The Tree Planting and Protecting Culture of Cattle Ranchers and Small-Scale Agriculturalists in Rural Panama: Opportunities for Reforestation and Land Restoration
This study examines the relationship between farmers and trees in the tropical dry forest in two rural communities of Panama, focusing on the uses and values that small landholders assign to local tree species, both native and exotic.
Research Goals & Methods
Farmers in both communities participated in a questionnaire which asked them about the particular species that they planted and protected, how and why they used particular species, and which tree species they would be interested in planting in the future. Participants discussed 99 different tree species, 71 of which are native, and described uses for 94 of these species.
Conclusions & Takeaways
Of the 94 species to which participants assigned uses, 31 species were valued for their wood, 34 for fruit, 33 for use in living fences, 29 for their physical attributes, and 25 for medicinal use. Farmers' motivations for planting and protecting trees included protecting environmental quality, providing shade and shelter for livestock, and to secure a source of firewood, fruit, and/or construction materials. Some variety in preferences was found between the sites, particularly with regard to the species chosen for construction, furniture, and firewood, as well as the planting location of specific species. The study finds that farmers do actively manage the tree species on their land, even on small plots, and that they are indeed motivated to plant and protect trees in the future. The authors emphasize that reforestation efforts must consider the existing relationship between rural landholders and trees in order to design tree planting initiatives which complement the preferences and motivations of cattle ranchers and small-scale agriculturalists. They express that farmers should play an important role in land restoration efforts as managers of natural regeneration, particularly for projects concerned with increasing biodiversity and the creation of corridors.
The tree planting and protecting culture of cattle ranchers and small-scale agriculturalists in rural Panama: Opportunities for reforestation and land restoration. Forest Ecology and Management. 2011;261:1684–1695. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2010.10.011..
- Center for Tropical Forest Science (CTFS), Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Balboa, Ancón, Panamá, Panama
- Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, New Haven, CT, USA
- United States Peace Corps, Panamá American Embassy, Ciudad del Saber, Clayton, Panamá, Panama