Using farmers' local knowledge of tree provision of ecosystem services to strengthen the emergence of coffee-agroforestry landscapes in southwest China.
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Intensive monoculture coffee farms quickly expanded in Yunnan Province in the 1990's and 2000's. In 2012, local authorities in Pu'er and Xishuangbanna Prefectures, the main coffee producing centre in the province, initiated a large-scale conversion program of these farms towards coffee-agroforestry systems to promote "ecologically-friendly coffee". Shade tree inventories and household interviews were conducted in these two prefectures to characterize coffee farms and the Local Ecological Knowledge (LEK) of farmers on the provision of ecosystem services by associated tree species. This study on newly emerging coffee farming systems revealed a high level of tree species diversity at both farm and landscape levels despite the previous dominance of intensive coffee monoculture and the large-scale distribution of a limited number of shade tree species by the government. 162 tree species were encountered during farm inventories, out of which the community of coffee farmers was able to rank 30 against 9 ecosystem services and disservices. This study reveals that this LEK is a type of hybrid knowledge that still relies mostly on traditional knowledge of tree species combined with experience acquired from newly-implemented coffee-agroforestry practices. This study also pointed out knowledge gaps regarding the impact of mature trees on coffee yield, coffee quality and pest control. The participatory approach resulted in the identification of non-promoted species with a high potential to provide locally relevant ecosystem services in coffee-agroforestry systems. These results lead to the upgrade of an online tool (www.shadetreeadvice.org) which allows extension services generating lists of recommended shade tree species tailored to the local ecological context and individual farmers' needs. This tool will benefit farmers' livelihood, support landscape health and contribute to the sustainability of the emerging Yunnan coffee agriculture sector.
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