Theme 3: AgroForestry Systems (AFS) for the improved livelihood of the rural poor

    What are the effects of AFS on livelihoods and stakeholders' strategies?

The main objective of this theme is to assess, via social and economics studies, the impacts of AFS on farmer’s livelihood strategies. Studies will focus on knowledge, perceptions and values, practices and economic dependency of local populations on AFS. A sub-objective is to formulate and disseminate to decision makers information and relevant recommendations on the policy changes needed to promote AFS that improve rural livelihoods. These livelihoods, to varying degrees, depend on on-farm and off-farm income; those based on cacao and coffee production are vulnerable to the volatility of world market prices for these crops. They are also vulnerable to changes in norms and regulations governing exports and imports of agricultural products. Wood fuels derived from AFS are an important resource for many rural and urban households in the region. Shade trees also provide intangible cultural benefits/services (e.g., spiritual and aesthetic functions, particularly for indigenous communities) as well as significant amounts of timber, fruits and other non-timber products (natural medicines, fibers, etc), the latter being of particular value for women, children and the elderly. Thus the trees in AFS can contribute to the diversification of farmers` revenues and improve rural livelihoods in many ways.


  • Analysis, classification and modeling of tradeoffs for different livelihood strategies in a given area to determine the importance of AFS for each strategy.
  • Evaluation of the potential contribution of perennial AFS to the sustainable livelihood strategies of small producers under conditions of ecological and economical variability: e.g., climatic change; the influence of increasing off-farm income, particularly remittances; and of changes in market regulations due to TLC, etc.
  • Preparation of guidelines for decision making in the commercial as well as political spheres through economic comparisons of AFS vs monocultures. These guidelines will include and contrast estimated values for costs, products and services, available over short, medium and long periods, for different biophysical and/or socio-economic conditions. Sensitivity analyzes and modelling techniques will be used to evaluate the consequences of different assumptions.
  • Gender analyses of actual and potential AFS: e.g. ex-ante evaluations of the consequences, particularly for women, children and the elderly, of different certification schemes and/or of replacing traditional diversified shade strata with a simplified shade stratum of one commercial species.
  • Evaluation and documentation of the economic and socio-cultural values of native trees, and of traditional knowledge as well as the perceptions of the management and uses of associated species in coffee and cacao AFS.
  • Assessment of the economic potential of value added options to offer remunerative employment opportunities; e.g., potential value added by local primary processing of products from coffee or cacao AFS such as charcoal, local timber milling, fruit pastes and juices, and niche market coffee / cacao products.
  • Participatory assessment of farmers’ constraints and potentialities for maintaining and/or adopting environmentally and biodiversity-friendly AFS: e.g. assessment of the factors, such as legal constraints, which condition the development of the AFS practices and marketing of products derived from AFS; study of the compatibility of different certification schemes with livelihood strategies.


Sandrine FREGUIN-GRECH, migrations and rural poverty, CIRAD [email]
Cliserio GONZALEZ, PhD student, CATIE and U. of Bangor [email]
Isabel GUTIERREZ, rural sociologist, CATIE [email]
Renee HILL, PhD student, water governance [email]
Ruth JUNKIN, livelihood strategies and business organizations, CATIE [email]
Gregoire LECLERC, land management, CIRAD [email]
Kees PRINS, rural sociologist, CATIE [email]
Irene SHAVER, PhD student, land use change and livelihoods under migration [email]
Nicole SIBELET, sociologist, CIRAD [email]
Gabi SOTO, soil biologist and label specialist, CATIE [email]
Marilyn VILLALOBOS, sociologist, CATIE [email]