Agroforestry policy issues and research directions in the US and less develop countries, insight and challenges from recent experience. ( special issue on agroforestry science, policy and practice )

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Efforts to improve the performance of agroforestry systems, and to expand the land area and number of people able to benefit from this integrative approach to agriculture and natural resource management, are constrained throughout the world by non-supportive land use policies. A growing sense of urgency that policy change is needed to enable agroforestry to flourish has contributed during the past two years to an unprecedented level of agroforestry policy assessment and planning activity. In the USA, agroforestry has emerged from academia, where it has incubated since the mid-1980s, into the professional resource management arena. A multi-organizational agroforestry evaluation process has driven national policy and programme formation to the forefront of the agenda of the agroforestry community, as it seeks to influence the 1995 Farm Bill. Internationally, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research and collaborators fostered a sequence of policy issue identification activities as a basis for setting strategic research priorities for forestry and agroforestry. Following a brief review of forces driving agroforestry development in industrialized and less developed countries, the paper highlights recent policy assessment initiatives in each sphere. Observations on the issues driving and the priorities emerging from these processes are offered, to lend perspective to the critical challenges facing the agroforestry policy research community. An explanation for pervasive constraints and inconsistencies in policy effectiveness is then explored, from which a promising approach to research intervention is forwarded. It is argued that social scientists might influence agroforestry policy most favourably at this critical juncture, as perceptions of inter-dependence increase among different stakeholders in the policy system, by employing interventionist, actor-orientated perspectives and participatory methods to facilitate policy innovation and evaluation. The approach is consistent with participatory technology design processes that earlier helped to establish agroforestry as a prototype for sustainable development

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