Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Agroforestry and Sustainable Development (PhD Thesis)

1994 research team members: Munei Chiganangana and Danai Nyakanyanga

In the 1990s I conducted field research for my PhD in Zimbabwe.

My first trip for the project was six weeks of research reconnaissance in 1993. The following year I spent ten months in Mutoko District, northeast Zimbabwe. There, together with a team of researchers, we collected data for my doctoral study on agroforestry - the way trees are used in the farming system.

In 1998 I completed the PhD and graduated from the Department of Geography, University of Toronto. The thesis title:  Agroforestry and Sustainable Development in Mutoko Communal District,  Zimbabwe

In 1999, I returned to Zimbabwe to thank research team members and agroforester friends, and to share the results...

The thesis is available online here:



This study examines the nature of indigenous agroforestry, that is the use, conservation and cultivation of trees and woodlands by rural inhabitants in the communal farming system in northeastern Zimbabwe.  Villages in four wards of Mutoko Communal District serve as study sites.

The purpose of this examination is to evaluate indigenous agroforestry's present role as well as its potential in contributing to sustainable development. The study challenges the Western model of "project agroforestry" and emphasizes the central importance of a community and ecosystem context for sustainable development.

Three primary questions frame the research.  What conceptual framework is most appropriate in the local context for addressing agroforestry's role in sustainable development?  What are the parameters of indigenous agroforestry in communal Zimbabwe and what do the study results show?  In what ways does indigenous agrofoestry contribute to the sustainability of the rural farming system?  An adjunct fourth question addresses the role of project agroforestry by the Zimbabwe Forestry Commission and the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry, among other agencies.

A conceptual framework for sustainable development is presented that takes a normative, systems approach to people in the context of their landscape ecology.  The goals of sustainable development (and the broader objectives of this study) are maintaining or restoring integrity in the households, communities and ecosystems of the farming landscape.  The agroforestry objectives are activities which spread tree species valued by farmers in appropriate agroecosystem locations.

The study findings emphasize the multiple uses of more than 60 species of indigenous and exotic trees including their importance for fruit and medicine, fuel, fodder and construction materials.  The continued spiritual significance of trees and woodland is described in a conservation ethic concerning sacred groves and fruit trees.  Conservation and cultivation of trees are examined according to their agroecosystem locations on the farming landscape.

The subsequent sustainability analysis incorporates an assessment framework evaluating the improving, stable or declining condition of different parts of the agroforestry system.  The study concludes with proposals for improvement and an evaluation of the overall prospects for indigenous agroforestry.


Abstract, Acknowledgements, List of Figures, List of Tables, List of Maps, List of Appendices, Glossary of Terms, Abbreviations and Reference Notes (pp.ii-xv)

1. The Study in Perspective (p.1)   1.1 The Challenges of Change (Sustainable Development and Agroforestry - Perspectives from the West; Indigenous Agroforestry; Systems Approach to Cultural and Landscape Ecology.   1.2 Research Objectives and Evolution of the Thesis - Initial Objectives; Research Questions for Studying Indigenous Agroforestry; An Emerging Broader Perspective.   1.3 Structure of the Dissertation

2. Systems and Change:  Development, Sustainable Development and Agroforestry (p.13)   2.1 The Development Idea and Paradigms for Change   2.2 Sustainable Development: An Alternative Paradigm for Change - Perspectives from the West; Basic Needs and Community Development Approaches; The Courtesy of Context: Priorities for Zimbabwe's Communal Areas; Zimbabwean Voices   2.3 A Systems Approach: Human and Landscape Ecologies - Human Ecology and Sustainable Development; Human Values and Needs; Landscape Ecology and Ecosystem Integrity   2.4 Agroforestry and Sustainable Land Use Systems - Definitions of Agroforestry; Indigenous Agroforestry; "Project" or Non-Indigenous Agroforestry; Definitions for this Study; Agroforestry's Potential   2.5 A Communal Ecosystem Framework for Sustainable Development

3. Research Concepts, Design and Procedures (p.36)   3.1 Methodological Concepts - Collaborative Action Research; Participatory Rural Appraisal; A Communal-Ecosystem Approach to Change   3.2 Research Design - Overview; Research Participants   3.3 Tools for Data Collection - Meetings with Tree Nursery Groups; "Key Informant" Interviews; Farm Visits: Interviews, Observations and Mapping   3.4 Commentary on the Field Process   3.5 Sustainability Analysis

4. Evolution of Society and Economy (p.53)   4.1 The Long View of Shona History - The Genius of Community;   4.2 Early History of Human Occupance on Zimbabwe's Central Plateau - Khoisan and Early Shona; The Shona; The Early Farming System: Shifting Cultivation; Agroforestry; Early External Contact: Trade and Diversification of Livelihoods   4.3 The Mercantilistic and Colonial Period - Land and Labor Policies of the Colonial Era; Colonial Denigration of African Agriculture and Related Changes   4.4 Post-Independence Zimbabwe - The Colonial Legacy: Land Distribution; The Forestry Commission: Response to the "Woodfuel Crisis"; The World Bank and Zimbabwe's Economic Structural Adjustment Program   4.5 People in Mutoko - Current Population and Quality of Life Statistics; Social Structure of Interviewed Households: Gender, Family Status and Household Size   4.6 The Mutoko Communal Farming System - Farms of the Study, 1994; Crop Production and the Role of Government; The Changing Role of Cattle; Diversification of Livelihoods   4.7 Evaluating the Mutoko Farming System

5. Landscape Ecology of the Farming System in Mutoko Communal Lands (p.79) 5.1 The Physical Environment - Relief, Water, Climate and "Natural Vegetation", Agro-Ecological Regions III and IV, Soil Forming Factors, Classification and Mutoko Soils  5.2 Landscape Ecology and Ecosystem Resource - Ecosystems of the Commons: Modified "Natural" Landscape, Agroecosystems of the Cultivated Landscape (Homesteads, Fields and Grain Crops, Gardens and Vegetable Crops, Boundaries and Contour Strips, Orchards, Woodlots and Privatized Woodland)  5.3 Landscape Change

6. The Value of Trees, I: Shona Cultural and Spiritual Relationship to Land and Trees ( p.96)  6.1 The Evolving Indigenous System - The Importance of Ancestors and Spiritual Relationship to Land, Mutoko Tradition  6.2 Madzimbahwe: Sacred places  6.3 Practical spirituality - The Conservation Ethic in Shona Relationship to Trees, The Sacred Forest: Parable in a Painting  6.4 The Challenge for a "Syncretic" Future

7. Value of Trees, II: Their Multiple Uses in the Household Economy and Their Presence on Farms (p.108)  7.1 Determining the Value of Trees  7.2 Trees Present on Farms - The Origin of Trees on Farms, Introducing Exotics to Mutoko: The First Mango Trees, Value of Indigenous and Exotic Species, Presenting Data on the Value of Trees  7.3 Food from Trees - Indigenous Fruit Tree Species, Exotic Fruit Tree Species, Sales of Fruit, The Value of Fruit, Fruit Collection, Other Food from Tree Habitat, Fodder  7.4 Medicine from Trees - Knowledge of Herbal Remedies, Categories in Traditional Medical Practice  7.5 Fuelwood - Fuelwood from the Commons, Fuelwood Collection: Who Goes and How Long Does it Take? Fuelwood on Farms  7.6 Poles and Wood for Construction and Carpentry - Poles, Tools and Implements  7.7 Live Fences and Hedgerows  7.8 Amenity and Ecological Functions of Trees  7.9 Tree Species Diversity by Farm  7.10 Measuring the Value of Trees: Concluding Remarks

8. Indigenous Agroforestry on Farms: Related Agroforestry Projects and Activity (p.149)  8.1 Location, Conservation and Cultivation of Trees  8.2 Tree species on Farms: Regional Differences - Environmental Factors, Anthropogenic Factors  8.3 Location of Tree Species by Agroecosystem - Trees at Homesteads, Trees in Gardens, Trees in Fields and Distant Fields, Orchards, Woodlots, Privatized and Protected Woodland; Abandoned Land, Trees on Boundaries and Contour Strips  8.4 Tree Nursery Groups and the Forestry Commission - Structure and Activities of TNGs 8.5 Related Agroforestry Projects and Activity - AGRITEX, COOPIBO, Mutoko Agricultural Development Project (ADP) Agricultural Development Agency, International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF), The Permaculture Institute and Workshops  8.6 Indigenous Agroforestry and Related Projects: Concluding Remarks

9. Linking Agroforestry, Sustainable Communities and Ecosystems: Discussion of Findings and Evaluation (p.173)  9.1 Sustainability Analysis  9.2 Evaluating Agroforestry Trends for Community Sustainability I: The Commons - The Deteriorating Woodland Commons, Single Trees Conserved in Public Places, Madzimbahwe: New Measures of Protection Needed  9.3 Evaluating Agroforestry Trends for Community Sustainability II: Trees on Farms - Fruit Trees, Fueldwood and Poles, Indigenous Wood for Carpentry, Conclusion  9.4 Commentary on Broader Themes of Community Sustainability - The Long View and Traditional Core Values, Two Commandments, Social Equity and Community Wellbeing, Conservation of Tree and Woodland Resources  9.5 Commentary on Forces Threatening Community Sustainability  9.6 Evaluating Agroforestry Trends for Landscape Sustainability - Ecological Integrity in the Farming Landscape, Measuring Success in Agroforestry, Soil Fertility and Pest Control, Restoring Non-Productive Eroded Lands  9.7 Multipurpose Tree Species - Methodology for Ranking Multipurpose Trees, ICRAF's Multipurpose Trees, Lateral Sharing versus Top Down Transfer of Technology  9.8 Diversity of Tree Species and Diversity of Agroecosystems - Multipurpose Ecosystems, Adapting ICRAF's Planting Configurations  9.9 Concluding Evaluation - Shona versus Western Priorities in Meeting Human Needs, Toward a Syncretic Vernacular Society

10  Proposals and Prospects for Indigenous Agroforestry (p.203)  10.1 Proposals for Outsiders' Action - The Forestry Commission  10.2 Proposals for Agroforestry Research by Several Institutions - Seed propagation, Integrated Pest Management, Experiments with Agroecosystems, Changes in Research Approach: Building Bridges  10.3 Proposals for Insiders' Action - A Storehouse of Cultural Strengths, Lateral Problem Solving, School Agroforestry Groups, Local Leaders, Farm Visits and On-Farm Workshops  10.4 Conclusion

Bibliography (p.216)

Appendices (p.229)

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