Agroforestry Innovations in Africa: Can they Improve Soil Fertility on Women Farmers’ Fields?


  • Christina H. Gladwin
  • Jennifer S. Peterson
  • Robert P. Uttaro


Most observers agree that the verdict is still out for agroforestry innovations known as improved fallows, which may take a decade for farmers to test properly.  First farmers plant several small plots of different tree species, cut them after two years and plant a cash or food crop, and then wait to see the results of that harvest.  Because the improved fallow cycle takes four or five years, farmers’ adoption or adaptation of this technology takes a lot longer than adoption of an improved seed or a new fertilizer. Until the experiment fails, African farmers – like most researchers – are willing to experiment, probably due to the lack of other options available as soil fertility amendments in Africa today.  This is especially true for women farmers, even more so for female headed households whose lack of adult family labor presents them with severe cash and credit constraints.  This paper describes their adoption decision processes when presented with new agroforestry technologies such as improved fallows in western Kenya, southern Malawi, and eastern Zambia.