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close this bookAmaranth to Zai Holes, Ideas for Growing Food under Difficult Conditions (ECHO; 1996; 397 pages)
View the documentOther ECHO publications
View the documentAbout this book
View the documentAcknowledgements
Open this folder and view contents1: Basics of agricultural development
Open this folder and view contents2: Vegetables and small fruits in the tropics
Open this folder and view contents3: Staple crops
Open this folder and view contents4: Multipurpose trees
Open this folder and view contents5: Farming systems and gardening techniques
Open this folder and view contents6: Soil health and plant nutrition
Open this folder and view contents7: Water resources
Open this folder and view contents8: Plant protection and pest control
Open this folder and view contents9: Domestic animals
Open this folder and view contents10: Food science
Open this folder and view contents11: Human health care
Open this folder and view contents12: Seeds and germplasm
Open this folder and view contents13: Energy and technologies
Open this folder and view contents14: From farm to market
Open this folder and view contents15: Training and missionary resources
Open this folder and view contents16: Oils
Open this folder and view contents17: Above-ground (urban) gardens
View the document18: What is ECHO?
View the documentAdditional ECHO publications
Open this folder and view contentsECHO development notes - issue 52
Open this folder and view contentsECHO development notes: issue 53
Open this folder and view contents28 additional technical notes about tropical agriculture
close this folderPrinciples of agroforestry
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentWhat is agroforestry?
View the documentWhy agroforestry?
View the documentSummary of benefits of agroforestry (see definitions)
View the documentLand
View the documentThe trees
View the documentNon-tree crops
View the documentGetting started with agroforestry systems
View the documentSource abbreviations
View the documentDefinitions
View the documentBibliography and useful publications
View the documentRelated echo publications
View the documentRelated resources and organizations
Open this folder and view contentsGood nutrition on the small farm

Why agroforestry?

Agroforestry systems make maximum use of the land. Every part of the land is considered suitable for plants that are useful. Emphasis is placed on perennial, multiple purpose crops that are planted once but yield benefits over a long period of time. Furthermore, systems of agroforestry are designed for beneficial interactions of the crop plants, and to reduce unfavorable interactions. They are designed to reduce the risks associated with agriculture, small scale or large, and to increase the sustainability of agriculture.

Agroforestry practices normally help conserve, and even improve, the soil. Agroforestry includes a recognition of the interactions of crops, both favorable and unfavorable. The most common interaction is competition, which may be for light, water, or soil nutrients. Competition invariably reduces the growth and yield of any crop. Yet competition occurs in monoculture as well and this need not be more deleterious in agroforestry systems. Interactions may be complementary, as in the case of trees, pasture, and foraging animals, where trees provide shade and/or forage, and animals provide manure.

Agroforestry systems are designed to produce a range of benefits including food, feed, fuels, often fibers, and usually renewed soil fertility. Agroforestry systems take advantage of trees for many uses, to hold the soil, to increase fertility through nitrogen fixation, or through bringing minerals from deep in the soil and depositing them by leaf-fall, to provide shade, construction materials, foods and fuel. Agroforestry systems may be thought of as principle parts of the farm system itself, which contains many other sub-systems which together define a way of life.

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