What does Agroforestry mean? Let’s start with defining it. Agroforestry, also known as tree farming, is an agricultural practice that advocates the cultivation of trees and crops on the same land. Being sustainable in nature, agroforestry offers numerous benefits for both the farmer community and the environment. Especially when it comes to India, the significance of agroforestry gets quite high as people of the country have been practicing it for hundreds of years and now even the government has been promoting it to ensure the conservation of earth’s ecosystem and sustainable livelihood. Furthermore, India was the first country in the world to adopt a comprehensive National Agroforestry Policy. With this article, we are going to discuss with you the significance of agroforestry, its advantages and the types of practices prevalent in India.
Table of Contents
It is known to everyone that there is no dearth of forests in India, which also plays a great role for the country’s economy. From the tropical rainforests in the northeast region to dry deciduous ones in the southern regions, the livelihoods of millions of people depend on them. Not just that, the forest ecosystem also plays it’s ‘too vital to ignore’ part for the preservation of the environment as without it, the level of soil conservation and water regulation we see today wouldn’t be possible. All these prove the importance of forests for the wellbeing of human beings, the wildlife that reside there and last but not least, the surroundings - Air, Water, and Land.
However, despite this, the rate at which trees are being cleared out over the last years has not been slowing down, in fact, it is rising in some states as well. The reason behind this is the increasing population of the country, which can surpass China any time soon. Wondering how? Well, the more people, the more their needs and with this comes the exploitation of forest lands.
Agroforestry - A Solution
At present, the situation has become a headache to the government as it is leading to soil erosion, water scarcity, erratic climatic fluctuations, and harming biodiversity for which the country is famous. So, is there any solution? Yes and that’s Agroforestry, or we can say, tree farming. It gives us a path to combine trees and farming and shows how the production of food and nature can go hand-in-hand. Under Agroforestry, farmers plant trees on a certain portion of their agricultural lands. These offer them two benefits - first, raise the level of their income and give them a sense of food security. Second, doing this contributes to the betterment of the environment. Besides this, the farmers can also take into use leaves and branches of trees as fodder for their cattle and other live stocks, hence saving a bit here and there.
Advantages of Agroforestry
- Ensures Conservation of Soil
Planting trees does a great deal of benefits for the agricultural lands as their roots get deep in the land, which means they bind the soil together and prevent its erosion. Beside this, all the organic matter that goes to land from trees, such as leaves raises the fertility of the soil and improves its structure.
- Retains Ground Water Level
Many times we see trees survive long dry seasons and the reason they are able to do that is the considerable amount of water present in the soil and ground. Trees play a significant role in regulating the water cycle as they catch the rainfall, prevent its runoff, and maintain the level of groundwater. This becomes way more important when it comes to the areas susceptible to droughts and water scarcity.
- Mitigate Climate Change
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that earth would be a ‘Carbon Chamber’ if there were no trees on the earth as they take away lots of carbon dioxide present excessively in the atmosphere and store it in their biomass and soil. This not only fights against the climate crisis and reduces climate change but also makes the lives of people easier to live.
- Conservation of Biodiversity
Biodiversity of India is known all over the world and this is what makes it unique and incredible. However, this is getting lost due to increasing deforestation. Here, agroforestry offers a viable solution to this situation as it reduces the need for unnecessary encroachment of forests, which are natural habitat for the majority of flora and fauna of the country.
- Raise Level of Income
It is obvious that with agroforestry or tree farming, farmers can get the byproducts of trees, such as wood, fruits, etc. and use them for commercial purposes. This can eventually act as an additional source of income for them and also contribute to their socio-economic development.
Types of Agroforestry Practices
Now that you know what agroforestry or we should say tree farming is and the advantages it has for the agricultural community and the environment, it’s time to look at a few types of agroforestry practices prevalent in the country today.
- Taungya System
Prevalent in the North-Eastern region, Taungya system was developed by the British a couple of centuries back. Under this system, farmers do plantations of crops, like rice and maize when the monsoon comes to the country and after that, plant trees during the dry season. The reason for doing this is that trees offer shade to the crops from the scratching heat when they need the most and conserve soil and water.
Been in use for years, Silvopasture is an integrated land use practice that integrates trees, forage and livestock. Known to enhance agricultural efficiency while bringing down the environmental burdens of extensive ranching, Silvopasture includes the plantation of trees in clusters throughout the pasture.
- Horticulture Based Agroforestry System
In this system, what farmers basically do is they plant fruit trees, such as mangoes, apples or guavavas alongside with other crops. This reaps fruitful results for them in numerous ways. First, it helps them make their soil more fertile and reduce its erosion. And second is they are able to diversify the types of crops and get more money in the market.
- Alley Cropping
Especially seen during the North-East monsoon of India, Alley cropping involves the planting of trees in multiple parallel rows to create alleys within which crops are produced. There are numerous benefits of it, which includes higher income, better crop production, protection to the crops, etc. Usually, crops such as maize, sorghum, and beans are cultivated using this system.
National Agroforestry Policy
Despite the number of initiatives taken by the Indian government, including National Bamboo mission, National Agricultural policy, Green India Mission, agroforestry has failed to achieve the potential it possesses. Considering this, the country’s government adopted a National Agroforestry Policy in February 2014 during the World Congress on Agroforestry, held in Delhi.
Objectives of National Agroforestry Policy-
- Promote the plantation of trees in an integrated manner with crops and livestock with the motive to raise productivity, generate employment opportunities, and betterment of the rural households, especially the small holder farmers.
- To protect the natural ecosystem and advocate resilient cropping and farming systems. This can help the government to bring down the risks that extreme climatic conditions bring.
- To fulfil the requirements of raw materials of wood based businesses and reduce dependency on other foreign countries for importing them. This will also build up India’s foreign exchange reserves.
- To increase the forest/tree cover of the country to ensure ecological stability, especially when it comes to the highly susceptible regions.
- To create a capacity for research and development in agroforestry and strengthen it with the special focus to reduce pressure on current forest areas.
- Increase the production of AFPs (agroforestry products), which involves fuel-wood, fodder, non-timber forest produce and small timber of the rural and tribal community.
At present, more than 13.5 million hectares of India’s land is under the practice of agroforestry and its potential is way more. To realize that, the country’s government needs to promote it with an enthusiastic approach. The government can introduce financial incentives for the farmers to adopt tree farming in a sustainable and scientific way, apart from imparting relevant training and awareness. Hope you have found this article interesting and educational. For more such content, feel free to explore the website of Corpseed, which is India’s top business legal and technical advisory firm.
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