The study was conducted to assess rural farmers’ agroforestry practices in Imo State, Nigeria. The population for the study comprised all farmers involved in agroforestry practices in Imo state. Four local government areas (LGAs) were selected out of 27 LGAs in the state using simple random sampling technique. From the four LGAs, two town communities were purposively selected based on their involvement in agroforestry practices giving a total of eight town communities. From each of the eight town communities, four village communities were purposively selected because of their involvement in agroforestry practices making a total of 32 village communities. From the list of agroforestry farmers compiled in each of the village communities by extension agent, five farmers were selected using simple random sampling technique. In all, a total of 160 agroforestry farmers constituted the sample size for the study. Data for the study were collected through interview schedule. Percentage, charts, Mean statistics, Analysis of Variance (ANOVA), Duncan multiple range test and factor analysis were used in analyzing the data. Results showed that the average age of the farmers was 54 years. Majority (56.7%) of the respondents was male and married (73.1%). The average household size of the farmers was 7 persons. Majority (56.9%) of the farmers got their income from sale of farm products and 35.6% of them engage in trading as their secondary occupation. Majority (68.8%) of the farmers belonged to various organization. About 53% of the farmers had contact with extension agents in the last one year and the average extension contact was 2 times. The average size of land used for agroforestry practices was less than one hectare. Majority (96.9%) of the farmers practiced home gardens. There was an increase in the number of farmers involved in agroforestry practices in the last five years (47.5%) . Majority (84.4%) of the farmers planted banana in their farm as the major tree component of agroforestry and majority (98.1%) of farmers cultivated yam as the crop components of the agroforestry practice. The average number of trees planted/protected in the homestead and farmstead varies significantly over the years. There was a decline in the average number of trees planted and/or protected both in the homestead and farmstead from the year 2009 to 2013. The result showed that pruning (87.5%) was the major management strategy used by farmers to maintain their trees while majority (98.8%) of respondents practiced agroforestry to improve soil fertility. Major constraints to agroforestry practices were grouped into knowledge constraints, tree growth constraints and market constraints. The major effective strategy for enhancing agroforestry practices was to increase the awareness of agroforestry practice through training and workshop.

1.1 Background information
One of the challenges facing Nigeria is the production of sufficient food and fiber to meet the need of her ever increasing population (Alao, & Shuaibu, 2011). With rapid population increase and land use pressure, natural fallows and shifting cultivation have been reduced to below the minimum threshold required for the system to sustain itself (Opio, 2001). These have led to land shortages and continuous arable cultivation without fallowing (Thangata, Hildebrand &   Gladwin, n.d). As a result of this, land does not have enough time to replenish its fertility. However, attempts to resuscitate land and hence promote yield with the use of chemical fertilizers have resulted in soil toxicity and environmental pollution (Akpabio, Esu & Adedire, 2008).

It is imperative to introduce practices that would not only be an additive to traditional land-use practices, but also ensure the sustainability of production and socially acceptable without damage to the ecosystem (Akpabio, et al., 2008; Amonum, Babalola, & Agera, 2009). Agroforestry practices represent such land use practices as it offers a solution to the problem posed by the high demand on land, and stands as a means of halting the vicious circle of deforestation, soil erosion and other environmental problems facing Nigeria. It is one of the sustainable agricultural practices in soil fertility practice that uses natural resource management principles to replenish soil fertility (Ajayi, Franzel, Kuntashula & Kwesiga (2003); Mercer, (2004)).

Agroforestry is an ancient practice in sub-Saharan Africa where farmers deliberately integrate and retain trees in their farmland. According to International Center for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF) (1997) agroforestry is defined as a dynamic, ecologically based natural resources management system that through the integration of trees on farmland and range land diversifies and sustains production for increased social, economic and environmental benefits for land users at all levels. Fagbemi (2002) sees agroforestry as the system of farming which combines agriculture with forestry in a rational approach and maintenance of sustainable production systems on the same piece of land, either simultaneously or sequentially. It is a collective name for all land use systems and technologies in which woody perennials (trees, shrubs, palms, bamboos, etc.) are deliberately combined on the same management unit with herbaceous plant (crops or pasture) and/or animals, in some form of spatial arrangement or temporal-sequence (Olujide & Oladele, 2011). Agroforestry involves the combination of trees and crops that increase the medicinal, environmental, and economic value of land with the much-needed profit and food security (ZinPing & Dawson, 2004). It includes both traditional and modern land-use systems where trees are managed together with crops and/or animal production systems in agricultural settings.

Through the ages, rural farmers in the tropics have devised several agroforestry practices, many of which are still in active use (Kang & Akinnifesi, 2000). Some of the agroforestry practices in the southeastern states of Nigeria include; homestead garden, alley cropping, trees on crop land, improved fallow, multistory crop combinations etc (Umeh, 2008). Plant species used in farming communities in many regions of developing countries especially Nigeria include; cereals, pulses, fibers, nuts, medicinal, timber and aromatic plants such as; Iroko (Chlorophora excels), melina (Gmelina arborea), local pear (Dacryodes edulis), orange (Citrus species), bitter leaf (Vernonia amydalina), scent leaf (Ocinum gratisimum) etc (Umeh, 2011).

Agroforestry practices have the potential of improving agricultural land use systems, providing lasting benefits and alleviating adverse environmental effects at local and global....

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Item Type: Postgraduate Material  |  Attribute: 106 pages  |  Chapters: 1-5
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