- Introduction defining agroforestry & its benefits.
- Briefly mention the strategies of agroforestry as reference.
- Contextualise the case in India.
- Role of agroforestry in meeting SDGs.
Agroforestry is a land management practice wherein trees and shrubs are grown on farmlands. This diversification of the farming system initiates an agroecological succession that enhances the functionality & sustainability of the farming system. Globally, it is practised by 1.2 billion people on 10% of total agricultural lands. It is widely regarded as ‘low-hanging fruit’ due to its multifarious benefits.
Agroforestry is highlighted as a key strategy in addressing global issues and fulfil several targets like that of – Kyoto Protocol, reducing emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) as well as REDD+ mechanisms, UN mandated SDGs, Paris Agreement and Carbon neutrality.
Strategies: Scientists have identified 11 strategies under agroforestry – multi-strata agroforestry, afforestation, tree intercropping, biomass production, regenerative agriculture, conservation agriculture, farmland restoration, silvopasture, tropical staple trees, bamboo and indigenous tree based land management.
Case for India: Now, tree-based farming is considered a silver bullet in India. It was promoted under the Green India Mission 2001, under the National Action Plan on Climate Change and National Agroforestry and Bamboo Mission 2017. These long term attempts have enhanced the agroforestry area to 13.75 MHa. The net C sequestered is 11.35 tonnes/Ha and C-sequestration potential is 0.35 tonnes per Ha/year, according to Central Agroforestry Research Institute. By this, India will reduce 2.5 – 3 billion tonnes of C02.
Role of agroforestry in meeting SDGs: Agroforestry can help achieve 9 out of 17 SDGs through sustainable food production, ecosystem services and economic benefits.
- SDG 1 : No poverty – diversification through integrating trees in agriculture, especially in the arid areas, can increase crop yield by 10-15%. It increases income & production by reducing cost of inputs & production.
- SDG 2 : Zero hunger – traditional agroforestry systems like Prosopis cineraria and Madhuca longifolia provide edible returns during drought years. 25-60% of the households involved in tree products collection & selling has coping strategy to deal with hunger.
- SDG 3 : good health & well-being – agroforestry contributes to increased access to diverse nutritional foods, medicine supply, clean air and reduced heat stress. Vegetative buffers can filter air of particulates, microbes and heavy metals.
- SDG 5 : gender equality – women are the main collectors, corroborated by the fact that almost 374 hours/year are spent by women for collecting forest products. Growing trees can thus empower women for productive purposes.
- SDG 6 : clean water & sanitation – studies show that 30% of tree cover in watersheds resulted in improved water quality & sanitisation.
- SDG 7 : affordable & clean energy – wood fuels are the only source of energy for poor people. Ideal agroforestry models possess fast-growing, higher calorific value and short rotation (2-3 years) characteristics and provide biomass of 200-400 tonnes/Ha.
- SDG 12 : responsible consumption and production – it requires low external inputs (chemical fertilizers) and reduces ecological footprints without depleting natural resources.
- SDG 13 : climate action – agricultural production accounts for 24% of GHG Agroforestry sequesters about 27.2 ± 13.5 tonnes of CO2 equivalent / Ha / year. Trees on farmland mitigate 109.34 MT CO2 equivalent annually.
- SDG 15 : life on land – it mimics the forest ecosystem to contribute to conservation of flora and fauna, creating buffers to existing reserves & multi-functional landscapes.
The report of the World Agroforestry Centre highlighted that countries that have registered agroforestry as a key lever in achieving their national contributions, have already started to yield benefits. Recently, Indian government has allocated significant funds to promote agroforestry at grassroots level to make the economy C-neutral. This makes agroforestry a low-hanging fruit to achieve the global goals.