Forest Gardening Helps More Farmers Boost Yields

Fuelled by the turbulence of degraded soils and low agricultural production, more farmers in the North West, South West and West and Littoral Regions are turning to forest gardening, an upgrade of agro-forestry.

A team made up of experts from ERuDeF has been helping farmers to take on agro-forestry and forest gardening to conserve the soil, increase crop yields and consequently protect the environment.

Increasing human population and extensive growing of eucalyptus, especially in the North West, had exerted huge pressures on land use and reduced drastically crop yields. However, sustained education and sensitisation by ERuDeF on regeneration of soils with agro-forestry species, many farmers in the North West now boast of improved yields and higher incomes.

With financial support from Trees for the Future (TFTF), ERuDeF technicians have been recruiting more communities into the forest gardening group.

The NGO provides seedlings, farm tools, training and follow-up support to farmers involved in agro-forestry and forest gardening.

“Farmers can integrate vegetables like pepper, okro, and fruit trees (plums, guavas, mangoes) so as to benefit good yields while the agro-forestry trees mature,” said Kingsley Neba, former Trees for the Future Country Coordinator, as he inspected new forest garden plots at Water Tank quarter in Mendankwe, Bamenda.

With their nutrient-rich foliage and nitrogen-fixing capabilities, unique agro-forestry species such as acacia, calliandra, Prunus africana, moringa Oleifera nourish degraded soil and consequently breathe life into plants.

In 2013, Fonkwa Samuel halted the planting of eucalyptus trees and planted Prunus Africana and acacia.

“I am now using the foliage for mulching, manure and feeding my pigs,” said Fonkwa.

Gladys Awa Siri, a member of Mid Hill Mixed Farming Group in Mendankwe, said she has learnt to mix her crops with acacia, “because we cannot grow crops with eucalyptus.”

According to Thomas Ayong, a farmer in Njezei-Kugwe, he started planting acacia, calliandra, lucenia and Prunus in 2010 and 2011. Then he started cropping pineapples and yams side by side with the agro-forestry trees.

“The yields of these crops increased tremendously on just a small piece of land that you can see here,” Ayong told The Green Vision, “I have also so far planted 10.000 plums on one and a half hectares.”

However, farmers in other Divisions like Kupe Muanenguba have found it difficult abandoning eucalyptus on which they depend for income.

According to Kang Primus, the situation will change gradually given the introduction of a replacement species; grevellia robusta.

As degraded soils and agro-forestry trees interactions increase, so does the need for more support to recruit more farmers into the scheme in areas still largely degraded. Earnest Neba said exchange visits by farmers to observe what other farmers have done and benefited would be a plus.

“More training is also important for farmers to learn new technologies,” Neba said.

In response to the need for more training to enable farmers master and benefit further from forest gardening, Tress for the Future organized a two-day workshop for field technicians on January 26 and 27, 2015 for them to keep abreast with the forest gardening approach and the use of GPS. The technicians were trained to produce forest garden models for their respective Divisions based on the food needs and the performance of crops in their areas.

Reactions of some field technicians after forest gardening and GPS training workshop

I have been working with TFTF since 2009. I have planted more than 40.000 trees but because of problems like cattle grazier, some

did not survive. However, because of these

trees, farm management has been improved upon, livestock is now more productive, and it is also contributing in the fight against climate change. I think the forest garden approach is going to help not only me but all farmers. The GPS training too was wonderful but as you know, we can’t just grasp everything in one day but as time goes on I think we will fully understand it.

By Gehmoh Denis, Ngoketunjia Division

I joined TFTF in 2009, and the calliandra we have planted has improved on our soil fertility very much and we are also using the tree as building material. There is also Pygeum, which farmers started exploiting. The forest garden approach is a good innovation, it is actually something we have been doing ignorantly but after this training, we are going to improve on it. The GPS training was so wonderful. There are many advantages I think we are going to get from the GPS, like the coordination of tomatoes and Irish potatoes; we must use the GPS because they must go with a certain altitude.

By Ndang Ephraim, Boyo Division

We have been working with TFTF for three years now. We have nursed and shared seeds to councils; we are trying to improve the number of trees we transplant from our bare root nurseries. So far we, have planted close to 200.000 trees, mostly acacia, lucenia and Prunus Africana because these are the species that survive in the North West particularly in Nkambe. The forest garden approach is going to be of great importance to us; I have been writing to the Country Coordinator of TFTF asking for this training, so I am very happy that the technology has finally come to us and we are going to make good use of it. As for the GPS training, it is very important to us. The former project coordinator was asking me to collect GPS coordinates, and I would go to rent the services, but just renting for a day is 5.000 francs cfa, but now that we have the training, I no longer have to do that.

By Kari Jackson, Donga-Mantung Division

We started in 2013 and we have planted more than 23.000 trees. Most of these trees are water-friendly and were planted around catchments; we also use the trees for the installation of beehives because the trees are rich in nectar. There has been a huge increase in the quality and quantity of tomatoes and Irish potatoes yields in farms where trees were planted. The GPS training was nice, most often we have the farmer-grazer problem with the Mbororo people who always accuse us of encroaching into their farms, now with the GPS when we take the coordinates, and the SDO signs, we won’t have any more problems.

By Berry Jennette, Kumbo

IMG 0586I have worked with TFTF for about four years. Personally, I have land near town that had been degraded but since I started planting trees like calliandra, acacia and lucenia, I discovered that they can improve the fertility of the soil. So land, which was not yielding well is doing very well now. In 2013, I planted, 113.000 trees and in 2014 I planted 23.664 trees, with the farmers I am working with in Fako. I have seven villages I am working with and all the villages are seeing the fruitfulness of the work and they want to continue. I think the forest garden system will help me and my farmers. I am thinking of setting up a moringa agro-forestry garden, it will help my community because it is medicinal. Using cassava as part of the forest, I will include tomatoes and neem. This is according to the food needs and performance in my area. The GPS training was good, I have been wondering how to have this training so that I can use it to map lands. I invited someone to come map my land before I knew that the land was half a hectare, if I had the knowledge before now, I would have done that myself.

By Ayuk Rudolf, Fako Division.

I have been into agro-forestry for eight years now and coordinate seven farming groups. So far, we have planted 140.000 trees but we have 68.000 trees growing now. But because of the farmer-grazer problem, we have lost a lot of the trees. The trees have benefited the whole community of Wum centre because since 2008, we have been able to get fuel wood from the trees. We started with eco-farming and the crops there really proved that tree planting will solve the problem of poverty in Menchum. The trees also harbour bees which produce honey, which we sell and make money from. I am sure the forest garden approach will really help us because it will help improve on yields and I am very sure the farmers will embrace it. The GPS training wa also wonderful to know that you can be doing something in the field and it is registered for people abroad to see. It is a wonderful boost to our morale.

By Kum Nicolas, Wum, Menchum

I have been working with TFTF since 2013. I work with four farming groups. We were introduced to five species of trees, acacia, calliandra, Prunus africana, moringa and neem. So far, we have planted over 11.000 trees. These trees have helped fertilize the soil, though we had the challenge of some trees not germinating, may be because the alley cropping system was not respected and the farmers didn’t trim the trees on time. So we take out time to go the farms and trim the trees as well as spread the leaves in the farm. The principal challenge that we have is that before the arrival of TFTF, we had species that we had been planting like the eucalyptus which is strongly discouraged by TFTF. Now we know that we need to replace it but the farmers do not understand that; they depend on the eucalyptus for incomes and other things. We hope that the seeds of grevilia robusta, the new species introduced during the workshop, will made available to us so that we can replace eucalyptus. For the forest garden system, it is a laudable initiative that will foster agriculture, increase yields and income of farmers. It will benefit greatly the people of Kupe Muanenguba who depend on coffee, cassava, cocoyam, etc. It will introduce the farmers to market gardening for tomatoes, potatoes, which I believe most of the farmers are interested in. I know it is going to change the living standard of the people. Again, the GPS training will help us; it is a great technology that cannot be absorbed in one day, but the bit that we have gathered will encourage us to own a GPS. It is a good initiative too, since it will promote transparency in our activities.

By Kang Primus Mutuge, Kupe Muanenguba Division

Our main challenge is to convince people to plant trees. Farmers in this region are used to coffee, and other food and fruit crops. We also have a problem of scarcity of seeds. We have trained seven groups, both old and new. We have one hectare of land where we are creating a forest garden; we are thinking of planting fruit trees. It is an arid and isolated zone but we think if we succeed in this project, it will be an example for others to follow. I am very happy because the training we just had will help us improve on this project. The GPS is welcome. I think it will make farmers more conscious and will also help supervisors in monitoring.

By Youmsi Justin, Mungo, Littoral

Related News

REDD +, an incentive for restoration

REDD +, an incentive for restoration

The fight against climate change is one of the major challenges of our time. Forests play a fundamental role in climate change mitigation- by removing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it in biomass and soils. This also means that when forests are cleared or...