Agro-Forestry: Service to Agriculture, Boon to the Forests

Rice crop with poplar and citrus plantation.
Rice crop with poplar and citrus plantation.

Greetings to all fellow readers!

I am Manish Kumar from Allahabad. The reason I am writing this blog is to create awareness and make an appeal to all those who will be reading this to make a move by involving the masses to most of whom this blog might not be accessible.

Forests are inevitably the most precious gift that nature has bestowed us with. What benefits we derive from the forests is a matter of general intellect and everybody is quite aware of this.

The major concern which requires us to stand alerted is the pace at which this priceless natural resource is getting depleted. One of the major causes of this loss of forests is Deforestation. If we take India into consideration, the situation is quite alarming. Inspite of the fact that a mandatory 33% of the total area is to be under forest cover as mentioned in the National Forest Policy, the real figures show a wide deviation from the statute. As of now this area is below 21%! It is a global concern since decreasing forests can have detrimental effects given their intimate relationship with the ecological imbalances.

Here I am giving an account of my village forests, the concerns associated and the steps taken to counter the reducing forest cover. In 1991 about 110 hectares of land was Janglaat (local term for forests) in my village but recent data suggest that this has now been reduced to only 61 hectares. Where these forests disappeared? I conducted a study during my summer break to find out what the probable reasons could be and I was surprised by fact that what appeared so casual and regular stuffs were actually the main reasons behind the reducing forest cover; clearing of forest land by people for agriculture expansion and cutting of trees for a number of forest produce. It did not appear a matter of so much concern initially but today it poses a serious threat at the very sustainance of these forests. As a matter of recourse 1000 seedlings were planted along road sides through Gram Panchayat initiative. This is expected to provide fuel and fodder in near future thereby reducing the dependence on present forests.

For a possible solution to this problem we could probably settle with Agro-forestry. Agro-forestry is a sustainable land use system in which forest trees are grown along with agricultural crops on the same unit of land. People can utilize these plantations for their livelihood as they can get timber, fuelwood, fodder for livestock, fruits and several other NTPs like gum, resins etc. They do not need to indulge in clearing forests as they can obtain the same produce from land plantation. Also the recent researches suggest that such practices have non-significant impact on agricultural crops. Agro-forestry systems can also be implemented for commercial purposes. Farmers can plant trees that have intrinsic commercial value and can earn a good sum of money by selling the produce on a rotational basis. Trees like poplar, subabul, teak etc can serve multiple purposes. Apart from providing timber and fodder, fuelwood can also be extracted during pruning season. Subabul has the ability to fix nitrogen so it can help in retaining and simultaneously improving the soil fertility.

One of the most significant advantages of using Agro-forestry model is that it leans towards afforestation. This implies that we can strive towards restoring the lost forest cover while doing our regular business. Since it not does not require huge capital investment or ultra-modern technical expertise therefore it can be easily followed by the folks in general. The only major thing that is required to set the plan rolling is awareness.

Well then, who should take the charge? The answer exists in the very nature of the extent of utilization of agriculture and forest resources and the benefits reaped. Since all of us directly or indirectly dependent on it so it becomes the responsibility of all. Although major part of it is played by the cultivators, we however should take initiative and help them by spreading awareness and creating knowledge base on the sidelines of which Agro-forestry systems can be promoted. As far as government and allied agencies are concerned they are deemed to play a dominant role in policy formulation like social forestry programs. They should also focus on providing financial assistance wherever required.

I would like to close by urging each of us to come forward and provide the resources at their disposal to bring back the forests to their juvenile, lush and plenty.

Written by: Manish Kumar
Affiliation: SHIATS Allahabad
Country: India

This post is entry #17 in the #IUFRO2014 Blog Competition. The most popular entry will receive a certificate and 500 USD. The second and third most popular entries will receive a certificate and copy of the new book, “Forests and Globalization: Challenges and Opportunities for Sustainable Development”.

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