Definition of agroforestry

fore057 at fore057 at
Fri Aug 13 07:14:10 EST 1993

In article <1993Aug9.102606.14991 at>, MI002 at uk.AC.SCOT-AGRIC-RES-INST.MACAULAY-LAND-USE ("Alan Sibbald, Land Use Division") writes:
> The definition of agroforestry provided by Euan Mason is undoubtedly too
> narrow. There have been many attempts to provide a form of words that embraces
> all possible systems, the one that I have quoted most recently is:
>      "Today there is no divergence of opinion that agroforestry:
>      - is a collective name for land-use systems involving trees
>        combined with crops and/or animals on the same unit of land;

This is a bit fuzzy.  How do you define a unit?  Is it a farm, or do the crops
have to be alternating within a small paddock?  What about shelterbelts?  
Small woodlots?

>      - combines production of multiple outputs with protection of the
>        resource base;                               
>      - places emphasis on the use of indigenous, multipurpose trees
>        and shrubs;

Why indigenous?  In NZ we grow exotic grasses with exotic conifers.  Does this
not qualify as agroforestry?  Why multipurpose?  Would alternating rows of
grass used for forage and trees used only for timber qualify?

>      - involves the interplay of socio-cultural values more than in
>        most other land-use systems;
>      - is structurally and functionally more complex than
>        monoculture."
>                                              Nair (1991)
> [Reference:
>  Nair, P.K.R., 1991. State-of-the-art of agroforestry systems. Forest
>      Ecology and Management, 45: 5-29.]
> This definition allows me, in speaking to audiences in the UK, to draw
> attention to our hopes for agroforestry in terms of:
>     - diversification "production of multiple outputs", particularly the
>       production of quality timber (the UK currently imports around 90% of its
>       requirements for timber and timber products but has supplies of softwood
>       coming on stream); 

This can be better achieved in NZ by farmers growing small woodlots rather
than pasture under trees, according to recent data.  They can diversify their
products by planting appropriate parts of their farms in trees.  This is
certainly "farm forestry", but perhaps not "agroforestry" according to Mair's

>     - sustainability "protection of the resource base", also the need to attend
>       to ecological diversity and nature conservation; 
>     - reduction of agricultural production - through the impact of planting
>       trees and shrubs on agricultural land (please note that this may be a
>       temporary feature determined by politicians and unique to "developed"
>       societies).
>     - maintenance of rural populations "the interplay of socio-cultural
>       values". With the current run-down in UK agriculture we must find
>       land-using alternatives if rural polulations are not to be dessimated;
>     - the use of silvoarable and silvopastoral (as defined for NZ by Euan
>       Mason) systems.
> It also allows me to underline the need for research on agroforestry in the UK
> so that we can understand the processes by which agroforestry "is structurally
> and functionally more complex than monoculture", the understanding leading to
> the design of systems which will satisfy the above set of multiple objectives.
It would seems that you prefer a narrow definition, requiring intimate
associations of indigenous crops before you would label a production system


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