Mixing Trees with Tropical Plants Offers New Revenue
|Above: Kim Wilkinson of Permanent Agriculture Resources carries a grafted jackfruit tree to a Hawaiian agroforestry demonstration site. Jackfruit acts as an excellent windbreak, provides fodder and timber, and yields abundant fruit for home consumption or market. Photo by Craig Elevitch.|
Integrating trees into agricultural operations, particularly in the Tropics, can both lower the cost of production and generate new revenue for farmers. SARE-funded agroforestry experts in Hawaii created a series of eight guides for agricultural educators that explain how to grow valuable timber species, plant profitable niche crops in tree understories and how to design productive and effective windbreaks, among other topics. In 1999, Hawaiian coffee growers earned up to $1.50 a pound; in 2001 they are getting just 80 cents. The handbooks are intended to help them and other farmers and ranchers find new, environmentally sound ways to improve profits. In that vein, the manuals detail how nitrogen-fixing trees and shrubs allow growers to reduce reliance on costly commercial fertilizer imported from the mainland. They explain growing methods for alternative crops such as ginseng and shiitake mushrooms, which thrive in tree stands and bring a premium in the marketplace. They describe how trees such as coral and monkeypod shelter coffee, tea, pineapple, taro and kava from too much sun and wind. Finally, the guides recommend native species, such Hawaiian koa, that yield fine timber, although it takes a few decades to grow to maturity. Agroforestry Guides for the Pacific Islands" were developed by Permanent Agriculture Resources, an agroforestry educational organization, and are moving quickly through the island extension system. More than 600 have been distributed, with about 150 being downloaded from www.agroforestry.net every month. "Using agroforestry systems to increase the productivity and sustainability of tropical lands will be of increasing importance in the next century," said Bruce Mathews, a University of Hawaii professor. The handbooks "will be of immense use as reference materials to our faculty and students."
[For more information, go to http://www.sare.org/projects/ and search for EW98-004]