On-farm agroforestry research planning in Costa Rica
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The Tropical Agricultural Research and Training Center (CATIE) carries out research, training and technical cooperation in Central America and the Caribbean. Since 1976, CATIE's Agroforestry Programme has carried out basic and applied research in Costa Rica, Panama, and Nicaragua. It has also trained many professionals through Master of Science and short course programmes. This chapter analyzes the experiences from different projects in Costa Rica, and proposes some planning principles that have gradually evolved from one project to the next. In addition to the criteria of "national priority" and potential for extrapolation, the area selection for new applied agroforestry research projects should generally be based on the existence of previous or actual research or extension projects, and the probability that an existing or new extension project will implement the results. The most significant area characteristics to be analyzed before establishing new agroforestry projects will probably be: topography, rainfall regime, land tenure, population density, the actual importance of trees for the farmers in the area, local history (including ethnic considerations), and the presence of other agricultural systeMON, where agroforestry has no role to play. The mechanisMON to set goals have varied greatly between projects but should include 1) consideration from the beginning of the farmers' goals and of the extension service expectations and 2) involvement of the largest possible group of farmers and professionals in the planning stage and during each evaluation. For project implementation, the hiring of local assistants should receive high priority, while the involvement of the farmers (design and evaluation of the research) appears as another essential element. The importance of thorough monitoring of all processes, without forgetting economic and sociological aspects, is also stressed.