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NITI Aayog Launches GROW Initiative for Agroforestry Sustainability

GROW Initiative: Agroforestry, integrating trees, crops, and livestock, serves as a holistic solution to address food, nutrition, energy, employment, and environmental challenges.

Shivam Dwivedi
NITI Aayog Launches GROW Initiative for Agroforestry Sustainability (Photo Source: @NITIAayog/X)
NITI Aayog Launches GROW Initiative for Agroforestry Sustainability (Photo Source: @NITIAayog/X)

Prof. Ramesh Chand, Member of NITI Aayog, introduced the Greening and Restoration of Wasteland with Agroforestry (GROW) study and portal, marking a significant step towards sustainable land use and environmental restoration. The initiative, led by NITI Aayog, involved a collaborative effort from multiple institutions and employed advanced technologies such as remote sensing and GIS to assess agroforestry suitability across all districts in India. Utilizing thematic datasets, the project resulted in the creation of an Agroforestry Suitability Index (ASI). This index enables national-level prioritization for greening and restoration projects.

The comprehensive report offers state-wise and district-wise analyses, providing crucial insights to government departments and industries involved in environmental conservation and agroforestry.

Accessible Data through Bhuvan Portal

The "Greening and Restoration of Wasteland with Agroforestry (GROW)-Suitability Mapping" portal, hosted on Bhuvan (https://bhuvan-app1.nrsc.gov.in/asi_portal/), provides universal access to state and district-level data. Currently, agroforestry covers 8.65% of India's total geographical area, amounting to approximately 28.42 million hectares. The portal is expected to play a key role in promoting transparency and facilitating informed decision-making for agroforestry initiatives.

Promoting Agroforestry for Sustainable Development

Prof Ramesh Chand emphasized the need for promoting agroforestry to address three critical aspects: reducing the import of wood and wood products, carbon sequestration for climate change mitigation, and optimizing the use of arable land. The GROW initiative aligns with national commitments, aiming to restore 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 and create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Long-term Benefits and Space Technology Integration

Highlighting the potential of the project, Prof Ramesh Chand stated that fallow land and culturable wastelands could be transformed into productive use through agroforestry, reaping long-term benefits. Additionally, he emphasized the role of space technology in agriculture, showcasing the integration of cutting-edge technologies in environmental conservation and sustainable land use.

Expert Insights During Panel Discussion During GROW Initiative Launch

During the panel discussion, experts including Dr SK Chaudhari, Dr A Arunachalam, Dr R Ravi Babu, Dr Ravi Prabhu, and Dr Rajiv Kumar discussed the significance of the portal in various government programs aimed at promoting agroforestry. Dr SK Chaudhari highlighted its relevance in extension activities, further sensitizing stakeholders to the importance of agroforestry in greening and restoration efforts.

Government Emphasis on Agroforestry in Budget Allocation

The Union Budget of the Government of India for the fiscal year 2022-23 has underscored the promotion of agroforestry and private forestry as a priority. Recognizing the critical goods and services provided by agroforestry, the budget aligns with the country's commitment to sustainable land use practices.

India's Agroforestry Leadership and Global Alignments

As the seventh-largest country globally, India faces challenges such as increased build-up areas, degraded land, and imbalanced resources. Approximately 16.96% of the Total Geographical Area (TGA) is wasteland, necessitating transformation for productive use. India's pioneering National Agroforestry Policy, initiated in 2014, aims to enhance productivity, profitability, and sustainability through agroecological land use systems.

Agroforestry aligns with global commitments, including the Paris Agreement, Bonn Challenge, UN Sustainable Development Goals, United Nations Convention on Combating Desertification (UNCCD), Doubling Farmers Income, Green India Mission, and more. India's proactive stance in promoting agroforestry contributes significantly to these international efforts, fostering a sustainable and resilient future.

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