Agroforestry is an integrated approach of using the interactive benefits from combining trees and shrubs with crops. It combines agricultural and forestry technologies to create more diverse, productive, profitable, healthy, and sustainable land-use systems. A narrow definition of agroforestry is “trees on farms.”
Recently World Congress on Agro-forestry took place and India adopted National Agroforestry Policy and became the first country in the world . The policy would be implemented through an integrated agroforestry mission or board.India Plans to achieve achieve 33% tree cover through agroforestry.
Over 80 per cent 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 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 environment security.
Earlier efforts to promote agroforestry have failed to take off. Policy initiatives of the past include National Forest Policy, National Agriculture Policy of 2000, Planning Commission Task Force on Greening India, 2001, National Bamboo Mission, 2002, National Policy on Farmers, 2007, and Green India Mission, 2010.
After enacting the National Food Security Act, 2013, which makes it a legal obligation for the government to provide food to more than 80 crore of the country’s population, there was a felt need to increase agricultural production in a sustainable manner.
India has been in the forefront of research on agro-forestry. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research had initiated a network project – All India Coordinated Research Project on Agro-forestry – in 1983. It had also established a National Research Centre for Agro-forestry in 1988.
The Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education has recently initiated steps for unveiling another network programme on agro-forestry. State Agricultural Universities having Forestry or Agro-forestry departments partner in these network activities. These pioneering efforts have created a critical mass of manpower in the field of agro-forestry in the country.