A wide range of benefits
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CTA. 2004. A wide range of benefits. Rural Radio Resource Pack 04/3. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57190
Henry Phombeya of Malawi?s Land Resource Centre outlines the benefits of various popular agroforestry species, including those offering soil fertility improvement.
A wide range of benefits Cue: While agroforestry, as a science, is quite new, in fact farmers have been enjoying the benefits of having trees on their farms for generations. Some trees, for example, produce nutrient-rich leaves which, when they fall on the soil, act as a natural fertilizer. In the lakeshore areas of Malawi, Faidherbia albida trees, known locally as msangu, are often left by farmers, who recognise the fertility benefit they give. But agroforestry is about more than just increasing soil fertility. Carefully chosen trees and shrubs, if planted on farms, can provide a huge range of benefits, from building materials to insecticides. Excello Zidana recently spoke to Dr Henry Phombeya, Project Co-ordinator for Malawi?s Land Resource Centre, about the many advantages of having trees on farms. IN: ?There are several and normally I like dividing them.? OUT: ?. agroforestry really can help to boast crop yields.? DUR?N 5?29? BACK ANNOUNCEMENT: Dr Henry Phombeya of Malawi?s Land Resource Centre, talking to Excello Zidana. Transcript Phombeya There are several and normally I like dividing them in two categories. We?ve got some technologies that are dealing with soil fertility improvement and for these we use shrubs like Tephrosia vogelii, Sesbania sesban, and trees like Faidherbia albida locally known as msangu or mtete. And then there are some technologies that are to do more with afforestation. And here we have trees like the Sennas, Senna spectabilis, Senna siamea. Zidana What are the other forms of agroforestry that you have been using or that you know? Phombeya There are other forms yes of agroforestry technologies. For example we can talk of biomass transfer. These are instances where you?ve got trees that are planted say as boundaries around your farm. You can at times prune the branches, take the biomass that you realise from there and apply it to your field. That has proved to be a very important technology and crops have improved under such systems. And then when you get the leaves like that you have the branches and of course the tree you can use for fuel wood. So you have got two benefits here. Not even two, three. You are improving soil fertility, you have the trees that are demarcating your boundaries to avoid conflict with your neighbours and then you?ve got the fuel wood which is a very important factor now that there is rampant deforestation. Zidana When we look around in the villages in Malawi we have discovered that a number of farmers have taken up the technology of using Tephrosia vogelii. What are the specific advantages regarding this shrub? Phombeya Tephrosia it?s a very important shrub in that first and foremost it has got a very good biomass that when we incorporate in the soil it helps to build up organic matter. And at the same time it?s a legume, it fixes nitrogen. That?s contributing to soil fertility. But up and above that Tephrosia vogelii has got some insecticidal properties. If you crush the leaves of Tephrosia vogelii and you?ve got maize stalk borer, you put it in the maize funnel the maize stalk borer goes away. So it has got that insecticidal property that is a very important component. Zidana You also talked about the tree which is locally known as msangu in Malawi. Phombeya Faidherbia albida, that is the scientific name. Zidana Faidherbia albida. Now if we talk about the lake shore areas, these trees are numerous, they are all over. Do the farmers realise the importance of retaining or keeping these trees? Phombeya Yes I did research on Faidherbia albida specifically. And in the survey that we conducted it showed that people value these trees and they deliberately leave them on their farms. And asking them about why they leave them there their answers were, if you plant maize underneath a Faidherbia albida tree it does very well and you?ve got a variety of crops that can be grown underneath it. So in a way they know it?s an important tree. Zidana So they are convinced that if you are using these trees definitely the fertility of the soil may be improved in one way or the other? Phombeya Yes, they are aware of that, only that they don?t know exactly what happens for that fertility to come about and that?s the work of the scientist. Zidana You have been talking about the trees like Leucaena but now we haven?t seen you doing much on the Leucaena. Is there any problem? Phombeya Yes Leucaena leucocephala was a very important tree in those old days when agroforestry just came into the picture. But as we were working with it a terrible pest attacked it. That pest is called psyllid; it?s a pest that attacks the leaves, the tender leaves of Leucaena and it devastates the whole tree. A very dangerous pest. Zidana But the animals enjoyed consuming or eating the leaves from the Leucaena tree? Phombeya It was a very good fodder, highly nutritive. But all is not lost because breeders are looking at other species of Leucaena, like Leucaena pallida, Leucaena esculenta. They are looking at Leucaena that have resistance to psyllid attack. Zidana How do you look at farming if many people adopted this concept? Phombeya If people adopted agroforestry, like others have already done, productivity of their farms will be very high. We compared fields where we had just maize growing on its own and a plot where we had maize and then the agroforestry species and a bit of chemical fertiliser. The differences in yields were just too high, over 200%. So agroforestry really can help to boost crop yields. End of track.