What is Agroforestry? Potential of Agroforestry In India (Explained)

What is Agroforestry? Potential of Agroforestry In India (Explained)

What is Agroforestry?

Ago-forestry means raising trees, shrubs, and crops on the same land simultaneously. It is done for diverse production, sustainable agriculture, and sustainable land use.

Agroforestry is any sustainable land-use system that maintains or increases total yields by combining food crops (annuals) with tree crops (perennials) and/or livestock on the same unit of land, either alternately or at the same time, using management practices that suit the social and cultural characteristics of the local people and the economic and eco­logical conditions of the area.

According to FAO, Agroforestry can also be defined as a dynamic, ecologically based, natural resource management system that, through the integration of trees on farms and in the agricultural landscape, diversifies and sustains production for increased social, economic and environmental benefits for land users at all levels.

Background of Agroforestry

The end of the nineteenth century established that forest or agricultural plantations are important objectives for practicing agroforestry.

In 1974, the FAO made a serious assessment of the forestry projects in developing countries as well as the policies advised to the Third World.

Today, agroforestry is taught as a part of forestry and agriculture-degree courses in many Universities in both the developing and industrialized world

The scientific and systematic research on tree-crop interactions in India started in the late 1970's and received major support and impetus with the establishment of the All India Coordinated Research Project (AICRP) on Agroforestry in 1983 by ICAR.


Need of Agroforestry In India

Today, Indian agriculture faces diverse challenges and constraint due to growing demographic pressure, increasing food, feed and fodder needs, natural resource degradation and climate change therefore a management system needs to be devised that is capable of producing food from marginal agricultural land and is also capable of maintaining and improving quality of producing environment

Agroforestry is the only option because it has a tremendous potential to simultaneously offer both economically and ecologically viable option to farmers and rural people community for large-scale diversification in agriculture to get supplement fuel, fodder, fruits and fibers on one hand and stabilizing the ecosystems (increase the tree cover, production of timber and other wood products thus reduces the pressure on the forests) on the other hand


Benefits of Agroforestry

Agroforestry is crucial to smallholder farmers and other rural people because it can enhance their food supply, income and health. Agroforestry systems are multifunctional systems that can provide a wide range of economic, sociocultural, and environmental benefits.

Lower Consumption of fertilizers: Nitrogen fixing trees grown in the agroforestry systems are capable of fixing about 50 -100 Kg N/ha/year. These are mentioned as one of the most promising component of agroforestry system. The leaf litter after decomposition forms humus, releases nutrients and improves various soil properties, it also reduces the fertilizer needs.

Supplement Organic Farming: Due to lower requirement of chemical fertilizers agroforestry can supplement organic farming. Use of lesser chemicals will also help in mitigating anthropogenic effect on climate.

Soil regeneration: Appropriate agroforestry systems improve soils physical properties, maintain soil organic matter and promote nutrient cycling.

Clean Biomass energy: Agroforestry will help in generation and promotion of sustainable renewable biomass based energy.

The fast-growing trees can be planted when the land is fallow or they can be grown at the same time as agricultural crops.

In addition to providing fodder, fuel, wood, and other products, trees in agroforestry systems promote soil and water conservation, enhance soil fertility and act as windbreaks for nearby crops.

In the era of global warming, fast degradation of land productivity and other environmental hazards, agroforestry is essential for sustainability of degraded natural resources.


Main challenges for agroforestry

Delayed return on investment: Despite the fact that trees become profitable as they produce positive net present values over time, the breakeven point for some agroforestry systems may occur only after a number of years.

Under-developed markets: Markets for tree products are both less efficient and less developed than for crop and livestock commodities and value chains related to agroforestry systems receive little support.

Limited awareness of the advantages of agroforestry: Overdependence on conventional agricultural methods and inadequate knowledge of sustainable approaches restrict the interested of policy-makers in agroforestry development. 

Unclear status of land and tree resources: Unsecured or ambiguous land tenure, common in developing countries, results in confusion about land delineation and rights, which may discourage people from introducing or continuing agroforestry practices

There is lack of uniformity in the policies and regulations relating to felling and transporting farm-grown timber and other products in different states.

The banks are also reluctant towards granting loans to farmers for agroforestry.

The non-availability or scarcity of saplings of suitable tree species required for agroforestry.

There is seasonal occurrence of plant and animal diseases and inadequate compensation for damaged crops.


Steps taken by Government to Promote Agroforestry

Government is promoting tree-based farming for maximizing farm returns and providing sustainable livelihood to farmers, which include ;

Sub-Mission on Agroforestry was launched in 2016-17 to encourage tree plantation on farm land “Har Medh Par Ped”, along with crops/ cropping system. 

  • There is a provision for financial assistance for nursery development and plantation in farm land which will help the farmer get additional income and make their farming system more climate resilient and adaptive.

National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm (NMOOP), a sub component of National Food Security Mission supports plantation, maintenance and inter cropping with Tree Borne Oilseeds (TBOs) eg. Olive, neem, karanja, Mahua, etc.

Restructured National Bamboo Mission (NBM) was launched in 2018-19 for development of complete value chain, including plantations in non-forest Government land and private farmers field and connecting growers to the market.


Sub-Mission on Agroforestry

The Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare (DAC & FW) has been implementing the Sub-Mission on Agroforestry (Har Medh Par Ped) Scheme since 2016-17 as part of the recommendation of the National Agroforestry Policy 2014.

It aims to encourage tree plantation on farm land along with crops/ cropping system to help the farmers get additional income and make their farming systems more climate resilient and adaptive

The scheme is being implemented in 20 States and 2 UTs with funding pattern of 60:40 between Centre and State Govt. for all States excepting NE & Hilly states, where it is 90:10 and 100% in case of UTs & National Level Agencies

The Scheme promotes the plantation of trees only for land holding farmers.

Upto 5% of allocated funds is utilized for capacity building and training activities like training of farmers/field workers, skill development, awareness campaign, publications, seminars/workshops, conference etc. to raise awareness of the scheme among the farmers.


Restructured National Bamboo Mission

Restructured National Bamboo Mission approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) in 2018 under National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture.

The main goal of the mission is to connect farmers to markets so as to enable farmer producers to get a ready market for their product.


National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm (NMOOP)

India is one of the major oilseeds grower and importer of edible oils. India’s vegetable oil economy is the world’s fourth-largest after USA, China & Brazil. But a substantial portion of our requirement of edible oil is met through import of palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia hence government of India implemented the National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm (NMOOP) during the 12th Five Year Plan, to expand the oil palm areas and increase the production of edible oils


Way Forward:-

Agroforestry is becoming recognized as a land-use system capable of yielding both wood and food while conserving and rehabilitating ecosystems.

Improved agroforestry systems can provide alternatives to a land owner for short and long-term investments and allow the spreading of financial risks through diversification.

India became the first country by introducing National Agroforestry Policy of 2014 but it needs re-evaluation to streamline the practice of agroforestry in India.

To realize the vision of doubling farmers’ income (DFI) by 2022, agro-forestry can play an extremely supportive role by improving livelihoods of poor communities.



Practice Questions:-

Q. Discuss the potential of agroforestry in India and also discuss the factors impeding the growth of agroforestry

Q. What do you understand by agroforestry? How is it important in context of climate change for India? 

Q. What is Agroforestry and Its various Components? Steps taken by govt to Promote Agroforestry.


Source : PIB, FAO, IE

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