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Agro-forestry has been defined as a dynamic ecologically based natural resources management system that through the integration of trees on farms and in the agricultural landscape diversifies and sustains production for increased social, economic and environmental benefits for land users at all levels. This paper examined opportunities for different agro-forestry systems across regions in Nigeria, including in relation to potential infrastructure and carbon markets. It assessed the profitability of various systems within a spatial framework and the potential impacts of new agro-forestry developments on water interception and biodiversity. This paper also highlighted Agro-forestry practices and concepts in sustainable land use systems in Nigeria. The benefits derivable from the interface between forest trees and agricultural crops are enormous. They include the optimal use of land for both agricultural and forestry production on a sustainable basis including the improvement of the quality of soil. This is in addition to the socio-economic benefits that are accruable from agro-forestry to farmers and entire populations. Indeed the advantage of agro-forestry is all encompassing and germane to a sustainable production system and livelihood.



Abstract: 1

Introduction 2

The research problem and significance of the study 3

Research Objectives: 4

Research questions: 4

The assumptions of this study 4


Agroforestry systems and practices 6

Positive impacts of agroforestry 7

Negative impacts of agroforestry 8

Factors affecting farmer's adoption of agroforestry practices 10

Impact of neglecting agroforestry 11

Re-adoption strategies for agroforestry 11


Approach 13

Selection of the case study 13

Data collection methods 14

Data analysis 14

Data reporting and dissemination 15


Agroforestry is a collective name for land-use systems and technologies where woody perennials (trees, shrubs, palms, bamboos, extra.) are deliberately used on the same land-management units as agricultural crops and/or animals. In agroforestry systems there are both ecological and economical interactions between the different components (Lundgren & Raintree, 1982). Agroforestry normally involves two or more species of plants (or plants and animals), at least one of which is a woody perennial. Agroforestry system always has two or more outputs. The cycle of an agroforestry system is always more than one year and even the simplest agroforestry system is more complex than a mono-cropping system. Agroforestry differs from traditional forestry and agriculture by its focus on the interactions among components rather than on the individual components themselves.

Worldwide around 1.2 billion people practice some form of agroforestry (Garrity, 2004). About 500 million people, many being smallholders, live in agricultural landscapes that have at least 10% tree cover (Zomer et al. 2009). Agroforestry practices are common in areas where farming is a dominant activity. However of recent, agroforestry is being applied even for natural beauty and control of climate change. This therefor implies that agroforestry has become more useful and is no longer just a component to support agricultural production. Nevertheless, Africa and other developing countries have more agroforestry practices that may not be available in the developed countries. In Africa for example, natural forests cover 35% of the land; commercial tree plantations account for 1% of the land cover, tree crop plantations such as cacao (Theobroma cacao), rubber (Hevea brasiliensis), tea (Camelia sinensis), coffee (Coffea spp.), citrus (Citrusspp.), mango (Mangifera indica), and oil palm (Elaeis guineensis)) account for a further 1.5%; and agricultural land accounts for 40% of the land area (FAO, 2002).

Agroforestry has been emphasised over decades as a useful practice for farmers across the globe. It is a practice that was used traditionally and even today all over the world. Agroforestry and its application methods have several advantages especially for the proper growth and yielding of crops. Traditionally, agroforestry was applied by farmers in Africa and Nigeria specifically and it fully served its purpose. Agroforestry generally is a practice that not only farmers would do given its various benefits.

The research problem and significance of the study

If agroforestry has all the above benefits, why then have rural farmers in Nigeria reduced its application? In Nigeria, farmers in the rural areas just like in most other African state used to practice agroforestry extensively for example 74% farmers in Osun State reported the practice in their gardens (Adedayo & Oluronke, 2014). However, the percentage of farmers (24%) who never practiced agroforestry has been increasing lately. Okoye & Agwu (2008) reported that social and economic conditions that farmers experience in Nigeria have forced them to burn bushes/forests, cutting down trees and draining swamps. This is the reason Okoye & Agwu (2008) called on the Nigerian Government to intervene against tree cutting and bush burning in order to save agroforestry in rural Nigeria. Everywhere on the globe, agroforestry is embraced and actually would be a solution to climate change and would boost agricultural production. One wonders why farmers in Nigeria have changed the trend. There is a problem that needs to be discovered and solved. One wonders whether Nigerian farmers have become ignorant about agroforestry or new conditions have emerged that have made them to forget the benefits if the practice.  This research will discover the facts behind it.

Almost 99% of the available literature emphasises the positive contributions/benefits of agroforestry. Nothing much has been written about the dangers of the practice. Literature shows farmers adopting the practice but not withdrawing from it. This therefore makes this research significant because it will contribute strongly towards the reduction of this gap in literature.

Research Objectives:

The objectives of this research include the following:

1. To identify the impacts of agroforestry among farmers in Nigeria

2. To identify possible reasons why farmers have reduced the adoption of agroforestry in Nigeria

3. To make suggestions for the improvement of agroforestry practices among farmers in Nigeria

Research questions:

1. What are the impacts of agroforestry practices in the lives of rural farmers Nigeria?

2. Why have rural farmers in Nigeria reduced or neglected the application of agroforestry?

3. What can be done to make farmers return to the practice of agroforestry since it it's an approved practice?

The assumptions of this study

This study assumes the following:

1. There must be social and economic conditions especially poverty that have forced rural farmers in Nigeria to neglect agroforestry

2. Ignorance must be pushing farmers to abandon agroforestry practices

3. Agroforestry is a good practice that every human on earth should adopt

4. With a good research project intervention, farmers in Nigeria can revert to the practice of agroforestry that they once used to embrace.


This section presents the past and most recent studies that have been conducted about the above issues of agroforestry across the globe. It's useful because it helps to get a general picture worldwide and enables us to draw conclusions about the situation of rural farers in Nigeria. It's from this literature review that solutions to the above research questions can be identified to explain the situation in Nigeria.

Agroforestry systems and practices

According to Alao & Shuaibu (2013), there are various types' of agroforestry systems, some of which are listed as follows:

Trees on farmland: The farmers plant or retain trees on their farmland, both for food, income, soil improvement and environmental amelioration and for shade during the harsh weather period.

Parkland also known as scattered trees: Parklands are characterized by well grown scattered trees on cultivated and recently fallowed land (CTA, 2003). These parklands develop when crop cultivation on a piece of land becomes more permanent. The trees are scattered far apart so that they do not compete with their neighbours. Parklands consist of indigenous trees like Parkia biglobosa, Vitellaria paradoxa, Tamarindus indica and Azadirachta indica. Parkland trees have deep roots, preferably reaching ground water table. They have capacity to fix nitrogen Produce litter that decomposes well and add as much as possible to soil organic matter.

Alley cropping as described by (CTA, 2003) is a system in which strips of annual crops are grown between rows of trees or shrubs. Lining up the woody plants in hedges should ensure that there is little interference with cultivation of the field. The extension of alley cropping to include animal husbandry by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) led to the concept of alley farming (Okali and Submerge, 1985).

Wind breakers and shelter belts: Their major purpose is primarily to control wind erosion. The species used include, Azadirachta indica, Anacardium occidentale, Mangifera indica, Musa species and Khaya senegalenses.

Agroforestry practices are classified into four namely Agro silvicultural, Silvo-pastoral, mixed farming and shifting cultivation. Agro silviculture was aptly regarded as a variant of taungya to be practiced outside of forest reserve (Nwoboshi, 1982). It envisages multiple land use involving arable and tree crops, but the emphasis here is shifted to the agricultural crops which are of dominant interest. Indeed, agro silviculture could be likened to shifting cultivation (Nwoboshi, 1982) except that the fallow vegetation is planted with economic trees whose gestation period is equivalent to the fallow period. Silvo-pastoral is mostly trees with pastures and livestock. It is essentially the practice of animal production along with trees and pastures. Shifting cultivation was the farming system widely embraced by peasants in Nigeria and the tropics in the past (Greenland, 1974). This form of farming is no longer common, because rapid population growth has increased food demand tremendously to the level that fallow periods had to be reduced and the forestry sector had to give way gradually to agricultural needs. This has led to deforestation, lowering of soil productivity, loss of biodiversity, increased soil erosion and weed infestation, and consequently lowered crop yield (Okigbo, 1984). Mixed farming is practiced by majority of the farming communities in Africa in general and Nigeria specifically. This practice indicated the existence of traditional agroforestry system common in the semi-arid zones of Nigeria (Oboho, 1989). Integration of trees into farming system and subsequent modification of the system could be easy with earlier understanding of the importance of trees in the farming system. Similarly, the practice of animal production could make the intensification of fodder bank system an easily acceptable agroforestry model.

Positive impacts of agroforestry

According to Vu Thi, Wang, Zhang & Nguyen (2015), agroforestry leads to fast income generation, good environment/climate and soil conservation. The agroforestry research trust (n.d) lists all the benefits of agroforestry as follows:

1. They can control runoff and soil erosion, thereby reducing losses of water, soil material, organic matter and nutrients.

2. They can maintain soil organic matter and biological activity at levels satisfactory for soil fertility. This depends on an adequate proportion of trees in the system – normally at least 20% crown cover of trees to maintain organic matter over systems as a whole.

3. They can maintain more favourable soil physical properties than agriculture, through organic matter maintenance and the effects of tree roots.

4. They can lead to more closed nutrient cycling than agriculture and hence to more efficient use of nutrients. This is true to an impressive degree for forest garden/farming systems.

5. They can check the development of soil toxicities, or reduce existing toxicities. Both soil acidification and salinization can be checked and trees can be employed in the reclamation of polluted soils.

6. They utilise solar energy more efficiently than monoculture systems as different height plants, leaf shapes and alignments all contribute.

7. They can lead to reduced insect pests and associated diseases.

8. They can be employed to reclaim eroded and degraded land.

9. They can create a healthy environment since interactions from agroforestry practices can enhance the soil, water, air, animal and human resources of the farm. Agroforestry practices may use only 5% of the farming land area yet account for over 50% of the biodiversity, improving wildlife habitat and harbouring birds and beneficial insects which feed on crop pests. Tree biodiversity adds variety to the landscape and improves aesthetics.

10. They can moderate microclimates. Shelter given by trees improves yields of nearby crops and livestock. Shade in summer can be beneficial for livestock, reducing stress.

11. Agroforestry can augment soil water availability to land-use systems. In dry regions, though, competition between trees and crops is a major problem.

12. Nitrogen-fixing trees & shrubs can substantially increase nitrogen inputs to agroforestry systems.

13. Trees can probably increase nutrient inputs to agroforestry systems by retrieval from lower soil horizons and weathering rock. (‘Mining' minerals and trace elements)

14. The decomposition of tree litter and pruning can substantially contribute to maintenance of soil fertility. The addition of high-quality tree pruning (high in Nitrogen but which decay rapidly) leads to large increases in crop yields.

15. The release of nutrients from the decomposition of tree residues can be synchronised with the requirements for nutrient uptake of associated crops. While different trees and crops will all have different requirements, and there will always be some imbalance, the addition of high-quality pruning to the soil at the time of crop planting usually leads to a good degree of synchrony between nutrient release and demand.

16. In the maintenance of soil fertility under agroforestry, the role of roots is at least as important as that of above-ground biomass.

17. Agroforestry can provide a more diverse farm economy and stimulate the whole rural economy, leading to more stable farms and communities. Economic risks are reduced when systems produce multiple products.

Negative impacts of agroforestry

According to Michel (2005), agroforestry has the following negative impacts.

1. Competition for light is often seen as a major problem, in particular in the Northern European countries. The degree of light competition depends on the incoming radiation as well as the tree architecture and the light requirements of the crop. For a given location, the problem of light competition can be approached either from the tree side or from the crop side.

2. Agroforestry leads to competition for water and nutrients. Much of the underground competition will depend on root architecture. For agroforestry it would be most profitable to combine trees and crops that have different root architecture, for example deep rooting trees and superficially rooting crops. But most trees, when conditions allow this, develop a superficial root system, as crops do. Sharrow (1997) however notes that lower densities of trees and planting patterns in which trees have one or more sides in the open, typically used in agroforests, promotes rapid growth of trees and such trees may have greater taper than trees growing in closed canopy forest. This may mean that trees grown in agroforestry will more easily reach deeper soil layers, resulting in less underground competition. Dupraz (pers.comm, 2004) suggests that by intensive tillage, tree roots in the top soil will be laterally pruned each year and forced to grow in deeper soil layers. Consequently, the trees have access to water in deeper layers than the crop, reducing underground competition. Even more effective than tillage is ripping the outer edge of the tree line. In a similar way, root competition may also be alleviated by digging trenches between the trees and the crops.

3. Difficult application of machinery is often seen as a major problem of agroforestry systems. In modern agroforestry, trees are typically arranged in lines at a certain distance. The distance between tree lines should be large enough to allow efficient use of the usual machinery. Machinery should be given plenty room, otherwise chances are higher to damage or even pull out trees (Swellengrebel 1990, Oosterbaan 2004). It may even be necessary to choose for a wider spacing than initially necessary, keeping in mind the future purchase of bigger machinery. If the agroforestry design and the machinery are synchronized however, mechanization in agroforestry will have little limitations.

4. Agroforestry practices do not help farmers to access bank loans easily. Most banks only avail loans for either forestry or agriculture.

5. The development of agroforestry systems generally require high investment costs, which do only pay back on the long term. Good planting stock, tree-protection (individual tree shelters or fencing) and the labour needed for establishment are initial investments. The purchase of machinery, for example for pruning or picking of nuts, may be a secondary investment. An indirect investment is also the decreased benefits of the crop due to the occupation of productive land by trees, of which the economic returns only come in a later stage. It may be difficult for farmers, who are used to quick returns on investments, to make such long term investments.

6. Marketing of products from agroforestry systems may be a problem for farmers. Wood, fruits, nuts and other agroforestry products will perhaps be new for farmers and so is the marketing of these products. The agricultural sector is used that the marketing of agricultural products is perfectly regulated through cooperation of different companies for buying, transport and processing of the products and the selling of the final product. Such clear and organized marketing chain does not exist for the marketing of relatively small amounts of wood and other non-conventional agroforestry products.

Factors affecting farmer's adoption of agroforestry practices

According to the research findings published by the Research Gate (2005), it was discovered that the adoption of agroforestry practices by rural farmers in Cameroon and Nigeria was determined by the following factors.

1. Sex had a positive effect on the adoption of live fencing, apiculture and agroforestry technologies. Men were found more likely to adopt agroforestry practices than women.  

2. Household family size was positively and significantly related to farmers' adoption of live fencing and apiculture. Larger families with increased labour supply were more likely to adopt the technologies than smaller households.

3. Education also was a determining factor as educated farmers had greater likelihood of adopting this practice.

4. Farmers' experience positively and significantly influenced the adoption of improved fallow, suggesting that the higher the level of experience, the greater the likelihood of farmers using improved fallow.

5. Membership in farmers associations positively and significantly influenced the adoption of all of the agroforestry practices. Adoption of alley farming, improved fallow and cut-and-carry fodder technologies suggested that contact with research and extension was critical for the successful adoption of those technologies.

6. Security of land tenure positively and significantly affected the adoption of improved fallow and, contrary to expectations; this variable was negatively related to the adoption of live fencing, implying that the probability of adoption of live fencing is lower when ownership on land is secure. This suggests that people invest in land (particularly in live fencing and improved fallow) to make their land rights more secure.

7. Agro ecological zone was negatively related to the adoption of improved fallow, live fencing, cut-and-carry fodder, apiculture and pooled agroforestry techniques. The probability of adoption of agroforestry practices was lower in the forest margins. The relative long fallow periods in the forest zone, availability of high levels of biomass from forest vegetation, and farmers' general perception that soil fertility is not yet a major problem, reduced the probability of adoption of agroforestry practices.

Impact of neglecting agroforestry

When farmers neglect agroforestry, there happens a contradiction of what Vu Thi, Wang, Zhang & Nguyen (2015) regarded as the benefits of agroforestry. The following emerges out of this neglect.

1. Farm soil gets eroded since there will be nothing to control running water

2. Crops easily get affected by wind which leads to poor yields

3. It contributes to reduction of rainfall thus facilitating the challenge of climate change

4. It also leads to loss of water in the soil since trees around the farm prevent water evaporation

5. Loss of natural plant medicines and fruits for animals and human beings

6. It also leads to increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere since there will be no trees and bushes to absorb them

7. There will be no sources of domestic fire wood and so poor farmers who cannot afford electricity or gas for cooking will find it difficult to prepare food.

8. During drought, crops will dry off faster since they have no shade for protection

9. Crops can also easily be destroyed by both domestic and wild animals since there are no thick bushes around to prevent them from the farm

10. Extinction of wild animals that live in trees and bushes will occur and this leads to loss of soil fertility since there will be no animal droppings.

Re-adoption strategies for agroforestry

For farmers to re-adopt agroforestry practices there is need to do the following as identified in the research gate (2005).

1. Encourage women to take part in tree planting and ownership

2. There should be compulsory planting of tree by every farmer enforced by Government authorities. If any farmer is found without indicators of agroforestry on the farm, he/she should pay a fine

3. The government should help farmers to secure permanent ownership of land such that they get a motivation to plant trees. Otherwise leasing land does not allow agroforestry since farmers expect the land to return to the land lord anytime. Farmers cannot invest in agroforestry practices like planting of trees which take a long time to mature

4. Functional adult literacy education should be adopted for farers to understand and appreciate the usefulness of agroforestry

5. Since previous studies have indicated that big family size positively contribute to adoption of agroforestry, then efforts against family planning should be undertaken to produce more children.

6. Farmers should be encouraged to join farmer associations and groups where they can learn from what others are doing. These cooperatives are established to help farmers undertake practices that help them to make good yields and one of such practices is agroforestry.

7. The governments should take lead in mobilising and educating the public about the dangers and benefits of agroforestry



This research was to identify possible factors that have made rural farmers in Nigeria to reduce their application of agroforestry practices and to suggest measures for this issue. As has been identified above, agroforestry is a good practice that creates favourable conditions for proper growth and yielding of crops. Farmers in Nigeria used to embrace this practice traditionally and in the recent years and even worldwide the practice is regarded as very important. However, rural farmers in Nigeria lately have neglected the practice and instead are destroying some of the planted shrubs and trees. This section describes the methods and steps that were used in this research to establish the issues behind this shift of agroforestry among the rural farmers in Nigeria.

Selection of the case study

The case study method was used to generate data for this research and Nigeria was intentionally selected. Cronin (2014) indicates case study research is important because it focuses on specific situations and gives a proper description of events and individuals that can be generalized to make general conclusions. The method of case study targets particular situations and it gives a description of individuals and groups. When this method is used, the researcher can choose to concentrate on the whole situation under investigation or can decide to choose specific elements to study in details. Researchers who prefer to use this method emphasize that a combination of case studies is adequate enough to make a good representation of the population under study (Mariotto et al., 2014). However, Yin (2009) says that case study method lacks control and can produce biased results based on the researcher's interests and knowledge. Yin (2009) adds that this method uses small population/cases to make general conclusions representing a wider community which can mislead. Despite these shortcomings, the case study method has remained popular and has continued to be used in all disciplines especially social sciences, education, health and political studies.

Data collection methods

This research was based on primary data where the works published by other scholars in academic journals, Government publications and international agencies especially the United Nations (UN) publications were analysed. Most articles were accessed in the library and e-reserve section of the University of Canberra, Australia. Secondary data is the use of the primary research that has been made available by other researchers (Andersen, Prause & Silver, 2011). Using secondary data is important because it saves time and resources compared to primary data collection. Secondary data does not involve field work and interviewing many people. All it takes is accessibility to the library and online information which saves time and money. According to Andersen, Prause & Silver (2011) secondary data also gives multidisciplinary perspectives which help different researchers to do their research using the same data. For example longitudinal surveys can be used by sociologists, demographers and economics to derive specific information they need. Secondary data also helps to bring world data into one place for quick comparison. For example this research is able to compare agroforestry issues worldwide without traveling to different countries. On the other hand however, secondary data collection also poses a challenge especially when choosing questions, measurement instruments and lack of control over the time for data collection.

Data was collected from these publications through extensive reading and making notes which were analysed properly before making this report. Data collection was both intentionally and randomly selected. The University of Canberra library and e-reserve section were intentionally and automatically selected since it is where the researcher is undertaking his master's degree.

Data analysis  

While reviewing the past studies, the researcher summarized all the identified points in a record book. After reviewing all the available literature, the researcher then identified points that were key and relevant to the research questions and clearly aligned them to their sources in the literature. This step was followed by deep analysis, arrangement and interpretation for the final report writing.

Data reporting and dissemination

The collected data was analysed and compiled into a report that was submitted to the University of Canberra as a requirement for the master of international development. Additionally, the findings of this study were informally disseminated to friends and diplomats in Nigeria who used it to advocate for proper waste disposal in the country.

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