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Non-wood Forest Benefits and Agroforestry Practices in the Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea - page 1 / 12

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Nordic Journal of African Studies 15(4): 579–590 (2006)

Non-wood Forest Benefits and Agroforestry Practices in the Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea

ANNA LAAKSO & TAPANI TYYNELÄ University of Joensuu, Finland

ABSTRACT

An examination is made of the benefits a rural family in the Fouta Djallon Highlands in Guinea gets from forests and trees in their everyday life, how significant those benefits are for their livelihood, and what people think about some agroforestry practices. The data for the study was collected using semi-structured interviews and participant observation. Regardless of the season, trees and forests are an integral part of the everyday life of the inhabitants of the study villages. The benefits offered by forests are both indirect and direct. Wood used for cooking remains the most important livelihood product from forests. Many non-wood forest products, like medicinal and food plants, are important to the villagers. The forest land, and the use of leaves as fertilizers are also essential for agriculture and cattle husbandry. The most explicit value is that from fruits that can be sold for a profit. The néré tree (Parkia biglobosa (Jacq.) R. Br. Ex G. Don) is considered the most important wild plant. Other benefits of trees, such as providing shade and windbreaks, are also highly valued. The agroforestry practices studied were not well known in the study villages. Villagers’ opinions of living fences and tree plantations on fallow fields varied considerably.

Keywords: poverty reduction, Parkia biglobosa, living fences, Fouta Djallon

1. INTRODUCTION

In the United Nations Millennium Declaration, the member states defined eight “Millennium Development Goals” for combating the world’s poverty, hunger, and illiteracy, among other things (http://www.un.org/millennium/declaration/- ares552e.htm). The role of forests and the forest sector in achieving these goals has become a pressing issue for those involved in the sector. Forests can contribute to reducing poverty, and forestry practitioners agree that policymakers should know about this potential. This contribution of forests to development requires that there be more research information made available on the interdependency between forests and people.

The livelihoods of the poorest people, including women and children, rely greatly on forests. What's more, the way they use forest resources may also have an important impact on other people’s lives. According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO 2003), the most important environmental services of forests in West Africa are biodiversity protection, watershed protection, desertification control, and climate change mitigation. The

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