Small-scale farmers integrate biophysical factors with social, economic, cultural and environmental considerations in their day-to-day decisions to manage complex farming systems. This approach contrasts with the traditional organization of knowledge and institutional structures at universities, where reductionist approaches prevail, leading to production of graduates with insufficient competence in the analysis of complex systems. Three decades of agroforestry research has developed a series of tools for understanding integrated systems: The landscape analysis framework is used by the alternatives to Slash-and-Burn initiative; participatory domestication of tropical fruits in Africa; and modeling tools such as WANULCAS that enable us generate future scenarios of integrated land use systems. Although new agroforestry education programmes in the tropics are putting such tools into use in learning systems, there are still constraints to their adoption. The rising demand for food, fibre, energy and environmental services is likely to lead to transformation of farming landscapes into complex mosaics, shaped by farmers through agroforestry. Universities need to pay increased attention to understanding integrated systems. Our experiences in Africa and Southeast Asia show that agroforestry education contributes to better understanding of integrated approaches in the learning system. This innovation prepares future graduates to understand, and advise farmers on integrated production systems.
Key words: Agricultural education, integrated systems, agroforestry research, curriculum development.
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