20 Oct, 2022
In 2014, India became the first country to adopt a national agroforestry policy, recognizing the need for change in the agricultural sector. Agroforestry can be defined in many ways, it essentially involves combining agricultural and forestry practices like including trees on farms, farming in the forests and at margins and tree crop production, thus forming a multi-functional land use system. It has been increasingly used worldwide, as it helps improve food security, enhance soil fertility, and improve the quality of the agroecosystem, in addition to alleviating poverty.
In order to facilitate effective implementation of these sustainable practices, a standard agroforestry policy that provides an enabling environment is needed. With that in mind, India focused on evidence-based policy development based on extensive interdisciplinary research, e.g., on the All India Coordinated Research Project (AICRP) and the results of the collaboration of the World Agroforestry Centre with other national institutions. This resulted in a well-founded National Agroforestry Policy (2014), that was supported by the Sub-Mission on Agroforestry (2016), and the National Mission on Bamboo (2018), that support the adoption and expansion of agroforestry.
However, despite the great strides in agroforestry-related research, some challenges still hinder the adoption and present constraints for the effective implementation of its full potential. First, India has different regulation regimes for different states and for forestry regarding the transport and felling of trees, which slow down the expansion of agroforestry. Further complicating agroforestry practices are long gestation periods, market uncertainties, lack of timely quality planting material, and competition of trees on farm with crops for space, sunlight, and nutrients among others.
Pic 1: Agroforestry System( Gauva-Groundnut-Mellia dubia), Jhansi (U.P) Photo credit: Dr Ramesh Singh, ICRISAT
But given that land holding size is shrinking, agroforestry is still the only way to optimize farm productivity and, thus enhance livelihood opportunities of smallholder farmers. Thus, the aim is to introduce location-specific agroforestry systems at a landscape level following the principles of agroecology, with policy support to improve the farming livelihood to increase income for food and nutritional security.
Several rainfed ecosystems, for example, in the Bundelkhand region in Central India, have faced the impacts of climate change in the form of declining rainfall over the last 50 years and experienced a reduction of about 200-250 mm, resulting in frequent droughts (Singh et al., 2022). The subsequent effects are exacerbated since farmers are economically poor, technology deprived and depend entirely on agriculture. Since the livelihood of a large number of people (/populations) depends on natural resources, it is vital that the retention ability of the landscape is enhanced through an agroforestry model integrated in a sustainable natural resource management approach. This would also tackle further challenges in the region, such as land degradation, over grazing, deforestation, and increased soil erosion, among others.
Presently, the GIZ project “Sustainable Management of Forest Ecosystem Services” is tackling these challenges in the Bundelkhand region of the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development in partnership with the Indian Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) at the National level and the forest departments of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh at the state level. The project aims to demonstrate the successful models for the farmers in the fragile and stressed ecosystems of Bundelkhand which will aid in increasing resilience and reducing vulnerability, as well as further improve the adaptation to climate change.
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