AGROFORESTRY SYSTEMS OF THE TEA SMALLHOLDINGS IN MATARA
DISTRICT: SELECTION OF TREES AND ECONOMIC VIABILITY
L.M. Abeywickrama, M. De Zoysa and R.A.G. Senaratne
Department of Agricultural Economics, Faculty of Agriculture,
University of Ruhuna
The tea sector in Matara district is dominated by small-scale holdings
as monoculture and mixed gardens. High shade trees consisting of forest
trees and perennial crops have been an integral component in tea lands
which is analogous to natural forest conditions. Recently, with the rapid
increase of demand for timber, there is an increasing trend to remove
high shade trees neglecting the sustainable agro-forestry system in tea
The study attempted to asses growers' interests, agronomic problems and
financial benefits of managing high shade trees in tea small holdings.
Findings are mainly based on data gathered from 200 indiscriminately selected
small scale (< 1 ha.) tree growers in Matara district by administering
a questionnaire based interviews. Direct observations were also made to
assess the canopy of high shade trees, tea cultivations and cultivated
lands. Prices of timber and marketing process of timber were gathered
using participatory approaches.
Study reveals that coconut, jak, mahogany, arecanut and lunumidella are
the dominant high shade tree species in tea small holdings less than 0.25
ha. while albizia dominates in the holdings larger than 0.5 ha. Thirty
three percent of the growers are not interested in planting new high shade
tree species in their holdings except coconut and fruit trees due to prevailing
market imperfections resulting from existing timber trade policies. Profit
margins of timber trade earned by merchants are very large compared to
the low revenues received by the growers due to lack of clear tittles
for many lands and lack of market information. Discounted financial value
of land equivalency ratio (LER) is higher for tea small holdings with
albizia trees compared to other tea based agroforestry systems.
Critical assessments and restructuring of policy related to land tittles,
subsidy schemes for tea cultivation, high shade tree replanting programs,
and timber trade have become important issues to sustain the agro-forestry
system in tea small holdings.
Department of Forestry and Environmental Science,
of Sri Jayewardenepura,Sri Lanka. 1995-2000. All rights reserved.