In their 2011 paper “The tree planting and protecting culture of cattle ranchers and small-scale agriculturalists in rural Panama: Opportunities for reforestation and land restoration” Garen et al. explored the reasons why cattle ranchers and small scale farmers in Panama have maintained a tradition since pre-European contact of both planting and protecting valuable multipurpose trees and shrubs on the land they farm. In the interviews conducted for their research they discovered a total of 99 tree species that were seen as valuable by small scale farmers and were either planted, or the wild trees protected. Interestingly all but 28% of these species of tree were native to Panama and 61 % of the species mentioned were used for more than one use (i.e. live fences, firewood, fruit, etc). Although much attention has been given to the deforestation practices of small landholders in rural Panama it was interesting to see the opposite perspective explored, and especially how widespread this appreciation for the services of native trees is within rural Panama.
This paper acted to confirm something I had taken note of during my exploration of both the Kalu Yala Property and the surrounding valley, the campesino’s seem to place great importance on planting and maintaining tree species around their rancho’s that provide them with a variety of services. These are most often in the form of either fruit trees or living fences. The diversity of species planted in some of the small orchards is astounding, it is not uncommon to see a plantain, banana, yucca, Palm, mango, Guanabana, Orange, Grapefruit, wild Cashew, Tamarind, Pineapple, and a variety of living fence species all in the same 1 or 2 acre plot. To help aid the development of my own agroforestry plot what I hope to do before the end of this semester is conduct a series of two part interviews with as many of the local campesinos as possible. The first part of the interview would be focused on some basic demographic information and questions about their land-use practices, the second half will be a walk around their farm and the forest edge and having them point out species that are valuable to them. The results of these interviews will be complied and be used both for a future blog post and also for my research paper I am writing for my university.