Tree Attribute Ranking and Phenology Study: Farmers’ Knowledge of Trees Commonly Found on Coffee Farms Bordering Mabira Forest Reserve in Mukono District, Uganda

The potential of trees in agroforestry coffee systems to provide goods and services is increasingly recognized as important in improving local livelihoods and reducing the pressure on existing forest resources. There is a lack of information about how different trees interact with coffee systems and it is important to consider farmers’ knowledge of tree physical attributes to understand how these affect coffee production and influence the selection of trees and management practices. The research was carried out in the selected five Sub-counties of Mukono district in South-central Uganda during February – May 2010. The purpose of the study was to assess the local knowledge about 18 tree species common in coffee farms for a selection of twelve tree attributes and to evaluate the consistency of farmers’ knowledge and identify whether there were major differences amongst tree species. Phenology information collection exercises, followed by an attribute ranking survey, were conducted with a random sample of 210 farmers. Farmers used visual tree cards in identifying trees they had direct experience and 10 tree species were selected by each participant. Farmers were able to rank these trees for the twelve attributes implying they had knowledge about these trees. More farmers had phenology knowledge of fruit than no-fruit trees.The level of consistency in the ranking survey suggested local knowledge about these tree attributes was important in the management practices of coffee agroforestry systems. However, the level of consistency varied from attribute to attribute and from species to species. Regarding species, African teak, banana and pawpaw seemed to have been ranked consistently indicating that farmers had a widespread and homogenous knowledge of these species because they were either superior on inferior for the particular attrributes. Despite the knowledge of attributes known to be negatively affecting coffee production, farmers’ decision to plant or retain trees in coffee plot was influenced by the perception of utility. This is notably the case for fruit trees which appeared most commonly across all farms in both exercises, suggesting their contribution to nutrition and income was important and justified their presence in coffee plots despite their negative effect on coffee production. The study recommends planting for Fig natal and A. coriaria for soil improvement and African teak for timber should not be planted together with coffee. Further research on the other tree species not included here like Grevillea is highly recommended.
Date of publication: 
Region Focus: 
East Africa
RUFORUM Theses and Dissertations
Licence conditions: 
Open Access
Dr. Samuel Mwalili, JKUAT, Prof. Catherine Muthuri, JKUAT, and Prof. Fergus Sinclair, World Forestry Institute
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