The (un)broken promise of agroforestry: a case study of improved fallows in Zambia

In 1999, an article entitled Delivering on the Promise of Agroforestry in this journal showed that agroforestry, including improved fallow systems, had evolved from a collection of activities to a full-fledged recognizable science that was bringing promising results to African farmer needs. This case study specifically examines the promise of soil replenishment in Zambia. In 1999, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) was extremely active in Zambia, carrying out extensive research and promotion of fertilizer trees for soil replenishment. This paper shows that improved fallows were short-lived. By 2006, it was estimated that over 61,000 farmers were “reached” with improved fallow technologies. Today, improved fallow systems are virtually nonexistent in Zambia. The departure of ICRAF left a “vacuum” and “gap” in agroforestry in Zambia, and, after decades of agroforestry research and promotion, there has not been a “sense of ownership” by the government, the farmers, or other entities to agroforestry. This study shows that the Government of Zambia’s policies toward agroforestry are opportunistic and driven by funding and donor wishes. Numerous institutional and policy factors such as fertilizer subsidies, as well as farmer characteristics, their knowledge, perceptions, and attitudes toward both the technology and its perceived returns and risks, are discussed. If agroforestry is to deliver on its promise, it needs to move away from a focus on mainly technology promotion and instead scale up and address policies and institution building that mainstream it across all sectors, dealing with poverty alleviation and food security.



Work Title The (un)broken promise of agroforestry: a case study of improved fallows in Zambia
Open Access
  1. Michael Jacobson
  2. Cori Ham
  1. Agroforestry
  2. Fertilizer trees
  3. Impact evaluation
  4. Farmer adoption
  5. Enabling environment
License In Copyright (Rights Reserved)
Work Type Article
  1. Environment, Development and Sustainability
Publication Date December 26, 2019
Publisher Identifier (DOI)
Deposited July 21, 2022




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Version 1

  • Created
  • Added Jacobson-Ham2019_Article_TheUnBrokenPromiseOfAgroforest.pdf
  • Added Creator Michael Jacobson
  • Added Creator Cori Ham
  • Published
  • Updated Work Title, Keyword, Subtitle, and 1 more Show Changes
    Work Title
    • The (un)broken promise of agroforestry
    • The (un)broken promise of agroforestry: a case study of improved fallows in Zambia
    • Agroforestry, Fertilizer trees, Impact evaluation, Farmer adoption, Enabling environment
    • a case study of improved fallows in Zambia
    Publication Date
    • 2020-12-01
    • 2019-12-26