Farmers' knowledge of tree attributes and shade canopy management of cocoa agroforestry systems in Waslala, Nicaragua
Silva Aguad, Claudia Patricia
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The research was carried out in the Waslala Province of Nicaragua during June-August 2010. The purpose of the study was to assess the local knowledge about positive and negative attributes of shade trees in cocoa agroforestry systems, with reference to their spatial and temporal placement and to gender and time working with cocoa related perceptions. The methods comprised semi-structured interviews, were computer generated images were used as visual aid; ranking exercise of the use-value of trees; focus group meeting with members of the CACAONICA cooperative and three feedback sessions held towards the end of the research with farmers and extension workers of the community. Cocoa agroforestry was found to be a good production system for the region, with economical, ecological and social strengths and with a series of products and services coming from the shade canopy that were recognized by farmers as beneficial for them. The main production issues were the impact of fungal diseases and low productivity of some of the plots, thus the need to invest more time in the management of the shade canopy and maintenance of the plantation was recognized. Farmers had detailed knowledge about management of the shade canopy in a temporal scale but geographical attributes such as slope and aspect proven to be complex and with many factors affecting farmers’ perception. Training on technical aspects received over the last two decades has made the degree of knowledge among the farmers to be somewhat leveled, resulting therefore on differences expected according to gender and time working with cocoa undetectable for the span of this research.