Issue 15: November 2011

Issue 15 November 2011 | Feedback
Improving nutrition and livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa through fruit trees is the subject of our feature story this issue. We also highlight recent publications on the proven success of fertilizer trees in Southern Africa, the value of in-kind rewards for environmental services in Asia and a review of value chain guidelines and manuals as well as our 2011 Annual Report. We report on the Centre’s involvement in a new global initiative working towards an agricultural transformation, plus we encourage you to check out our new blog.
Blogging all things agroforestry
Among the recent posts on our new Agroforestry World blog are: a proposed brown revolution for Africa; the problem with forest definitions; what does climate-smart agriculture really mean; and how do you communicate carbon finance to farmers. The blog gives our scientists the opportunity to comment on current issues, pose opinions and engage in online discussions.
400,000 farmers in Africa use fertilizer trees to improve food security
Based on two decades of research into fertilizer trees by Centre researchers and others in Southern Africa, research published in the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability shows how fertilizer trees are raising crop yields and reducing food insecurity. The study highlights the strong link between soil fertility and food insecurity, and how addressing soil fertility is vital to Africa’s development policy agenda.
Teaching skills key for farmer to farmer dissemination
Farmer trainers should be selected on the basis of their interest and ability to teach others rather than on their successes in implementing farming techniques. This research - drawing from the highly successful dissemination of fodder shrubs in Kenya - was presented at a recent conference in Nairobi, Kenya.
Getting the right links for your value chain
Finding information about what kind of value chain development approach to use in what circumstances can be a daunting task for development practitioners or researchers. Help is at hand: we recently published a review of 32 guidelines and manuals relating to agriculture and forestry designed to help deliver more effective market-driven rural development projects.
Just what happened in 2011?
Our Annual Report is out. Highlights from the year include: research into the interaction between trees and soil biodiversity; the under-representation of women in agroforestry in Africa; the revival of sloping lands in North Korea through agroforestry; antimalarial trees; and how a reduction in the number of chilling days - associated with climate change - may have a drastic impact on fruit trees.
Centre joins landscapes for people, food and nature initiative
Developing the evidence base which is needed to transform the agriculture sector is the goal of a major new international initiative of which the Centre is a partner. Landscapes for People, Food and Nature will investigate how food production can become more sustainable while meeting the needs of a growing population without causing further ecosystem degradation.
Right investment in environmental services can lead to poverty reduction
New research by the Rewarding Upland Poor for Environmental Services (RUPES) programme has found that in-kind incentives – which are more likely to extend to communities as a whole – may be more beneficial than cash in Indonesia, the Philippines and Nepal. RUPES scientists recommend environmental service reward schemes be designed to be realistic, conditional, voluntary and pro-poor.
Fruitful approaches to bolstering nutrition
In sub-Saharan Africa, where nearly one-third of the population is undernourished, growing both indigenous and exotic fruit for local markets has great potential to improve the diets of smallholder farmers and increase incomes, according to a new review by the World Agroforestry Centre.

The study – recently published in the journal International Forestry Review – argues that the cultivation of indigenous fruit tree species in the region could make a much more significant contribution to the nutrition and livelihoods of local people if certain bottlenecks were removed.

“In East Africa, the average daily intake of fruit is 35 grams per person, way below the World Health Organization’s recommendation,” says Ramni Jamnadass, head of the Centre’s Quality Trees research programme. “Agroforestry with trees that produce good quality fruit shows great promise for improving people’s physical and financial health”.

Jamnadass and her colleagues, working with partners across Africa, have developed a list of priority indigenous fruit trees for domestication in over a dozen countries in the region. “In order for these species to reap wider benefits for smallholder farmers, certain obstacles need to be addressed,” explains Jamnadass. Poor access to superior quality cultivars that are bred for African environments is one of the main constraints facing smallholders in the region. Poor farm management and post-harvest practices, as well as weak marketing systems, also limit the widespread uptake of quality fruit trees.

Like their indigenous counterparts, exotic fruits also offer great potential for improving nutritional security and incomes. “The problem here is that exotic fruit cultivars grown in Africa over many years are not as good as new cultivars of the same species now being grown outside the region,” says Jamnadass. “So in order to increase the cultivation of quality trees in Africa, we need to introduce these new types, which are frequently found in developed countries as well as in many parts of Asia. And then, we need to develop efficient ways to distribute these cultivars to smallholders.”

Plantings of high-quality guava, tamarind, pomegranate, papaya, custard apple and jackfruit stock from outside the region all have great potential in Africa.

To facilitate the international exchange of domesticated fruit trees, better coordination between relevant legislation is needed to remove unintended hindrances to the transfer of improved plant materials that can benefit farmers and consumers more widely.

To help widespread uptake of high-quality indigenous fruit trees, the study recommends a process in which smallholder farmers themselves select superior types of local species. Called participatory tree domestication, the approach marries local knowledge of fruit tree cultivation with scientific advances in collecting and propagating genetically superior plants by rooting, cuttings and grafting.

Another hurdle for producers of both exotic and indigenous fruit is access to markets. “Producing good quality fruit is one thing, but being able to sell it at a fair price is another,” says Steven Franzel, one of the study’s co-authors and head of the Centre’s Marketing and Extension research programme. “We also need to understand consumer demand and expand and improve markets if smallholders are to benefit more broadly.”

By looking at the value chain, bottlenecks in delivery can be identified and acted upon; resulting in better outcomes for farmers.

Value chain analyses on the njansang nut in Cameroon, for example, led to stronger farmers’ producer groups that had better negotiating power and were able to sell members’ nuts in bulk. Consequently they received a much better price for their produce.

“We need to find efficient, low-cost and achievable ways to boost nutrition; and with the right interventions, agroforestry with quality fruit trees has great potential to do this,” says Jamnadass.

Story by Geoff Thompson
Transformations is produced by the World Agroforestry Centre Communications Unit.
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