In researching the potential for different agricultural techniques that could be employed in the Kalu Yala Valley one stood out to me in particular, Agroforestry. Right about now you may be asking yourself, just what is Agroforestry? In order to answer this, I will turn to a paper written by Robert D Hauff in 1999 called A Case Study Assessment of Agroforestry: The Panama Canal Watershed. In this paper Hauff defined Agroforestry in the following terms:
- A collective name for land use systems involving trees combined with crops/animals on the same unit of land
- A combination of production of multiple outputs with the protection of the resource base
- Emphasizing the use of indigenous, multipurpose trees and shrubs
- Suitable for low-input conditions and fragile environments
- Involving the interplay of socio-cultural values more than most other land use systems
- Structurally and functionally more complex than monoculture
It is my personal belief that an Agroforestry system would be highly beneficial to the future community that will inhabit that Kalu Yala valley. An Agroforestry system in the valley would both provide a livelihood for its inhabitants while performing a variety of ecosystem services ranging from reducing the sediment load in the river, sequestering carbon, and enhancing both structural and biological diversity in the valley. Perhaps most important in my mind is the use of multipurpose, indigenous species, as one of the main goals of Kalu Yala is to help to maintain the integrity and functionality of the ecology in the valley. Secondly, I envison the Valley as being as self sustaining as possible and relying on as few external outputs as possible, and Agrofroestry systems fit the bill in this regard. Depending on what is planted there could be a supply of everything from lumber, food, even medicine. Of course one important caveat to Agroforestry systems is that they require long term vision since tree systems have a much longer production cycle than contemporary agricultural crops. I feel that Kalu Yala has the long term vision to make this a possibility. Importantly, with the aid of the Buisness program, the Agriculture program can work to improve market access for Agroforestry products within Panama.
During My First week in the Valley I spent some time trying to identify potential tree species that could be planted for an Agroforestry Demonstration plot near the current base camp site. This demonstration plot would both demonstrate the ability of these systems to function in the valley, and depending on the species planted could provide some economic input too. Some species I was able to identify already existing on the Valley property or adjoining properties included Guyaba, Orange, Plantain, Banana, Guando Bean, Bamboo, spiny cedar, and I have heard whispers of some shade grown coffee being grown by one of the Campesinos further up the Valley. Hopefully I can begin to gather seeds and cuttings and begin planting for my demonstration plot within the next month and show the efficacy of these systems.