Effects of agroforestry policies and laws under scrutiny


A successful farmer attending WCA2014:
Economics plays a key role in farmers’ decisions and often trumps policy

Vietnam has experienced an overall “decreasing trend in agroforestry” since the government launched its natural forest protection programme, stated researcher Hoa Nguyen. This counterintuitive finding was delivered in a World Agroforestry Congress session that addressed policy on agroforestry and tree-based farming systems.

However, in some areas, the growing market for coffee and cashews is causing the opposite effect: agroforestry is expanding into natural forest areas, despite the government’s forest regeneration goal. The ICRAF scientist explained that economics plays a key role in farmers’ decisions and often trumps policy. Richer households, for instance, tend to increase their agroforestry investment rather than respond to government incentives to protect forests.

Chaired by Dr JS Samra of the Indian Council on Agricultural Research, the session probed what policies are needed to promote trees on farms. Some of the speakers focused on laws. Kamla Khanal, a PhD student at University of Nottingham, reported on the impact of India’s 2006 Forest Rights Act, which grants some management of forest land to tribal communities. India has about 84 million indigenous people, a subset of its estimated 275 million forest dwellers.

Working in areas of “left wing extremism” in Odisha state, Khanal showed photos of hills in the Eastern Ghats, denuded of trees 30 years ago. They will now be managed by tribal communities that still practice shifting cultivation but are now increasingly interested in planting coffee and cashews, which like in Vietnam, are seen as profitable. “They say a tree needs to give returns or it disappears from their land” she explained.

Chappidira Kushalappa described his region of Kodagu, which has the highest density of sacred forests in the world and produces 35% of India’s shade-grown coffee. However, the opening of India to the international coffee market is changing the crop’s management, with farmers shifting from growing shaded arabica coffee to full sun robusta. They are also replacing native shade trees with the Australian silver oak, Grevillea robusta. “When Grevillea constitutes more than 30% of the trees, biodiversity starts to go down,” said the coffee farmer.

A survey of 114 estates in Kodagu under the CAFNET project found 240 tree and 120 bird species and mammals, ranging from civets to 64 elephants co-existing among the coffee plants. Kushalappa suggested labeling the region’s production “elephant coffee” and called for two paradigm shifts—from emphasizing coffee productivity to focusing on its quality and from government regulation to certification by bodies such as Rainforest Alliance and UTZ.

He also appealed for more value to be placed on the ecosystem services provided by the forest. The Cauvery River, which originates in Kodagu, is threatened by the shrinking native tree cover. The river is the lifeblood for over one hundred million Indians, has supported irrigated agriculture for centuries and traverses four states to empty in the Bay of Bengal.

Wrapping up the session, Dr Samra listed over 20 must-be-watched policy and economic issues for agroforestry. Among them are the faltering carbon trade; the recently introduced minimum support price for non-timber forest products; and the Free Trade Agreement with the Asean bloc.

India imports $7-8 billion worth of timber a year mostly from Asian countries. Sixty-five per cent of India’s timber comes from farms, with the balance from plantations or imports. Felling in national natural forest is prohibited, and the Supreme Court has ordered the relocation of wood-based industries at least five kilometers away from forest areas, especially in the North East.


By Catharine Watson, Head of Programme Development, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)
Photo by Ram Singh

2 People have left comments on this post

» Ganesan RP said: { Feb 11, 2014 - 05:02:50 }

Happy to know lot of thought has gone into law & policy.

one sad example of policy

Govt said Sandle tree is govt property, so no farmer allowed it to grow. It became scarce, theft etc. Now govt gives subsidy to grow, without clear guidelines.

So, I would like to place a request to the govt thro this forum.

1. Simple & Constant Govt. policy, “Grow any tree and cut any time”, may be with a simple permission to ensure, not cut from forest. Our farmers had felled Teak worrying govt interferences in 2004.

2. Trespassers should be punished, particularly drunkards, a fire hazard and unnecessary problems, example, my neighbor removed Neem trees, to avoid drunkards sitting there and associated issues.

3. Government may also relax land-ceiling to grow trees in dry lands, at-least. We had dropped the plan of a 500 acre bio-diesel project with Pungamia Pinnata (IISc, proven model) with my engineering classmates, due to this rule.

4. Govt could facilitate to get carbon credit benefits, which will be very useful initially, as I struggled a lot.

5. Should a have an expert committee to suggest the farmers, to select right tree species based on his goal, soil, rain, temp, market etc.

As mentioned in the blog, They say a tree needs to give returns or it disappears from their land

» gaster said: { Feb 11, 2014 - 01:02:36 }

“the time for ideologies and sermons is over, the time to act is now”; Shri Pranab Mukherjee, President of India.

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