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Farmers And the Environment Both Can Benefit from Agroforestry In India: Study

Reducing urban heat island risks, boosting biodiversity and soil health in rural areas, and mitigating climate change are just a few of the advantages.

Chintu Das
Farmers And the Environment Both Can Benefit from Agroforestry In India: Study
Farmers And the Environment Both Can Benefit from Agroforestry In India: Study

According to a study by the World Resources Institute (WRI) India, growing trees in agroforestry systems, a landscape restoration technique in which farmers add trees to their land and in and near cities can provide various environmental and socio-economic gains.

The study by the global research non-profit organization also identified ten different forms of incentives that policymakers employ to encourage farmers to plant trees, seven of which are monetary and three of which are not.

Subsidies for planting material, such as saplings, and infrastructures, such as greenhouses and irrigation, emerged as the most widely accessible and used incentives, followed by government-sponsored direct technical help to farmers.

According to the authors of the study, India is among the nations that would be most affected by climate change as temperatures and sea levels rise and weather patterns shift in the IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report on climate impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability due to being released in 2022.

This problem is worsening as fragmentation and diminishing productivity of the country's terrestrial ecosystems, which include 45 percent of the country's agriculture, undermine dependent people’s capacity to survive, such as farmers, forest dwellers, and tribal or indigenous communities, they added.

One of the study's authors, Ruchika Singh, stated that a key gap is the lack of incentives for native species and conventional agroforestry restoration techniques.

"It's vital to think about trade-offs when planning landscape restoration and planting trees. In an email interview with PTI, Singh, Director - Sustainable Landscapes and Restoration, WRI India, said, "The only push on expanding tree cover misses traditional agroforestry approaches that people have employed to cultivate native trees within their landscapes."

"It's critical to develop restoration programs that take an inclusive and broad perspective, change incentives to fit the local situation, and increase the enabling circumstances for current incentives," she said.

The authors point out that cultivating native trees outside of forest regions utilizing a landscape approach has various social, economic, and environmental advantages where ecologically appropriate.

Reducing urban heat island hazards, boosting biodiversity and soil health in rural areas, and mitigating climate change are just a few of the benefits.

They said that these are in addition to advantages such as improved water quality, jobs and livelihoods, and delivering ecosystem services such as food and fodder for populations that rely on the land for survival.

Agroforestry models that encourage the growth of local tree species, as well as classic agroforestry models, need to be incentivized, according to Singh.

"Lawmakers and decision-makers may learn lessons from programs that conserve native trees and improve community lives, and include those as incentives," the researcher added.

"It's vital to focus on inclusive planning and clarifying policies and rules regarding tenure and tree tenure, particularly for tenant and female farmers." This is also addressed in the National Agroforestry Policy of 2014, and it requires ongoing attention," she said.

According to the report, while various state governments have taken steps to expand trees outside of forests, large-scale plantation drives divert attention away from more socially and ecologically appropriate restoration interventions and, among other things, create a scarcity of high-quality planting material.

"The government can provide incentives for trees that are not forest produce, such as a minimum support price for small forest produce." They said that "this can also enhance value chains and marker conditions for tree products farmed outside of forest regions, incentivizing farmers to recover farmland."

The report's authors used a mixed-methods approach to conduct this study, with a focus on quantitative and qualitative analysis.

They chose six states for comparison: Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, and Telangana, based on fund allocation, release, and utilization for policies or schemes that increase the number of trees outside forest (ToF) regions, as well as flagship policies on ToF.

"We created a study framework to examine policy tools and modes of incentive delivery to capture both monetary and non-monetary incentives," Singh added. The framework helps the authors in methodically collecting data.

Secondary literature research and primary data acquired through key informant interviews with 43 important stakeholders from government, civil society, the private sector, and farmers were used to conduct a thorough analysis of implementation experience in the six states.

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