Agroforestry: a fatherless orphan in India?


India is at the centre stage of agroforestry practices for different reasons. It is under debate for sustainability of intensive agriculture, increasing forest cover, improving ecological and environmental services and for meeting the demand for tree based needs as their availability form government forests has significantly declined on implementation of the judgment of Godavarman V/s Union of India for imposing vain on green felling in most of the government forests.

There are already many blogposts submitted from India, giving different versions. I read most of them and want to put up a different view on emerging Indian agroforestry as an orphan, which may invite critical observations and also some meaningful debate and discussion from many.

I have been a follower of agroforestry for different reasons.  I live in a locality rich in agoroforestry practices evolved in the recent past in the Tarai Region in northern India. I have many colleagues who practice agroforestry on their farm land, many of them being mainly absentee land-owners, want to retain their land resources with them under some farming system, get tax free cumulative and collective agricultural income from tree growth, and as a business opportunity by hiring land from others.

While having discussions with many of them, they invariably agree that the tree based agroforestry pays better and higher remunerative returns than other farm land-use options, it is less risky, less labour intensive and is considered as fixed deposit which could be realized any time at higher returns and there is better unorganized market available for sale of tree produce. In fact, some of them agree that the practice of agroforestry is better than some of the present day business options. Many of the NRIs and so called educated youths revisiting agriculture are also motivated by these reasons.

On intangible benefits from tree culture, many of them confirm that growing trees for ecological and environmental services may be one of the objectives of government programs with public money. For individual small growers, they invest themselves in it for better and remunerative returns from their land holdings rather than emotional ecological considerations. The day the returns from tree culture becomes less remunerative than the traditional cropping systems from limited land resources, they would shift their farm land to other land use options. An example they frequently cite is the policy paralysis in 2003-04 when many of the wood based units were closed down, wood prices crashed and many of them uprooted trees from their farm land fearing less returns. Could this not happen again?

Now let me touch the real issues of “Orphan Agroforestry” in India.

  • Both Indian Forest Policy 1988 and National Agriculture Policy 2000 promote agroforestry in their own versions. None of them cover the issues outlined above from farmer’s perspective and ground level realities.
  • It is claimed that the research in agroforestry is the mandate of agriculture sector at the national level, in practice; they do not have pre-and post- linkages and support systems for tree culture with the farming community. Research on agroforestry is highly overlapping, agriculture sector venturing into tree research and forestry sector on agriculture and other intercrops.
  • Major tree produce for industry and domestic needs now comes from farm land, There is no dedicated institute for agroforestry research, extension and other support systems in the country?  If not, why not; and if someone claims yes, what is the contribution of the same? The lessons learnt from crash of wood prices between 2003-2005 in North India indicate that both forest and agriculture sector run away to own the responsibility in agroforestry extension.
  • The role of forestry establishment needs to be redefined in the light of change in the role of forest management in the country. When most of the government forests are now under conservation forestry with very less acreage under production forestry, the sector still does not have any institute at national level specifically dedicated to integrated tree culture on farm land with timber production in consideration.
  • The role of forestry sector is more of creating barriers in harvesting, transit and sale of farm grown trees rather in their promotion. It is the main reason why the growers do not feel comfortable in having linkages with them. Having programs for promoting farm grown trees for around half a century now, still these barriers exist. Forestry sector still claims to be the main promoter of tree culture but with fewer credentials on the ground level results.
  • There is dual taxation from agriculture and forestry sectors on farm grown tree produce.
  • Forestry sector in some states do not recommend planting eucalypts, while promote it in others- a total confusion and lack of professionalism.
  • There are number of government programs and institutes promoting trees without effective monitoring and evaluation. Van Mahotsav program being operative since 1950’s largely remained as government publicity like many other programs.
  • Private sector promotes tree culture so far they get low cost wood within the country. The recent import of cheaper wood and semi processed wood products  in large quantity from many countries may have far leading consequences if the country does not have long term vision on agroforestry.

The main contributor in the success of the present day agroforestry is the farming community who has succeeded in it as there is a market for tree produce. The day market dries up; the practice would also decline despite numerous advocacies.

Agroforestry is the third main land use after agriculture and forestry. It is for the benefit of every one and as a solution to many existing problems of farm land production systems. The country however needs a clear-cut policy and institutional mechanism for its long term sustainability, which unfortunately do not exist as on today.

Photo: Clonal eucalypts based agroforestry near foot hills of Himachal Pradesh. The state forest department does not recommend and promote its planting

Blogpost and photo by Daksh Dhiman (Rudrapur, Uttarakhand, India) – dakshdhiman54(at)>


This post is entry nr #37 in our #WCA2014 blog competition. The five blogposts with the most and highest votes will receive a signed copy of the book "Trees for Life". The most popular blogpost will get an iPad.


This blogpost received 13 votes, with an average score of 4.5 (out of a max of 5).

If you have questions or remarks on the project described in this post, please leave a comment below. Please also rate the other blogcompetition entries!

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13 People have left comments on this post

» Kumar said: { Feb 4, 2014 - 09:02:18 }

The new National Policy on Agroforestry for India should be launched at the WCA2014 Congress on Monday. I hope that would undo the claimed “orphan” status !

» Dr Mahesh Chander said: { Feb 4, 2014 - 09:02:41 }

Very practical information having implications for policy. Hope the concerned will hear the points echoed here.I am happy to be the first person to vote this blog posting! Wish policy makers comes to know about it.

» Dr. R.P. Dwivedi, Principal Scientist, Jhansi said: { Feb 4, 2014 - 11:02:16 }

Hopeful that National Agroforestry Policy of India will come soon.

» sridhar said: { Feb 4, 2014 - 03:02:49 }

Dont worry some body will and have to adopt it at the congress

» sanjeev chauhan said: { Feb 5, 2014 - 06:02:05 }

Neither state forest departments nor state agricultural departments are ready to adopt the agroforestry as potential venture not only for the farmers but for each and every one (raw material for industries, domestic timber, clean environment, etc. ). However, Punjab state Government has taken some positive steps to encourage onfarm plantations to diversify the traditional crop rotation and increase tree cover. However, the economics in onfam plantations is the driving force and farmers feel benefited through adoption of short rotation forestry. Hopefully other states will follow the same. International agroforestry congress in India is a step forward to accept the potential of agroforestry in India.

» Dr. Vishva Deepak Tripathi said: { Feb 5, 2014 - 07:02:50 }

the policy coming soon in India

» Dr Hilaluddin said: { Feb 5, 2014 - 08:02:24 }

The Drafted New National Policy on Agro-forestry is no way different than the bullshit. The draft policy is based on outdated issues and irrelevant substance and therefore will be worst for the farmers if implemented in its present form.

» Munish said: { Feb 6, 2014 - 12:02:47 }

Governments are required to play a catalyst role in agroforestry. Non of the three national forest policies and numerous state polcies have proved effective in increasing forest cover. Indian agriculture policy has the same fate in declining summer paddy cultivation in many states.

Some comments on this blogpost indicate that some agroforestry policy in on the cards. How an overlapping actvity among different line dpartments specially forest and agriculture departments would be effective, needs to be seen. Is there a real participaton of actual stackholders-farmers in drafting this policy or it is another document from the aircondition Delhi offices.

The impact of unplannd agroforestry with outside money in many states especially in Punjab would be visible by next few years when the prices of wood will crash on additional wood production without developing additional industrial base. Farmers of the state have started facing problem in selling their produce in Yamunanagar as transborder movement of wood is now viwed differently. Same farmers who are now planting trees with free distribution of saplings would be after the state governments to provide relief in other way.

Agroforestry is an integrated approach that would also require the same functining from governments.

» Praksh said: { Feb 7, 2014 - 10:02:39 }

I find a little chance that the line departments viz., forest, agriculture, animal husbandary, horticulture etc would work collectively to promote agroforestry in the ocuntry.

There would be a lot of manipulation to take credit and discredit other’s contribution.

A classical case could be cited of CEC granting permission to wood based industries based on the wood produced within a state where a lot of fudging of figures was done by the respective state government to grant permission for new units. Presenlty, Haryana and Uttarakhand states can not sustain their wood based industries from wood produced within states and both receive over 1200 trucks daily from adjoining Uttar Pradesh. If it is so, then on what basis CEC gave permission for units in other states, and how UP can not avail teh advantage of additional wood produced in that state.
Under diversification project agroforestry in UP and Haryana is being handled by the agriculture department and in Punjab by forest department. It is more of convenience than policy matter.

» Rajendra Prasad said: { Feb 7, 2014 - 05:02:29 }

The author has put forth the ground realities why agroforestry adoption could not be scaled up in India and there is urgency to have agroforestry policy. However, if we had used the existing provisions of various policies and other laws , the situation would hav been different. Enforcement of any policy in its real sprit is more important than to have it under the shelf.
From policy point of view , what can be called a agroforestry is still a big Q. And so the separting line for agroforestry/ social forestry/ ecoforestry etc. The boundaries of agroforestry systems for intangible benefits is another big Q. THE VERY SCIENTIFIC LOGIC HAS TO BE ASIGNED TO MANY SUCH UNANSWERED CONCEPTS. WE ARE ON RIGHT PATH FOR ACHIEVING EVERTHING THAT IS REQUIRED AND WE ALL AGROFORESTERS ARE GUARDIAN OF AGROFORESTRY. LET’S NOT CALL IT ORPHAN.
Anyway, your thought has reverberated the mind

» DAKSH said: { Feb 9, 2014 - 12:02:00 }

Hi everyone,

The idea to write this blogpost was certainly not to win the competition but to sensitize the readers regards some ground realities, many of which were though could not be brought about here due to space limits

Thanks for those who read it and responded. Thnaks also for those who read it and ignored as we do for many happening arround us.

The Agroforestry Policy is now being released on Monday as has been given in the wca2014 program, there would be new discussion and debate on its provisions and likely results. Let us hope it does not prove like other policy documments.

It was great to have your feedback, a couple of which were as harsh as the contents of this blogpost
Let us move forward with optimism that we especially the farming community which has already demonstarted their resolve in some bogposts would relentlessly carry forward the good work they are doing. India, in my view, is the largest Lab for agroforestry resarch where each farm has unique agroforestry ingredients not necessary designed and planned by the so called Agroforestry sceintists and are certainly through traditional wisdom of the farmers.

Lastly I wonder who you would credit for creating the traditional Agroforestry practices being operative for sustenacne since ages in numerous parts across the glove where human interventions have yet not reached the stage of commercialization of land resources.


» Ganesan RP said: { Feb 11, 2014 - 08:02:47 }

Very categorical. Yes govt should play facilitator role, where as it is an obstacle.

I strongly feel, facilitating policy will make lot of barren land to a forest, which benefits all in the world.

I had mentioned in my blog,

A Constant govt policy, “Grow any Tree and cut any Time and Export from Cultivated lands”, with simple procedures, will fetch billons of wealth in a healthy way, from our district itself

Let them protect the forest in coordination with Tribal, without selling it to MNCs for peanuts.

» Tariq Masoodi (Kashmir) said: { Feb 13, 2014 - 11:02:29 }

The national policy on Agroforestry is the need of the hour for India to diversify farm income. However, the policy should not be let to fell prey to bureaucracy between Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Forestry. It was wonderful to see it through; and that too as an ICAR controlled domain, as it has opened a ray of hope for the Forestry graduates and post graduates to opt for jobs in forestry as was expected to be provided by ICFRE – the mother institute of Forestry being run by bureaucracy. The institute was expected to take a leading role; like that by ICAR, to generate employment for the forestry technocrats at national level.

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