That trees can be scary, is unbelievable, at least for me.
As an agroforestry scientist, I firmly believe that trees on farms lead to a variety of functions that directly or indirectly contribute to the livelihood security. This is what I am teaching since past more than a decade.
How could someone just simply say that they do not like trees on their farms, I asked myself? The story dates back to a couple of years back when I was running through the results of Raza Ali, one of my post graduate student.
I still remember the discussions I had with him, while finalizing his research problem. We were at crossroads because he was interested in socio-economic studies whereas I had something else in my mind, except for one thing in common, that is the study area. Anyway, his co-advisors were quite enthusiastic about his idea, so I agreed. The study was to be conducted in the Samba district of Jammu and Kashmir State, India. The study area was totally rainfed, locally known as ‘Kandi’, meaning dryland. To be more precise, these dry regions are actually low rolling hills lying parallel to the main Himalayan arc and are known as Shiwalik hills.
Objectives of the study were to identify the existing agroforestry practices and their components, to study the perceptions of farmers about the effect of trees on the understory crop and to identify the constraints faced by the farmers in growing trees on their farms. For this purpose a total of one hundred eighty respondents from the study area were interviewed through a pre-structured interview schedule in person.
It emerged from the survey that the farmers’ perception about the effect of trees on associated crop yield was predominantly negative. When asked about the effect of trees on understory crop, out of 180 sampled households, 158 of the respondents believed that the presence of trees on the agricultural field would reduce the growth and yield of the understory agricultural crop.
The results seemed bland to me. Meanwhile the student was preparing for the thesis defense and he presented the results very impressively. At one point he said that it was very difficult to expect from farmers to go for trees where even agriculture is problematic. This statement flushed out all the confusions from my mind because subconsciously I was comparing a dryland area with irrigated plains. A subtle smile appeared on my face as I congratulated him on such a splendid defense. Very true, trees may scare you sometimes.
But the story does not end here. It is a beginning at least for me, to find suitable trees and crops for the area and persuade farmers to go for agroforestry. This story also aims to highlight the importance of socioeconomic studies in agroforestry. I always believed that biophysical research was the only answer to solve all the agroforestry problems and negated the importance of socio-economic aspects. But now I feel it is equally important to understand the farmer’s needs, his problems and perceptions in order to encourage the adoption of appropriate agroforestry technology.
Photo: The study area: Samba district of Jammu and Kashmir State, India
Photo by: Raza Ali
Blogpost by Dr Sandeep Sehgal – Assistant Professor, Agroforestry, Sher-e-Kashmir University of agricultural Sciences and Technology (Chatha – Jammu, India) – sehgals1(at)yahoo.com
This post is entry nr #19 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.
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