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close this bookAgroforestry in the Pacific Islands: Systems for Sustainability (UNU, 1993, 297 pages)
close this folder9 Institutional agroforestry in the Pacific Islands
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIntercropping of tree crops/woody perennials with commercial or subsistence ground or tree crops
View the documentPlanting of timber, fuel wood, and general-purpose trees in relation to agroforestry and agriculture
View the documentGrazing with commercial tree cropping and silviculture
View the documentThe future of institutional agroforestry in the Pacific

The future of institutional agroforestry in the Pacific

In the Pacific, as elsewhere, interest in agroforestry has recently grown rapidly among scientists, land-use experts, conservationists, and the development professionals of national governments and international agencies. As already noted, systems of commercial production that would now be classified as agroforestry were initiated early in the Pacific's colonial past, particularly in the form of multistorey arrangements of coconut palms with other crops or with cattle. With regard to agroforestry systems in the subsistence sphere, this book has sought to demonstrate their prevalence and antiquity in the Pacific Islands. As Yen (1980b, 91) comprehensively expressed it in his discussion of "Pacific Production Systems," there is nothing new about multi-storey cropping even though it has often been suggested to smallholders as an innovative technique they might adopt.

In fact native systems have always involved such techniques in village gardens with descending storeys of palms, trees, productive vines, shrubs, herbaceous root crops, and vegetable plants and ornamentals. Similarly, in swiddens, mixed species and variety plantings are themselves multi-storey. In this case such plantings also take on a successional aspect, for following the root crops, some cultigens such as banana and longer-term plants such as breadfruit and other fruit and nut trees, industrial shrubs, and vines, prolong the production of these gardens.

Geographers and anthropologists who have studied these sorts of indigenous systems find ironic some of the attempts made to introduce institutional agroforestry into the Pacific context. On the other hand, in a time of deforestation and agrodeforestation, it is apt to encourage both of the approaches to agroforestry described in chapter 1- the institutional approach, which generally seeks to introduce commodity-focused systems devised on the basis of modern forms of analysis, and the cultural-ecological approach, which is concerned more with long-standing indigenous systems, empirically devised and deeply embedded in the cultural landscape. Whether or not the two approaches can be usefully meshed remains open to question, although some forms of "progressing with the past" do seem possible (Clarke 1978).

When attention is turned to the future of institutional agroforestry in the Pacific, it can be clearly forecast that if individual smallholders are to benefit over the long term from the introduction of an unfamiliar institutionalized agroforestry system, they will need to receive an ongoing package of inputs and information, which suggests the need for some sort of extension service. Unfortunately, it is acknowledged that extension work in many Pacific countries is generally poor, and extension services often have only secondary ranking within ministries or departments (Hau'ofa et al. 1980, 188-189). How to remedy this deficiency raises several complex but pervasive issues, which have been dealt with at length in a large literature and which can only be superficially treated here.

With regard to the initial introduction of a new agroforestry system, it is easy - given the current popularity of agroforestry in the development world to find funding for workshops and projects, but these by their nature lack continuity, and they are often administered by staff unfamiliar with local agroforestry traditions. The Pacific is littered with projects advanced in support of all sorts of good causes their collapsed remnants remain, like the military paraphernalia rust ing on beaches after World War II. One way to incorporate continuity into projects and to move beyond reliance on inadequate extension services is to form a centralized management system for smallholders (sometimes referred to as a plantation mode of management). Such a system has been successful in several instances, notably the efficient smallholder production of sugar so important in Fiji's economy and also in tobacco production in that same country (Eaton 1988a). Some other attempts have been less successful. The pros and cons of the approach have been cogently summed up by Hardaker et al. (1984a; 1984b) and Ward (1984).

Aside from problems common to any project-based introduction, a specific constraint to the full realization of the potential of agroforestry by institutional means relates to the disciplinary compart-mentalization that characterizes institutions concerned with land use, whereby - as the Director of ICRAF commented - "agriculture and forestry normally fall under different ministries or, if they are under the same ministry, under separate departments,' (Lundgren 1987, 44). Writing specifically of the forestry sector in the South Pacific, Watt (1980, 302-303) noted that "the separation of agricultural and forestry extension services encourages the impression that agriculture and forestry are mutually exclusive alternatives rather than complementary land uses." Following on from and related to this sectoral compartmentalization is each institution's imperative to maximize the individual component that is the focus of that institution. In contrast, as has often been observed:

The subsistence land user's strategy and aims are to use his labour and land resources to optimize, with minimum risk, the production of various products and services required to satisfy all his basic needs. The fundamental inadequacy of conventional-discipline-oriented institutions lies in the failure to acknowledge and understand these basic facts, strategies and aims, and in the inability to adapt to them. The aims, infrastructure, rationale and philosophy of these institutions, as well as the training of their experts, are geared to the maximization of individual components, be they food crops, cash crops, animals or trees. There is little understanding that the land user needs to share out his resources for the production of other commodities or services (Lundgren 1987, 46).

When maximization is aimed at commercial products, as it most frequently is in the Pacific, a set of sometimes contradictory processes comes into play. For example, attempts to produce cash crops while continuing to meet subsistence needs may bring agricultural involution if land is limited, or it may result in an extension of cropping onto marginal sloping lands as cash crops or cattle take over better lands. A specialization in commercial products may not be accompanied by any concomitant increase in labour availability or extension advice (often restricted to larger producers) on how to increase subsistence production (Ward 1986; Yen 1980b).

Even the Fiji-German Forestry Project, which commenced in the mid1980s, appears mainly focused toward facilitating export cash cropping, although its terms of reference suggest a broader approach that includes "providing ecologically sound advisory assistance in the fields of forestry and agroforestry in line with the social, cultural and economic requirements of target groups" (Tuyll 1988, 3). Consultants to the Fiji-German Forestry Project have also made holistic and wide-ranging recommendations, but the Project's current activities, as described earlier in this chapter, are concentrated on improving the production of ginger as a cash crop by introducing exotic trees to prevent erosion and replace artificial fertilizer.

This accomplishment is not to be decried, but the approach, distinguished by its introduction of and experimentation with exotic trees alley-cropped with a cash crop, does little to preserve existing agroforestry systems or to maintain a balance between commercial agroforestry activities and activities that could protect the existing subsistence base. One consultant recommended to the Project that "agroforestry and forestry extension should not attempt to remain with or return to pure forms of subsistence economy but focus on including profitable cash crops at low risks" (von Maydell 1987, 35). This recommendation does indicate an appreciation of the need to minimize risk, but both it and all the other consultants' recommendations to the Project fail to support strongly the maintenance of a viable subsistence base. Another consultant, who had been selected to identify suitable sites for demonstration plots for the Project, was asked to comment on the idea of putting greater emphasis on the subsistence aspects of agroforestry and of analysing existing local agroforestry systems as demonstration plots into which selected improvements could be introduced. He responded that it was quite unrealistic to expect either the Fiji Government or the German funding agency to support such an emphasis in place of an emphasis on using agroforestry as a way to improve monocultural cash cropping.

In summary, export crops, timber trees, and grazing under coconuts have been the continuing focus of almost all official agroforestry activities for the past century. Regardless of whether it has been the colonial or post-colonial agricultural and forestry departments or, re cently, international aid agencies, the focus has been almost exclusively on monocultural, often large-scale production for export or, in the case of timber and fuel-wood production, for import substitution. Even the intercrops are usually cash crops for export or local sale. Consequently, most indigenous wild species and the wide range of traditional cultivars have received little official promotion and have been the focus of only limited research. Few technical experts or development entrepreneurs know enough about traditional mixed agricultural systems and their component plants to be willing or able to promote their expansion or maintenance. It is not only projects intended to develop commercial agriculture and forestry that may displace or degrade traditional agroforestry systems; modern institutional agroforestry projects may themselves play the same role.

Agencies and educational institutions promoting agroforestry

However, there are also movements in support of traditional systems. The growing popularization and recognition worldwide of the value of the "wisdom of the elders" (Knudtson and Suzuki 1992) may motivate increased institutional attention to indigenous polycultural systems of agroforestry in the Pacific. This section provides information on several examples of such attention and on the institutions involved; mention has been made earlier of some of these, but they will be referred to here briefly again to provide a coherent single account.

All the major universities within the Pacific region (University of Guam, both of Papua New Guinea's universities, the University of the South Pacific in Fiji and its School of Agriculture in Western Samoa, University of Hawaii, and the developing francophone institutions in New Caledonia and Tahiti) support staff with interests in traditional matters, including agriculture, agroforestry, and the management of soil and vegetation. Rather than attempt a full listing of course offerings relevant to agroforestry to at least some degree, we note here only that, on the basis of current information at hand, the courses most directly focused on agroforestry are found within the Geography Department at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji, and the Department of Agronomy and Soil Science at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. To the best of our knowledge, the University of Hawaii is distinguished by being the only university in the region to have a named Professor of Agroforestry, who is located in the Department of Agronomy and Soil Science. The Col lege of Micronesia in Pohnpei also has staff with active and direct interests in indigenous agroforestry.

Agroforestry promotion by the Fiji-German Forestry Project, a bilateral agency, has been described in the previous section. A different approach is followed by the South Pacific Forestry Development Programme, which is a multilateral 5-year project funded by UNDP, executed by FAO, and now based in Suva, Fiji. The Programme is concerned with forests and trees in 15 countries, so far particularly with forests in the larger countries, but atoll countries are making enquiries about coconuts and other multi-purpose trees. The role of the Programme is to stimulate activities and provide technical advice, not to operate activities itself. For instance, it facilitated the import of seeds of superior rattan from Malaysia for planting in Pacific forests in order to increase their non-timber production capability. Aside from technical advice, the Programme acts as a focal point for information about forests and trees and publishes the quarterly South Pacific Forestry Newsletter. It is also trying to organize the documentation of local knowledge on indigenous agroforestry, with studies planned or under way in Pohnpei, Fiji, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Tonga, and other island countries.

The Programme has worked cooperatively with the international NGO The Foundation of the Peoples of the South Pacific (FSP) on a project intended to develop sustainable forestry in local areas while slowing down or stopping rapid conversion of forests by large-scale industrial logging. This objective is based in part on selling small mobile sawmills to rural entrepreneurs and community groups so that they may develop small-scale but profitable and locally utilitarian logging, carried out in ways that avoid major environmental damage and that maintain the essential structure of the forest for traditional uses and ecological services.

A US Government project based in Hawaii is carrying out work related to several aspects of agroforestry in Hawaii, American Micronesia, and American Samoa. Called Agricultural Development in the American Pacific (ADAP), the project has provided agroforestry educational materials to all the public (land grant) colleges and universities in the American-affiliated Pacific. In association with the US Department of Agriculture and the US Forest Service, ADAP is also developing training programmes in agroforestry.

The Environment and Policy Institute of the East-West Center in Hawaii maintained a strong programme of research, seminars, and publication on agroforestry for several years during the 1980s (e.g., Djogo 1992; Nair 1984). Although agroforestry is no longer a principal focus of its work, the Institute remains a repository of a large volume of published and unpublished material on the topic.

Mentioned at the beginning of this chapter was the report (Clements 1988) of a technical meeting on agroforestry in tropical islands held at the Institute for Research, Extension and Training in Agriculture (IRETA), which is part of the University of the South Pacific's School of Agriculture in Western Samoa. IRETA is also involved in research projects to improve or strengthen atoll agroforestry in Kiribati.

In the Melanesian countries, with their comparatively larger natural forests, forest-resource inventories are under way or planned, generally as a cooperative, aid-funded project between the local Forestry Department and overseas technical personnel. The inventories are intended to provide the information base necessary for effective land-use planning and management, but now, unlike some past forest assessments, the inventory process includes collection of data on watershed vulnerability and on the indigenous ethnobotanical value of forest plants, as in the forest-resource inventory now being completed by the Vanuatu Forestry Department with technical assistance from the Queensland (Australia) Forest Service and the Division of Tropical Crops and Pastures of the (Australian) Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO).

Finally, mention should be made of the work of ORSTOM, the French organization that promotes French scientific research in the third world, mainly in the tropics. With centres in the Pacific in Nouméa and Tahiti, ORSTOM has sponsored work not only related to many aspects of modern development but also to traditional cultural-ecological matters, for example, with specific relevance to agroforestry, the work on the cultivars of kava (Piper methysticum) in Vanuatu (Lebot and Cabalion 1986).