Farmers have a detailed local knowledge about different tree species which are either retained or planted on their farms. Thus, it is possible to learn from farmers’ observations to enhance understanding of local agro-ecological knowledge. This study aimed to investigate coffee growers’ local knowledge on shade tree species. The study was conducted at Adola Rede District, in Guji Zone, Southern Ethiopia. To address the objectives of this study, necessary data were collected through key informant interview and questionnaire survey. A total of 30 key informants and 90 households participated in the household interview. The study results revealed that coffee growers preferred shade grown coffee plants for better coffee yields, to protect coffee plants from unsuitable environmental stress, for soil fertility improvement and for longer life span of coffee plants. Coffee growers also encountered wilting and stunted growth of coffee plants, coffee yield reduction, poor soil fertility, less coffee stems and branches, besides coffee plants need more management when grown open. In the study district, eleven commonly used coffee shade tree species were identified. Based on their criteria of suitability identification, coffee growers preferred compatible shade tree species such as Ficus sur, Millettia ferruginea, Cordia africana, Albizia gummifera, Croton macrostachyus and Vernonia amygdalina, in this order. In the study area, the scale of shade tree species preferences for coffee growers varies. However, their main preferences of shade tree characteristics were mainly based on shade tree height, crown shape and evergreen or deciduous quality of the shade tree species. Coffee growers of the study area managed their owned shade tree species through pruning, thinning, pollarding and coppicing tending operations. They practiced various shade tree managements such as to cud dead or over grown branches, to collect wood used for various uses and to reduce of the shade for coffee plants. Therefore, based on the finding of this study, if the knowledge of local farmers is recorded and effectively used with scientific findings, it can provide valuable information that can give feedback synergistically to channel the direction of conventional science to meet the needs of local people.
Key words: Adola Rede District, coffee growers, local knowledge, coffee shade tree species.
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