Agroforestry in the Dominican Republic

Sustainable AgricultureSustainable agricultureForestry

Our organisation – NATURALEZA – works in the Dominican Republic, encouraging agroforestry work. Our first priority was soil conservation. Then we began to establish community tree nurseries and hedges.

We work in cooperation with eight small farmers’ groups (campesinos) and four women’s groups. We are encouraging these groups to form a federation to take over project planning and management in the future. We work in a mountainous area in the province of Santiago Rodriguez. Much of the land here is only suitable for forest. However, because land is in such short supply, people still practise slash and burn cultivation to survive. As in many Latin American countries, 2% of farmers are landlords, owning nearly half of the land – particularly the better land. Most farmers have very little, poor land on which to survive. Nearly 75% of the streams and rivers have dried up during the last ten years due to the clearing of forests.

‘Re-afforestation is a social issue. Its main aim should be the improvement of the living conditions of the rural people’. Jesus Enrique A Rius, President of PROGRESSIO

We plan activities that need little labour and resources. We encourage alley cropping and hedge planting. 

Alley cropping.
Alley cropping.

When people clear the forest these methods help to protect the soil from erosion. Farmers can then continue to use the land instead of moving to clear new forest after a few years. We use A-frames to measure out the contours and then plant hedges on them.

We cut back the hedges to 50cm when they reach a height of 2m, and then spread the cut leaves in the alleys to improve the soil. They can also be used for animal fodder. Instead of using just one or two species of trees, we try to encourage growing a variety of trees, particularly local species. For alley cropping and hedges we look for trees with these characteristics…

  • easy to grow
  • rapid growth
  • deep root system
  • will regrow easily after cutting back
  • easy to clear
  • different uses – fuel, fodder, fruit, etc
  • leguminous – adding plant foods to the soil
  • drought resistant
  • resistant to pests and diseases.

These are the species we use so far…

  • Acacia angustissima
  • Calliandra calothyrsus
  • Crotalaria anagyroides
  • Diphysa robiniodes
  • Fleminga congesta.

We are also trying out other species. Farmers plant traditional crops in the alleys. Local farmers are very interested in this ‘new form’ of agriculture. We work together with them to find out the best combinations of trees and crops. We meet with other organisations involved in this sort of work to exchange ideas and information regularly.

by Joachim Boehnert.

Planting trees that are out of reach of livestock

In countries with long dry seasons, newly planted trees have to survive both lack of water and livestock browsing. Fences are often ineffective. An alternative idea is to plant much larger seedlings which are then out of reach of livestock.

In Zambia we find that around hospitals, schools or low density housing, many self-sown trees (or wildings) can be found. These can often be easily transplanted during wet spells with a ball of soil attached. It is helpful to remove all but the topmost leaves to reduce loss of water through transpiration.

We also find that large cuttings can be made from branches of many trees. You will need to experiment, as some root much more easily than others. Allow the cut base to dry out first, then plant very deeply and remove the leaves. Here is a list of those we have found grow readily from cuttings:

  • Commiphora africana 
  • Euphorbia tirucalli
  • Manihot glaziovii 
  • Morus nigra
  • Moringa oleifera 
  • Pterocarpus angolensis
  • All Ficus species

Ronald Watts, St Francis Hospital, Private Bag 11, Katete, Zambia.