Benefits from tree planting in Malawi
Malawi is one of the poorest African countries and faces high levels of poverty, food insecurity and deforestation. High population pressures have increased farming intensity and agricultural expansion, and this has contributed to declining levels of soil fertility and crop yield and increased forest loss. Agroforestry has the potential to address these issues.
Seline Meijer is a PhD student with the World Agroforestry Centre and University College Dublin (UCD) in Ireland. For the past 3 years, Meijer has been based in Malawi with the Centre, working with farmers to understand their perceptions of environmental issues and their attitudes towards tree planting and deforestation in order to better inform policies and projects in the country.
Her research has focused on the biophysical aspects related to the benefits of agroforestry (largely due to national and international organizations actively promoting agroforestry technologies in the tropics), she has also investigated how farmers perceive trees in the landscape and how they evaluate agroforestry technologies.
The aim of the study is to understand better how subsistence farmers in Malawi practice and evaluate planting trees on their farms. In addition, the study looks at farmers’ perceptions of changes in forest loss and how this is linked to tree planting. Through a combination of a quantitative household survey and qualitative focus group discussions, I farmers’ attitudes and perceptions are explored towards farm level tree planting and forest loss in two contrasting regions in Malawi.
The study will identify barriers to adoption of tree planting technologies in Malawi and in doing so, contribute to a better understanding of how organisations such as ICRAF can increase the impact of agroforestry projects. In addition, the study will explore gender dimensions of household decision-making and attitudes in relation to tree planting on farms, especially in relation to the matrilineal and patrilineal inheritance and residence systems in Malawi. This will further our knowledge on the role of women in these different societies when it comes to tree planting.