Farm forestry prospects among some local communities in Rachuonyo District, Kenya.
Deforestation and degradation of productive lands are serious threats to the sustainability of forestry/agricultural practices in Kenya. In the last two decades farm forestry (FF) has been promoted through pilot projects among local communities as an example of sustainable land use. However adoption of FF is limited outside the project locations because FF improvement measures focused mainly on biological (e.g. succession, biodiversity and traditional industrial timber production) and technical concerns (e.g. material input delivery such as providing free tree seedlings for field planting) rather than local values, and interests and the constraints facing farmers. This study examined the local farm priorities and constraints and the prospects for the wider implementation of farm-level tree planting in four communities in Rachuonyo District. Using interviews with 597 randomly selected household heads, the study assessed farmer's production assets and activities, land tenure, priority tree species and the constraints to growing trees on farms. Results show that farm labour is represented by a young population, 56.3% under the age of forty. They are mainly engaged in small-scale mixed cropping integrated with multipurpose trees and some livestock. Tree products contribute about 32% to household cash income, more than any other source (agricultural products, labour sales, etc). Females were more often household heads and had considerable influence over productive activities, making them an important target group in FF development. Farmers preferred exotic tree species due to their ability to provide short-term cash income, fuel and shade. Farmers' concerns included population pressure on limited farmlands and the problem of credit for agricultural inputs. Given the feeling of secured tenure arrangement and influence of tree products on the household economy, farmers are likely to invest more in efficient land uses such as FF if consideration is given to local priorities.