Why India should promote Agroforestry for greater common good?

The practice of agroforestry is as simple as the term suggests – it is a system that combines agriculture and forestry, in which trees or shrubs are grown around or among crops. Combining such agriculture and forestry technologies creates a more bio-diverse, productive and sustainable land-use system.

The benefits of agroforestry are already well known – it reduces poverty among farmers through increased production of wood and other tree products for home consumption or sale. It contributes to food security by restoring soil fertility for food crops. It reduces deforestation and stabilizes the soil from erosion. In fact, an appropriate mix of species can even enable agricultural land to withstand extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and climate change. So it can safely be touted as the most important tool to build resilience of farmers and rural people against threats of climate change and natural calamities. For India, it is also perhaps the only alternative to meeting the ambitious target of increasing forest or tree cover to 33 per cent from the present level of less than 25 per cent, as envisaged in the Indian government’s National Forest Policy, 1988.

Successful examples exist among farmers who have practiced agroforestry.In Bareilly district in Uttar Pradesh state, for example, farmers who grew Eucalyptus and Poplar along with their traditional crops were able to increase their net profit by 2.5 to 3 times in a period of seven years. But then, these have been sporadic cases. Despite its relevance in almost all environments, and its potential to ease problems related to climate change, food security and rural livelihoods, farmers are still hesitant to adopt it for various reasons.

The primary reason is the lack of awareness about successful examples. Then again, many farmers want short-term hassle-free gains, whereas agroforestry takes at least 7 years to yield a harvest. Also, legal restrictions on harvesting and transporting of trees on farmland need to be sufficiently eased, failing which domestic agroforestry produce would further lose ground against imported material which are of better quality and cheaper. At the policy level too, India does not have a National Agroforestry Policy yet.

But finally,the long pending exercise of putting together a National Agroforestry Policy is underway.The Indian Council of Agricultural Research is in the process of discussing its scope and has begun collating databases from different parts of the country as policy support. After all, India falls in the region that is considered the cradle of agroforestry, and also one that has pioneered scientific developments on the subject. The time has come for this sector to be developed for income and employment generation, as it is the only practice that can achieve the 4 per cent sustained growth in Indian agriculture, and optimize farm productivity in an era when landholding size is shrinking.

References http://www.springer.com/in/book/9788132216612 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agroforestry http://agricoop.nic.in/imagedefault/whatsnew/Agroforestry.pdf http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bareilly/Agroforestry-increases-farmers-net-profits-reveals-survey/articleshow/47400250.cms