New initiatives in agroforestry are seeking to integrate into tropical farming systems indigenous trees whose products have traditionally been gathered from natural forests. This is being done in order to provide marketable products from farms that will generate cash for resource-poor rural and peri-urban households. This poverty-alleviating agroforestry strategy is at the same time linked to one in which perennial, biologically diverse and complex mature-stage agroecosystems are developed as sustainable alternatives to slash-and-burn agriculture.One important component of this approach is the domestication of the local tree species that have commercial potential in local, regional or even international markets. Because of the number of potential candidate species for domestication, one crucial first step is the identification of priority species and the formulation of a domestication strategy that is appropriate to the use, marketability and genetic potential of each species.
For most of these hitherto wild species little or no formal research has been carried out to assess their food value, potential for genetic improvement or reproductive biology. To date their marketability can only be assessed by their position in the local rural and urban marketplaces, since few have attracted international commercial interest. To meet the objective of poverty alleviation, however, it is crucial that market expansion and creation are possible, hence for example it is important to determine which marketable traits are amenable to genetic improvement. While some traits that are relatively easy to identify do benefit the farmer, there are undoubtedly others that are important to the food, pharmaceutical or other industries that require more sophisticated evaluation.
This paper presents the current thinking and strategies of ICRAF in this new area of work and draws on examples from our program.
Agroforestry Systems (1998) 38 (1-3) 165-176 [10.1023/A:1005912729225]