Farmer management of cocoa agroforests in Cameroon: impacts of decision scenarios on structure and biodiversity of indigenous tree species uri icon

abstract

  • Cocoa agroforests are dominant agricultural systems on the forest margins of Cameroon. Their management remains complex involving close interplay and trade-offs in social, ecological, economic and policy questions. To protect the cocoa crop and increase the net livelihood worth of cocoa agroforests, farmers maintain and or integrate diverse indigenous tree species in them. In a broadening context of environmental management these small holder, resource-poor farmers thus face important challenges in balancing livelihoods and conservation goals. This paper focuses on the characterization of cocoa agroforests on the forest margins of Cameroon in central Africa. It seeks to improve understanding of the complex relationships between livelihoods and cocoa agroforest land-use. It focuses on how farmer management decision scenarios can influence the architecture and indigenous trees biodiversity in cocoa agroforests. Methods used involved a rapid socio-economic survey, structural characterization and rapid biodiversity assessment of indigenous tree species in at least eight hectares of non contiguous cocoa agroforests. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze socio-economic and structural variables. Non parametric tests were used to evaluate changes in structural characteristics following management decision scenarios by farmers. Interpretation of results shows food security to be a major land use preoccupation of farmers. Due to revenue potential and high density of useful fruit and food trees cocoa systems can help slow down need for deforestation, maintain carbon and stabilize forest margins. Strata containing useful trees for food and fruits are most carefully managed and conserved in comparison with strata containing mainly medicinal and fuel wood trees. Despite species elimination scenario the basic proportionality and balance between bottom and upper stratums is maintained. Although overall species abundance reduces following eliminations, true diversity shows a slight positive change due probably to increased relative diversity of indigenous tree species. Summarily therefore, farmer management of cocoa systems appears undisruptive of both structure and biodiversity of indigenous trees

publication date

  • 2009