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Agroforestry in India

More than 1000 delegates from 80 countries gathered in February for the World Congress of Agroforestry held in New Delhi, India. Source: The Guardian

The congress discussed how to harness the contribution of trees to human wellbeing, climate change mitigation and adaptation, development and sustainabiity.

One of the issues that stood out during the four day conference, was that despite the important role that agroforestry can play in socio-economic development, only one government in the world has drafted, adopted and is currently implementing a national policy on agroforestry.

India has designed a comprehensive policy with the goal to improve productivity, create employment opportunities, generate income and meet the ever-increasing demand for timber, food, fuel, fodder, fertiliser and fibre from a growing population. The policy was approved by India’s parliament just last week.

It recognises the potential of agroforestry as a land-use system that integrates trees into farmlands and rural landscapes to enhance productivity, profitability, diversity and ecosystem sustainability.

The policy was inspired by the government of India’s ambitious target of increasing tree cover to 33% from the present level of less than 25%. It recognises that agroforestry is perhaps the only alternative to meeting this target while at the same time providing opportunities for better livelihoods.

It is estimated that around 64% of India’s timber requirements are met from trees grown on farms.

Agroforestry meets almost half of the total demand of 201m tonnes of fuel wood in the country and generates 450 labour days per hectare annually without negating farm productivity or income

The policy is expected to benefit the country’s farmers through incentives for agroforestry, insurance schemes and greater access to markets for agroforestry products.