More on the definition of agroforestry

Alan Sibbald, Land Use Division MI002 at uk.AC.SCOT-AGRIC-RES-INST.MACAULAY-LAND-USE
Fri Aug 13 12:36:00 EST 1993

Euan Mason has raised some points with respect to the definition (Nair, 1991)
that I use when talking about agroforestry to UK audiences.

 1. I define a unit, in the context of the general Nair definition, as a
    managed unit (an ecological unit?); i.e. a field in the UK rather than a
    farm (a management or business unit). The trees and crops are intimately
    mixed within the field, the whole farm need not have trees on it.

 2. The Nair definition, which is intended to be global but which probably
    emphasises tropical and sub-tropical requirements, says that agroforestry
    "places emphasis on indigenous, multipurpose trees". In NZ you have chosen
    to use exotic grasses and exotic trees each with a single product in view.
    We will probably choose to do likewise in the UK but this contrasts with
    tropical systems where importing exotics may be unrealistic because of
    specialised management requirements, local resistance to new technology and
    etc. In the tropics, the trees may have to supply fuel, fodder, fruits,
    building materials and etc. and indigenous trees are more likely to fit the
    bill. We in "developed", temperate areas have chosen for our own purposes
    not to lay emphasis on indigenous, multipurpose trees, this does not, I
    would argue, rule our systems out of the Nair definition of agroforestry.

 3. Undoubtedly, farmers can and do diversify through the planting of woodlots.
    I would argue that this is "farm forestry" and that, since the agricultural
    crops and the trees are managed on separate (ecological) units, it does not
    fit the Nair definition of agroforestry. We are looking for a different
    niche for agroforestry in the UK where farmers have no tradition of growing
    trees on farms. Agroforestry may "ease" them into becoming farm/foresters,
    partly because they do not immediately lose income from the planted area,
    partly because there may be shelter benefits for animals and crops and
    partly because it offers additional diversity in production, landscape and
    ecological terms.

 4. I don't think that the Nair definition is narrow, indeed it was set up to
    cover the vast range of systems that exist worldwide (with, as I have said,
    a possible bias towards the tropics and sub-tropics) and in which trees
    (and shrubs) and agricultural crops are intimately mixed on the same piece
    of land. It is the intimate nature of the mixture that qualifies a systems
    as agroforestry, in my humble opinion. 

| Alan R Sibbald, Land Use Division,    | janet:A.R.Sibbald at|
| Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, |                                   |
| Craigiebuckler,   Aberdeen,           | phone: +44-(0)224-318611          |
| AB9  2QJ, United Kingdom              |   fax: +44-(0)224-311556          |
| All views expressed are my own and may not coincide with those of MLURI   |

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