Monday, 10 February 2014

Agroforestry Requires Blending of Traditional Ecological Prudence with Renewable Energy Technology


The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee inaugurated the World Congress on Agro-forestry, today (February 10, 2014) at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi.

Speaking on the occasion, the President said that Agro-forestry offers a significant opening in resetting priorities on farm sustainability. It is emerging as a major domain in environmentally sustainable food production systems. Agro-forestry system produces food, fuel and fibre; contributes to food and nutritional security; sustains livelihoods; helps in preventing deforestation; increases biodiversity; protects water resources, and reduces erosion.



The President said that agro-forestry holds immense promise in enhancing the productivity of land in an environmentally and economically sustainable manner. Greater research is required in agro-forestry, focused on creating eco-technologies that purposefully blend traditional ecological prudence with renewable energy technology.

The President, Shri Pranab Mukherjee at the inauguration of the World Congress on Agroforestry- 2014
The President stated that despite the large spinoffs agro-forestry can deliver, its development is hampered by lack of policy incentives, inadequate knowledge dissemination, legal constraints and poor coordination among its beneficiary sectors. Inadequate investment, lack of suitable extension strategies and weak market linkages compound the woes of this sector. He stressed that rather than being discouraged by long gestation periods normally associated with agro-forestry projects, we need innovative models that encourage investment in this sector.
In his speech he mentioned that agro-forestry offers a significant opening in resetting our priorities on farm sustainability. It is emerging as a major domain in environmentally sustainable food production systems. Agro-forestry system produces food, fuel and fibre; contributes to food and nutritional security; sustains livelihoods; helps in preventing deforestation; increases biodiversity; protects water resources, and reduces erosion. Carbon sequestration of agro-forestry farms is a low-hanging fruit for climate change mitigation, justifying greater investment in them. Agro-forestry is also an important alternative to meet the target of increasing the vegetation cover to 33 per cent from the present level of below 25 per cent.

In India, agricultural land makes up over 43 per cent of the total geographical area. Forests occupy about 23 per cent. There exists a vast potential for using agricultural land as a source of timber. It is estimated that already, about 64 per cent of India’s timber requirement is met from trees grown on the farm. Agro-forestry also meets almost half of the total demand of 201 million tonne of fuel wood in the country. Agro-forestry generates 450 labour days per hectare annually without negating farm productivity or income.

Though the Green Revolution helped India attain self-sufficiency in food grain production, the indiscriminate use of fertilizers and pesticides and improper land use management led to extensive environmental degradation, eventually affecting crop yield. Agro-forestry is alluring as an alternate land use option. Integration of agricultural and forest crops would not only prevent further land degradation but also ensure timber and firewood availability to the rural population. 
The potential of agro-forestry to contribute to sustainable development has been recognized internationally as well. For instance, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change have acknowledged agro-forestry as a crucial constituent of climate-smart agriculture. The UN Convention to Combat Desertification recognizes agro-forestry as a key prospect for controlling desertification and pursuing rehabilitation. The Convention on Biological Diversity views agro-forestry as a central element in its ecosystem approach for conservation of agro-biodiversity. Agro-forestry is perhaps the only land use activity that has etched a relevant role for itself in the approaches espoused by these three important UN conventions.
The Congress on the theme of ‘Trees for Life: Accelerating the Impact of Agro-forestry’ is jointly organized by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), World Agro-forestry Centre and the Indian Society of Agro-forestry.

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