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  • 02 December, 2021

  • 15 Min Read

Agroforestry in India

Agroforestry in India

What is Agroforestry?

Agroforestry is a collective name for land-use systems and technologies where woody perennials (trees, shrubs, palms, bamboos, etc.) are deliberately used on the same land-management units as agricultural crops and/or animals, in some form of spatial arrangement or temporal sequence.

  • In agroforestry systems, there are both ecological and economical interactions between the different components.
  • Agroforestry can also be defined as a dynamic, ecologically based, natural resource management system that, through the integration of trees on farms and in the agricultural landscape, diversifies and sustains production for increased social, economic and environmental benefits for land users at all levels.
  • Agroforestry is currently practised on 13.5 million hectares in India, but its potential is far greater. Already an estimated 65 % of the country’s timber and almost half of its fuel wood come from trees grown on farms.

Types of Agroforestry in India

There are three main types of agroforestry systems:

  • Agrisilvicultural systems are a combination of crops and trees, such as alley cropping or home gardens.
  • Silvopastoral systems combine forestry and grazing of domesticated animals on pastures, rangelands or on-farm.
  • The three elements, namely trees, animals and crops, can be integrated into what is called agrosilvopastoral systems and are illustrated by home gardens involving animals as well as scattered trees on croplands used for grazing after harvests.

National Policy on Agro-Forestry

  • Agroforestry is defined as a land-use system that integrates trees and shrubs on farmlands and rural landscapes to enhance productivity, profitability, diversity and ecosystem sustainability.
  • It is a dynamic, ecologically based, natural resource management system that, through the integration of woody perennials on farms and in the agricultural landscape, diversifies and sustains production and builds social institutions.
  • Major policy initiatives emphasize the role of agroforestry for efficient nutrient cycling, organic matter addition for sustainable agriculture and for improving vegetation cover. These policies include:
  1. National Forest Policy 1988,
  2. the National Agriculture Policy 2000,
  3. Planning Commission Task Force on Greening India 2001,
  4. National Bamboo Mission 2002,
  5. National Policy on Farmers, 2007 and
  6. Green India Mission 2010
  • However, agroforestry has not gained the desired importance as a resource development tool due to various factors.
  • India became the world's first country to adopt a comprehensive agroforestry policy.
  • There would be an investment of US $30 to 40 million attached to the new policy.
  • The policy is not only seen as crucial to India’s ambitious goal of achieving 33 % tree cover but also to providing many of the other benefits discussed during the Congress, such as increasing food and nutrition, supplying fodder, fuelwood and timber for India’s growing population.
  • The policy promises greater coordination across the wide range of agroforestry programs currently operating in different ministries, such as agriculture, rural development and the environment.
  • It will be implemented through a newly established mission or board solely dedicated to agroforestry.

Basic objectives of Agroforestry Policy in India

  • Encourage and expand tree plantation in a complementarity and integrated manner with crops and livestock to improve productivity, employment, income and livelihoods of rural households, especially the smallholder farmers.
  • Protect and stabilize ecosystems, and promote resilient cropping and farming systems to minimize the risk during extreme climatic events.
  • Meet the raw material requirements of wood-based industries and reduce import of wood and wood products to save foreign exchange.
  • Supplement the availability of agroforestry products (AFPs), such as the fuel-wood, fodder, non-timber forest produce and small timber of the rural and tribal populations, thereby reducing the pressure on existing forests.
  • Complement achieving the target of increasing forest/tree cover to promote ecological stability, especially in vulnerable regions.
  • Develop capacity and strengthen research in agroforestry and create a massive people's movement for achieving these objectives and to minimize pressure on existing forests.

The strategy of Agro-Forestry

  • Establishment of Institutional Setup at the National level to promote Agroforestry
  1. An institutional mechanism, such as a Mission or Board is to be established for implementing the agroforestry policy.
  2. It will provide the platform for the multi-stakeholders to jointly plan and identify the priorities and strategies, for inter-ministerial coordination, programmatic convergence, financial resources mobilization and leveraging, capacity building facilitation, and technical and management support.
  3. The Ministry of Agriculture has a mandate for agroforestry. The agroforestry Mission / Board will be located in the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation (DAC) in the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA).
  4. The actual implementation may involve convergence and dovetail with a number of programmes.
  5. Agroforestry research and development (R&D), including capacity development and pilot studies/testing and action research, should be the responsibility of the ICAR
  • Simple regulatory mechanism - There is a need to create simple mechanisms/procedures to regulate the harvesting and transit of agroforestry produce within the State, as well as in various States forming an ecological region. There is also the need to simplify procedures, with permissions extended on automatic routes as well as approval mode through a transparent system within a given time schedule.
  • Development of a sound database & information system
  • Investing in research, extension and capacity building and related services
  • Improving farmer's access to quality planting material
  • Providing institutional credit and insurance cover for agroforestry
  • Facilitating increased participation of industries dealing with agroforestry produce
  • Strengthening farmer access to markets for tree products.
  • Incentives to farmers for adopting agroforestry
  • Promoting sustainable agroforestry for renewable biomass-based energy

Benefits of National Agro-Forestry Policy

  • Agroforestry is crucial to smallholder farmers and other rural people because it can enhance their food supply, income and health.
  • Agroforestry systems are multifunctional systems that can provide a wide range of economic, sociocultural, and environmental benefits.
  • Agroforestry produces food, fuel and fibre, contributes to nutritional security, sustains livelihoods, helps prevent deforestation, increases biodiversity, protects water resources and reduces erosion.
  • Agroforestry is also viewed as a means to reduce rural unemployment, with timber production on farms currently generating 450 employment days per hectare per year in India.
  • The climate change mitigation and adaptation benefits of agroforestry are also significant driving forces behind the policy.
  • As the land-holding size is shrinking, combining tree farming with agriculture is the only way to optimize farm productivity.
  • Over 80 per cent of farmers in India are small land-holders, owning less than two hectares or less and 60 per cent of the cultivated area; they rely on rains for irrigation. These rainfed farms are under stress because of the absence of assured irrigation and low biodiversity. Agroforestry is seen as a solution for them to meet the challenges of food, nutrition, energy, employment and environmental security.

Submission on Agro-Forestry

  • To tap the potential of agroforestry, the Department of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare is implementing the Sub-Mission on Agroforestry (SMAF) Scheme from 2016-17.
  • There is a provision of financial assistance to farmers under the Scheme for plantation activities along with the development of various types of nurseries for producing quality planting materials like seeds, seedlings, clones, and improved varieties to meet the requirement of quality planting materials/seeds for the farmers.
  • Capacity building and training are also important interventions of the scheme to support the agroforestry sector.
  • To increase market linkages and access and to promote the consumption of agroforestry goods, the scheme is implemented in those States which have relaxed feeling and transit regulations for important agroforestry species.
  • Further, initiatives have been taken for the formation of 15 Farmer Producers Organization (FPOs) in the Agroforestry Sector to link the farmers with the market and industry in an organized manner.
  • The Scheme promotes the plantation of trees only for landholding farmers.
  • Up to 5% of allocated funds are utilized for capacity building and training activities like training of farmers/field workers, skill development, awareness campaign, publications, seminars/workshops, conferences etc. to raise awareness of the scheme among the farmers.

Source: PIB

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