Principles of agroforestry design

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Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR); World Agroforestry (ICRAF)


Agroforestry design involves deciding what will be produced, selecting the components of the system, and determining how they will be arranged. These decisions also define how and when the components will be established, and how they will be managed. It also includes other considerations, such as how to support the enabling environment for agroforestry. Farmers have been designing agroforestry systems for millennia – sometimes consciously, sometimes instinctively. Professionals can support this process in several ways: by advising farmers who haven’t managed agroforestry systems before, or farmers who are recent migrants to a given agroecological zone; by helping to ensure that the systems meet wider goals (particularly environmental ones) in such a way that farmers’ interests are not negatively affected; by introducing farmers to new scientific knowledge; by organizing or supporting collaborative design processes that include all relevant stakeholders. In this section, we outline three principles of agroforestry design: farmer-centredness; aptness to people, place and purpose; and synergy. Successful agroforestry interventions follow these design principles. Interventions that ignore them have a high chance of failure.



Agroforestry design, Farmer-centredness, Aptness, Feasibility, Synergy


Gassner A, Coe R, Cornelius JP, Dobie P, Miccolis A, Mukuralinda A, Okia, C. A., Somarriba E. (2022). Principles of agroforestry design. In Gassner A and Dobie P. eds. Agroforestry: A primer. Design and management principles for people and the environment. Bogor, Indonesia: Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and Nairobi: World Agroforestry (ICRAF) 58–69.