Key messages

African forest-based farming systems (FBFS) are the starting point for most humid zone farming systems; they exist only at low population densities and, depending on population growth, are a relatively short transition phase into more sedentary systems with higher levels of specialization.

FBFS provide a wide range of food and non-food products for many of which no alternative sources exist.

FBFS farmers are highly food secure yet poorly connected to markets and service providers, thus severely cash-constrained and suffering from a lack of financial, medical, educational and social services rendering families vulnerable and cut off from urban employment opportunities.

Due to low labour input FBFS achieve relatively low crop yields yet they are productive because of their often high soil fertility; they draw heavily on the natural resource base for relatively low outputs.

FBFS are heavily threatened by land-grabbing attempts of large-scale investors.

Policies need to address human welfare and conservation / environmental protection issues in parallel with providing technical support to FBFS farmers without leading to a rapid transition into more productive yet less sustainable farming systems.

Intensification and modernization of FBFS have not received sufficient attention from research and policy makers, yet are a potential way to maintain forest environments combined with agricultural production.