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04 February 2014

Virginia-Tech University Professor presents report on Agroforestry

Posted in News, Views 1385

Prof. John Munsell being interviewed after his presentation.

Agroforestry, integrating trees in farms, has been described as an age-old practice in Cameroon. More recently, science has helped shape systematic practices that can achieve both production and conservation objectives at the farm and community levels. This observation came on the heels of a preliminary report by Prof. John Munsell of Virginia Tech, US at the Institute of Biodiversity and Non-Profit studies on Agroforestry adaptation and confirmation in the South West, North West and West Regions of Cameroon;.

In an earlier visit to Cameroon, John together with the Trees for the Future US and Cameroon team set out to study the relationship between agroforestry and household variables such as improvements in financial status and family livelihood opportunities, farmer satisfaction with agroforestry, and community benefits in the SW, NW, and W Regions of Cameroon. The team was equally interested in finding out what factors may affect future use and why such initiatives should garner support. The work stands to be very useful because the participating agroforestry farmer network is robust and mature, offering fertile ground for studying how to encourage permanent use of these systems.

The research took the team through the fields visiting farmers who had been practicing agroforestry for at least three years and talking with them individually and in focus groups to establish facts that will help support adaptation and confirmation across the region. An interesting yet simple survey method of using pebbles to determine response levels to questions was used by the professor (among other survey methods). Drawing inspiration from satisfaction Cameroonians gain from football, he was able to relate this to the people and get them to connect it to the method intended to measure critical variables related to agroforestry permanence. Seven groups with a sample size of 53 were surveyed during the first trip.

Some benefits of agroforestry as pointed out by experienced farmers included wind erosion control, fresh air, combating climate change, soil fertility through coppicing, and providing shade for crops during the dry season. Of what further benefit, therefore, will this research be to resource poor farmers who cannot read and write was one question asked by a presentation attendee. To this the professor said, working through non-governmental and locally-scoped institutions like Trees for the Future Cameroon and The Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF), the farmers will be consistently engaged on topics such as innovative methods, benefits and different orientations that may result from the research. Among those who attended this presentation were Researchers from IRAD, Ekona, Lecturers from the University of Buea, staff and students of IBiNS, staff of ERuDeF and Trees for the Future.

The team has gone back to the field, with an increased number of groups to continue research. Along with this team and also from Virginia Tech, are Micheal St. Germain, a wildlife biologist who will be training the ERuDeF team on collecting meaningful bio-monitoring data with a focus on using motion-activated camera traps in the wild.


By Ita Nawom