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Context: There is an urgent need to increase agroforestry cover in India to address demand for plywood as well as well as achieve ambitious net-zero targets.

Background: Issues with current Agricultural Practices

  • Monoculture: Majority of farmers indulge in monoculture practices that affect land productivity as well as profitability of farming.
  • Overuse of fertilizers: Farming practices include large amount of fertilizers that not only increases input cost but also reduces soil productivity.
  • Pest attacks: Farmers must regularly combat with large number of pest attacks that seek to destroy crops over the area.
  • Excess water usage: Exploitation of groundwater resources has declined the groundwater table, affecting productivity.

What is agroforestry?

  • Agroforestry is the collective term given to land-use systems and technologies in which woody plants are used on the same land-management units as agricultural crops and/or animals.
  • Agroforestry includes both ecological and economical interactions between the different components.
  • Features of agroforestry:
    • Intentional: It is carried out intentionally by combining trees, crops and/or animals, which are managed as a whole unit, rather than as individual elements.
    • Interactive: Agroforestry aims to manipulate the biological and physical interactions between the components of the system.
    • Integrated: The tree, crop and/or animal components are structurally and functionally combined into a single, integrated management unit so as to balance economic production with resource conservation.
    • Intensive: The practice is carried out intensively through annual operations such as cultivation, fertilization and irrigation.
What is agroforestry
What is agroforestry

Agroforestry in India

  • Spread: Currently, agroforestry is practiced on 13.5 million hectares in India. About 65 per cent of the country’s timber and almost half of its fuel wood come from trees grown on farms.
  • Employment: Agroforestry is currently generating 450 employment-days per hectare per year in India.
  • Forest cover: The forest cover in India has grown from 21% to 25%. This 4% growth has been contributed by agroforestry in recent years.

Advantages of Agroforestry

  • Reduces pressure on forests: Agroforestry will perform most of the functions of traditional forests, including fulfilling timber needs. This will reduce pressure on forests.
  • Recycling of nutrients: Agroforestry will help better manage nutrient cycle of the unit. Waste generated from one component can act as nutrient for another component.
  • Support biodiversity: Agroforestry supports greater range of biodiversity over conventional systems. This is because of variety in microclimate.
  • Protect soil: Trees grown on the land will protect top layer of soil, preventing erosion due to water or wind. This will conserve soil nutrients.
  • Income augmentation: Agroforestry provides opportunity for income augmentation, thereby reducing pressure on farming.
  • Carbon sinks: Forests act as carbon sinks. Agroforestry will act as artificial forests and can perform carbon storing functions.
  • Pollution control: Agroforestry helps in reducing dust, particulate matter as well as odour. It improves quality of air, soil and water.
Advantages of Agroforestry
Advantages of Agroforestry

Challenges for Agroforestry

  • Lack of Knowledge and training: Agroforestry is a specialised field that requires certain amount of knowledge in order to reap benefits.
  • Long term benefits: Agroforestry will start providing profits on the longer run. In short run, profits may decline due to reduction in cropping area.
  • Stringent forest laws: Indian forest laws are very stringent that prevents landowner from cutting trees grown on his/her land without multiple permissions.
  • Food security: Diverting agricultural land from cereal and commercial crops may create a scarcity of food and industrial raw material.
  • Lack of dedicated agency: Most of the countries, including India, do not have a dedicated agency to promote agroforestry in the country.

National Agroforestry Policy

  • The policy was announced by the Indian government in 2014 at the World Congress on Agroforestry in New Delhi, becoming the world’s first nation to establish an agroforestry policy.
  • The policy contains framework to address growth of agricultural livelihoods and minimising climate change by boosting agricultural production.
  • Goals under the policy:
    • Creation of a national nodal body to bring together various agroforestry projects, programmes, and policies of the government.
    • Using agroforestry techniques to improve economic situation of small farmers.
    • Protection of environment and addressing the growing demand for wood and other agroforestry commodities.
    • Expanding India’s forest cover through agroforestry.
    • The policy also aims to reduce import of wood and wood products to save foreign exchange.

Related information: Trees Outside Forests in India

  • It is an initiative to increase tree coverage outside of forest lands in India and will bring together farmers, companies, and private institutions to expand tree coverage in the country.
  • It is a joint programme of Government of India and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
  • Initially, it will be implemented in 7 states of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Haryana, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh.
  • The major aim of the initiative is to expand tree coverage by 28 lakh hectares (outside traditional forests) through agroforestry or by integrating trees into farming systems.

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