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Farmers taking care of business in Kenya: running nurseries and reforesting their land

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Farmers taking care of business in Kenya running nuseries and reforesting their land In Kenya, when new land is cleared a. mfor farming it may look like land degradation is inevitable—but farmers then reforest their farms with trees they need and like. For decades now, there have been grave warnings about the alarming rates of tree and shrub destruction in the tropics. These warnings have stressed the disastrous consequences of deforestation and predicted imminent fuelwood deficits across the African continent. However, the reality has been somewhat different from the worst-case scenario promoted by these doom- sayers. In fact, scientists looking at the issues of land degradation, deforestation and population dynamics in Africa are now realizing that these alarmist statements were remiss by not taking into account the value and efforts that farmers on the continent have put into long-term landcare and regeneration. A study com- pleted in 1994 reveals that, contrary to popular belief, Kenyan land cov- John R Parkins ered by trees and shrubs increased 4.2% annually from 1986 to 1992 (Holmgren and others 1994).Research done recently in Mbeere District, Kenya, supports these find-ings at the local level. Amid dramatic changes in land use, the study found that farmer-initiated, small-scale tree nurseries are at the heart of local efforts in reforestation, right on the farms themselves. This shows the relevance of Leakey's new defini tion of agroforestry as a holistic ap- proach to land use and natural resource management, which will ultimately increase the tree cover in the landscape (1996). To the extent that these nurseries represent farmers' efforts to integrate trees on their farmland, they are fundamentally important to long-term development of agroforestry in the region. The reasons for recent changes in land use in Mbeere are numerous, but most of these include historic and contemporary developments. The first is the process of land adjudication,which has prevented farmers from practising their traditional ways of grazing cattle and goats on large tracts of unclaimed or communal lands. Adjudication and the subse-quent privatization of land tenure in-hibit farmers from shifting cultivation and provide them with incentives for long-term investment in their land. A second factor is the migration into Mbeere of people from other densely populated regions around Mount Kenya and the resultant increased en- vironmental pressure through encroachment on marginal land and the clearing of indigenous vegetation for.cultivation.
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    Parkins, J.R.




    agroforestry, developing countries, forest products, rural areas, urban areas



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