Agroforestry is a new name for a set of old practices. There have been many definitions of agroforestry, but they can be summarized in the following: "Agroforestry is a land-use system in which woody species are grown intentionally in combination with agricultural crops or cattle on the same land, either simultaneously or in a sequence. The objective is to increase total productivity of plants and/or animals in a sustainable manner, especially under levels of low technical inputs and in marginal lands. It involves the social and ecological integration of trees and crops" (Nair 1989).

Inclusion of woody components in a production system can provide benefits from the tree products and functions (timber, fuelwood, leaf mulches, the fencing function in a living fence, etc.; Fig. 6.8) and from their potential ecological advantages, especially their nutrient cycling abilities. The choice of a tree species will often depend on whether both productive and ecological advantages can be achieved in the same system, and in some cases one prevailing function, either productive or environmental, may be desired.

Fig. 6.8. A living fence of Gliricidia sepium near Siquirres, in the Atlantic lowlands of Costa Rica. The prunings from this nitrogen-fixing tree can be used for mulching or for fodder. (Photo: F. Montagnini)
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