People-nature interactions through the Lens of local ecological knowledge: an illustration on agroforests in Madagascar.
This research deals with farmers' knowledge on plant diversity management in agroforests through the case study of the Betsimisaraka farmers on the Northern East coast of Madagascar. In this study, farmers' knowledge on plants and different plant functions were analyzed to better understand what strategies the farmers used to structure their mixture of trees, shrubs, and traditional farm crops. The study was conducted in a village of the Vavatenina District of Analanjirofo Region and based the methods on the combination of interviews and maps made by farmers of the distribution of plants in their agroforest. These agroforests are the hosts of more than 50 plants species linked to a range of benefits such as income generation, human and animal food, firewood, timber, medicinal uses, and climate regulation. The maps show that the way agroforestry farmers spatially organize plant species across their land is in line with their ecological knowledge concerning the adaptation of the different species to environmental conditions and concerning their positive and negative interactions between the various plants and clove trees. For instance, lychee tree is widespread in clove-based agroforests as it provides fruit and source of supplementary income, but its canopy brings excessive shade to the clove tree, so it is planted on the edge of the fields. This study hence indicates that farmers' knowledge is key in their decision-making for agroforests management, together with more well-known factors such as the households needs and assets, and the socio-economic context.