Title : Potential benefits of introducing trees and agroforestry practices in rural areas of kwazulu-natal, south africa
In South Africa, forests benefit rural people in various ways, such as the provision of ecosystem services and non-timber forest products, amongst others. The objective of this study was to assess the potential benefits of introducing trees and agroforestry practices to achieve the challenge of food security in rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The study was conducted in three purposefully selected communities, which include Mkhoba, Ngubelanga and Kwabase situated in Harding-Weza region. The study used mixed-method approach with quantitative data collected through a means of structured questionnaire, while focus group discussion was also used to collect qualitative data from key members of the communities. The descriptive statistical analysis, including frequencies and Chi-square test of independence was performed to understand the relationship between the respondent's perception of the benefits of agroforestry in improving the livelihood and food security of the rural communities. Findings revealed that the household respondents highly accrued non-timber products such medicinal plants, fruits, and fodder for their livestock from forests. On the other hand, the results showed that majority of household respondents ranging from 40% to 72.1% were not familiar with agroforestry practice. On the contrary, majority showed interest in planting fruit trees in their homesteads (90.6% to 100%). Thus, the introduction of multipurpose trees in these communities has clear potential to improve the household’s food security and socio-economic status. Therefore, it would be highly significant to consider a much-coordinated approach between the government and forestry industry’s stakeholders in order for the impactful implementation of agroforestry systems to improve food security in rural communities of South Africa.