Agroforestry and swidden cultivators in Latin America

TitleAgroforestry and swidden cultivators in Latin America
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1985
AuthorsBaraona, R
EditorRaintree, JB
Book TitleLand, trees and tenure: Proceedings of an International Workshop on Tenure Issues in Agroforestry, Nairobi, May 27-31, 1985
Date PublishedJune 1987
PublisherICRAF and the University of Wisconsin Land Tenure Center
CityNairobi, Kenya and Madison, WI
ISBN0-934519-01-3; 978-0-934519-01-4
Call NumberSD387.L32I58 1985
Keywordsagroforestry; Latin America; swiddens

Agroforestry is a relatively new and integrative scientific discipline, struggling for recognition and application to real problems. Agroforestry has very old antecedents and agroforestry practitioners are considered by many as mere relics bound for extinction (i.e. tropical swidden cultivators). The scientific agroforesters and their native counterparts face an uphill battle for survival or for recognition. It is no small matter to postulate that field and forest should survive together and, better yet, be integrated into productive systems, when progress or modernity have decided that field and forest should be torn asunder. Peasants and particularly swidden cultivators appear as the natural target beneficiaries of agroforestry. The latter share with the scientific agroforester a community of aims and of subject matter. These days the paths that lead to technological adoption are very much like a maze and we normally detect the exit. The technical messages come from everywhere, the bombardment of advice and the sales pitch is unceasing-eventually reaching even peasants. In this surfeit of information the message of agroforestry is rarely heard. So researchers presume that for agroforestry it doesn't make sense to compete in this game. No doubt in ICRAF other means of communication are being thought out and tried. In this paper, the author suggests that certain situations should be taken into account in order for scientific agroforestry to reach peasants effectively. At least in Latin America, conventional agronomy and allied disciplines have mostly proven unable to foster the adoption of technical advances in agriculture or agroforestry among peasants; that is, advances that are really viable and suitable. At times, researchers have known the what but not how, and at others, knowing how, we didn't exactly know what. Agroforestry should learn from these experiences. But scientists also know that major forces were at play and there is no point in attributing blame to agronomists or to peasants. Researchers are quite aware that available technology will be eventually adopted, if perceived by peasants as suitable. One plausible way for scientific agroforestry to be diffused among swidden peasants is to work towards a built-in sort of strategy, one that is linked to its development as a scientific discipline. Scientists have at their disposal many contributions that could be used and integrated in designing such strategy. This position paper should be seen as a complement to both concerns: land tenure and the future of agroforestry, as a discipline that should find ways to become accessible to peasants. This workshop deals with the role of land tenure in agroforestry and this theme shows that the broad concern is with the future of agroforestry. The proper consideration of the institutional framework of access to and the use of land and trees and their products, and the arrangements between persons or groups in land use operations is paramount. They are properly identified and assessed from the position papers.


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