Shifting cultivation in the humid lowlands of Cameroon has been associated with declining soil fertility resulting in low yields of food and tree crops. Agroforestry and improved fallow systems such as hedgerow intercropping can play an important role in improving sustainable production on farmers’ fields. Between 1988 and 1993 the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry Humid Lowlands of West Africa Programme (ICRAF-HULWA) in Cameroon evaluated the conventional hedgerow intercropping and, more recently (1994–8), rotational hedgerow systems. Farmer adoption has remained low. Based on continued monitoring of on-farm trials and a socioeconomic survey, three main reasons why farmers do not easily adopt the innovation were identified. Firstly, contrary to expectations, farmers indicated that land availability is not a problem and that they can acquire more land in the village if there is a need. Secondly, in the lowlands of Cameroon, soil erosion is not a major concern of farmers. Thirdly, farmers in the study zone do not feel that soil fertility is a major problem and are thus hesitant to invest in fertility management. Furthermore, farmers seem to be concerned about issues such as lack of marketing opportunities and shortage of cash to pay for health care and education, rather than the decline in soil fertility. However, recent experience with more flexible design and management of hedgerow intercropping and more targeted promotion of the technology has shown a growing interest of farmers to plant tree fallows. Consequently, further research should focus on diversification of the output of rotational hedgerow systems. The promotion of rotational hedgerow systems should target sites where farmers perceive land shortage and poor soils to be major problems.
Ann Degrande and Bahiru Duguma