In Mars and April 2007 two forest engineers from Skogsmästarskolan, Magnus Hakeman and Viktoria Woxlin are going to be in Kitale, Kenya on a research project to compare the economics of traditional maize cultivation and agro forestry.
The project is done in cooperation between SLU in Sweden and Vi-skogen in Kenya.
Since the eighties Vi-skogen has, together with local farm workers been using the method of agroforestry, with perennial several layer cultivations, in order to replace traditional mono agriculture The aim of agroforestry is to reduce soil erosion and to induce economic improvement.
The definition of agroforestry is: Trees and crops cultivated together with animals (e.g. bees) to maximise the soils long-term production capacity. The good thing with an effective agroforestry system is the several layer methods. Trees do not have to be nitrogen binding, but many times they are.
Most important when to choose which trees to cultivate is the need of the farmer (soil improvement, fodder, building, wood etc.) in the same time as the chosen tree should not affect the other crops in a negative way.
Nitrogen binding trees are common in Africa. Nitrogen is tied through bacterial in the root system and becomes natural manure for growths.
Shadows from the trees protect the soil from dehydration. The trees also help to keep the wind out which increases the growth.
Some of the trees that are used in agroforestry release a lot of organic material like knots, leafs, bark, fruits and roots. That contributes to more fertile soils. Trees also draw up minerals from the ground that favours the crops. These are some of the advantages of using methods like agroforestry. In the long term, the system is expected to lead to positive social improvements.
The objective of this project is to economically compare agroforestry cultivation, on a farm in the Vi-forest project area, and a farm with traditional cultivation of corn in the same area.
We will publish weekly reports during the visit to Kenya.