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Agroforestry innovation by smallholders facing uncertainty: The case of clove-based cropping systems in Madagascar

Michel I., Lobietti M., Danthu P., Penot E., Velonjara F., Jahiel M., Michels T.. 2021. European Journal of Agronomy, 123 : 11 p..

DOI: 10.1016/j.eja.2020.126218

Clove production in the eastern coastal region of Madagascar is typical of an export crop grown by particularly vulnerable smallholders. Products from clove trees, along with vanilla, account for the largest proportion of Madagascar's agricultural exports. There is a marked contrast between the national economic stakes and the situation of smallholders hampered by fluctuating world market prices, a particularly erratic climate in this cyclone-prone area, and land fragmentation due to high demographic pressure. Clove trees were first introduced by French settlers and grown in monospecific plantations according to their development model. These clove plantations dominate the landscape but appear at first sight to be deteriorating, thus mobilizing R&D actors with the intention of improving the sector. What if it turned out, on the contrary, that farmers had gradually developed, over generations, diverse and diversified clove systems adapted to the prevailing uncertainty? This is what we wanted to test by implementing a method combining farmer surveys and field observations. We assumed that the density of associated and clove trees, the identification of species within these stands, and the clove tree growth status, reflected the past and present dynamics and the sought-after functions. In two Fenerive-Est villages, we analysed findings from a sample of thirty clove plots, and revealed six different types of system in terms of vegetation structure, species combinations and ages. The trend was in favour of clove tree maintenance and renewal, but also diversification of associated tree species and uses of the underlying layers, to the detriment of the per-hectare clove tree density. The systems had also evolved according to the age of the clove trees. Interventions to improve clove production in Madagascar must be designed within the framework of these diversified, multifunctional and evolving systems, without overlooking other derivative components and products.

Mots-clés : agroforesterie; systèmes agroforestiers; syzygium aromaticum; système de culture; exploitant agricole; systèmes d'innovation agricole; innovation; végétation; diversification; madagascar

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