Ecosystem Services and Importance of Common Tree Species in Coffee-Agroforestry Systems

Global coffee production, especially in smallholder farming systems, is vulnerable and must adapt in the face of climate change. To this end, shaded agroforestry systems are a promising strategy. Understanding local contexts is a prerequisite for designing locally tailored systems; this can be achieved by utilising farmers’ knowledge.

In this newly published research on coffee agroforestry systems, PhD student Sigrün Wagner explored local knowledge of small-scale farmers at Mt. Kilimanjaro regarding ecosystem services (ES) provided by different shade tree species as perceived by farmers. Possible factors (elevation, gender, and membership in local farmer groups) influencing these perceptions were also researched. They further related these factors, as well as farmers’ ES preferences, to planting densities of tree species.

Food, fodder, and fuelwood emerged as the most important ES, with over a third of the respondents mentioning these services as priorities. Density of tree species perceived to provide these three ES were significantly higher for farmers prioritizing these services compared to farmers that did not consider all three ES in their top three. Albizia schimperiana, according to farmer perceptions, proved to be the most important specie for provision of regulatory ES such as coffee yield improvement, quality shade provision, and soil fertility improvement in the Kilimanjaro area. Influence of elevation, gender, and farmer group affiliation on these perceptions was negligible in all cases.

This study shows the need to understand factors underlying farmers’ management decisions before recommending shade tree species. The results of this study led to the upgrade of the online tool (shadetreeadvice.org) which generates lists of potential common shade tree species tailored to local ecological context considering individual farmers’ needs.

You can read the full paper online here or download it here.

Image © S. Wagner 2019

Wagner, S., Rigal, C., Liebig, T., Mremi, R., Hemp, A., Jones, M., Price, E., Preziosi, R. (2019). Ecosystem Services and Importance of Common Tree Species in Coffee-Agroforestry Systems: Local Knowledge of Small-Scale Farmers at Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. Forests 10(11), 963.

© Ecological Genetics & Conservation, 2019