The Nightwatch – Research Roundup 2 – February 2016

Little Fireface Agroforestry Project – Growing trees to set them free

The Little Fireface Project Agroforestry Project (LFAP) is a new project being the developed in collaboration with LFP and local stakeholders around our study area. Agroforestry is the science and practice of integrating trees into agricultural systems. In recent years, it has become increasingly relevant as a means of mitigating climate change, natural disasters, and biodiversity loss. Agroforestry has also been used as a means of improving soil fertility, improving water penetration, preventing water loss, preventing soil erosion, increasing yields, and providing an additional source of income to farmers. A successful agroforestry system should incorporate modern knowledge of agroecology and be specifically tailored to problems that persist in a particular area while also catering to the needs and desires of the farmers using the system.

Our study area is dominated by agricultural fields on steep mountain slopes with trees mainly persisting as ‘living fences’ marking farm boundaries, randomly placed timber and fruit trees scattered throughout the farmland, coffee intercropping systems, a few timber plantations, and some bamboo stands. Against the odds, the highest recorded density of Javan slow lorises are still clinging on in this heavily anthropogenically disturbed habitat. However, their last remaining refuges, the trees, are still being harvested at an unsustainable rate and their habitat is becoming more and more fragmented as time progresses. The surprisingly adaptable lorises here are still very much so under threat.

2015 December Geerah - Tree Nursery Building (17)

Trackers Adin and Yiyi working on the nursery

Preliminary discussions and surveys with local farmers have revealed that many of them are encountering an increasing number of difficulties as a result of these unsustainable agricultural and agroforestry practices. These include landslides, soil erosion, low soil fertility, and low income. The LFAP hopes to enable these farmers to maximise their socioeconomic benefits through the efficient use of agroforestry systems which will also provide new habitat and new habitat connectivity for wildlife, namely lorises, in the area. It aims to bring together economic development and wildlife conservation in such a way that the two are intrinsically linked long into the future.

2015 Sep Vogely - Tree Nursery building (47)

The tree nursery slowly coming together.

In order to do this, tree species that are important to both the ecology of slow lorises and the farming community need to be selected for integration into the agricultural system. Using the three years of ecological data we have already collected on the lorises here and preliminary discussions with farmers, we already know that there is some crossover in tree species important to both farmers and lorises so the potential for a mutually beneficial agroforestry system here is evident. To bolster this, questionnaires and groups discussions with all relevant stakeholders are being used so we can fully understand the tree species and agroforestry systems that can be used here.

2016 Jan Aconk - Working on Tree Nursery (39)

Research Coordinator Rob and tracker Adin working on the nursery

As of this week, our nursery has been built, our compost is ‘cooking’, discussions with farmers are underway. Little Fireface Agroforestry is just around the corner and we’re hoping it will make all the difference for the lorises and local people here.

  • Robert O’Hagan, Research Coordinator