Promoting Agroforestry for Sustainable Land Management in India

Image showing a three-tier agroforestry system, integrating trees, crops, and grazing animals, exemplifying sustainable land management practices in India
Promoting Agroforestry for Sustainable Land Management in India

The NITI Aayog recently unveiled the ‘Greening and Restoration of Wasteland with Agroforestry’ (GROW) initiative, accompanied by a comprehensive report and portal. This initiative harnesses remote sensing and GIS technologies to evaluate the suitability of agroforestry across all districts in India. With a target to reclaim 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 and establish additional carbon sinks, the GROW initiative holds significant promise for sustainable land management in the country.

Understanding Agroforestry:

Agroforestry stands as a holistic land use system integrating trees and shrubs within farmlands to enhance productivity, profitability, diversity, and ecosystem sustainability. It is adaptable to both irrigated and rain-fed conditions, contributing to the production of food, fuel, and timber. The practice of agroforestry not only offers economic advantages but also contributes to sociocultural and environmental benefits such as carbon storage, biodiversity conservation, and soil and water conservation.

Types of Agroforestry Systems:

  • Agrisilvicultural Systems: These systems combine crops with trees, exemplified by alley cropping.
  • Silvopastoral Systems: Integrating trees with grazing animals characterizes this type of agroforestry.
  • Agrosilvopastoral Systems: This system involves the integration of trees, animals, and crops, often seen in home gardens.

Need for Agroforestry Promotion in India:

India grapples with approximately 17% of its total geographical area classified as wasteland. Promoting agroforestry becomes imperative for:

  • Reducing dependence on wood imports.
  • Sequestering carbon to mitigate climate change.
  • Optimally utilizing culturable wastelands and fallow lands.

Policy Initiatives and Key Benefits:

The National Agroforestry Policy, introduced in 2014, aims to incentivize tree plantation on farmlands. The Sub-Mission on Agroforestry encourages the cultivation of multipurpose trees with both short and long-term returns. The benefits of agroforestry encompass additional income generation, soil enrichment, increased carbon sequestration, and fulfilling the demand for agroforestry products. Notably, an Agroforestry Suitability Index has been developed using GIS mapping to classify wastelands into high, moderate, and low suitability classes, facilitating prioritization efforts.

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