In a base-line study conducted in 1986 with six national and international institutions characterizing existing farming systems after 15 years of colonization, total land cleared per family amounted to only 15.7 Ha. Those lands were planted in coffee (5.2 Ha.), corn (0.5 Ha), subsistence food crops of mainly plantain and cassava (0.7 Ha.), pasture (6.6 Ha), and fallow forest (2.7 Ha). Further farm expansion is limited by availability of labor Family labor contributes an average of 335 working days/year or 1.3 persons per family, only providing 55% of the required labor, the rest classified as occasional hired labor. The study showed that all existing farming systems associated trees with their crops, averaging 20 commercial timber trees per Ha., classifying the systems developed as traditional agroforestry systems.
The National Forestry Director with financial and technical assistance from USAID, developed an on-farm Agroforestry Demonstration project with the Provincial Ministry of Agriculture for working with farmers in promoting agroforestry practices.
After five years of on-farm demonstrations on more than 250 individual farms the result have been encouraging.
Farmers have learned to recognize valued secondary tree species from other non-commercial species, selectively clearing and protecting them within their existing farming systems, often rearranging the spacing by transplanting favored species within their farms.Cordia alliodora predominates on alluvial soils, whereas Jacaranda copaia grows well on the red clay hills. By focusing on wind born and mechanically distributed secondary tree species, cleared areas are seldom more than 100 meters from a seed source. Revegetation of some 15-20 species depends on seed availability and the timing of a particular cleaning.
Roadside bill-boards prepared in both Spanish and Quechua indicating commercial species and appropriate spacing (10x10ms) has helped multiply the effects of on-farm demonstrations with both colonists and native communities. Bilingual posters and management guidelines in the form of pamphlets and animated slide shows have been developed by locally recruited project staff for promotion with organized groups.
The economic potential of these fast growing secondary tree species is encouraging. Within a 100 Km. radius of "coca", the Project Administrative Center, located on the Napo River, there exist a network of 500 Km. of roads subsidized by the petroleum industry with 4,000 colonists having roadside frontage. Each farm is capable of producing 10-15 m3/ha year equivalent to 125.000 m3/year if only the first 500 meters are managed on only 1 in 4 farms.
Based on a 15 year cutting cycle, timber is already available in the form of chain saw planks. If managed this potential timber volume could produce more than Ecuador's actual national consumption (production) of precessed timber, even given the low recovery rate of 35%.
Other notable practices that have been developed with on-farm demonstration include:
As the project completes its initial six years (1984-90) of demonstrating the adaption and transfer of appropriate technology, it leaves a blue print for future development projects for small farmers in similar ecological situations. The Ecuadorian Forestry Directorate recognizes the need to promote development of local small-scale forestry industries that would make the management of high value secondary forest species a sustainable land use alternative, based entirely on private sector initiative both on-farm and a parallel industrial base.
For more information:
Carrera 56 #1A-10
Cali, Colombia or
Ing. Juan Salinas
Direcciøn Nacional Forestal
8vo. piso, of. 814