Decision analysis of agroforestry options reveals adoption risks for resource-poor farmers


Agroforestry interventions have the potential to benefit the livelihoods of farmers and communities worldwide. However, given the high system complexity, the long-term benefits of agroforestry are difficult to anticipate. This study aimed to integrate uncertainty into long-term performance projections for agroforestry interventions in the highlands of Northwest Vietnam. We applied decision analysis and probabilistic modeling approaches to produce economic ex-ante assessments for seven agroforestry options (intercropping of maize, forage grass, or coffee with tea, nut, fruit, and timber trees) promoted in the region. Our results indicate that farmers likely prefer annual monocultures due to the relatively early incomes and short time-lag on returns. However, the results also show that annual profits from monocrops can be expected to decrease over time, due mainly to unsustainable soil use. Agroforestry systems, on the other hand, return substantial profits in the long term, but they also incur high establishment and maintenance costs and can generate net losses in the first few years. Initial financial incentives to compensate for these losses may help in promoting agroforestry adoption in the region. Uncertainties related to farmers’ time preference, crop yields, and crop prices appeared to have the greatest influence on whether monocropping or agroforestry emerged as the preferable option. Narrowing these key knowledge gaps may offer additional clarity on farmers’ optimal course of action and provide guidance for agencies promoting agroforestry interventions in Vietnam and elsewhere. Our model produced a set of plausible ranges for net present values and highlighted critical variables, more clarity on which would support decision-making under uncertainty. Our innovative research approach proved effective in providing forecasts of uncertain outcomes and can be useful for informing similar development interventions in other contexts.

Agronomy for Sustainable Development, (40), 3,