Trees on farms in Malawi: Private investment, public policy, and farmer choice
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Agricultural intensification in Malawi has proceeded at the expense of the country's extensive woodlands. Rather than clear their farmlands of all trees however, farmers plant or leave preferred species in fields and around households. A number of indigenous and exotic agroforestry species are being promoted through extension. An analysis of potential capital and management costs vis-a-vis increased potential production of local and hybrid maize shows that investments in tree planting are most favorable when they involve low costs and low risks. In order to reduce the farmer's costs of tree planting, government introduced a Tree Planting Bonus scheme which has provided cash payments as an incentive for farmers to plant trees. The program has been costly to administer and has had a limited impact. Survey data suggest that existing markets for poles and other wood products probably provide better tree planting incentives. Planners need to carefully consider household resource allocation processes with regard to trees and tree based products before they can expect to achieve a significant impact in encouraging rural afforestation.
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