AGROFORESTRY SYSTEMS OF THE TEA SMALLHOLDINGS IN MATARA DISTRICT SELECTION OF TREES AND ECONOMIC VIABILITY
The tea sector in Matara district is dominated by small-scale holdings as monoculture andmixed gardens. High shade trees consisting of forest trees and perennial crops have been anintegral 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 highshade trees neglecting the sustainable agro-forestry system in tea small holdings.
The study attempted to asses growers' interests, agronomic problems and financial benefitsof managing high shade trees in tea small holdings. Findings arc mainly based on datagathered from 200 indiscriminately selected small scale « I ha.) tree growers in Malaradistrict by administering a questionnaire based interviews. Direct observations were alsomade to assess the canopy of high shade trees, tea cultivations and cultivated lands. Pricesof timber and marketing process of timber were gathered using participatory approaches
Study reveals that coconut, jak. mahogany, areeanut and lunumidella arc the dominant highshade tree species in tea small holdings less than 0.25 ha, while albizia dominates in theholdings larger than 0.5 ha. Thirty three percent of the growers arc not interested in plantingnew high shade tree species in their holdings except coconut and fruit trees due to prevailingmarket imperfections resulting [rom existing timber trade policies. Profit margins of timbertrade earned by merchants are vcry large compared to the low revenues received by thegrowers 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 holdingswith albizia trees compared to other tea based agroforestry systems.
Critical assessments and restructuring of policy related to land tittles, subsidy schemes fortea cultivation, high shade tree replanting programs, and timber trade have becomeimportant issues to sustain the agro-Iorestry system in tea small holdings.