Friday, January 03, 2014

Why we need Agroforestry !!

The increasing population will need a lot of household wood products, paper products, packing material and fire wood. To meet the growing demand we can't rely on the forests alone, so private agroforestry is  inevitable.  India's per capita consumption of paper and paperboard is less than 10kg and whereas China is 72kg. The productivity of timber in India is only 0.7 cubic meters /ha/year whereas the world average is 2.1 cubic meters /ha/year. India's forests are covered in  69 million hectares i.e.  19.5% of the country's area, the  availability of forest land per person in India is one of the lowest in the world at 0.08 ha, against an average of 0.5 ha for developing countries and 0.64 ha for the world. The demand for timber was  85 million cubic meters in 2008 and now it is expected to cross 153 million cubic meters by 2020, the supply of wood from forests  are projected  to 60 million cubic meters by 2020. This means India needs to depend on imports or else agroforestry in private and community lands for its growing wood requirements.

Increased cost of cultivation, non availability of farm labor, higher farm wages and various reasons farmers are switching to less investment and less labor intensive farming like short term commercial crops and forestry plantations. Agroforestry system is mostly practiced by  the large farmers who have alternative source of income rather than agriculture, It won't viable to small farmers  since they need annual returns on agriculture for their livelihood. But some of the areas the small farmers  also cultivating the  agro forestry  by  inter cropping  the food crops between the rows up to one or two years or till the trees get  bigger, which is a good sign for food security and wood security.

Leucaena and Eucalyptus trees are widely cultivated in Andhra Pradesh which give the guaranteed farm income and the yield of each acre is used to be between 25- 30 tonnes  for  every four years as the trees are harvested only after 4 years.The wood pulp is being used in paper industry and as well as plywood, particle boards and wood veneer. The waste wood has been used in bio mass power generation plants as a substitute to coal and other fossil fuels to reduce the green house gas emission. In Prakasam district alone has more than  one lakh acres have been cultivated and  producing  10 lakh tonnes of wood valued around Rs 390 crores annually. The market price has increased  recently up to Rs.3900 per tonn  due to the shortage of wood and fair competition among the firms in industry which is a lucrative income for farmers. Most of the progressive farmers  would like to adopt agroforestry model for sustainable agriculture to improve the farm productivity and profitability.

Indian has achieved self sufficiency in food production, now we should focus on ecology,  preserving our fossil fuels and also cater the growing wood demand caused by population growth and economic development. The agroforestry system is capable to sequestrate the massive amounts of carbon  that helps to mitigate the danger of green house gas concentrates. We can implement this system in large barren lands, farm boundaries to improve soil fertility and water conservation. There is a remarkable scope in agroforestry  to focus on the ecological issues, biomass production,  cattle fodder and various outputs to industries as well as employment generation.