5. The taungya system in south-west Ghana.
In: FAO Soils Bulletin No. 53, 1984, pp. 183-185
This study uses a rather narrow definition of intercropping agricultural and forestry crops without regard to who owns the agricultural crop, so as to bring out variations. It also sees the Tropical High Forest Zone in the country as covering South-West Ghana.
The taungya system, as it was developed in Burma, involves peasant farmers in afforestation or reforestation. This system interplants trees with agricultural crops, particularly the local population's staple foods, and so serves to satisfy the farmer's quest for arable land.
This type of forest reaches the coastline for approximately a quarter of its length and thereafter is separated from it by a belt of mangrove, scrub and coastal savanna formations, which fan out from west to east.
The zone is characterized by uniformly high temperatures, a rainfall regime with two peaks, mean annual precipitation ranging from 2135-3000 mm in the southwest to 1250-1375 mm in the northeast, and a high relative humidity. The humid environment maintained by the forest cover enables the cultivation of such cash crops as cocoa, oil palm, rubber and kola nuts. Cocoa and timber are the two major export commodities.
The taungya system was introduced with two objectives: to establish plantations of fast-growing, useful timber species and, second, to meet the peasant farmer's demands for arable land, using forest reserves where land was genuinely needed.
The size of the forest land allocated annually depended on the demand and the ability of the Forestry Department to cope with it. The latter was largely determined by the stock available. On a few occasions, farmers were asked to raise seedlings themselves.
In exchange for this privilege, farmers were asked to assist in establishing the plantation by preparing the site. They provided pegs, tended the planted tree crop alongside other food crops and also were governed by restrictions as to choice of species and spacing imposed by the Forestry Department. Farmers continued to receive allocations only if they adhered to these conditions.
Peasant farmers were generally pleased. These allocations gave them the opportunity to raise crops on relatively fertile forest land, increasing crop yields and improving the standard of living. Preparing sites in the Tropical High Forest is the most expensive operation in plantation establishment. The farmer did not reap the full benefit of this investment, but this did not concern him unduly. He had no opportunity cost for his labour and in so far as he could handle the work, involving his family, all his produce was profit. He expressed his gratitude to the forester by adhering to the rules, and generally becoming increasingly cooperative.
The large-scale reforestation scheme gave rise to yet another type of farmer, the big time city dweller, who used hired labour to cultivate food crops on the plantation sites.
The Forestry Department felled big trees and allocated plots to these "entrepreneur farmers" for a fee. The system resulted in a number of powerful farmers too difficult to control and consequently it failed.
The poor peasant farmer was excluded from these areas.
The advantages of the taungya system is that the forester may be able to raise a tree crop at a lower cost, and at the same time increase food production. The farmer always has the advantage of being able to use land which has been kept fertile under a forest cover.
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Latin America, Africa, review, book, field experience, agroforestry approaches, agroforestry planning methods
BUDD, W.D. et al.
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