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Recognizing local agro-ecological knowledge in sustainable intensification of tree-crop-livestock farming systems

This technical paper by the World Agroforestry Centre analyses what farmers in the highlands of Ethiopia currently know about ecosystem processes and the interactions between trees, crops and livestock. The aim is to use this information to guide interventions that will build more intensive and climate-resilient systems.

The paper summarises findings from 3 study sites with contrasting agro-ecologies, farming systems and degrees of success in integrating trees. The researchers found distinct variation in farmers’ knowledge at different sites which was generally associated with the extent of land degradation, local management practices and constraints faced by the farmers.

The authors recommend that we should ensure that the valuable knowledge held within farming communities is taken into account when designing local interventions for sustainable intensification and advise against applying one intervention across a large area. Capacity-building activities such as farmer-to-farmer exchanges are also recommended to ensure farmers have the necessary skills to enhance their farming systems.