Tress and forest were always considered as an integral part of the Indian culture not only this but trees also play an important role in all terrestrials and provide a range of products and services to rural and urban people. As natural vegetation is cut for agriculture and other types of development, the benefits that trees provide are best sustained by integrating trees into agricultural system — a practice known as agro-forestry.
Agro-forestry is an integrated approach of using the interactive benefits from combining trees and shrubs with crops and/or livestock. it combines agriculture and forest technologies to create more diverse, productive, profitable, healthy and sustainable land-use system.
Agro-forestry is basically a land management system but in recent years its importance has been strongly felt for two reasons. Firstly, there is heavy pressure on agricultural land due to urbanization and secondly due to resource crunch agriculture is becoming un-profitable. Normally agro-forestry is a domain of agriculture where in crops the area is 80% or more and in trees it is 20% or less. Though trees occupy very less area in it but plays the dominant role. In our country, greater emphasis is being given to agro-forestry but still it has not reached to the farmer as it should be, whereas in China it has developed like an industry.
Agro-forestry applies to private agricultural and forest lands and communities. These are highly disturbed, human-dominated land-use systems. Targets include highly-erodible, flood-prone, economically marginal and environmentally sensitive lands. The typical situation is agricultural, where trees are added to create desired benefits. Our goal is to restore essential processes needed for ecosystem health and sustainability, rather than to restore natural ecosystems. Agro-forestry provides strong incentives for adoption of conservation practices and alternative land uses, and supports a collaborative watershed analysis approach to management of landscapes containing mixed ownerships, vegetation types and land uses.
• Controlling poverty through increased income by higher production of agro-forestry products for home consumption and market.
• Food security by restoring farm soil fertility for food crops and production of fruits, vegetables, nuts and edible oils.
• Empowerment to women farmers and other less-advantaged rural residents whose rights to land are insecure through better negotiations.
• Reducing deforestation and pressure on forest by providing fuelwood grown on farms.
• Increasing buffering capacity of farmers against the effects of global climate change on-farm tree crops and tree cover.
• Improving soil health of the farm through ameliorated micro-climate and nutrition level.
• Augmenting accessibility to medicinal trees for cure of common and complex diseases.
Significance of Agro-forestry
Agroforestry provides a different land use option, compared with traditional arable and forestry systems. It makes use of the complimentarily relationship between trees and crops, so that the available resources can be effectively utilized. It is a practice that supports the environment and has an obvious landscape benefit. Efficient, modern versions of agroforestry have been developed, that are adapted to the constraints imposed by mechanization. The agroforestry plot remains productive for the farmer and generates continuous revenue, which is not feasible in arable land. Agroforestry allows for the diversification of farm activities and makes better use of environmental resources. Owing to increase in population of human and cattle, there is increasing demand of food as well as fodder, particularly in developing countries like India. Each year farmers of the world must now attempt to feed 81 million more people irrespective of weather. It is important to note that there will be 19% decline in cropland per head by the end of this century due to population explosion. Therefore, there is slight scope to increase food production by increasing the area under cultivation. A management system therefore, 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.
Agro-forestry has interesting advantages from three different perspectives.