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Smallholder agroforestry in Uganda: above- and belowground interactions of Bananas and trees

Project Leader
Gratzer Georg, Project Leader
Duration:
01.01.2011-20.02.2014
Type of Research
Applied Research
Project partners
Bioversity International, Italy.
Contact person: Dr. Charles Staver;
Function of the Project Partner: Partner
Staff
Schume Helmut, Sub Projectleader
BOKU Research Units
Institute of Forest Ecology
Funded by
Ministry of Financial Affaires, Hintere Zollamtsstra├če 2b, 1030 Wien, Austria
Abstract
Rural communities in the Lake Victoria basin from Western Kenya in a broad band following the lake shores through much of Uganda into north-western Tanzania have traditionally depended on their perennial banana gardens for food. However, the banana system adapted to a slowly-changing, village-based economy is under stress. Throughout the basin, farm size has declined, the area under annual cropping has increased, grazing lands have been converted to agriculture and production has become increasingly market-oriented. The result is a decline in soil fertility, particularly for poor-resource households, and nutrient mining. Pest problems have also increased, especially at lower altitudes. Rural communities in East Africa may face additional stressors in the coming decades - rising costs for fossil-fuel derived fertilizer; climate change, characterized by increasing temperatures and greater rainfall variability; changing composition of rural households due to HIV AIDS, outmigration of young men and women and declining interest in agriculture as a profession. The project is a collaboration between Bioversity International, BOKU; TUGraz, Ugandan agricultural research partners, NGOs and Ugandan farmer associations from Luwero, Masaka and Kiboga. The project incorporates local knowledge, studies to identify the future needs of technology users, participatory research, action research and learning-oriented monitoring and evaluation to generate research results with greater relevance and impact for young and struggling rural households. The project aims at improving food security, income and natural resource quality through banana agroforests, associated animal production and carbon accumulation adapted to changing climates and social conditions for resource-poor young households. The project will deliver four outputs. Output 1 generates a better understanding of the rural households, their existing skills, resource levels and aspirations of household members, particularly young men and women. Building on the greater insight into generational perspectives, this output also adapts strategies for building social capital in rural communities through the analysis and development of group marketing of diversified products with a focus on younger households. By the end of the project, young farmer groups will have tested new marketing strategies for greater returns, including processing for adding value to seasonal banana surpluses. Output 2 draws on the initial results of Outputs 1 and 3 for the prototyping of banana agroforests adapted to individual plots and farms through group learning and experimentation. Participatory experimentation groups will operate in three communities, bringing together 25-30 households in each community. Each household will establish a banana agroforest with a linked small ruminant unit, building on their existing farm resources. The lessons from each household will contribute to a more robust understanding of the feasibility of banana agroforests and management guidelines.
Keywords
Tropical and subtropical agriculture; forest ecology;
Agroforestry; Bananas; aboveground interactions; Uganda; belowground interactions;
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