with the poor being much more dependent on them and the
rich more interested in privatization. Most of the CPR lands not yet privatised exhibit soil
erosion or fertility problems, and cannot sustain low input annual agriculture.
In the hills, CPRs can comprise 60 to 80% of the area, predominantly in the form of forests
under the control of forest departments. In contrast to the dry plain regions, CPR areas per
household can be substantial, and all households have similar patterns of CPR use. Green
mulch and fodder are the main outputs. Increased commercialization of CPR products has led
to heavy use in many areas. However, many forests, though degraded in terms of timber
content, are still capable of producing sustained supplies of other CPR products.
In the forest belt across central India, common property resource management traditionally
covered most of the land. The major use by the indigenous people is collection of minor forest
products as a source of income. Expropriation of local rights by the state, and rapid and
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continued privatization, much of it by outsiders, has seriously weakened traditional institutions
The poor are usually more heavily dependent on common property resources than others. In a
major study of common property resources in 82 villages of dryland India it was found that the
poor obtained the bulk of their fodder and fuelwood and some 15-23% of their income, from CPRs
(Jodha, 1990). The poor also benefit considerably from the employment created by CPR
The trends in CPR availability have been steadily worsening. Nearly everywhere privatization,
encroachment and government appropriation have taken resources out of common use. Increasing
pressures on what is left have frequently led to progressive degradation. This process is now so
heavily entrenched in policy and practice as to make further privatization or appropriation seem
either inevitable or desirable, or both.
The result has been the widespread undermining of the self-regulating capabilities of groups of
users of the resources. In India, of the communities that in 1950 had exercised controls such as
rotational grazing, seasonal restrictions and watchmen, only 10% still had such controls by the
early 1980s, whilst the use of fines, taxes and fees had ceased altogether. As a result most CPRs
have become open access resources (Jodha, 1990).
In forest communities in Southeast Asia, traditional methods of access control, usufruct
allocation, and conflict resolution have widely become ineffective or have disappeared, under-
mined by political, economic and social changes within the village and nation. State assertion of
control first over the resource then over the land reduced access and rights of usage. Differentia-
tion within the community, and in-migration of outsiders asserting claims to use the resource,
have widely thwarted efforts to maintain or re-establish local control systems (Poffenberger
And in Africa, large areas of land have been transferred from communal to state control.
Management has changed from use-rights based on clan-membership to the exercise of state-
granted privileges and management by restriction and exclusion. The authority of the traditional
kin-group has been undermined, allowing an increasingly unregulated exploitation of land. With
government legislation having become necessary for any change to established practice, groups
are discouraged from organising to manage their local resources (Shepherd 1990).
Interventions in Management
Social Forestry Woodlots
One of the largest interventions designed both to increase the productivity of forest product CPRs
and to strengthen local management institutions, has been the programme of communal woodlots
established under the Social Forestry programmes and projects in India. Most of the woodlots
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have been established in the dryland areas of the country, and therefore have been introduced into
the situation of shrinking CPR availability and breakdown of local control summarised above.
Productivity was to be increased by raising woodlots on uncultivable public land, and control was
to be exercised through the panchayat system the lowest level of the state administrative
Planting has been on village lands or uncultivated revenue lands temporarily transferred to the
forest department for this purpose. The panchayat, or some other designated community level
body, was to take over responsibility for management from the forest department after the latter
had established the woodlot. Initiated in most States in the early 1980s, the programme has
expanded very rapidly. In the State of Orissa alone, woodlots were established in about 3,200
villages during the first four years of the project (SIDA, 1987).
Under forest department management the projects have created primarily tree stocks and wood
products, with little in the way of the intermediate products such as fuelwood and grass which
were previously locally valued harvest products. Use of the common resource is in this way being
shifted from products for local use to higher valued wood products for sale outside the community.
Benefits are consequently in practice being transferred from those who earlier used the common
land to those who will gain from the income accruing to and spent by the community as a whole.
In addition, the planned transfer of responsibility for management of woodlots on common land
to the community is seldom taking place. A combination of forest management prescriptions
more closely tailored to foresters' rather than villagers' skills and experience, use rules set by
government which are not always compatible with local needs and possibilities (and are not open
to change locally), and planning and control systems centered in local government bodies rather
than user groups, has meant a widespread lack of local confidence in the outcome. Because of
these institutional weaknesses, the programmes run the risk that they are unwittingly converting
common property resources into state controlled resources (Blaikie et al, 1986; Chambers et al,
1989; Arnold and Stewart, 1989). Though successful in increasing the productivity of the sites
used, the interventions have been poorly adapted to the institutional situation of the region (Jodha,
Joint Management on Forest Land
A number of interventions in hill and other forested areas in India and Nepal have resulted in
potentially more sustainable management systems. In each, the forest department has reversed the
trend of increasing control over forest areas and given specific powers to local institutions. In all
cases the forest department had legal control over large tracts of degraded forests, but was unable
to increase productivity. Villagers, on the other hand, had great difficulty in securing the forest
products they needed for direct consumption and to support their agriculture. In order to resolve
these problems, local control was increased under agreements whereby villagers would get a
much larger share of future produce if they managed present use to allow for regeneration. In
some, but not all, cases external funds and assistance were also provided to assist the regeneration
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The institutions, practices and other features of each vary quite widely, but they have a number
of features in common which appear to explain their relative success (Arnold and Stewart, 1989):
management by the user group, or groups, rather than by the village or panchayat as a whole;
security of tenure to the user group, with the state playing an active role in defining and
protecting boundaries against outside use and encroachment;
use regulations which are evolved and enforced locally, and marked bysimplicity of individ-
ual rules and an ability to change these rules to meet new challenges;
benefit allocation managed by the community, and reflecting the interests of the elite and the
powerful as well as those dependent on the CPRs;
management focused on low value products of local importance.
The most successful examples seem to occur in areas where the technical knowledge already
existed at the village level, and the missing ingredient was an effective agreement between village
level institutions and local representatives of the government. Experience suggests that such
institutions and working arrangements can mature in a relatively short period.
However, success with joint management is still the exception rather than the rule. A survey of
experience in Southeast Asia (Seymour and Rutherford, 1990) reports two main impediments to
progress. One is the reluctance, or inability, of forest departments to proceed with or implement
devolution of responsibility to local level, particularly where they perceive that this will threaten
their control over a timber resource. Improved access to use of forest products therefore tends to
be concentrated on degraded forest. The other constraint arises from pressures from within the
community that undermine or overwhelm agreed systems of local control.
Problems tend to be more pronounced where access to forest products is to be combined with
rights to cultivate land such as on tree pattas (leases) in India, stewardship contracts in the
Philippines, STK land entitlement certificates in Thailand, and the forest management agree-
ments between the State Forest Corporation and groups of farmers practicing taungya (tumpang
sari) on forest land in Java, Indonesia. Additional problems with these arrangements include
concern on the part of governments, or government departments, that a concession that allows
temporary use of forest land for cultivation will lead to permanent alienation of the land from
forest to agriculture. Such schemes may also founder because participants lack the resources to
bring the degraded land assigned to them in to productive use. Allocation to individuals of land
which previously was available for common use also tends to raise problems of choice and
exclusion among the previous users.
It is therefore necessary to recognize when CPR management is unlikely to succeed. When local
institutions have broken down under the pressures of change, it is not to be expected that new
village institutions capable of controlling resource allocation and use can be created easily.
Interventions which increase the productivity and value of a CPR may attract interest in its
privatization, which could undermine the present level of control. The low returns and high social
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cost associated with trying to control CPRs may prove unacceptable to users, to the point at which
they prefer to leave it to the state to manage them.
Where local management is feasible, one of the main roles of the state is likely be to legitimise
and empower the local controlling institution. Many existing CPR management initiatives are
threatened by weaknesses and impediments in related land use and forest legislation. Interven-
tions may be at variance with existing legislation, or the implementation of enabling legislation,
where it exists, is being neglected.
Trees in Farming Systems
Patterns of Farmer Tree Management
As common property resources disappear or are degraded, farmers everywhere have sought to
shift the production of outputs of value on to their own land by protecting, planting and managing
trees of selected species. In many situations farmers now depend on their own tree stocks for some
products, and on common property resource sources for others. In recent times the process of
adding trees to farming systems has been accelerated or transformed by the growing commodi-
tisation of fuelwood and other tree products, and the consequent emergence of the growing of trees
as a cash crop.
Some of the changes in agricultural land use may be such as to result in the elimination of trees
from farming systems rather than their retention or establishment. Prominent among such
pressures are competition with crops for light, water and nutrients on intensively used crop land;
new agricultural techniques (e.g. use of tractors); broader land use practices (burning, free
grazing); changes in control of the land privatizationn, nationalisation); and reduction in the
rotational cycle to the point at which desirable trees are no longer able to reestablish.
Other changes tend to reduce, or even eliminate, the need for trees. Irrigation of dryland, for
example, is likely to reduce the need for draught animals, and hence for fodder, and is also likely
to create new and more productive sources of the latter than could be provided by fodder trees.
Alternatives may be available which present a lower opportunity cost to the farmer than creating
supplies of tree products hence the widespread use of dung and crop residues in place of
fuelwood. Other economic options available to the farm household off the farm as well as on
it may offer a better use of its resources than adding or intensifying tree management.
The balance between supplies from tree stocks off-farm and from those managed and planted on-
farm varies widely with agroecosystem (Table 2). Within a continuum from low rainfall, low
population and considerable common resources to higher rainfall, high population and very little
remaining common land, supply of forest products in semi-arid Africa shifts steadily towards
dependence on farmer managed tree resources (Shepherd, 1990).
Similar patterns are found in other regions. In parts of the middle hills of Nepal where population
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Table 2: Contexts in which woodland management and tree planting occur in the
semi-arid regions of Africa (Shepard 1990)
Area-type 1 Area-type 2 1 Area-type 3 Area-type 4
low rainfall .......... .. ................. ........ ............................... high rainfall
far from town .............. ........... ..... .................... ........ near to town
low population density .............. ............................. .... high population density
extensive ........................... ......... Type of land use .................. ...................
- Pastoralism, or
- Settled home base +
migrant animals, or
- Shifting cultivation,
- Labour the key
polygyny often found
in this type of area.
- Settled agriculture,
Some open land
- Animals important
- More intensive
Dung or other
- Animals fewer,
kept on farms.
- Highly intensive
agriculture; with all
- Increasing land
prices + plot
- Off-farm employment
- Animals stall-fed or
Extent of common property resource (CPRs)
Lots of common Common land All common land Scraps of waste land
land; traditional getting scarcer. gone except for may still exist.
management rules Management rules hilltops, etc. CPR Management
still extant. causing conflict, rules no longer forgotten. Open
thought workable. access only.
LIKELY VILLAGER INTERESTS: PROMISING TREE PROJECT INTERVENTIONS
- Only homestead Mostly homestead Interest in field- All tree-needs farm
planting: shade, fruit, planting, for boundary planting grown except high
hedges, shade, fruit of poles, timber quality timber.
- Only small nos. of hedging and some and maybe fuel. Good markets for
trees wanted, interest in poles. Interest in all the high-value farm tree
- Tree-related cash Animal damage to homestead products.
from bush products planted trees a options. Fodder for stall-fed
such as browse, common problem. Cash sales of fruit animals?
honey, charcoal, etc. Cash from farm- and poles; also Alley-cropping and
- Only here is grown fruit, CPR- farm-grown mulching?
woodland gathered fuelwood if no Put whole farm under
management with fuelwood. competition from trees and work off-
villagers worth remoter CPRs. farm?
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growth has put existing resources under increasing pressure, there has been a major increase in
tree cover on private land over a 24-year period; trees being added first to stream beds and banks,
then to uncultivated land and the walls of rainfed terraces (Carter and Gilmour, 1989). In very
arid areas in Rajastan, India, where fodder and fuel resources on common land have been severely
depleted over 30 years, there has been an increase in the density of some of the woody shrubs
intercropped on farm land (Jodha, 1988). Similarly in much of the humid tropics, there has been
an increase in the proportion of farm land cultivated as tree bearing home gardens (Arnold, 1990).
Factors Influencing Change in Farmer Tree Management
Within a particular agroecosystem, farmer involvement in tree growing appears to be largely
related to changes in the availability and employment of land, labour and capital, and to the
progressive commoditisation of tree products such as fuelwood and poles. Variations in tree
growing patterns seem to reflect variations in the efficiency of operation of factor markets,
different stages in the process of agrarian transition, and different patterns of tenure.
Factor availability and use
It is generally argued that as land holding declines, its more intensive use for the cultivation of
food crops will preclude the growing of trees. However, in situations where agroecological
conditions favour vertically structured joint tree/crop/livestock systems as the most productive
use of the site, farmers may respond to declining land availability through more intensive
intercropping of trees and other perennial and annual crops. Such an evolution has been quite
widely observed in the humid tropic belt in Asia and Africa within which home gardens feature
as an important part of farming systems (Arnold, 1990).
Where labour resources are limited, as farm households are forced to turn increasingly to off-farm
employment, low input tree crops may be employed as a way of keeping land in productive use.
This is more likely to happen where poorly functioning labour markets prevent more productive
labour intensive uses being adopted, and where leasing out the land is not attractive to farmers.
Tree growing may also be adopted where lack of access to capital prevents farmers adopting more
capital intensive crops. In highland areas in Kenya, for example, this appears to be one of the
factors determining farmer choice between tea and woodlots (Dewees, 1990). In areas where
farmers' livestock are not used for this purpose, they may also grow trees as a way of maintaining
a reserve of capital. Farmers also use trees to help manage risk where repeated drought threatens
other crops. Trees are also grown to help diversify farm production, to provide products and
income in the period between the main harvests, and to help bridge the peaks and troughs in
seasonal demands for labour (Chambers and Leach, 1987).
Growth in the markets for short rotation wood products has often stimulated substantial farmer
tree growing. This response has been most pronounced in wood short areas, where site and tenure
conditions are favourable for tree growing, where low labour input land uses are favoured, and,
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where there has been transition from predominantly subsistence oriented agriculture towards
greater involvement in commodity markets.
The expansion of the growing of trees as field cash crops has attracted concern, notably in India,
that it is diverting land from production of essential foods, and is reducing rural employment
(CSE, 1985). This tends to overlook factors which are causing farmers to withdraw land from low
value crop production, and to find less labour intensive forms of land use, and the features of tree
growing which make it a logical response to these pressures (Saxena, 1990).
Trees such as eucalyptus can be unsuitable where they put household food security at risk.
Producing only a single product, they are potentially vulnerable to market fluctuations, and thus
to income fluctuations. They provide income in 'lumps' followed by periods with little or no
income. Multi-purpose trees and multi-species systems such as home gardens are more likely to
contribute to a sound mixed subsistence/cash crop household economy. Tree monocropping is
likely to be an appropriate option only if the household has access to other sources of income or
food, and if there are reasonably stable markets for the tree products (Falconer and Arnold, 1989).
Security of tenure has obvious implications for tree growing decisions. Leasing, sharecropping
and other forms of tenancy, systems of customary tenure under which land is a common pool
resource, and customary and legal rights associated with the presence of trees, have all been
assumed to inhibit tree growing.
However, the relative importance of tenure may have been overstated. In customary land use
systems in Africa, rights, in particularly grazing rights, appear to be more important than tenure.
Customary tenure may already provide the necessary assurances of returns to capital and labour,
so that tree growing decisions are determined more by considerations of profitability (Cook and
Grut, 1989; Shepherd, 1990). Individualisation of holdings tends to result in an increase in tree
planting, but this could be as much a reflection of the loss of access to common pool resources
as of a perception of increased tenure security.
In upland Java, Indonesia, where tree cover plays an important conservation role, the principal
factors influencing farmer tree management decisions were the productive potential of the land,
size of total landholding, the presence or absence of good local markets for perennial crops, and
of off-farm employment opportunities. While share-cropping and leasing arrangements may
slow the rate of tree planting "tenure status per se is probably less important than related factors
such as access to credit and the fragmentation, isolation and minute size of landholdings of many
rural households" (Mackie, 1989).
The tendency to emphasise increased security of tenure for the individual so as to encourage
investment in a relatively long gestation tree crops is therefore often misplaced. Changes in both
formal and customary tenure are usually difficult to accomplish, so that it can be unrealistic to
design project interventions which require such changes. Indeed, attempts to change tenure can
be counterproductive. Past changes stemming from the colonial era have often engendered a
strong distrust of government intervention in this area. Moves to individualise common pool
GATEKEEPER SERIES NO. SA28
resources can disenfranchise large segments of the local population. The prospect of change
introduces uncertainty, and so may inhibit investments in long term activities such as tree
Interventions in Private Tree Management
In the first generation of efforts designed to stimulate and support private tree growing by farmers,
there was a widespread tendency to develop projects as though they were effectively isolated from
many of the key influences on them in particular economic forces. The assumption that farmers
plant trees to meet subsistence or environmental needs, and that these are not bought or sold in
the market place, was reflected in projects designed as though they were divorced from and
immune to market forces. Some even tried to prevent participants from selling their produce on
the grounds that this was contrary to the service function assumed to be the goal of community
or social forestry. This reflected the priority that was given in the late seventies and early eighties
to increasing supplies of fuelwood, in response to what was perceived to be a 'woodfuel crisis'
The emphasis on meeting assumed subsistence needs has been accompanied by an underestimate
of the influence of market demands for wood products including urban demands for wood fuels.
As forest products such as fuelwood, fodder and fruits become progressively commoditised, and
with the growing dependence of farm households on income to meet at least part of their needs,
the distinction between production for subsistence or sale has progressively less meaning. Not
only will a producer sell what is surplus to her or his subsistence needs, but will sell a commodity
needed in the household if the opportunity cost of doing so is advantageous hence the widespread
phenomenon of households short of fuelwood selling wood.
One result of promoting tree growing as though it were outside the forces of the market system
has been the failure to match production to market possibilities. The collapse in pole prices in
northwest India as large quantities of farmer grown material entered the market in the late
eighties, as a consequence of Social Forestry support programmes, reflected lack of market
information, and a lack of attention to the functioning of this emerging market. Most states still
have in place restrictions on harvesting and sale of wood products by private producers which
severely hinder the efficient functioning of these markets (Chambers et al, 1989; Saxena, 1990).
In addition, farmers had to compete with fuelwood supplied to urban markets from state forests
at subsidized prices. Many farmers are now withdrawing from tree growing in the areas affected
Similarly, projects have generally neglected to put producers in touch with sources of higher level
inputs, such as credit, available to those seeking to produce for the market. Indeed, provision of
credit, which has featured prominently in government programmes to encourage tree crop
cultivation, has been notable by its absence in farm forestry projects, an exception being the
PICOP smallholder tree growing project in the Philippines (Hyman, 1983).
Project interventions have centred on provision of subsidized planting stock, and/or cash
GATEKEEPER SERIES NO. SA28
payments to offset establishment and maintenance costs. Originally intended to encourage
pursuit of essentially social and environmental goals, in practice they are generally supporting
production for the market. Recent evaluations of projects in India suggest that there is a danger
that this type of intervention is encouraging tree cash crops in situations where it is unlikely to be
profitable. In Bihar, farmers appeared to be planting in response solely to the short term returns
from the cash payments provided, rather than the longer term returns from investment in trees.
This has lead to undesirable distortions in land use such as displacement of sharecroppers and
reduction in small farmer subsistence production and in areas available for grazing (SIDA, 1990).
Another weakness in early farm forestry projects has been in their technical prescriptions. A
recent review paper reported that "the project record abounds with examples of projects that have
foundered because of inappropriate species choice", and that "few social forestry project
documents ever provide any systematic rationale whatsoever for the matching of tree species to
the needs of the target community!" (Raintree and Hoskins, 1988). This is partly due to the lag
in applied research, and the relative neglect of on-farm work. Thus, even with alley cropping,
which has benefitted from one of the most intensive and thorough research efforts of any
innovation in the field of agroforestry, it is still unclear to what extent farmers will find it
Another factor contributing to poor technical prescriptions and practices, has been the pressures
often placed upon forest services to achieve planting or seedling distribution targets pressures
which all too often result in priority being accorded to quantity rather than quality (or
appropriateness). The other main reason for the frequent mismatch between intervention and
needs, is poor communication with farmers and their families due to shortage of people trained
in communication and extension skills. This has meant that even projects which are now
vigorously trying to remedy this weakness are burdened with project objectives and designs which
were developed without the benefit of involvement of the target population.
Implications for Policy
The large proportion of total developing country forest product use which occurs at the rural
household level is increasingly met from production managed as part ofagroecosystems. In many
of these systems, common property resources managed to complement farm resources form
critical parts of the total. The implications for future policy are considerable.
- Interventions have been too heavily biased towards creation of new resources through planting.
Most of the forest products harvested from agroecosystems are still obtained from existing
CPR tree stocks, and trees retained on fallow land and as intercrops within farming systems.
Collective management of CPRs by local groups is possible given an appropriate policy and
implementation environment and more accurate targeting and design of interventions. But
many government policies undermine these structures through support to privatization,
encroachment and government appropriation, and legislation which gives greater support to
GATEKEEPER SERIES NO. SA28
- Interventions in favour of sustainable collective management need to be targeted to resources
and institutional situations where this form of control and use has clearcut advantages; e.g.
where privatization or appropriation are inferior options.
On-farm tree stocks will become progressively more important with the deterioration in forest
and CPR resources. Lack of information about the role of trees in particular farming systems,
and about present constraints to tree growing, can still hamper the definition and formulation
of appropriate interventions.
Interventions in support of collective management and private tree growing need to be based
on fuller involvement of the beneficiaries than has been the case so far. Effective local control
is usually based on user group rather than official institutions, and farm forestry is likely to
succeed only when it is tailored to the particular features of the farming system within which
it is inserted.
Economic and legal incentives within the forest sector need to be overhauled to remove
measures or practices that discriminate against or undermine local production. Private
producers often face subsidized state wood supplies and impediments to their access to
markets. Even the most progressive collective management initiatives tend to be threatened
by their uncertain legal status, or by the failure of forest services to honour their own obliga-
tions or to enforce those of rightholders.
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7, FAO, Rome.
Arnold, J.E.M. and W.C. Stewart. 1991. Common Property Resource Management in India.
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Blaikie, P., J. Harriss and A. Pain. 1986. The management and use of common property
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management. National Academy of Sciences, Washington.
Bromley, D.W. and M.M. Cernea. 1989. The Management of Common Property Natural
Resources: Some Common Conceptual and Operational Fallacies. World Bank Discussion
Papers 57, World Bank.
Carter, A.S. and D.A. Gilmour. 1989. Increase in tree cover on private farm land in central
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Nepal. Mountain Research and Development 9 (4), 381-391.
Cecelski, E. 1987. Energy and rural women's work: crisis response and policy alternatives.
International Labour Review 1216 (1), 41-64.
Chambers, R. and M. Leach. 1987. Trees to Meet Contingencies: Savings and Security for
the Rural Poor. IDS Discussion Paper 228. IDS, Sussex.
Chambers, Robert, N.C. Saxena and Tushaar Shah. 1989. To The Hands of the Poor: Water
and Trees. Oxford and IBH Publishing Co. New Delhi.
Cook, C.C. and M. Grut. 1989. Agroforestry in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Farmer's Perspective.
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Southeast Asia. Netherlands Committee for IUCN, Amsterdam.
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dance and scarcity. World Development 17 (8), 1159-1172
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the Workshop on Socio-Economic Aspects of Tree Growing by Farmers, Institute for Rural
Management, Anand, India, 11-14 March 1991.
Falconer, J. 1989. Forestry and Nutrition: A Reference Manual. FAO, Rome.
Falconer, J. and J.E.M. Arnold. 1989. Household Food Security and Forestry: An Analysis of
Socioeconomic Issues. FAO, Rome.
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79, FAO, Rome.
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smallholder: an ex post evaluation of the PICOP project. Agricultural Administration 14, 23-
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Jodha, N.S. 1990. Rural Common Property Resources: A Growing Crisis. Gatekeeper Series
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Woodfuel Crisis. Gatekeeper Series SA18. IIED, London.
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GATEKEEPER SERIES NO. SA28
1. Pesticide Hazards in the Third World: New Evidence from the Philippines. 1987.
J.A. McCracken and G.R. Conway.
2. Cash Crops, Food Crops and Agricultural Sustainability. 1987. E.B. Barbier.
3. Trees as Savings and Security for the Rural Poor. 1988. R.J.H. Chambers.
4. Cancer Risk and Nitrogen Fertilisers: Evidence from Developing Countries. 1988.
J.N. Pretty and G.R. Conway.
5. The Blue-Baby Syndrome and Nitrogen Fertilisers: A High Risk in the Tropics?
1988. J.N. Pretty and G.R. Conway.
6. Glossary of Selected Terms in Sustainable Agriculture. 1988. J.A. McCracken and
7. Glossary of Selected Terms in Sustainable Economic Development. 1988.
E.B. Barbier and J.A. McCracken.
8. Internal Resources for Sustainable Agriculture. 1988. C.A. Francis.
9. Wildlife Working for Sustainable Development. 1988. B. Dalal-Clayton.
10. Indigenous Knowledge for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development. 1988.
D.M. Warren and K. Cashman.
11. Agriculture as a Global Polluter. 1989. J.N. Pretty and G.R. Conway.
12. Evolution of Agricultural Research and Development Since 1950: Toward an
Integrated Framework. 1989. R.E. Rhoades.
13. Crop-Livestock Interactions for Sustainable Agriculture. 1989. W. Bayer and A.
14. Perspectives in Soil Erosion in Africa: Whose Problem? 1989. M. Fones-Sondell.
15. Sustainability in Agricultural Development Programmes: The Approach of
USAID. 1989. R.O. Blake.
16. Participation by Farmers, Researchers and Extension Workers in Soil Conservation.
1989. S. Fujisaka.
GATEKEEPER SERIES NO. SA 28
17. Development Assistance and the Environment: Translating Intentions into Practice.
1989. M. Wenning.
18. Energy for Livelihoods: Putting People Back into Africa's Woodfuel Crisis. 1989. R.
Mears and G. Leach.
19. Crop Variety Mixtures in Marginal Environments. 1990. J. Jiggins
20. Displaced Pastoralists and Transferred Wheat Technology in Tanzania. 1990. C. Lane
and J.N. Pretty.
21. Teaching Threatens Sustainable Agriculture. 1990. R.I. Ison.
22. Microenvironments Unobserved. 1990. R. Chambers.
23. Low Input Soil Restoration in Honduras: the Cantarranas Farmer-to-Farmer Extension
Programme. 1990. R. Bunch.
24. Rural Common Property Resources: A Growing Crisis. 1991. N.S. Jodha
25. Participatory Education and Grassroots Development: The Case of Rural Appalachia.
1991. J. Gaventa and H. Lewis
26. Farmer Organisations in Ecuador: Contributions to Farmer First Research and Develop-
ment. 1991. A. Bebbington
27. Indigenous Soil and Water Conservation in Africa. 1991. Chris Reij
28. Tree Products in Agroecosystems: Economic and Policy Issues. 1991. J.E.M. Arnold
29. Designing Integrated Pest Management for Sustainable and Productive Futures. 1991.
Michel P. Pimbert
30. Plants, Genes and People: Improving the Relevance of Plant Breeding. 1991. Angelique
Hangerud and Michael P. Collinson
Copies of these papers are available from the Sustainable Agriculture
Programme, IIED, London (2.50 each inc. p and p).
GATEKEEPER SERIES NO. SA 28
The Sustainable Agriculture Programme
The Sustainable Agriculture Programme of IIED promotes
and supports the development of socially and environ-
mentally aware agriculture through research, training,
advocacy, networking and information dissemination.
The Programme emphasises close collaboration and con-
sultation with a wide range of institutions in the South.
Collaborative research projects are aimed at identifying
the constraints and potentials of the livelihood strategies
of the Third World poor who are affected by ecological,
economic and social change. These initiatives focus on
indigenous knowledge and resource management; par-
ticipatory planning and development; and agroecology
and low external input sustainable agriculture.
The refinement and application of Participatory Rural
Appraisal methods is an area of special emphasis. The
Programme is a leader in the training of individuals from
government and non-government organizations in the
application of these methods.
The Programme supports the exchange of field experi-
ences and research through a range of formal and informal
publications, including RRA Notes, aimed at practitioners
of Rapid and Participatory Rural Appraisal, and the Gate-
keeper Series, briefing papers aimed at policy makers. It
receives funding from the Swedish International Develop-
ment Authority, the Ford Foundation, and other diverse
International Institute for
Environment and Development
3 Endsleigh Street,
London WC1H ODD, UK
Telephone: 071-388 2117
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