AGROFORESTRY:A Potential Tool For Rural Development In India And Food Security In India

AGROFORESTRY:A Potential Tool For Rural Development In India And Food Security In India
(Author-Assistant professor,department of Botany)
Agroforestry is an integrated approach of using the interactive benefits from combining trees and shrubs with crops and/or livestock on the same piece of land. 
It combines agricultural and forestry technologies to create more diverse, productive, profitable, healthy and sustainable land use systems. This is the combining of agriculture and tree growing so as to produce both agricultural products and tree products on a commercial basis.

            Important dates and institutions

John Benen,a Canadian forester,in 1970s coined the term

The systematic research in agroforestry geared up after the
establishment of the International Council For Research in Agroforestry(ICARF)
in 1977,which was renamed in 1991 as the International Center for Research in

In India,Organized research in agroforestry was initiated in
1983 by the establishment of All India coordinated Research Project on
Agroforestry  by ICAR at 20 centres for
Agroforestry at Jhansi in 1988.

             Types of Agroforestry systems

Agrisilivicultural system
AGROFORESTRY-agricultural crops are intercropped with trees in the interspace between the trees.
(image copyright© Christian Dupraz – INRA )

In this system agricultural crops are intercropped with trees in the interspace between the trees.
  • Under this system agricultural crops
    can be grown upto two years under protective irrigated condition and under
    rainfed farming up to four years.
  • The crops can be grown profitably up to the above said period
    beyond which it is uneconomical to grow grain crops. However fodder crops,shade
    loving crops and shallow rooted crops can be grown economically.
  • Periodic
    trimming and thinning of the trees is also recommended for better crop growth
  • Wider spacing between crop and tree row is adopted for easy cultural
    operations and to provide more sunlight to the intercrop. 
  • Performance of the
    tree crops is better in this system compared to the monoculture.

Silvipastoral System

The production of woody plants combined with pastures is referred to silvipasture system.

The trees and shrubs may be used primarily to produce fodder for farm
animals or they may grown for timber,fuelwood,and fruit or to improve the physical properties and health of soil.

The trees suitable for Silvipastoral system should have the following properties-
  • High protein and nutrient content-High protein content
    improves livestock nutrition.
  • Palatable-Farm animals are selective about the fodder the
  • Free of toxic substances-Some fodder species contain toxic
    substance.These species should not be selected for this practice.
  • Rapid growth and sprouting-Species selected for this
    practice should be able to grow rapidly after pruning.

Agrosilvopastrol systems

The production of woody perennial combined with annual crops and pastures is referred to as agrosilvopastoral system.

This system is grouped into two
categories Home gardens and woody hedgerows.

Home gardens
Home gardens represent
land use system involving deliberate management of multipurpose trees and shrubs in close association with annual and perennial agricultural crops and livestock within the compounds of individual houses.

The whole tree-crop-animal units are being intensively managed by family labour.

Woody Hedgerows
In this system various woody hedges especially fast growing fodder shrubs and
trees are planted for the purpose of browse, mulch, green manure and soil

Apiculture with trees-In this system various nectar producing frequently visited by honeybees are planted on the boundary of the agricultural fields.

Aquaforestry -In this system trees and shrubs preferred by fish ponds, Trees leaves are used as feed for fish. The main role of this system is fish production and bund stabilization around fish ponds

                 Benefits of Agroforestry

Agroforestry system can be advantageous over conventional
agricultural and traditional forestry practices.

They can offer increased productivity,economic benefits and ecological balance.Biodiversity in agroforestry systems is typically higher than conventional agriculture systems.With two or more interacting plant species in a given land area ,it creates a more complex habitat that can support a wider variety of soil
microbes,birds,insects and other animals.

The overall benefits from agroforestry can be discussed under the following heads.

Benefits to environment and soil health

  • Cleaner water through reduced nutrient and soil runoff.
  • Reducing deforestation and pressure on woodlands by providing farm grown fuel wood.
  • Reducing or eliminating the need for toxic chemicals and fertilizers.
  • Odour,dust and noise reduction
  • Green space and visual aesthetics.
  • Maintenance of wildlife habitat.
  • Reduction of pressure on natural forests.The daily needs of fodder ,fuel,timber etc.The daily needs,fuels,timber etc are met from the field as a result forest is used less and so it is conserved.
  • More efficient recycling of nutrients by deep rooted trees on the site.
  • Better protection of ecological systems.
  • Reduction in soil erosion through the agency of wind and heavy rains soil binding ability of tree roots.
  • Improvement of soil structure and nutrient level through the constant addition of organic matter in the form of litter and humus.
  • Trees protect the soil from the harmful effects of strong sun,wind and heavy rain and conserve available soil moisture.
  • Both trees and shrubs provide nesting and food for birds,thus contributing in enrichment of biodiversity.

Benefits to crops and agriculture

  • Increment in outputs of food ,fuel wood,fodder,fertilizer and timber.
  • Reduction in incidences of total crop failure due to epidemic,drought and flood which are common in single cropping or monoculture
  • Increase in levels of farms income due to improved and sustained productivity.
  • Field productivity is not weather dependant in agroforestry systems.
  • Tree leaves provide organic matter for soil organisms.This increases the fertility of the soil and so crops get more nutrients to grow.

Benefits to society, farmers and rural economy

  • Reducing poverty through increased production of wood and other tree products for home consumption and for sale.
  • Contributing to food security by restoring the soil fertility for cultivation of food crops.
  • Countering global warming and the risk of hunger by increasing the number of drought  resistant trees and the subsequent production of fruits,nuts,and edible oils.
  • Through more diverse farms outputs,improved human nutrition
    is provided by agroforestry.
  • Providing growing space for medicinal plants in areas where
    people have limited access to modern medicines.
  • Improvements in rural living standards through employments
    generation  and increased family income
  • Improvements in nutrition and health through increased quality and diversity of food crops,milk,meat,fish etc
  • Stabilization and improvement of communities through elimination of the need to shift sites of farm activities.
  • Providing additional and diversified earnings.
  • Improvements in living environments.
  • Providing a buffer against the fluctuations in prices and
    drought,frost and flood events.Prices of wood products are relatively stable
    compared to most agricultural products.
  • Creating opportunities for new jobs and industries.
  • Timber ,fruit,herbal medicines,firewood,fodder etc need not to be purchased from market.Livestock are also easier to raise for income and overall the home economy is strengthened.
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