Trees supplement income for rural farmers in Africa
Trees may be easy to spot on the plains of Africa but they are often overlooked as a source of income for farmers. A University of Illinois study shows trees on farms may help reduce rural poverty and maintain biodiversity.
“Trees on farms in Africa often fall through the cracks—they’re not forests and they’re not agriculture,” says U of I’s Daniel Miller, who studies environmental politics and policy. ”In our study, we found about one third of all rural farmers across five study countries have and grow trees on their farms. Among those farmers, trees on farms contribute 17 percent to their annual household income, so they’re very important for generating economic benefits for households.”
Miller’s study used satellite images showing forest cover and nationally representative household-level data gathered from in-person interviews in Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda.
One thing he learned is that there are more trees on agricultural lands than expected—about a third to more than half of the rural households report having on-farm trees. Fruit trees and cash crop trees such as coffee trees were the two most popular types of trees. Tree for timber and fuel were only reported by 5 percent of the households.
Photo credit: Daniel Miller - Farms near forests tend to have more trees, which provide income and other benefits for local people, such as these farmers in the buffer zone of W National Park, Benin.