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The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) is a Moroccan-US non-governmental organisation founded thirteen years ago by former Peace Corps Volunteers to facilitate the establishment of vital development projects in predominantly rural, disadvantaged communities throughout Morocco.  Its sustainable agricultural mission is twofold: to improve the livelihood of these communities while maintaining an eco-friendly approach to economic growth.

On January 16th this year we celebrated our successful planting of one million fruit bearing trees for the benefit of local communities at simultaneous ceremonies held across eight Moroccan provinces.  To date the campaign is estimated to have helped some 50,000 Moroccans take the step out of poverty. HAF is now poised to expand this project, working at an accelerated rate, with the aim of planting one billion trees in the future and ending dependence on subsistence agriculture throughout the Kingdom.

Bringing the idea to fruition has, and will continue to be, an exercise in enhancing and affirming life, in terms of its impact on the environment and on society.  Worthy of note in this context are two unique features; the opportunities afforded to the foundation and the spirit of cooperation existing between diverse communities within and beyond Morocco.

People, land and plants

Family farmers in Morocco are moving away from their traditional reliance on subsistence farming to planting cash crops – most commonly fruit trees – to generate greater income. Land for the HAF is made available by a variety of interested parties including government agencies, local cooperatives and municipalities, women’s associations and the Jewish community of Marrakesh.  Native tree species that can be grown without pesticides – including carob, olive, pomegranate, lemon, almond and walnut – are planted in nurseries managed entirely on organic lines.  At the end of each two-year project mature trees are distributed at the symbolic cost of 1 Moroccan Dirham (a fraction of their true market value) to the surrounding population.

More recently projects have been implemented to grow tens of thousands of native medicinal herbs – oregano, fennel, rosemary, geranium and capers for example –  primarily in greenhouses but from this season, in combination with fruit tree agriculture as part of an initiative to explore agroforestry techniques.

Crucially, the land management strategies put into place prevent soil erosion and desertification.  For example, once mature, aromatic plants will be transferred to locations on severely eroded mountain sides where homes and whole villages have had to be abandoned.

HAF plays a facilitative role in the process, enabling local communities and neighborhoods who chose to do so, to identify, plan and implement the socio-economic and environmental projects they most need in a democratic manner.  This ‘bottom-up’ participatory approach delivers not only projects but training.  Communities therefore receive the tools to create their own autonomous projects in the future – the essential goal of sustainable human development.

HAF’s organic agricultural project spans the entire development process from nursery to market.  Among other things this includes the securing of product organic certification, from which farmers receive direct income benefits; utilising biomass waste to create further products such as clean energy briquettes and reinvesting in agricultural and human development projects.

An important initiative inspired by the tree campaign is the establishment of an enterprise (High Atlas Agriculture and Artisanal – HA3) to unite rural farmers, allowing them to market their produce in both the domestic and international market, an achievement for which HAF was recognized as 2013 SEED Award winners.

These projects take place in the knowledge that HAF plays a specialized – and therefore especially responsible – role.  Since 2011 it has held Special Consultative Status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council.  It is the only similar organization involved in organic agriculture (in a country where 35% of the total walnut crop is by default organic), with university training facilities and with comprehensive links to government at all levels.

Social context

HAF takes care at every level to prioritize the most marginalized.  This pervading ethos of inclusivity was very much in evidence on 16th January.  There are thousands of people across Morocco who can speak of their first time planting a tree under the HAF auspices.  On the day itself representatives of different strata of Moroccan society participated, from national and provincial dignitaries to agricultural workers, from teachers to schoolchildren – the next generation to take care of our earth and find sustainable methods of conducting our lives.

The presence of diplomatic invitees underscored the continued cooperation between the US government and the movement towards a Green Morocco.

One ceremony was held at Akraich, just south of Marrakesh, significant in being the first to be loaned to the High Atlas Foundation by the Jewish community of Marrakesh-Essaouira for the benefit of local Muslim farmers.  The choice reflects very well our role, demonstrated in innumerable activities, to connect the as-yet-unconnected to opportunities for growth and development: to economic and communal participation, to clean drinking water, to education – and to each other.

Looking further afield, we also see our community-driven work in the context of the Arab Spring, aiming to play our part in building a Morocco that shines a way towards a peaceful and prosperous future.

Projects then are seen as gateways to further initiatives, deeper meaning, broader impact and the delivery of vital messages to the global public.  We must – and will – continue to deliver with continued passion and commitment, dedication and precision, with faith in the Moroccan people and in humanity.

On January 16th nearly 10,000 trees were planted across Morocco, setting the stage for the rest of the planting season. At a time when the Kingdom is threatened with drought, much-needed rain began to fall at many locations – a most promising sign for the health of the trees and local agriculture and, one likes to think, for the future in general.

Photo: High Atlas Foundation One Million Tree campaign celebration – 16th January 2014 – planting trees with the Project Soar Association – El Ouidane commune, Al Haouz province, Morocco

Blogpost and photo submitted by Hedvah Peres on behalf of the High Atlas Foundation (Marrakesh, Morocco) – hedvah(at)


This post is entry nr #47 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 110 votes, with an average score of 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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Insect-pests of agricultural crops is always been troubling our farmer friend. Our important paddy crop is highly infested by insect-pests. Chemical Insecticides are syringe to control them, but shows a short term benefits and due to regular insecticide application pest come up with their negative role, develops resistance and facilitate outbreaks of secondary pests. Also insecticides they pollute our lovely environments. So the alternatives to overcome the hazardous effect of chemical pesticides are use of organic substances and bio-control agents. I suggest my lovely friends ‘Birds’ as bio-control agents.

The birds’ dual role of benefactors and destroyers in agriculture is very well known. Most of the birds play a useful role in agriculture by decreasing the number of insect and other pests. Insectivorous and carnivorous species are considered to be useful to agriculture since they keep a very potent check on populations of insect and rodent pests of crops, one of the amazing example is owls, one owl patrol over 40 hectare of agricultural land and help in controlling rodents, but some of the granivorous and frugivores birds substantially reduce the agricultural production e.g. Rose-ringed Parakeet.

The intensively cultivated farms along with a variety of native and exotic agroforestry trees provide additional food to birds in the form of fish, bees, animal feeds, tree-fruits, seeds, nectar etc. So the birds of all feeding guilds like granivores, frugivores, insectivores, carnivores, nectarivores and omnivores are found in agricultural area. In our study what found was very interesting.

Paddy fields with different tree density on its bunds against paddy field without trees were considered for comparison. The difference taking place only due to presence of trees and not by their density was amazing. Over all birds recorded were 71 in number, 31 species of birds were recorded in plot without trees and 65 species of birds were recorded in plot with trees. Interestingly, 40 additional species of birds were only found in plot with trees. From this it was clear that tree density or habitat heterogeneity on paddy fields enhances the bird species richness. In case of feeding guilds of 71 birds recorded overall, 21 each were omnivorous and insectivorous, 15 Carnivorous, 12 granivorous and 2 Nectarivores. It was interesting to see that the feeding guilds also strengthened in the high tree density plots. When it was looked in terms of beneficial (i.e. Omnivorous, insectivorous, carnivorous, nectarivores) birds, plot without tree yielded 6 species while plots with trees had 16 additional species. Numbers of beneficial birds were more than the potentially harmful granivorous birds in plot with trees.

Moreover, Agroforestry improves the heterogeneity on the farmland and provides more niche spaces for birds. Agroforestry is a land-use pattern that helps to conserve biodiversity; attracts organisms that are beneficial to farming like pollinators, insectivorous birds; improves farm by reducing soil erosion and is economically beneficial to farmers. Human activity specifically habitat destruction have dramatically increased rates of biodiversity loss. In order to overcome this problem it is very important to identify the reasons of destruction and to come out with solutions to maintain farmland biodiversity.

I strongly promote agroforestry system and organic farms to support birds and obtain their services. Lastly I invite Egrets, Mynas, Crows, Bee-eaters, Drongo, Shrike, Kingfisher, Swallows, Swifts, Rollers, Coucals, Lapwings, Koel, Robins, Babblers, Thrush, Raptors, and Waders for their day meal and Owls for dinner at my field with all boarding facilities- roosting, nesting and perching.

Blogpost and photo by Jyothi Krishnan Mandan, Ph.D. (Wildlife Sciences), College of Forestry, Vellanikkara, Kerala Agricultural University (Thrissur, Kerala, India) – jyokrish25(at)


This post is entry nr #46 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 73 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!

Follow our #WCA2014 social reporting teamfollow our social reporting team via the #WCA2014 tag on Twitter, our blog and our Facebook page.


soybean crop with eucalyptus

In India, vast areas of forested land have turned bare as a result of indiscriminate felling and exploitation. The problem has arisen when demand far exceeded the capacity of forest to supply wood without damage to the natural balance. A growing rural population with limited income opportunities and the related widespread rural poverty due to shrinking resource base have led to encroachment of forestlands.

Diversion of forestland to non-forest uses (of the order of 150,000 ha. annually) has also led to large-scale destruction of forests. It is estimated that out of the 130 million ha of barren land in the country, 70 – 80 million ha. is under private ownership.

Such lands when developed carefully with various site-specific tree species for fodder, firewood, pulpwood and timber for various industries will return the green cover and can help change the picture completely in a few years. The increasing demands of humans for food, fruit, vegetables and fuel necessitates the cultivation under marginal, degraded as well as under the shrubs and trees plantation.

The condition of the Indian farmers in the rural society is neglected due to less holding (02 ha) and resource poor. The income generated from such holding either through plantation or arable cropping alone is not sufficient to sustain the farm families while the mono-cropping system is not sure under the risk prune environment.

Agroforestry has not only benefit farmers but it also supplies raw material to wood industry and generate employment of various kinds thus benefiting millions in related economic activities like transportation, wholesale and retailing etc. Agroforestry also plays an important role in environmental improvement and pollution control etc. It can be initiated at farmers’ holdings in villages and nearer to urban conglomerations. It is a win-win situation for all.

Hence, to utilize time and space as well as natural resources in addition to inputs applied artificially through agronomic manipulation and management practice is the need of the time. Change in cropping pattern from mono cropping to intercropping up to some extent improves the stability of yield and income by way of spreading the risk of crop failure. The need for the better understanding of agricultural crops and tree has prompted the author to study the growth and production of associated crops under eucalyptus plantation.

Experimental site

—  Village – Mushkara , Block- Sihora , Distt- Jabalpur (M.P.)- India

—  Agro-climatic zone- Kymore Plateau and Satpura Hills

—  Location :  22°49’ to 2408’ North Latitude and 78021’ to 80058’ East Longitude

—  Year of experiment: July 2009  to March 2012

Other Experimental Details

—  Soil Type                    –           Medium black & Clay Loam

—  Soil Depth                   –           8 to 10 feet

—  Soil PH                                     -           7.2

—  Planting material used –           Clone No. 413

—  Spacing                        –           8 m x 1.5 m (paired rows)

(Wider spacing in East to West direction)

—  No. of Plants/ha.         –          2000

—  Planting month & Year   –        July , 2009

—  Irrigation potential          –         Rainfed condition

—  N,P & K Status                –         205 , 15.6 , 376 kg/ha

—  Recommended Package of practices were followed for trees and crops both.

Major Findings

  • Net return of  Rs. 1,47,380/- ha was recorded when soybean was grown with    eucalyptus plantation as compared to farmers practices i.e sole cropping of soybean or no use of space between the plantation. The crop was harvested at 105-110 days.
  • The net return of  Rs. 1,50,930/- ha was recorded when wheat was grown with eucalyptus plantation as compared to farmers practices i.e sole cropping of wheat or no use of space between the plantation. The crop was harvested at 125-130 days.
  • Although there is a reduction of 9% in soybean yield and 14% in wheat yield under eucalyptus plantation.
  • The assessed technology is found suitable for rainfed area and managed the problem of unutilized space between the plantations and also the low income per unit area from sole crop only.
  • The income generated by the plantation has minimized the losses and gave extra income.
  • Thus, the productivity and profitability per unit area was increased in eucalyptus based agrisilviculture system in the region.
  • Farmers realized that the intercropping of soybean and wheat under plantation gave extra income at sustainable basis.

Photo: View of soybean crop with eucalyptus

Blogpost and photo by Naveen Patle, S.B.Agrawal, D.P.Sharma, Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya (Jabalpur, India) – Submitted by naveen_patle2002(at)


This post is entry nr #45 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 28 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!

Follow our #WCA2014 social reporting teamfollow our social reporting team via the #WCA2014 tag on Twitter, our blog and our Facebook page.


Can trees strengthen and improve people lives? Can trees play a bigger role?
Yes, trees are lifeline for the ecosystem we live in. This statement can be supported, because 1.2 billion people in the world are following Agroforestry practices.

In the recent years, many initiatives have been taken to promote indigenous tree species providing marketable food, fodder and agro forestry tree products. But I feel that revamping of traditional systems and adding little bit sugar will stir up technologies whereby we can go in harmony with nature.

Here I would like to share the story of one important traditional pasture system i.e. in existence in Kangeyam tract of Tamil Nadu. Centuries back farmers in kangeyam tract engaged in farming of dry land crops and some of the land portions were left unfarmed.

After the receipt of rain, the nature flourished with vegetation. Farmers were left with only option of grazing their animals in the vegetated (unfarmed) area. Later on, it became a usual habit and they found it as effective way of grazing animals. They ploughed the land once in three years and planted legumes in order to enrich nutrient status of soil.

Acacia leucophloea and Albizzia amara is the common tree that occupies the pasture land (35-40 trees/ha) with sufficient space for grasses like Cenchrus. Live fences were maintained around pasture land. They also followed rotational system of grazing .When there is no grasses, livestocks feed on tree pods. Drinking water provisions were provided to livestock by establishing cement trough in pasture area.

As days passed, farmers gained knowledge of sound management practices. Soon they realized trees, grasses, shrubs and livestock as their part of routine life. As a result they were enjoying directly and indirectly many benefits like quality fodder, income, maintaining the fertility of land and other environmental services.

I happened to hear from one farmer (women) whose is managing this system effectively: She was happy to attend trainings conducted by government which enriches their knowledge, income and their livelihood opportunities. She was ready to take home the content of training outcome and share it with other farmer friends .

These type of training had enlighten them about importance of trees and the benefits enjoying from it. Therefore, it provides income security, conserves ground water table, improves the ecology of the region, preserves local culture, beliefs and customs, encourages participation of people and as a whole improves lifestyle of farmers,  thereby giving life to trees and trees for life without which the term sustainability becomes question mark.

“The  Earth,  The  Air,  The  Land And  The  Water  Are  Not  An  Inheritance From Our Fore Fathers But On Loan From Our  Children.  So We Have To Handover To Them At Least As It Was Handed Over To Us”.
-Mahatma Gandhi

Photo: Natural grazing area of Kangeyam Tract, Tamil Nadu

Blogpost by Keerthika, Scientist (P) – NAARM (Hyderabad, India) – lathikaconifers(at)
and Sangram Chavan, Scientist, National Research Centre for Agroforestry (Jhansi, India) – Sangramc8(at)

Photo courtesy The Hindu


This post is entry nr #44 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 75 votes, with an average score of 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!

Follow our #WCA2014 social reporting teamfollow our social reporting team via the #WCA2014 tag on Twitter, our blog and our Facebook page.



A long-term experiment was conducted to assess the performance of stocker ram lambs utilizing stockpiled foliage and forage from established “Leucaena leucocephala- based” silvopastoral system vis-à-vis natural pasture.  The treatments were: (1) stockpiled foliage and forage in a “L. leucocephala –based” silvopature (SILVOPASTURE) and (2) stockpiled forage in a natural grasslands (NATURAL) consisting primarily Sehima nervosum, Heteropogan contortus, Dichanthium annulatum, and Chrysopogan fulvus. Deccani ram lambs grazed treatment pastures from mid September to late March in all three years. Each treatment was replicated three times in a completely randomized design. SILVOPASTURE treatment produced more (P<0.01) forage than the NATURAL treatment, with the SILVOPASTURE producing 4.11 t ha-1 and the NATURAL producing 1.36 t ha-1. When the foliage of L. leucocephala was excluded, the SILVOPASTURE treatment still produced higher (P<0.01) crude protein (CP) than NATURAL. Average daily gain (P<0.01) was 87.2 g for the ram lambs in the SILVOPASTURE  and 59.1 g  for the ram lambs in the NATURAL  treatment. Gain per ha was greater (P<0.01) in the SILVOPASTURE than in the NATURAL treatment (236 vs. 160 kg) over the grazing season. Organic C, available N, P and K were increased over the 4 years of experimentation under the silvopastoral system due to accumulation of biomass leaf litter. The present study shows that the stockpiled foliage and forage from the silvopastoral system would meet the nutrient requirements of ram lambs even during drier months of the year and improves fertility and productivity of the soil in the long run.

Hortipature system for small ruminants

Three on farm experiments – experiment 1 (E1, 130 days), experiment 2 (E2, 120 days) and experiment 3 (E3, 120 days) were carried to evaluate the performance of Nellore Zodpi ram lambs grazed in established hortipastoral systems (mango and sweet orange orchards of above 5 years old with natural and established pasture of C. ciliaris, S. hamata and with boundary plantation of L. leucocephala) in rainfed areas. The forage and crude protein (CP) yields (t ha-1) were significantly (P < 0.01) higher from established pasture than natural pasture in orchards. The established pasture contained medium (C. ciliaris) to high (S. hamata) CP and medium in vitro dry matter degradability (IVDMD), where as the natural pasture contained low CP and medium IVDMD. The lambs with supplementary grazing on established pasture or supplemented with L. leucocephala foliage gained significantly (P < 0.01) higher live weight than grazed solely on natural pasture in all the experiments. Similarly higher (P < 0.01) average daily gain (ADG) was also observed with supplementary grazing. Income from ram lamb production under hortipastoral systems seems to be quite remunerative in all the experiments. Net gain ($ ha-1) from the hortipastoral systems ranged from 40.4 to 70.1 through ram lamb production. Further, higher income was observed with supplementary grazing on established pasture or supplementation of L. leucocephala foliage. The present study reveals that the orchards (mango and sweet orange) over 5 years old can be developed as hortipastoral systems with suitable understory grass species and boundary plantation of L leucocephala for higher biomass production. These systems can be efficiently integrated for ram lamb production in rainfed areas. Season plays a lot in availability of nutrients and subsequently the growth of the ram lambs under hortipastoral systems in rainfed areas, hence the lambs could be introduced preferably in the middle of rainy season (September month) for maximum weight gain.

Blogpost and illustration by G.R.RAO, D.B.V.RAMANA and N.N.REDDY of Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA) (Santoshnagar, Saidabad, Hyderabad) – grrao(at)


This post is entry nr #43 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 190 votes, with an average score of 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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I am in opinion and many of us will agree with me that at present biofuel/ bioenergy is the need of the hour as an alternate source of fuel/ energy because natural resources are depleting and energy demand is increasing at rapid pace.

We are also very much aware that petroleum sources are limited and therefore the dependence on renewable energy sources has to be increased. Of all renewable energy sources, biomass accounts for over one third of the energy used in developed countries. The two important bio-fuels generated from biomass are bio-diesel and bio-ethanol. Being agriculturist I know that there are a number of plant species yielding oil with low and high molecular weight hydrocarbons, which can provide bio-diesel.

Developed countries are using edible oil seed crops to meet out the demand for biodiesel.  But we can not afford to use edible oils for the same in our country. The reason being, edible oil consumption is higher than its domestic production. Hence, there is no possibility of diverting this edible oil for production of bio-diesel.  Fortunately in India, there is a large junk of degraded forest land and un-utilized public land, field boundaries and fallow lands of farmers where non-edible oil-seeds can be grown.

Fossil fuels have been the prime source of energy for the transportation and industrial sector for more than a century. However, their rapidly increasing consumption and consequent depletion of reserves clearly show that the end of the “Fossil Fuel Age” is not very far. For developing countries like India, rising world prices of crude oil and petroleum, gives maximum cause for concern. Currently Ethanol and biodiesel are gaining acceptance worldwide as good substitutes for oil in the transportation sector.

India, a country with fast growing economy is facing the challenge of meeting the increasing demand for energy. Presently, the country is testing its options for a partial switch over to bio-fuels as a means of energy. In general, bio-ethanol produced from sugar or starch derived from grains/biomass and biodiesel obtained from the processing of edible and non-edible vegetable oils are used as fuel in automobiles. It is well established that bio-fuels offer a number of environmental, social and economic advantages. The use of bio-fuels may lead to reduction in vehicle pollution and green house gas emissions. The greening of wastelands and regeneration of degraded forest lands through cultivation of bio-fuel crops is another added advantage.

Among the many species, which can yield oil as a source of energy in the form of bio-diesel, Jatropha curcas has been found reasonably suitable due to its short gestation period, hardy nature, high and quality oil content etc. Furthermore, Jatropha plantation provides many other products such as manure for the crops, methane for power generation and glycerol for industrial use besides, enormous advantage of carbon trading. The fruit pulp and the remaining de-oiled seed cake can be used for the production of bio-gas by anaerobic fermentation. Slurry from bio gas plant can further be processed as manure. The slurry of the bio gas plant can be mechanically separated into concentrate of rich nutrients for using in plantation. The dried out slurry forms manure for the agricultural use. Both these products can provide a major substitute to chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The investment in the sector would give boost to support rural based industry by providing raw material for extraction of oils, value addition, packing, transport, marketing etc. A lot of man power can be generated by successfully organizing this programme of plantation of bio-fuel species.

Ethanol production focused over sugarcane molasses as a primary feed stock is neither economically viable nor sustainable with the available technologies. It is therefore, essential to prioritize the various options available so that the efforts are not only directed towards making it sustainable and economically viable, but also pro-poor and resource saving. If promoted, sweet sorghum based ethanol may prove a better option, which would be pro-poor in marginal and rainfed areas. Therefore, selection of the best feed stocks with long-term prospects should be one important course of action; but simultaneous thrust on improving the existing technology for greater efficiency is also central to success.

Finally its my dream that, by 2020 India should become self sufficient in biofuel production from tree borne oil seeds and can meet out the growing demand of bio fuel/bioenergy and serve as a alternate fuel.

Photo: Jatropha fruits

Blogpost and photo by Dr. Sudhir Kumar, Principal Scientist – Horticulture, National Research Centre for Agroforestry (Jhansi, India) – dr65sudhirkumar(at)


This post is entry nr #42 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 106 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!

Follow our #WCA2014 social reporting teamfollow our social reporting team via the #WCA2014 tag on Twitter, our blog and our Facebook page.


Weak engagement with businesses that operate in forest landscapes and a lack of clarity about who has rights to the carbon in trees are among the problems facing private-sector REDD+ projects, says Isilda Nhantumbo.


Years of intergovernmental negotiations on how to put forests at the heart of global efforts to limit climate change bore fruit last year when nearly 200 nations agreed a framework to implement REDD+, a mechanism that will finance projects that prevent deforestation or enhance forests, so long as they also safeguard biodiversity and local community needs.

With public finance in short supply, the private sector has a big role to play, in ensuring forest nations are ready to take part in REDD+, in implementing projects, and in paying for the results they yield.

While the private sector brings much needed know-how to REDD+ there are challenges about how investments in ecosystem-based commodities — such as carbon in trees — will play out. To assess the ways in which the private sector has already engaged with REDD+, Marisa Camargo at the University of Helsinki and I studied 115 projects in 33 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

These projects cover a total area of more than 28 million hectares. On paper that spells a potentially big reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from land use and it should mean plenty of benefits for local communities too. However, our research reveals two big challenges and suggests several ways to address them.

Failure to engage

The projects operate in large areas of several thousands and even up to 0.5 million hectares. It is obvious that within the landscapes there are several actors driving deforestation and forest degradation – these range from smallholder to businesses of different scales.

The first challenge is that nearly all of the REDD+ projects we reviewed have not involved businesses in the agriculture, mining, forestry and energy sectors that are active in the project areas.

By failing to engage with these other land users — which are both important drivers of deforestation and potential agents of sustainable alternatives — there is a risk that deforestation may cease in one area but increase elsewhere.

There is also a threat to the permanence of REDD+ interventions if, for instance, new pressures on land arise from these other sectors.

More inclusive business models could address this by:

  • Mapping all land users and uses in the landscape.
  • Applying the principle of free, prior informed consent not only to local communities but also to all other users in small to large businesses.
  • Designing means to bring these stakeholders into the REDD+ projects as shareholders.

While this might reduce the overall benefits that each partner can receive (once performance based payments to compensate for reduced emissions are underway), the long-term effects for both emissions reductions and sustainable business goals could surpass the short-term losses.

Carbon rights confusion

The second big challenge is the lack of clarity about who has rights to the carbon in the trees. This clarity will be essential to incentivise land users to adopt and invest in sustainable practices, but across the countries we looked at there is a lack of legislation defining rights to carbon.

Often the overlapping systems of rights mean that communities, governments and private land owners may all expect to own the carbon. Without clarity about who owns — and who can sell — this resource, there are threats of conflicting claims.

Specific contractual agreements such as the Carbon Rights Agreement in the Democratic Republic of Congo can provide the investor/developer some sense of security relating to carbon rights.

Most of the projects we studied are set to last 20-50 years, but some are due to continue for more than 100. Clarity over rights and mapping rights holders is essential to the long-term sustainability of REDD+. It will be costly to achieve this, but the costs of conflict and ineffective mitigation of climate change could well be higher.

To ensure that REDD+ meets its goals of mitigating climate change and bringing additional benefits over the medium and long-term, it will be important to bring on board all stakeholders (including business interests active in the local area) in the design, implementation, and have greater clarity about rights and benefits.

Photo: Logging truck in Cameroon

Blogpost Isilda Nhantumbo, senior researcher, Natural Resources Group, IIED (London, UK) – isilda.nhantumbo(at)
Photo: World Resources Institute (Creative Commons)
Blogpost originally published by IIED


This post is entry nr #41 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 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!

Follow our #WCA2014 social reporting teamfollow our social reporting team via the #WCA2014 tag on Twitter, our blog and our Facebook page.



Climate change is a critical challenge for people of East Africa. Changing climate and weather patterns are predicted to have severe negative impacts on food production, food security and natural resources in East Africa.

Without appropriate responses climate change is likely to constrain economic development and poverty reduction efforts and exacerbate already pressing difficulties in a country like Kenya. Kenya is one of the countries whose economy is deeply rooted in climate sensitive sectors like agriculture, fisheries and forestry and Siaya County is expected to be hardest hit.

According to KWTA 2013 report, Siaya County has the least forested area at 0.42 %.This is caused by expansion of agricultural land, clearing of bushes for timber, charcoal and fuel wood, poor cultural practices.

Siaya County has a population size of about 842,304 according to the 2009 Population Census of which are 47% are males and 53% females living in 199,034 households. The county has a surface area of 2,530.38 sq km culminating to a population density of 333 people per km2. Therefore there is an urgent need for taking the challenge of climate change and the resulting impact of unsustainable development very seriously.

CAED through this workshop will bring together key stakeholders in the county to think carefully about the consequences of unsustainable consumer focused lifestyles and find ways on how to act in their local context, to avoid the worst predicted impact.

A planned workshop with the following objectives:

  • To foster understanding about the global impacts of climate change in the county. This will be achieved by capacity building of stakeholders and awareness campaign by use of IEC materials and 30 min community radio talk show. THE TEN TREE Campaign will be launched in the county by the county governor.
  • To inform the stake holders on ways to implement energy and water use best practises with 30% adoption by mid 2015.
  • To encourage the county government to adopt policies to promote efficient energy and water use by mid 2015.

Course Agenda

Course Course Content Objectives of the course Methodology/Approach
Understanding Climate Change Science, Climate Change Scenario, Responses to Climate Change,and Basic terminology Basic Climate Change Science: Global Warming, Greenhouse Gases and Consequences At the end of this course the participant should be able to:
•Understand the meaning of weather, climate, climate change, and global warming
•Understand the source of greenhouse gases, consequences of GHG concentration in the atmosphere (mainly temperature change)

•PowerPoint Presentations
•Question and answers
  Climate Change Scenarios This session will introduce the trainees with the different climate change scenarios and their consequences such as:
•Changes in temperature (changes in land Surface Temperature, changes in Sea Surface Temperature)
•Variation in Rainfall and
•Ice melting and Sea level Rise

•PowerPoint Presentations
•Question and answers


  Responses to Climate Change – Mitigation and Adaptation At the end of this course, the participant should be able to understand:
•The two key response measures to deal with climate change i.e. mitigation and adaptation- setting up tree nurseries, tree planting, sound agricultural practises, clean energy technologies
•Carbon emission and compensation regarding carbon emission

•PowerPoint Presentations
•Question and answers


  Key Terminologies •At the end of this course the participant should be able to understand key terminologies of climate change: Impacts, vulnerability, adaptation, mitigation, risk, hazards, shock, variability, trend, exposure, sensitivity, adaptive capacity etc.
•The purpose of this session is to assess knowledge base of the participants on different terminologies of climate change and bring them on a common ground.

•PowerPoint Presentations
•Question and answers


Understanding the Impacts, Vulnerability and linkage between climate change and disaster Impacts of climate change on different regions of the world This will cover impacts of climate change on different regions of the world under different climate change scenarios. •PowerPoint Presentations
•Question and answers


  Link Between Climate Change and Disaster The session titled “Link Between Climate Change and Disaster” is designed to provide
Identification of area specific extreme climatic events or disasters; i.e. flood, cyclone, etc.
Analysis of intensity and frequency of those events depending on temporal dimension

•PowerPoint Presentations
•Question and answers


Adaptation to Climate Change, Link between Adaptation & Development, and Group Exercise Adaptation Adaptation science, types of adaptation, context specificity of adaptation etc
This session will cover link between adaptation and development, where commonalities and differences exist.

•PowerPoint Presentations
•Case study
•Question and answers


  Vulnerability to Climate Change Concept of vulnerability, vulnerability to natural, physical and social system, how vulnerability varies within societies etc •PowerPoint Presentations
•Question and answers


  Group exercise In this session, the trainees will be segregated into groups and they will assess vulnerability of different sectors based on local knowledge. •Group formation, •Deliberation of group works on work sheet
•Group presentation
•Question and answer


Field Visit Visiting Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) Kakamega, and a Clean Technology shop in Kisumu The objectives of this visit is to expose the participants to tree nursery development, types of improved cook stoves and lighting solutions suitable for people at the bottom of the pyramid •PowerPoint Presentations
•Question and answers



Expected outcomes
Short term (6 months-1 year):
Visit to the county government office to establish progress made by county office on policy, 2 Tree nursery establishment in schools per sub county-school going children will plan trees on their birthday and take the responsibility of taking care of the tree, at least 10Trees planted per household, at least 100 trees planted per school, at least one clean technology adopted by 40% of households.

Long term expectations (1+ years):
County government to initiate environmental protection policy: Enforcement of tree planting legislation, solar lamps adoption, clean cookstoves,tree planting campaigns-biannual, organize agricultural shows to show best practices-annually.

Method of evaluation
Use of KAP (Knowledge, Awareness and Practice) survey which will help show levels of adoption and to know awareness levels and impact of the training
Working closely with stakeholders to access progress they are making on various proposed set of activities

Blogpost and photo by Simon Ogutu – CEO of Community Action on Environment and Development – CAED (Nairobi, Kenya) – simonogutu(at)


This post is entry nr #40 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 9 votes, with an average score of 4 (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!

Follow our #WCA2014 social reporting teamfollow our social reporting team via the #WCA2014 tag on Twitter, our blog and our Facebook page.



Dear Citizens of Mother Earth,

My name is Subabul (Leuceana Leucocephala).

I have witnessed the evolution process of the Mother Earth may be far before than the birth of human species. I respect nature and the law of the nature. Whatever work assigned to me by nature I was and am doing that with purity, honesty, unselfishness and love. I do not know how to measure my contribution to nature or anybody’s contribution to nature? From my birth I have learnt from nature that whatever we get from nature we have to manage and live happily with that. And whatever we have, we should give to nature and offer our services to nature.

However, it is seen that from the evolution of species on the earth to the present era, trees are performing unaccountable role for human as well as natural balance. Only 400 years ago I came to know the word ‘USE’ of me from the species “humans” and from that point my story starts, ‘A journey from the most liked to most un-liked tree’.

Humans says that I am originally from Central America and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico where its fodder value was recognized over 400 years ago by the Spanish conquistadores who carried leucaena feed and seed on their galleons to the Philippines to feed their stock. From there it has spread to most countries of the tropical world where leucaena was used as a shade plant for plantation crops. It was introduced into Australia in the late 19th century and it was naturalized in parts of northern Australia by 1920.

Just three decades ago, my recognition was as “most liked” tree on farms and they called me ‘Miracle tree’ but now I feel very sad about my recognition of ‘MOST UN-LIKED TREE ON FARMS’. I became underutilized. There are millions of tree species which are useful one or another way to human kind as a medicine, shelter, food, wood etc. and considered as birth to cradle of man. With such a range of species, one tree species which is known for its diversified uses, yes I am talking about myself on ‘My name is Leucaena leucocephala, excuse me please, a tree, commonly known as Subabul in India’.

I came into existence about 1890 a little-known legume tree (Leucaena leucocephala) arrived unannounced in northern Australia. By the 1920’s this leucaena, now referred to as ‘common’ leucaena (Leucocephala ssp. leucocephala) had colonised pockets of ungrazed, non-agricultural land along urban and coastal locations in northern Australia, Mexico, Brazil. At that time no-one was to realize that over 100 years later selected L. leucocephala ssp. glabrata cultivars would be established for pasture in more than 10 million hectare area worldwide. More than 800 varieties of this species are known and broadly classified into four types viz, Haiwaiian type, Salvador type, Peru type and Cunningham type.

As in India, I was introduced by the BAIF foundation in seventies mainly as an agroforestry crop to meet the increasing demand for fuel, fodder and timber for poles and posts from Mexico. Late prime Minister of India, Smt. Indira Gandhi, changed Leucaena name from “Kubabul” to “Subabul” due its wide adaptability and multipurpose uses to farmers.

I, the Subabul, am known for my fast growing rate and can be grown in variety of soils and climatic conditions due to my tolerance to high temperature and extended drought and remarkable regenerative capacity. Subabul wood is used for light construction, poles, props, pulp, furniture, flooring and fuel wood. Subabul wood is an excellent fuel wood with a specific gravity of 0.45-0.55 and a high heating value of 4500 kcal/kg. Subabul forage has a high protein and carotene content and pellets or cubes are internationally marketed as animal feed. Scientist of Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute, Jhansi reported that the nutritious fodder quality increases milk yield by 20 per cent. Subabul can store 500 (kg/year/ha) of nitrogen in soil and improves nutrient status.

As a woody-stemmed tree, I (leucaena) act as a carbon sink by sequestering significant amounts of carbon from the atmosphere in its woody frame and in additional soil organic matter. Similarly, methane emissions from cattle grazing leucaena are substantially lower than for tropical grasses, probably due to the high digestibility and condensed tannin content of leucaena forage. Subabul yields 30 to 40 t/acre in three years after planting. The same plants rejuvenate and are ready for harvest after every three years. The price paid to the farmer is Rs. 1,350 per tonne while the factory price is around Rs 2,000 from paper industries in India.

Hence, the multiple utility of species makes them suitable to farmers for planting on their own field without much difficulty and extensive research brought many varieties to fulfill farmer’s requirement. K 8 and K 636 variety of subabul adapted extremely well to semi-arid conditions and soon became one of the most popular species for all types of forestry programmes in India. Due to its wide variety of uses and it was this multiplicity of roles that led to the worldwide reputation of the subabul as a ‘miracle tree’.

It’s a Win-Win situation now. There is proverb ‘If you are looking for a big opportunity find a big problem’. I found the humans always “blaming” rather than “understanding” the inbuilt systems of my growth. If you follow the nature’s inbuilt law of my systems, I can assure that I will regain my status as ‘Wonder Tree” or “Miracle Tree”. Now it’s an opportunity for all humans to promote me in the benefit of nature in the benefit of the humans. I will end my letter with very strong statement, ‘what we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror of reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another’

VOTE FOR ME TO REGAIN MY STATUS AS MIRACLE TREE- I want to serve for you – give me an opportunity to serve for the nature and in the benefit of nature and humanity,


Always yours,
Winning regards,

Leuceana Lecucocephala
Honest Citizen of Mother Earth
(for the nature by the nature)

Blogpost and illustration by
Sangram Chavan – Scientist, National Research Centre for Agroforestry (Jhansi, India) – sangramc8(at) and
Harshvardhan Deshmukh – Assistant Professor, College of Forestry (Akola, India) – hkdeshmukh1(at)


This post is entry nr #39 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 119 votes, with an average score of 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!

Follow our #WCA2014 social reporting teamfollow our social reporting team via the #WCA2014 tag on Twitter, our blog and our Facebook page.



Indonesia has 39,549,447 hectares area of tropical forest, comprehensive biodiversity and plasmanutfah in the world. It is on the island of Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sulawesi. Actually, if this country wants the apocalypse is very easy for them. Just cutting all the trees in the forest then the Earth surely doom.
Because the earth is very dependent with the rainforest is to maintain the balance of the Amazon rain forest climate because not strong enough to balance the Earth’s climate.

And now they are little by little has been devastated only to a handful of people who have money for estates and golf courses. How ironic.

No doubt the forests in Indonesia is one of the world’s wealth that deserves to be preserved. Because of our forests is one of the lungs of the world, who work to provide the oxygen needs of all living things in the world.

As a tropical rain forest, Indonesia clearly has a very significant role for the health of the world because you can imagine that how much CO2 can be captured by Indonesian forest?? what if calculated with the environmental health impacts? and how much economic value contributed by the Indonesian forest carbon recovery services from the sinking!. It is certainly a powerful force of nature.

However, whenever there is a problem of forest destruction due to intentional or whether it is not, then the eyes of the world then pointed straight arrogantly as if we destroy the civilization of the world, but if honest as possible during this world is less aware of the “services” Indonesian forest that has lasted through hundreds years to preserve the freshness of the world. Imagine Indonesia which is generally a developed country which is actually the largest CO2 emitter in the world?.

So this is the solution for the tropical rain forest conservation efforts in Indonesia:

The first, society education. In rainforest countries including Indonesian , local residents sometimes do not understand what the importance of the rain forest. Through educational programs, they can learn that forests provide key services (such as water) and is home to animals and plants that will not be found in any other part of the world.

The second, rainforest rehabilitation. In protecting the rainforest, we also need to see how the damaged forests can be normalized. Although it is not possible to replant a rainforest, some of the rain forest can recover after clear-cutting, especially if they receive assistance through the planting of trees. In some cases, can also use the forest land that has been cleared for agriculture, so it’s possible to provide food for people around him. When they have food, they do not need to cut down more forest to plant crops.

The third, Living with no damage to the Environment. In rainforest countries, many scientists and organizations working to help local people live in a way that is not too damaging to the environment. Some people call this idea of “sustainable development” (development of prolonged). Sustainable development has the goal, and the goal is for improving the lives of people who at the same time protecting the environment. Without improving the lives of people living in and around the rain forest, it is very difficult to protect parks and wildlife. So that parks can be useful, local people should be interested in conservation. Currently, Indonesia has also attempted to use a system of carbon credits through avoided deforestation.

The fourth, Wildlife Protection. An effective way to protect the rain forest is to involve indigenous people in the management of the park. The natives know more about the forest than anyone and have an interest in safeguarding the ecosystem that provides food, shelter, and clean water. These gardens can also help the economy in rainforest countries by way ecotourism.

Blogpost and photo by Qisthi Mahran (Jakarta, Indonesia) – qisthi.mahran(at)


This post is entry nr #38 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 43 votes, with an average score of 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!

Follow our #WCA2014 social reporting teamfollow our social reporting team via the #WCA2014 tag on Twitter, our blog and our Facebook page.



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!

Follow our #WCA2014 social reporting teamfollow our social reporting team via the #WCA2014 tag on Twitter, our blog and our Facebook page.



Bringing back trees in to cultivated landscapes

From the time immemorial human beings bought wild variety of crops and domesticated the same for the sustenance. Till date the tradition practice of taking filed crops in to the forested landscapes by clearing forests prevails. Human beings axed million hectares of forests for the cultivation of food crops. This practice has to be stopped completely. At present the forest cover of the country including the trees outside the forest is 23.81 percent. The Government of India as set a national target of 33 percent as a threshold limit to maintain ecological balance.

It is really frightening? And is very difficult to achieve. On one side we are promoting afforestation and on the other side we are giving environment clearance for multinational companies to undertake industrial projects. More over the population is increasing at an alarming rate and climate is changing rapidly. Hence there is need to find a wayout to change this existing trend. Indeed at this juncture there is urgent need to bring back the lost forests. It means integrating tree component in to agricultural land scapes, for this the ideal way is Agroforetsry. This practice will help in maintaining the balance between sustenance of human beings from cultivating food crops and trees in their farmland. Moreover it reduces complete pressure on forests and controls deforestation and promotes afforestation.

The way out
The ideal way to promote Agroforestry (trees in crop lands) is the “festival of tree planting “Vana Mahotsava”.  This movement was initiated in the year 1950 by India’s Union Minister for Agriculture, Dr. K M Munshi as a crusade to save mother earth. During this event millions of trees are planted with energetic participation of the locals and various agencies. It is annual and is to be celebrated from July 1 to 7. Monsoon is there during July and is special month for trees and tree planting. The main objective of the festival is to inculcate tree consciousness and love of trees amongst the people and popularize the planting and tending of trees in farms, villages, schools, municipal and public lands for their aesthetic, economic and protective needs. Awareness campaigns are held at various levels.

Vana Mahotsava week
National Research Centre for Agroforestry, based at Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh has been promoting agroforestry since its establishment in the Central part of India. The institute has been celebrating the festival and created separate window during the first week of July (Vana Mahotsava Week) every year. As part of the festival this year around 8412 seedlings of diverse species of fruits and timber trees mainly preferred by farmers were distributed free of cost under the Parasi- Sind Watershed project in collaboration with ICRISAT- International Centre for Research in Semi-Arid Tropics and the festival was celebrated along with school childrens and villagers at the project site.  The number of seedlings planted during the festival last year was 3061. The preference of farmers for particular tree/fruit species were studied through a pre questionnaire and it was found that majority preferred Tectona grandis the number of seedlings distributed 7300), followed by Bambusa vulgaris (1113) Citrus lemon (704), Emblica officianalis (550) etc.

The Mystery Unlocked
We wondered why there was huge demand for teak seedlings from the villagers and started enquiring them. Finally villagers spilled the bean. They told us the name of a teak growing farmer called Lakhan Singh in the neighbouring village. As on date he has 3000 teak seedlings and the current standing stock as of now will fetch crores to him.  We were surprised to hear this and requested the villagers to take us to the mystery man. The team of scientists and group of farmers from the village reached his place. It was unbelievable to see the standing crop. He has planted nearly 1000 teak seedlings on his own during 2009 -2010 and right now they are 3- 4 years old. He is adding 1000 seedlings every year. We have interacted with him regarding his achievement and asked him to share his experience and views with the farmers. Now his farm has become site of learning. We invited him for this year’s festival. He has accepted our invitation warmly and witnessed the festival

Agroforestry- ideal way to integrate trees in to crop lands.
It is the only viable option to promote fruit and timber trees. It will help in increasing forest cover and conserving biodivesrity. Farm fields can be slowly converted in to integrated croplands or semi forests or orchards. Finally we can bring back the lost forests. For this the traditional tool of extension is vanamahotsava. Come and join us in bringing back the lost forests.

Farmer; An informal agriculture scientist
Finally I want to say that farmer is an informal agricultural scientist in himself. He has integrated his knowledge of all agriculture and allied subjects and he is practicing at field level. Our role as scientist is handholding and to serve him as a facilitator. It is clear from this case that farmer to farmer exchange of technology only prevails for ever and lasts for ever.

Photo: Celebrating Vanamahotsava with Lakhan Singh (face in rectangle)

Blogpost and photo by Sridhar K.B, Scientist (Forestry) – National Research Center for Agroforestry (Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh,India) – sriaranya(at)


This post is entry nr #36 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 147 votes, with an average score of 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!

Follow our #WCA2014 social reporting teamfollow our social reporting team via the #WCA2014 tag on Twitter, our blog and our Facebook page.



Land productivity per unit area is one of the major issues for researchers and policymakers. In the context of climate change, weather aberration, land degradation, scarcity of agricultural land, increasing demand for food, fuel and fodder, agroforestry is one of the major options for its recognized potential for enhancing unit land productivity. Trees being integral component of agroforestry systems, tree canopy imposes limitation for light interception to the understory crops. Due to low incident light under the canopy, the resultant shade creates a major constraint for optimal crop productivity in comparison to the sole crop being grown without any trees. Intensity of shade varies from partial to deep depending upon the tree canopy, its growing pattern and the microclimate. However, the important question is that what would be the critical limit of such shade?

Without trees, no agroforestry is meaningful and at the same time, shade over the understory crops, due to existing canopy of tree is inevitable. More clearly, challenges of shade i.e. low available incident sunlight for the crops and the practice of agroforestry go hand-in-hand. Thus it is essential to select crops which can tolerate shade without compromising its potential yield or we should have resilient crops having minimum loss of yield due to shade.

With this background, for making agroforestry more popular, most effective and sustainable to the stakeholders mainly keeping the focus of our valued farmers, efforts are being made for the past several years at our Centre (National Research Centre for Agroforestry, Jhansi, India) towards understanding the shade-induced (low light) constraints and deciphering the shade tolerance of crops for agroforestry importance. To accomplish the challenging objectives, experiments are being conducted for the past several years taking various important food grain crops like wheat, mustard, green gram, soybean, black gram, sesame, peas etc. by growing these crops in field under three simulated shade-net houses or without shade in open field. The simulated shade-net houses (25 x 8 x 3 m) were so designed that it provides 33% shade (about 67% light), 50% shade (about 50% light) and 75 % shade (about 25% light) (See the photograph for an example).

Throughout the experiments, a holistic approach (from cell to environment) focusing on various aspects of physiology including crop phenology, biochemical and some molecular level traits have been investigated. To our knowledge, for the first time, our experiments revealed that 33% shade would be a critical limit, at least, for the semi-arid conditions of Central India as the important physiological adaptive traits are being highly down-regulated from 50% shade and more onwards depending on the select crops. Role of several physiological and biochemical traits mainly pigments (like chlorophyll a/b), antioxidant like anthocyanin, light managing biomolecule like epicuticular wax, functioning of chloroplast(estimated thylakoid electron transport rate), photosystem 2 activity (mainly photochemical efficiency, dark adaptive Fv/Fm; effective PS2 quantum yield), assessment of photosynthetic Carbon gain (through net CO2 assimilation rate), transpiration and photosynthetic water use efficiency, light energy management and  leaf protein profiles etc. have been deciphered towards understanding the causes of physiological limitation due to low light (shade).

Efforts are made as new initiatives to delineate comprehensive set of most responsive and candidate traits at much greater details through physiological, biochemical and molecular level and for which the project requires apt funding as well. As light management is the prime factor for the crops under agroforestry system to maximise their yield under varying shade, towards this direction, several indices on the leaf optical properties of the crops of agroforestry importance are being studied using spectro-radiometry techniques. For this several indices like rate of leaf Transmittance (T), Reflectance (R),  NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index),  PRI (Photochemical Reflectance Index) etc. are being standardized in combination with simultaneous measurement of gas exchange and chlorophyll fluorescence techniques for various environmental and microclimatic conditions for agroforestry systems.

Thus our novel efforts are on and it requires priority for alleviating the constraints due to tree canopy shade (light limiting) on the crops for agroforestry importance towards making agroforestry more effective and sustainable for the days ahead.

Photo: Crop phenology under 33% shade (67% Sunlight

Blogpost and photo by Dr. Badre Alam, Senior Scientist (Plant Physiology)
National Research Centre for Agroforestry (Jhansi, India) –


This post is entry nr #35 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 153 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!

Follow our #WCA2014 social reporting teamfollow our social reporting team via the #WCA2014 tag on Twitter, our blog and our Facebook page.


Native fruit trees LIFE

Mrs Rajeshwari and Mr Parameshwar are farming couple living in the village of Gonsar, located in the midst of lush evergreen forests, in the central Western Ghats of South India. Since the whole region is forested, local people are very much dependent on the various forest resources, especially trees, and have been trying to domesticate these in their farms, orchards and other forms of land types.

Parameshwar and Rajeshwari, who participated in the research, are one of many local families that have been trying to conserve several tree species and varieties on their farms for the last fifty years or so, by domesticating and cultivating them. Garcinia spp, Cinnamomum spp, Syzigium spp, Myristica spp, Mangifera indica and Artocarpus spp are a few to mention.

As Rajeshwari explains, “Our work is to look for the different varieties of mango grown in our orchard or in the wild and to pick those up during the fruiting season for making various recipes, to be eaten together with the main staple food: rice. These mango trees grow wild or are cultivated, but they are all local varieties, both sweet varieties and sour ones, which we use for making Tambli, Chutney, Gojju, Appehuli, Saasime, etc. We collect the young and immature fruits of mango that have a special aroma and that are of good keeping quality, and we preserve them for years to prepare the pickle. We use these varieties for table purposes or in making of ‘Rasayana’ a sweet dish with mango fruit along with Jaggery, coconut, salt and other ingredients.”

Like their fellow villagers, Parameshwar and Rajeshwari also use the fruit rind of Garcinia indica to prepare a soft drink and as a souring agent in preparing various recipes. Butter extracted from the seed is locally used as edible oil and has several medicinal properties. Fruit rind of Garcinia gummigutta is collected mainly for commercial sale, whereas the butter extracted from the seeds is used for frying sweet dishes or consumed with some dishes. Jack fruit and mango are additionally important fruit trees used for making recipes and several dishes.

Parameshwar, Rajeshwari and their family have more than one hundred species of native forest trees in their orchards and farms that have been domesticated over the years. These include 200 trees of Garcinia indica and 30 trees of Garcinia gummigutta, more than 500 trees of jack fruit and 600 mango trees. They have conserved four species of Garcinia and at least 55 varieties of mango (Mangifera indica). Ten varieties of mango are of locally important and threatened varieties. Along with other family members, Parameshwar and Rajeshwari are maintaining many native fruit trees even though they are not commercially important and do not give cash returns. Besides, they are promoting the conservation of many of these varieties by providing scions freely and grafting them free of cost to the trees of their neighbours, villagers and adjacent villagers. In fact, identifying elite varieties of mango and other species, conserving them through grafting and other techniques in nurseries, sharing or exchanging these plant materials with other farmers are all regular activities for these farmers.

Women’s and men’s roles in this process are well defined and complementary. As Rajeshwari states, “Men assist us in collecting the fruits at the stage of mature or immature fruiting. However, processing, preserving, making of the recipes, serving them to the family and relatives, friends or even during special occasions is done entirely by me and other female members of our family”. Regarding the propagation and cultivation aspects of the mango tree, she says, “we (women) do not have much role to play in raising of the plants, purchasing mango plants or cultivating them. What we do is assist men in watering, sometimes weeding, and driving away the monkeys that come to eat the mango fruits when men are engaged in other agriculture activities in different locations. Unlike our husbands, we do not help other farmers graft special varieties of mango; however we do exchange the fruits with other women from neighbouring households in the village.”

Research undertaken in Gonsar, Kalgadde-Kanchigadde and Salkani villages of the Central Western Ghats in India brought to light the gender-specific knowledge, skills, management and conservation practices related to NFTs. A combination of participatory methods such as resource mapping and activity calendars revealed women’s exclusive knowledge of NFTs for domestic use and home gardening that is illustrated above, as well as men’s knowledge of NFT silviculture. Using innovative tools that promote collective learning, such as four cell analysis, women and men brought forth their knowledge about the current status of various NFTs, many of which are threatened species and varieties, and all of which need to be managed in a sustainable way both in the forest and on cultivated lands. The research activities highlighted the pressing need to conserve the 25 fruit tree species and several varieties of wild mango present in the study area, and demonstrated that traditional gendered knowledge of these species is essential for achieving this. Value addition and marketing of some of these species, based on women’s traditional fruit processing knowledge, are being supported to provide livelihood benefits and additional incentives for conservation.

Empowering women as experts of tropical fruit diversity, is a program by Bioversity International Gender Research Fellowship Program, funded by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

Photo: Local women involved in the participatory research on Tropical Fruit Trees

Blogpost by Narasimha Hegde, Gender Fellow, LIFE Trust (Sirsi, India) – lifetrusts(at)
Photo by Srinivas


This post is entry nr #34 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 91 votes, with an average score of 5 (out of a max of 5).

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Ismael Garden

It’s November 2013 and I’m chasing Ismaël’s youngest son around the cabbages trying to get my sunglasses back. Behind me Ismaël and my colleague Badrou are showing representatives from the Anjouan governor’s office around the demonstration plot, and Ismaël is explaining the agroforestry techniques he has used and what income he’s generated. When the tour is finished Ismaël insists on giving us some of his splendid aubergine crop to take home, and I finally manage to prise my glasses back from his disappointed son. There are smiles all around; Housni from the governor’s office is impressed by what he’s seen, and Ismaël is proud to be showing off the fruits of his hard labour. But Ismaël didn’t always feel so positive about his future.

In early 2012 he didn’t know how he would manage to feed his kids and send them to school:  the fields he inherited were infertile and unworkable, and there are few jobs on Anjouan, one of three islands which make up the Union of the Comoros. Anjouan is facing environmental collapse: according to UN figures, between 2000 and 2010 it had the highest deforestation rate in the world, and around 30 of its 45 permanent rivers have become intermittent.

Like many other Anjouanese, Ismaël thought the neighbouring French-controlled island of Mayotte presented the best opportunity to find a job and make enough money to support his family. Six times, Ismaël paid a hefty fee to a boat captain and made the perilous, illegal journey by night to Mayotte, crammed with 30 to 40 others in a small boat, hoping to get past the radar and the French police. Three times he was caught at sea, three times he was caught later in Mayotte, and each time sent back to Anjouan. Other would-be illegal migrants were not so lucky: thousands have died trying to make the crossing. Boat sinkings are a monthly tragedy, but the situation is so grave on Anjouan that people keep trying to make the crossing. After his sixth failed attempt to establish himself on Mayotte, Ismaël had used up all his savings, and returned to his village, disillusioned and despairing.

Older people in Ismaël’s village, Adda, would talk about the time when they all made a good living from their fields and the source provided water for the whole region. But now the forest was gone, the land no longer produced, and everyone had to queue for hours to get a jerry can of water. Ismaël couldn’t see how he’d be able to grow anything on his dusty field by the village football pitch. But a friend told him about our NGO Dahari, how we were teaching people to make their fields fertile again. Ismaël sought out Badrou, one of our agricultural technicians who came regularly to Adda, to ask about this new scheme.

Badrou took him to see other areas of Anjouan. They went first to Koni-Djodjo, where there is barely a tree in sight, the soil falls through your fingers like sand, and the villagers can barely make a living from the land. Then Badrou took Ismaël to meet farmers from the Moya region who had previously worked with Dahari. Their fields were surrounded by trees and they showed Ismaël substantial crops of bananas and plentiful tubercules of manioc. Ismaël thought Dahari’s methods must be worth trying.

During 2012 Badrou visited Ismaël at least once a week in his field to advise him. First, Ismaël planted tree-cuttings of Glyricidia and Sandragon around the edge of his field and also along the contour lines. These are leguminous tree species that fix nitrogen, fertilising the soil; they are also very fast-growing and within a few months had formed a barrier against erosion so that the fertile topsoil was no longer washed away by the rain. He used manure from his livestock to fertilise his field so that he could plant market-garden crops like lettuce and tomatoes. He also planted feed for his cow and constructed a stable to improve its health and productivity. And he started growing bananas and cassava mixed in with leguminous permanent-cover plants to keep fertility in his field all year round. By the end of 2012 he was making more money than he’d ever made before, enough to feed his family properly and send his children to school.

Ismaël’s story is a striking example of what can be achieved by investing in sustainable agriculture, and his desire to convince others of this has made this story a powerful communication tool. In the last year Ismaël has received a stream of visitors to his field: government representatives, journalists, partner institutions… He has featured on the BBC’s From Our Own Correspondent (episode from 31 October) and spoken at the launch of a film about his story in the Anjouan capital, Mutsamudu. The film was played on loop on Anjouan TV, went viral in our intervention villages, has over 5000 views on YouTube, and won second prize at the inaugural Comoros International Film Festival.

On the journey back to Mutsamudu the governor’s representative says he’s convinced by what he’s seen: Dahari’s work on agroforestry and agricultural productivity is addressing fundamental problems facing Anjouan. He wants us to expand our intervention zone and promises to provide matching government funding so we can attract international funders. We’re delighted that, after so much effort, our work is attracting wider recognition and support in the Comoros. We’ve shown that agroforestry mixed with productive agriculture is the future for Anjouan – to date we’ve helped over 2200 farmers  increase their yields in a sustainable manner. Now the challenge is to expand the scale and impact. To that end we are recruiting a team of village outreach officers, who will be supported by our expert technicians. Ismaël is the first name on the list, and he can’t wait to show as many people as possible the benefits of investing in agroforestry, and how it can transform the future of Anjouan.

Photo: Ismaël in his field

Blogpost by Hugh Doulton (Technical Director, NGO Dahari, Anjouan, Comoros) – hugh.doulton(at)
Photo credit: Dahari


This post is entry nr #33 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 25 votes, with an average score of 5 (out of a max of 5).

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Tijju, a marginal farmer, resided at village Karari, in Jhansi district of Bundelkhand region in central India, used to cultivate only monsoon crops, was the target of an extension programme initiated by NRCAF (1993-94), Jhansi, and adopted agroforestry in 2.5 acres of land after obtaining training on management of fruit trees. Prior to the adoption of agroforestry technologies, he used to sell his annual field produce at a total amount of Rs.9,400. The annual net income obtained by the farmer in 5th year was Rs.21,715/ha. Tijju started obtaining fuel wood, fodder, fruit, small timber and food grains from the same piece of the land. Earlier his wife used to walk 2 to 3 kilometer in the search of fuel wood collection. His standard of living increased considerably. He was very much regular in attending the extension activities. Tijju got name and fame and became role model for other villagers. In his community Tijju was being referred to as rich man by villagers.

He was literate only and his family consisted of 14 members including his wife, three sons, three daughters in law, and six minors. He had no other source of livelihood. He adopted agri-horticultural system of agroforestry at his field and planted multipurpose tree species on field boundaries. He was provided training on management of fruit trees e.g. training and pruning, grafting/budding and after care of fruit trees and multi-purpose trees species. Fruit trees were planted in association with under storey agricultural crops, while multipurpose trees were planted on the field boundaries.

Agroforestry Adoption

No records were available with Tijju about the price obtained or the total amount realised through sales of field produce prior to 1993-94, because he did not keep any record of any kind, but from Tijju’s memory, it was found that, prior to the adoption of agroforestry technologies, he used to sell his annual field produce at a total amount of Rs.9,400.

After adoption of agroforestry, Tijju and his wife remained busy from morning till late in the night. Most of the work related to agroforestry practices were performed by Tijju and his wife. Their three sons provided part time help to their parent. They did hire tractor and contractual laborers for sowing, intercultural and harvesting of crops. Tijju and his wife remained fully involved in the management of tree component and marketing of produce throughout the year. The field produce was sold in local market, Jhansi, which is hardly 12 Km from the village. Annual training and pruning in fruit trees was done to give them desired shape. Ber trees were pruned every year in the month of May to encourage new growth during rainy season. Multi-purpose trees were also lopped every year as per requirement for fodder and fuel wood. Papaya was given with a view to earning income in initial years when other fruit trees are not giving any income. He also improved naturally existing Zizyphus numularia (locally known as Jharberi) in his field boundaries with improved variety of Zizyphus mauritiana namely Banarasi Karaka through ring budding. According to Tijju’s perception, there is a lot of improvement in soil conditions which might be due to increased organic matter resulting from decomposition of litter fall.

Increased Income & Living Standard

The total annual returns during fifth year was Rs.44,230 and the cost of cultivation for under storey crops as well as maintenance of fruit trees was Rs.22,515. Thus, the annual net income obtained by the farmer was Rs.21,715.00 per hectare. After five years of adoption of agroforestry, Tijju started obtaining fuel wood, fodder, fruit, small timber and food grains from the same peice of the land, while before 1993-94, his wife used to walk 2 to 3 kilometer in the search of fuel wood collection. His standard of living increased considerably. He got better food and clothing , constructed a cemented house of two rooms and cemented well, cemented irrigation channels and purchased a moped bike. Recovered himself from the loans took from Regional Rural Bank, Jhansi and from village land lord for daughter’s marriage, purchase of pump set for irrigation and for digging the well. Full time employment was provided to Tijju and his wife.

Name and fame

The social participation of Tijju and his family was drastically reduced as they did not get enough time for visiting any of their relatives. But he was very much regular in attending the extension activities such as Farmers’ fairs, Farmers’ conferences and Field days organized by various government and non-government organizations at different places in district and in neighboring district. He had been invited a number of times by many organizations to express his views about agroforestry. Tijju got name and fame as his name and photograph appeared as successful farmer many times in news bulletins, newsletters, news papers and reports etc. He had been recognized by the village people in all kinds of social functions organized in the village. So many people including farmers, farm women from different villages and VIPs from Central and State government departments visited his agroforestry field. After visiting the field, a number of farmers from the same village and adjacent villages adopted agroforestry practices at their fields. In his community Tijju was being referred to as rich man by villagers.

After Tijju

Yashoda (65) the wife of Tijju told that even after the death of her husband (Tijju) in 2013, she is totally dependent on agroforestry for her family’s livelihood. This type of extension efforts (Farmer-to-Farmer) are needed to make agroforestry system as an eco-friendly alternative for sustainable rural livelihood (food security) and for sustainable land management to uplift the small and marginal farmers and rural poor, so that they can join the main stream of the society.

Photo: Tijju and with his wife Yashoda became rich with agroforestry

Blogpost and photo by Dr.R.P.Dwivedi, Principal Scientist (Agricultural Extension)- National Research Centre for Agroforestry (Jhansi, India) – rpdwivedi43(at)


This post is entry nr #32 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 310 votes, with an average score of 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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Healthy Wealth from Degraded Dry Land with Trees

I usually wonder, why these lands are barren, wherever I found, while traveling, as a Project engineer in Kirloskar. My thinking and passion brought me to Agroforestery.

My father, in 1970’s, planted mango, anticipating labour shortage. I had replaced with tamarind, in 1990’s, during my engineering holidays, since mango did not grow well. It survived, but there were not much fruits, unviable.

After working in companies, my heart and soul pulled me back to trees. From our experience of wrong selection of trees, this time I was to identify a right tree and right farming method. From childhood, I always thought why do they remove weeds, nature would have created with some purpose, now I strongly believe this. So, naturally I was attracted towards natural farming in an integrated way,

I looked around for right choice of trees for my degraded / laterite, sloppy, dry land with red soil, in our hot climate with rainfall of 750mm average. Maybe by telepathy, I got in touch with tree experts and books on more than 220 trees, made me understand various aspects of trees, in 2004.

Then, I had short listed and categorized trees on the basis of Fruit for short term income, Timber for long term, Fodder trees to take care for summer needs of livestock, Nitrogen fixing trees (NFT) for mulching / vermicompost, shrubs / medicinal plants as intercrop & lower layer and planned for sheep, cow, honeybee, rabbit farming.

In 2005, started with rainwater harvesting structures and planted above short listed tree species in my land, based on each field’s soil condition.

  • Fruit Trees: Jack fruit, Jambul, Amla, Custard Apple, Amla
  • Timber: Teak, Bamboo, Mahogany, Ailanthus, Pterocarpus Marsupium, Sisoo and Red Sanders (Pterocarpus santalinus)
  • Multipurpose Trees: Gliricidia for fodder and mulching along with Drumstick, Subabul
  • Biodiversity: Curry leaf, Pungamia, along with my region natural trees like Neem, Albizia lebback and many more

Some trees grew slowly, others did not. The local people mocked at me but that did not bother me. Field experience taught me much more. I reviewed.

Rain is decreasing, its pattern is changing & different for each region, temperature is increasing, frequency between rains is more, humidity & soil moisture is becoming less. I understood that, books and others knowledge are based on past scenario, when there was more rain & labour. Therefore, I needed to correlate.

Fruit trees and fast growing timber trees require good soil, rain and water that I did not have. Harvesting & selling small quantities of various fruits became difficult for me, being absent landlord. I re-planned. I had gone for RWH methods like in-situ, to cater 100mm rainfall (occasionally) in an hour of 20ft sloppy land.

To my astonishment, Red Sanders survived all these extremes. Although it grows slowly in initial 5 years then it grows well, it suited my land perfectly. It is a native tree of my region. Also, Gliricidia unexpectedly managed to grow and very useful during drought years as fodder. Amla, with lot of mulching with waste wood gives me returns to manage yearly routine expenses of my farm.

Understanding RedSanders took 4 years. Everybody goes to Tirupathi to pray, I went to understand Red Sanders and was very useful. Jack fruit, Jambul were replaced with Red Sanders in right season, based on rain pattern, soil humidity, temperature etc. Enhanced its growth, with mulching, in-situ RWH, protected from animals, anti-social elements and facilitated with natural animals droppings for manure. Now it is growing well, the same people appreciate my hard work and forecasting. Last year alone, they had planted 10000 saplings of Red sanders.

Red Sanders is a Valuable, Endangered, Dry land species, used as medicine for diabetics etc, musical instrument, natural food colour & dye, seems to be preventing atomic radiation in nuclear power plants. Hence, in international demanded.

Red Sanders are more economical than coconut, which requires lot of water, good soil, care etc. In 20-25 years, an acre of coconut will give 20,000 USD, (NPV), whereas Red Sanders will fetch 500,000 USD. It is an excellent foreign exchange earner, a Healthy Wealth from dry, degraded land without much water and energy.

I also planted many more tree species to serve its purposes, like to attract birds, improve humus, microclimate, attract bees etc and allowed many natural tree species in the land to make my farm a biodiversity, It is nothing but, simulation of forest. I planted variety of fruit trees for own needs (my family & my labour) to enjoy naturally grown, nutritious, local fruits of our region. Now we enjoy.

A peculiar identification is Ailanthus, grows well, in newly formed bunds, loose soil, which I understood from seeing its growth in mined dumping.

Gliricidia also managed to grow, used for mulching for weaker plants. Being multipurpose tree, our sheep got some green fodder in last drought summer. Sheep grazes only the grass, manures my tree plants, and keeps the weeds in control, cows not allowed; it damages tree saplings and soil compaction.

My engineering mind looks for 100 % utilization of light, land, time and nature. To achieve this, now, I focus on shade loving plants, like Aloe Vera. It grows in tree shade & humus, survives drought. It prevents spreading of fire, one of the issues caused by drunkards.

Perseverance pays!

8 years of struggle in my dry, degraded land without water, now it looks good even in summer. My forest, Brahmavanam, has more than 12000 trees, 100 tree varieties, all local shrubs, mostly medicinal, natural animals like Peacock, Fox, Rabbits, Iguana and birds are enjoying the environment, along with us.

Today, I have a sense of happiness and I feel that I have, contributed something to nature. It is a Good value addition along with nature’s process, without polluting (like dying / plastic units), without depleting nature’s source, like fossil fuel / coal & etc. Thanks for some awards & recognition, not for my satisfaction, but to spread the awareness of trees / agroforestry.

I strongly feel, Dry land agroforestry in India, has huge potential with large degraded barren lands with less rain, depleted groundwater, Industrialization, shortage of labour during peak season, small machineries not popular, idle land with migration of educated people and large size of unviable land for dry land cultivation shall be promoted for Agroforestry.

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 and these kind of important valuable species will not become endangered.

We will overcome hurdles. Hope the new technologies, laws and consciousness will help us to interact, share and do great job to reinstate the beautiful nature.

My next project has started with my friend, in another 20 acres, with a little better soil and water.

Would like to be in touch will all Agro foresters in this world, thanks to WCA2014- gave a good start, I feel sorry for having missed the WCA2014.

We Breathe Trees!

Photo: The author in his Brahmavanam forest

Blogpost and photo by Ganesan RP (Brahmavanam, Tamilnadu, India) – ganesanrp(at)


This post is entry nr #31 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 16 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!

Follow our #WCA2014 social reporting teamfollow our social reporting team via the #WCA2014 tag on Twitter, our blog and our Facebook page.



I grew up in a sleepy hamlet of Almora nestled in the lush green hills of middle Himalayas. During my formative years I experienced the beauty of forests in all its shades. Experiencing this I assumed that the state of the forest will be the same everywhere because very often what you see is what you believe. However, I was in for a surprise.

During my teens itself I decided to plunge myself in the field of forestry that both motivated and fascinated me. But to my surprise during the course of my higher education I came across many forest areas which were degraded and had blank undertorey patches infested with exotic weeds, further deteriorating the forest health.

Most of the rural population in the state of Uttarakhand is directly dependent on the forest resources for meeting their day to day basic demands of food, fodder, fuelwood and also herbs of medicinal and aromatic value. But due to the degradation of the natural habitats and overexploitation of medicinal plants there is an urgent need for their conservation.

This got me thinking as to how these seemingly unrelated problems of degraded forests, livelihood dependence of forest dependent communities and conservation of exploited medicinal herbs can yield a single solution. I realised agroforestry was the only option.

Interestingly during Doctoral research I chose the task of improving the productivity of Chir pine (Pinus roxburghii) forest. The situation as it exists today is that the Chir pine forests have very less or no understorey growth. They remain full of needle cover with meagre or no understorey vegetation. The pine needles accumulated on the forest floor are a means of fire hazard.

Keeping in view the dependency for livelihood on the community forests especially Chir pine, it was a challenge to increase the producivity so that some short term economic returns could be achieved for the local forest dependent communities of the Panchayati forests. So, I thought of increasing the productivity of such land by introducing native grasses, medicinal and aromatic herbs that need conservation. The Van Panchayats represent one of the largest and most diverse experiments in common property management ever developed in collaboration with the State. Interestingly, Van Panchayats in India’s hilly state of Uttarakhand present one of the earliest examples anywhere in the world, where government and local people come together for the management of natural resources.

Project study
The project endeavoured to use the underutilized or unutilized land of Chir pine forests by associating seven of the naturally growing medicinal and aromatic herbs to improve the productivity of these forests. The concept of minimum tillage and appropriate topographical aspect was adopted to introduce native grasses and medicinal herbs in the understorey of degraded forests. The former aimed at minimizing disturbance to the forest floor and the latter to suit the appropriate microclimate of the particular herb.

Seven herbs namely Lemon grass (Cymbopogon flexuous), Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum), Akarkara (Spilanthes acmella), Kaunch (Mucuna pruriens), Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Kantkari (Solanum khasianum) and Kalmegh (Andrographis paniculata) were selected having reviewed their natural habitats and growth conditions. The trial was conducted for two consecutive years and to everyone’s surpise out of seven medicinal plants four medicinal plants namely Akarkara, Kaunch, Kantkari and Kalmegh were found to be economically viable due to better yield and healthy financial returns. Spilanthes acmella, Mucuna pruriens and Solanum khasianum produced maximum yield when grown on northern aspect with net returns of Rs. 34,639, 15,567 and 2879 respectively per hectare in a growing season of four to six months depending on the species. While Andrographis paniculata gave highest yield with net returns of Rs. 5833 per hectare when grown on western aspect. Thus a Chir pine based innovative Silvi-medicinal system was introduced in the Indian Himalayan Region.

Future prospect
The outcome of the research has the potential to utilize the understorey of Chir pine forests, which occupy 3943 km2 area in Uttarakhand (16.15% of the total forest area) and other Himalayan states. It can also generate a source of income for the poor forest dwellers besides the intangible benefits like soil, water and biodiversity conservation of the area.

The implementation of the project will result in livelihood security of forest dependent community, first in terms of employment dealing with all the operation from planting to the collection of minor forest produce and secondly in the sale of the sustainable harvest of these produce. The impact of the project will involve the reduced pressure upon the natural forests, from where unscientific extraction and exploitation of such medicinal plants are continued. Besides, the frequent fire hazards in Chir pine forest can be minimized due to the decomposition and non accumulation of the pine needles in the forest floor.

Policy issues
Agroforestry has always been accepted as a land use system applicable both in farm as well as forest. In mountainous states most of the land is covered with forest, including government reserve forest, civil and soyam forest or panchyati, community or private lands. There is a need of utilizing the unutilized understorey land and degraded and blank patches of these forests, which generally remain infested with exotic weeds throughout the year leading to the underutilization of land resources.

So there is a scope for amending the policies so that agroforestry potential can be harnessed by planting native grasses, medicinal herbs, shrubs and wild fruit crops in the understorey patches of these forests with minimum disturbance to these degraded forest lands. There is also a need for a country wide review of all laws and procedures constraining agroforestry especially in the community and private forest out side the reserve forests.

I have the strong conviction that if this experiment could be carried out so successfully under such a tough terrain like a Chir pine forest then it holds promise to be replicated in the other forest lands as successful model of agroforestry.

Photo: Productivity enhancement through agroforestry in the Chir pine forest

Blogpost and photo by Dr. Chandra Shekhar Sanwal, Indian Forest Service, DCF Uttarakhand cadre (Dehradun, India) – chandra.sanwal(at)


This post is entry nr #30 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 3,852 votes, with an average score of 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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A chief morning day

If you see a shadow slip into the forest of Kribi, there are many possibilities that it is one of them…

They weigh 1.50m on average, they often walk on bare feet in spite of the sandals offered to the children by the tourists.Great looking, the body covered with fabrics or dirty clothes. They do not it like but they have many resources. Contacts with our society taught them to dress but that is not always the case.

In spite of their neglected appearance,the Pygmies are little men with good health. Their physical shortness enables them to move with a certain agility in the wood where they have always lived and loved. Nobody knows the forest as well as they do. Its opportunities, dangers, and weaknesses. The forest is their home. She provides them food,cures and shelters them.

Traditional huts is made up of tree branches and palm tree leaves. Inside their home there is just one wooden bed. Sometimes, they sleep on top of leaves and branches on the floor. Five to six people on average spend the night in the same hut close to the fire place. The Pygmies live in groups and have a chief. It is difficult to give his exact age ,60, maybe more. He claims to be well, to those who doubt,ask his three wives to confirm. Although, they are not farmers, they live primarily off hunting and forest products they gather during the day. Pygmy treatment has earned a great reputation across the country but don’t ask much concerning names of plants and barks of trees used for healing, they will not say a word.

A secret well kept
People go to the Pygmy for three reasons: adventure,success in their career and businesses and most especially for medical assistance. Be ready to make an hour’s drive with a motorcycle, on a dusty road except you have a personal car and another 45 minutes of canoe crossing and a short walk to benefit from this traditional medicine. It is admitted to many that where hospitals fail to solve their problems they go and check the traditional way.

The Pygmy represent in this geographic area an alternative to find health by using nature. Treatment they offer are made from concoctions or balms according to the complexity of the disease for which it is required. It is often expected that one waits for some days to be ready because most of the extracts have to be newly fetched from the forest. During this travel, I had wished to experience what I had heard so many times about them. By this time I had been suffering from a toothache for several weeks, after a brief consultation with them, two days later my cure and posology were ready. A mysterious bitter taste used as mouthwash for one week. In exchange, according to them, I gave the intermediary who was acting as a translator an equivalence of ten dollars to purchase salt and fabrics. It was painful but it passed.My teeth has never been so white. One month after, my pain was back reasons why I went to a dentist and decided to fill the teeth to avoid a relapse.

To change behaviors, people need to be informed
Actually it is not because the effects were not permanent that I don’t think it can be a good stuff.If not how could we explain their longevity in the forest, cut off without hospital,electricity and modern technology. In their environment, Pygmies are facing many set backs. They are vulnerable,helpless and illiterate this is why they have been exploited for several years. The Pygmies must be preserved as well as their habitat and traditions.

The Cameroon Government and private actors help to make them be considered as native people with a unique status, needing protection for themselves and their forest but much better can be done with sensibilization. I visited them four month ago and I really enjoyed it. Why don’t you check it out?

Photo: Pygmy chief in Kribi

Blogpost and photo by Rose Elsie Picarine – NGO Hongla (Yaounde, Cameroon) – elsie_hongla(at)


This post is entry nr #29 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 16 votes, with an average score of 4.5 (out of a max of 5).

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My name is Shea. I am a majestic tree born in savanna. My first fruit comes up after 15 years of life and I can breathe for centuries. You understand now why in the “Dioula” language spoken in Burkina Faso, ‘shea’ means “long life”.

I am always associated with crops and other trees in fields; and my privileged partners are women and children. During the raining season, they faithfully visit me and in turn I gratefully share with them the best of what I have to offer; my treasured children. I am support their ivelihoods; hence, my nickname: “women’s green gold”.

Traditionally, women process my fruit to extract nuts and produce a smooth butter for their consumption and marketing. My other parts such as my bark and leaves are mainly used by men and women as medicine, fertilizer for agriculture and also as a fetish to protect themselves from evil creatures.

I told you that women are my favourite partners. I am sometimes embarrassed because, they are not a homogeneous group: some are natives, some migrants, with age and ethnic differences. Access to my fruits is regulated according to these social differences. For that, increasingly, people are using fetishes and black magic such as thunderbolts, to prevent my fruit from being collected by thieves. You will understand later how this constraining tenure system evolved and how it affects myself, from a migrant family.

In a recent period, I saw several “White men” in our village explaining to local people that my reputation surpassed all the frontiers. They wanted to buy a big quantity of my nuts so that their people could also enjoy my bounty. At first sight I found their “Fair Trade” proposition good: my friends would gain more money and I would take care of more people around the world. I was far from suspecting that this would be a threat to me as my regeneration would decrease when people collected all my seeds from parklands.

What is worse, in 1996 I heard the groans of several women as the state had modified the land tenure law in the name of food security by encouraging “agri-businessmen” to easily buy large plots of land in villages. Then, natives started to sell their land, including those previously lent to migrants. My own field was sold by the lender without any advanced notice.

You will tell me that I should not be afraid, but that sale will decrease the chance of survival of my young sisters who are already suffering from the effects of climate change and from the greater use of sophisticated tractors that damage our roots. I run also the risk of being replaced by cash crops.

Beyond the environmental issues, it is also a matter of social justice. My former family had invested blood and sweat into this field for 20 years. They protected and conserved more than 30 young shea trees and only last year did they start harvesting their fruits. The most difficult thing is that the new owner has formally forbidden the women from my former family to collect shea fruits on his new property. He has told them that he is running a livestock farming business and that for he will need the shea fruits to feed his livestock.

I am still hopeful because I am confident that my human community has learned a lot about my phenology and has sufficient skills to manage me in these climates, and amid the current social and economical changes taking place. Indeed, with the National Institute for Agricultural and Environmental Research (INERA), they have conducted participatory research to learn about my ethno-varieties, and considered how knowledge of and preferences for ethno varieties can vary according to a person’s gender, status of residence, age, and ethnic group.

I really enjoyed the moments when the women and men in my community shared the results of these research activities under my shade. They were a bit tired, but enthusiastic about the participatory tools they have learned and the gender-specific results it had generated. The village chief and some elders were already waiting under my canopy when a woman from the community presented the results of women’s group work and a man those of the men’s group.

My women presented more detailed information than men because, as everyone knows, women have a very close relationship with the species therefore hold a specialized knowledge because of their gender, which attributes to them many shea-related activities. Men recognized that even they occasionally help their wives in the collection of shea nuts and the nut selling process.

The different uses women and men make of the shea tree came out clearly when they carried out a participatory matrix ranking exercise for shea ethno varieties. Women privileged the shea tree for its butter while men favoured it for its fruit’s pulp for direct consumption. Still, the men warmly thanked the INERA researchers for taking them into account for once in discussions relative to the “star of the day”: me.

Children also were included in the discussions. They demonstrated that beyond their social roles as mothers’ helpers, they too collect and sell shea nuts themselves to purchase clothes for ceremonies and candies for school.

In addition, the most of the identified ethno varieties of shea—and especially those preferred by women and men–are found in fields. Indeed, because of the threats of wild fire and trampling by livestock, shea fruit found in fallows and brush areas are small and shea yields have considerably decreased

As I am getting old, my fruit yield is also going down. How can my country’s food security needs and forestry requirements work in the same direction to allow agroforestry to support the livelihoods of our communities?

Working with local women and men farmers who are our caretakers, researchers should conduct more gender responsive investigations to allow our representatives to build on and elaborate more inclusive land tenure laws and efficient politics to perpetuate me.

The project “Threats to priority food tree species in Burkina Faso: Drivers of resource losses and mitigation measures” is part of the Bioversity’s Gender Research Fellowship Program funded by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

Photo: Women under a shea tree in Yarci, Burkina Faso

Blogpost and photo by Mawa Karambiri, Gender Fellow hosted by INERA (Burkina Faso) – Karambirimawa(at)


This post is entry nr #28 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 52 votes, with an average score of 5 (out of a max of 5).

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fruit tree

Today about 870 million people go hungry, every day around the world and the projections shows that the population would cross nine billion populations by 2050. For this burgeoning population, we need to produce enough affordable, quality food having rich energy and nutrition. When compared to all the interventions to meet the food and nutritional security, the horticulture sector especially the fruits having enormous possibility. The fruits with all the available minerals and vitamins are the potential candidates for achieving nutritional security. Therefore, sensitization of farmers about the potential benefits of the fruit trees is very much essential and also they need to be encouraged to practice fruit tree based system. If the research community develops suitable technologies, then the fruit trees can grow in almost all the farming systems.

There are many underutilized fruit trees in almost all the regions that can be grown under various abiotic stress conditions, if they are also introduced and some policy interventions like creation of marketing facilities and investment opportunities are made, there would be definitely diversification in the farms and we can be sure that there would be nutrient rich fruits available all round the year to the community from their farms. With the greater availability of the nutrient fruits all year round on the farm, new developments in the value chains and the good quantity of quality fruits and their products could be ensured across the domestic markets which would in turn ensure nutritional security of women and children.

In India, a UNEP/GEF Project on ‘Tropical Fruit Tree Diversity in India’ is being implemented at five sites with the 18 communities and is documenting the best practices and the identification of the available diversity with the farmers in mango, citrus and mangosteen. It is always mentioned that the we need to identify the agricultural pathways which improves the nutrition of women and children in the society. The marketing diversity research program at the Biodiversity International is also working for the development of ways to increase the livelihoods and marketing underused crop diversity, which have no market or value chain.

At the World Agroforestry Congress, I am expecting that from the deliberations on securing nutritional security through fruit tree based Agroforestry systems, I can learn about the feasibility of on-farm diversification with the fruit trees, interventions need to be made for increasing the availability of local fruits in domestic markets, understanding value chain, reduction in the post harvest losses.

I hope that during the congress, there would be more interactions, deliberations, opportunity to build teams which would definitely develop and formulate collaborative programs on agricultural biodiversity and conservation of fruit trees.

Photo: Nelson Mkwaila, a farmer in Malawi, uses fruit trees in his maize fields (The Agroforestry Food Security Programme in Malawi, supported by Irish Aid)

Blogpost by Sridhar Gutam, Senior Scientist, Central Institute for Subtropical Horticulture (Lucknow, India) – gutam2000(at)
Photo by Charlie Pye-Smith (World Agroforestry Centre)


This post is entry nr #27 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 308 votes, with an average score of 5 (out of a max of 5).

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The deliberate growth of woody perennials on the same unit of land along with agricultural crops and animals either in some form of spatial mixture and in some temporal sequence with a significant ecological interaction is called agroforestry.

There is a considerable amount of resource sharing by the components in this system. This result in complementary or competitive effects depending upon the nature of the species involved in the system. The quality and quantity of light available to the understorey crops is of extreme importance for the sustenance of the system because opportunities for substantial temporal complementarities exist for storable resources like water and nutrients in a system if major resources demand is at different times.

On the other hand for un-storable resources like light spatial complementarities is the only phenomenon available. Annual food grain crops have been domesticated by man for traits favourable for high production in addition to resistance to abiotic and biotic stresses. Physiological basis of Low light stress and selection of food grain crops that are tolerant to low light stress has been largely neglected by researchers because low light stress is not actually an abiotic stress which human kind was interested in since the problem of light stress is evident only in the high latitudes in winter wherein sunlight is premium. The only use of low light tolerant food grain crops in the tropics is related to Agroforestry.

On the other hand tropical regions like ours have no reason to naturally select low light tolerant crops. Consequently there is a possibility that the genetic makeup conferring low light tolerance and ensuing physiological response would have been lost in the processes of evolution.

This highlights and necessitates the need for an elucidative approach to the physiological basis of low light stress in terms of gene expression, metabolic alternations and photochemistry as either an effect of stress or as a mechanism to counter stress, which will help in selecting suitable crops for optimal yields in Agroforestry systems.

Physiological function analysis of environment – plant interaction has currently entered the high through put era with the advent of DNA micro array method. However, despite widespread acceptance, the use of micro arrays as a tool to better understand processes of interest to the plant physiologist is still in its infancy. This project will make use of this approach in addition to conventional methods to achieve the objectives.

Low light stress in crops will induce physiological, metabolic and photochemical alternations as a response to stress or as a mechanism to counter stress. 2. Changes in expression of several genes will be the primary cause for these responses

The overall objective will be to, to elucidate the physiological, biochemical and molecular basis of low light stress response in selected (barley, wheat, rice and soybean) crops and the specific objectives will be, to study the chlorophyll (Chl) fluorescence kinetics and chlorophyll metabolism as influenced by low light, to study the genome wide expression patterns as influenced by low light stress by DNA micro array method and to determine the path of signal transmission that activate adaptive responses from gene to physiological function as an effect of low light stress.

In essence the project will have a molecule to ecosystem approach and will consist of three separate experiments:
1.Completely controlled (different light intensity in terms of photosynthetic photon flux density) growth chamber hydroponic experiment for metabolic and molecular analysis,
2. Simulated net house (three shade percentages) studies of complete life cycle of crops for physiological analysis,
3. Natural field ecosystem studies (existing Agroforestry systems at the Centre) for ecophysiology, biometrics, growth and yield.

This project will make use of DNA Microarray approach (comprehensive, simultaneous gene expression profiling refer fig above) to achieve the objectives in Exp 1. Prefabricated whole genome micro array for the crops will be obtained from Affymetrix as Gene Chip ®.

Data obtained will be subjected to several standard statistical techniques to help interpret micro array data, including hierarchical clustering, principal component analysis (PCA) and self-organizing maps (SOM). In addition enzymes and metabolites of chlorophyll biosynthesis, antioxidative metabolism and pigment compositions will be estimated.

In exp.2 (full life cycle three stages) Chlorophyll content and florescence Chl a, Chl b, Total Chl and ratios thereof and F0, Fv, Fv/Fm, Quantum yield and electron transport rate and photosynthetic rate will be estimated by using chlorophyll fluorescence meter. In addition growth and yield on per plant basis will be analyzed. In exp3 (natural ecosystem) wherein natural shade (no treatment will be imposed) effect on crop growth, gas exchange, biometrics, yield and yield components will be estimated in addition to basic florescence data. Relevant statistical procedures will be followed for each experiment for data analysis.

The expected outcome of this approach will be – Genome-wide expression patterns of the selected crops as affected by low light stress, basic insight into the functional physiological basis of the molecular mechanisms co-ordinating metabolic pathways, regulatory and signalling networks under low light stress. Pinpointed pathway loci for conventional genetics and molecular plant breeders to manipulate and develop tolerant varieties/transgenic plants with enhanced tolerance to lowlight stress.

Discovery of novel genes associated with light stress, knowledge on the method of adaptation and mechanism of toleration of plants to low light intensity from photon capture to CO2 fixation and dry matter accumulation. Shade tolerant crop (among the crops studied) most suitable for maximum yield under Agroforestry systems, light incidence–crop response relationship which can serve as a suitability index for selection of crops for Agroforestry systems.

Blogpost and illustration by Dr. Arun K.Shanker, Principal Scientist (Plant Physiology)
Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR),
(Santoshnagar, Saidabad P.O, Hyderabad) – arunshank(at)


This post is entry nr #26 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 45 votes, with an average score of 5 (out of a max of 5).

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Forests provide a lot of diverse benefits to societies. Besides the fact that wood processing and forest products provide significant contributions to the development of national economies, forests play a major role in maintaining the natural ecological balance. They contribute to creating a microclimate that reduces the effects of environmentally harmful factors. The importance of forests is evident for a further stabilization of groundwater and maintenance of water resources, for the balance of carbon dioxide, nitrogen and phosphorus in the atmosphere, and for the provision of fresh oxygen.

The capacity of Moldova’s forests to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is about 2,230,000 tons per year. Forests substantially contribute to reducing soil erosion and landslides. The protective role of the forests is of vital importance for Moldova because of substantial alternating temperatures that occur, frequent droughts and shortage of water, lands ‘propensity to slides and a decrease in soil fertility up to 40-50% due to the erosion processes. The multitude of benefits conditioned by forests is inexhaustible.

Unfortunately, Republic of Moldova has the lowest percentage of forest area in Europe- 11.4 % (374,500 ha).
The problem of the protection and sustainable development of forests is inseparable from the problem of country’s public health. The forest policy should be focused on the conservation of biodiversity at all levels, on education of forestry specialists, on harmonizing the legal framework, and on international cooperation in the field.

The forestation of the above mentioned land area is a part of the Social-Economic Development Strategy of Vorniceni village for the following 20 years.
The whole community of more than 5,000 citizens may be involved in the project implementation activities.

The forestation of an area of 2.65 hectares will constitute our response to the Global Warming phenomenon.

The arrangement of the square will become a model of ecological education for the population. The students from the local high-school situated in the neighborhood of the land plot will be able to have different types of outdoor lessons in the square.
The square will be a place where people will rest and spend their leisure time.
Goal. The forestation of the 2.65 ha area is to begin in 2014-2015.

1. Preparation of the village citizenry, over 5,000 people, to make decisions related to environmental problems by involving them in volunteer activities such as the installation of a metallic fence surrounding the square as well as setting up an information panel, dustbins, benches, sidewalks and lamps throughout the plot;
2. Providing knowledge about Vorniceni village by distributing the “Adevarul” publication (“The Truth”);
3. Posting short videos on YouTube; and
4. Holding international conferences with Romanian and Ukrainian partners to promote similar activities.

First, partners such as representatives from the Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Moldova, Academy of Science of Republic of Moldova, Institute of Forest Researches and Arrangements, and State Ecological Inspection will be invited. Secondly, an authorization for the arrangement work will be obtained from the Environmental Commission of Experts that will permit the work consistent with existing legal requirements.

Further, a metallic fence will be built without which the arrangement of the square would be impossible as some people use the plot as grazing grounds for their animals or even for passing through with cars and other transportation. At the same time, an information board will be installed to provide knowledge about donors, organizations and volunteers that will participate in the forestation and arrangement work. The entire effort will be coordinated with experts in forestry on national and international levels.

The distribution of “Adevarul” publication will provide knowledge about all the activities for the square arrangement. A partnership will be established with local public administration, ‘Secolul 21″(“The 21’st Century”) NGO-s, the Alliance of Moldovan Rural NGO-s and other nonprofit organizations.

Short films will be prepared and posted on YouTube that will ensure the transparency of the project. The members of the National Network of Volunteer Centers formed by “Terra 1530″ will play the main roles. Before the beginning of the forestation work , set to begin in November 2013, all the necessary recommendations will be obtained from all our international experts included in the list of “Terra 1530″ Association along with the representatives of the Academy of Science of the Republic of Moldova.

Our partners from Ukraine and Romania will be invited to an international conference in order to discuss and analyze the results of our activity and an international exchange of volunteers will be initiated.

1. The Decision of the Village Council to plant trees on the respective public plot was taken due to the mutual initiative of the local civil society and the “Terra 1530″NGO. From the very start more partners were committed to finding a solution for a community problem of global importance. It is an opportunity for more than 5000 inhabitants of Vorniceni village to participate in the project implementation particularly those working abroad that may contribute financially.

2. There are more and more discussions about ecological education in Moldova today but there is a stringent lack of a real model. The respective square, arranged in Vorniceni with the participation of international experts, may become such a model. It may become a best practice for local public administration, because it is for the first time in the history of the village when all the people will have the opportunity to be involved in an activity.

3. As the village high-school is located in the neighborhood of the plot it will make possible to have outdoor lessons in the square, especially biology and other outdoor activities.

4. Short videos will be posted on YouTube for the purpose of showing the activities that will take place in the square.

5. The continuity of the project is guaranteed because according to our experts at least 5-8 years are necessary for the completion of the square arrangement work.

Photo: Volunteers at work in Moldova

Blogpost and photo by Petru Botnaru – environmental journalist (Străşeni, Moldova) – petru.botnaru(at)


This post is entry nr #25 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 28 votes, with an average score of 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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Degraded land before and after the implementation of dynamic agroforestry systems

Soil recovering and organic production in a semi-arid valley of Bolivia through “high diversity dynamic agroforestry”

Summary: There is broad scene of agroforestry ranging from “alley cropping” up to building a natural forest system providing products for humankind. After 13 years testing different agroforestry approaches in the challenging semiarid area of the Bolivian Andes the “high diversity dynamic agroforestry” seems to be the most effective method. Copying the natural processes as best as possible and creating a “high diversity dynamic agroforestry system” provides rich soil, stable yields with variety of products while pesticides or fertilizer nor watering is needed. It is an agro system which grows and changes dynamically thus requesting a new approach and perspective of us producers. Still, once learned and accepted the principles of “dynamic agroforestry” it opens to the producers a new world creating productive spaces without the well-known problems of conventional agriculture. Instead of soil degradation, water shortage and dissemination of harmful insects and plant diseases, “dynamic agroforestry systems” have advantages in biophysical and socioeconomically aspects, show resilience of productivity and a very high capacity to sequester carbon. Thus counters global warming and offers to realize climate smart agriculture.

The following describes the process and main discoveries of “high diversity dynamic agroforestry” in Mollesnejta, Bolivia.

On-site situation in 2001: Degraded, stony soil, erosion and absence of vegetation are the consequences of grazing pressure on a hillslope in the Andean valley of Cochabamba/Bolivia. This property named Mollesnejta is situated at 2.800 Meter above sea level, were average precipitation is 450 mm/year with up to nine months of dry season.

Undertaking: planting native and exotic trees and bushes, combining nitrogen fixing species with fruits and nuts, in between crop plants, vegetables and spice plants. Natural regeneration is allowed in order to create a holistic production system. This imitates ecological dynamics of a forest ecosystem as well as the typical climax vegetation (the species which establishes itself in the absence of disturbance on a given site for given climatic conditions and soil properties). There was much drawback in the beginning because of cows intruding from neighborhood areas and devouring the young plants, ants cutting leaves causing death of the little trees and others. We learned to manage our agroforestry systems successfully by observing nature. We copy the principles of diversity, density and natural succession until achieving a quasi-natural production system with structural and functional aspects of indigenous forests and natural dynamics.


  • Plantation of a large diversity of fruits, nuts, vegetables, spice and crop species in combination with a huge diversity of native species in the same space
  • Association of perennial fruit species and native plants, giving preference to those which fix nitrogen and / or act like natural repellents
  • Combination of species with a different status in the natural succession (pioneer, secondary, primary)
  • Optimizing space use by producing in all strata (belowground and at different levels aboveground like in natural forests)
  • Planting of sensitive fruit species in the shelter of native bushes and trees
  • Maintenance of the plant community in a developing process (sub-climax status) trough periodic tree-pruning with the aim to stimulate the sprouting
  • Protection of the soil using the organic material from tree-pruning as mulch

Results in productivity & soil enrichment:
The diversity of species stabilizes the production system

  • The density of plants protects the soil against erosion, extreme changes of temperature and dehydration
  • Native species in the production system induce to a natural balance between non-beneficial and beneficial organism, rendering unnecessary the use of pesticide
  • The decrease of evaporation trough mulching of the soil and the plantation of living fences against hot and dry wind
  • Fertilization of the soil through the decomposing of foliage, organic matter from tree-pruning and dead rootage
  • Improvement of structure, drainage and respiration of the soil through increased rootage
  • Improvement of rainwater infiltration into the soil and its capacity of water retention
  • Optimization of the soil structure and preservation of fertility through the elaboration and application of agricarbon made from pruning material
  • Interaction of different plant species results in synergy of development with high production

Outcome: after 13 years of work with “high diversity dynamic agroforestry” the soil has a considerable percentage of humus content and all plants show a good state of health. Although there is the presence of some pest insects, they cannot spread because of an antagonist fauna. The clou to manage the system consists in the periodical pruning of trees and brushes to preserve its productivity through maintaining the status of development or subclimax. All organic material from cutting is spread on the soil (mulching). The mulch layer converts into humus restoring the soil fertility trough the inhibition of nutrient and soil runoff, cycle of nutrients and capacity of humidity retention.

Result: “high diversity dynamic agroforestry systems” offer commodity benefits as well as non-commodity benefits (adaptation to climate change, mitigation of climate change, ecosystem services, habitat for endangered species, landscape molding). The production process demonstrates resilience to external influences (weeds, diseases, insect pests, extremes of temperature) and diversity of crop minimizes the risks of market failure.

On-site situation in 2014: On the 16 hectares of the Mollesnejta property we focused on soil restoration beginning with pioneer and sun-loving species. This prepared the ground for more delicate species which developed into a more mature system that is detained in a sub-climax state to preserve productivity. Today we are experimenting on a restored soil with 32 different types of “dynamic agroforestry systems”, producing organic fruits, olives, berries, vegetables, spices, herbal medicine, honey, crop plants and forage, furthermore firewood and wood for construction and the production of agricarbon.

The network Espacio COmpartido en Sistemas AgroForestales (ECOSAF) is promoting “good practices” and “lessons learned” obtained in Mollesnejta (

Left: Degraded land in 2001 before the implementation of dynamic agroforestry systems.
Right: The same view in 2007 with dynamic agroforestry systems.

Blogpost and photo by Noemi Stadler-Kaulich (Farmer in Combuyo, Cochabamba/Bolivia) – nstadlerkaulich(at)


This post is entry nr #24 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 18 votes, with an average score of 5 (out of a max of 5).

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I have a flair for languages but soon realized you communicate better using dollar, pounds and Euros.

No matter how well afforestation help the planet and how much if well done it would save us from calamity waiting to befall planet earth in terms of reducing natural disaster, it just don’t sink well in the mind of land owners and investors, who prefers talking bills.

I not too long ago managed a project where I was to advice an investor who bought a large expanse of land, though passionate about agriculture but more concerned about how fast he could recuperate his investment. The farmland is a dream heaven to every admirer of nature, with tall palm-kernel trees casting their shades along foot paths to a gully site with a stream of water constantly flowing in and heading downstream.

Even though deep down I knew preserving this beautiful natural scenery is good but faced with the challenge of making real money out of it. You would be glad to see what had become of the gully structure and the space between the trees along the footpath after the gentle touch on nature of a professional Agricultural Engineer.

In between the trees along the footpath now has makeshift poultry building with carefully rammed floor, the idea was for the droppings to seep and be of benefit to the trees and the trees in turn provide shade to building covered with asbestos, thereby making the ambient temperature in the building just perfect for the birds.

A ditch was made down slope to collect remnant droppings to ferment and breed maggot to supplement and fertilize a gully structure carefully turned into a spring water filled fish pond with a suitable spillway to allow waste water flow downstream while the water level in the pond is maintained. The palm oil mill was located far away from the poultry to reduce noise getting to the birds.

At the end the over ten thousand catfish capacity fish pond and a proposed self multiplying poultry building integrated into the plantation had not only saved the trees from a harsh excavation of a civil Engineer but also contribute to the trees growth.

The investment when weighed against building houses on the land to rent far outweighed it in terms of profit generated and jobs created to rural dwellers in the area.

We can combine growing trees and making money!

Photo: The author in front of the poulty building

Blogpost and photo by Musa Al-baruwa Ibrahim (Nigeria) – abmusa4real(at)


This post is entry nr #23 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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Milk flows from the forests of Uttarakhand, you won’t believe it until you finish reading this blog!

I supervised my first Master’s dissertation; Forest based Dairy husbandry practices of Van Gujjars: a case study in Nainital district, during 1999-2000. This brought me closer to a forest dwelling community called Van Gujjars- -largely nomadic, simple, honest, down to earth, peace loving people living in forests for hundreds of years.

Van Gujjars rear buffaloes for living-in a class of their own-only Muslim forest dwelling community in India. The forest dwelling communities, anywhere in the world are generally in conflicts with the government; in fact- a big headache to forest departments. So is true with Muslim Gujjars of Uttarakhand-blamed for exploitation of forest resources, resulting in forest destruction.

I don’t want to ruminate here on socio-legal issues, Gujjars’ agitations for their traditional rights on forests, forest act, governments’ eviction plans, NGOs pleading Gujjar’s case etc. For me, it is intriguing, Van Gujjars produce wholesome milk while living in forest. Van Gujjars’ hamlets deep inside the forests spread across Tarai/ Bhabar tracts in the foot hills of Shivaliks could be any visitor’s delight. On an average, each family owns up to 25 heads of buffaloes, totally dependent on forest resources with very limited external inputs used. They depend entirely on their herds for their livelihood. They treat buffaloes with love, care and highest affection so much so that they shun beef-never killing buffaloes for meat.

Van Gujjars’ milk & milk products are considered of high quality earning market premiums. It is sinful for them to adulterate milk with water or anything else. Whenever, I buy Khoya, I ensure it is from Van Gujjars, happily paying a little extra for quality. I am sure the forest officials too have tastes for their products despite bitter relations with them officially. With expanding organic market, milk & milk products free from pesticides & other contaminants like washing powder, urea etc have high demand, no surprise! May be non Van Gujjar milk producers draw lessons on good quality milk production from Van Gujjars-which consumers are increasingly demanding? A few Gujjars told us, they too at times get tempted to adulterate milk, seeing non-Gujjars doing it rampantly pocketing more profits.

To local Forest Department, they are encroachers, staying illegally, causing damage to forests, environment & ecology, requiring immediate evictions. Recently, the Uttarakhand government passed an order on 26 November 2013, to move  228 Van Gujjar families residing in the  Chillawali range of the Rajaji National Park to  Shahmansur locality of Bandarjud area, in the Haridwar district. However, the similar attempts in the past have not met with success, even when they were provided with housing and some land. Gujjars use forest resources like fuel wood, tree fodder by lopping trees, grass, & timber for making their houses. In the process, they are blamed to over exploit natural resources. Looking at the benefits of freebie, the communities which are not traditionally forest dwelling too are tempted to encroach on forest land. The implications are far serious considering the huge number of landless people in the country with rising unemployment. The forest may vanish, if livestock rearing inside forests by non-Gujjars comes in practice!

But, the Gujjars say, they know best how to manage forest than the forest officials-mere academics. We found in our study, they had unique systems of lopping trees, harvesting fodder and grazing their buffaloes. They believe in sustainable use of forest resources. We found Van Gujjars were comfortable in the wild than living with the so called civilized society! Lacking in many civic amenities though, they love cleanliness and good living appreciably. Gradually they are developing tastes for modern living including clothing and gadgets. The younger generations may loose interest in buffaloes but for land, they might not leave forests. Greed may take over passion!!

One side forest department is at loggerhead with the Van Gujjars, the other government agencies like Milk cooperatives, animal husbandry department, and education & health departments extending their services to them. They have been extended domicile rights like voters’ rights too. For milk cooperatives, Gujjars are prized clients- an assured source of regular milk supply.

Is it a symbiotic sustainable relationship between forests & forest dwellers like Van Gujjars or an exploitative system, where forests are being systematically destroyed in the name of community rights on the forests? The social scientists defend the forest dwellers, while the forestry experts are their worst critics. The battle lines are clearly drawn since long.

Questions for us to answer:

  • is there any model for sustainable forest based animal husbandry
  • Should Van Gujjars be evicted from forests against their wish
  • In case of eviction, what should be the compensation package

I see great potential in forest based livestock production by Van Gujjars. What about you?

Blogpost and illustration by Dr Mahesh Chander, Principal Scientist & Head, Division of Extension Education, Indian Veterinary Research Institute (Izatnagar, India) – mchanderivri(at)


This post is entry nr #22 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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fodder capacity building

Forests and locals of Himalayas are facing more challenges than ever. Extraction of bio resources is largely contributing to women drudgery and pressure on forests in Central Himalaya. Locals are looking for more practical alternatives that can also provide alternative livelihood to them. Let’s explore!

Inaccessibility and Poverty

Most of the valleys in higher Himalayas are very inaccessible. Enhanced human dependence, interference and extreme climate events have added to the misery of locals. Deprived socio-economic status of locals has always been largely responsible for the total dependence of locals on forests. Availability of fodder for livestock during lean winter periods is a huge dilemma. In Garhwal part of Central Himalaya, cattle are generally stall-fed, but sometimes they are also left for grazing in nearby forests and pastures. I have been working in the Upper Kedarnath valley of Garhwal since, 2005 initially for my study on natural and man-made pressures and their impact on forests for my PhD and later for implementing solutions based on my study.

Pressure and Drudgery

Women are considered “backbone of hill economy “in Garhwal. During my study I noticed women and girls walking up even before daybreak during cold and dry winters. They were leaving their houses and walking long distances for collecting fodder. Women sometimes also climbed mountains and trees to collect fodder because of unavailability of fodder in forests. They were back by forenoon with pending household chores waiting for them. “My wife has to walk longer distances for collecting fodder everyday and especially in winters for surplus fodder requirement that affects her health in big way” informs Beerulal of Maikhanda village in Upper Kedarnath Valley. I could also notice most of the men not being involved in collection. But many a times situations gets worse during fodder collection and they fell from rocks and trees fracturing their bones and in extreme situations they die because of inadequate medical help.

I completed my PhD field work in 2008 with detailed evaluations of all sorts of biomass flow from forests to nearby villages and their impact. Extraction of biomass and species preference is largely based on the indigenous knowledge and skills developed by years of experience of locals in forest related activities rather than scientific justifications. Hence, based on conclusions of my work and more excursions to other remote valleys of Garhwal and Kumaon in Central Himalaya I could understand wider picture about the issue.

I had a plan to develop a fodder based model on a community waste land to ensure round the year fodder supply. I shared my thoughts and concept with locals by organising a small meeting of Mahila Mangal Dals in few villages of Upper Kedarnath valley in 2008. Most of the locals particularly women readily agreed to test the concept.

Project Fodder

I went with my concept to state level sensitization meet of Department of Science and Technology, Govt. of India in November 2008 with expectation for some finances to materialise my concept. To my surprise even senior level scientists seemed pleased with the perception. Some of them were curious too. “Why don`t you increase your grant amount? Why not plant multipurpose species?” commented one of the senior level scientists. “I will be focussing on fodder species because if I choose multipurpose trees I will be inviting wild animals to fruit trees and they might be threat to crops of locals” I answered. After a series of queries and responses they were convinced and were ready to provide me grant for my work.


So, I was ready with some funds and in next few months we started our field activities. After a detailed discussion and taking opinion of both locals and experts I focussed on of fodder trees, shrubs and grasses that were indigenous, fast growing, high biomass yielding, nutritious and in long run could provide some economic benefits too. The indigenous species were selected by people based on their need, their indigenous knowledge about species with regards to enhanced lactation and better nutrition of animals. More than eight years of my research on forest ecosystems and people’s interaction helped me in identifying and prioritizing species for plantation.

Maikhanda village cluster in Upper Kedarnath Valley of Central Himalaya with a majority of poor and scheduled people with limited resources was chosen for model site. Willingness of local communities to provide village community land for fodder bank and some agriculture land for nursery helped us tremendously. Series of meetings with women and motivated men were held before and during execution of each activity i.e. fodder plantation, species selection, pits digging, fencing, land preparation etc.

Initiatives were also taken to focus on mass propagation of some lesser known and multipurpose tree species which are very much preferred as fodder available from agro-forests and degraded areas on road sides. In the initiative we also ensured to introduce some fast growing grass species that are not going to be detrimental to the biodiversity. Trenches were dug in the entire fodder bank site to enhance the percolation of water and survival of fodder plants. A cost effective Rain water harvesting tank was also constructed using local resources to store the rain water as the area faces shortage of water during summers.

Building Capacity

During our plantation and capacity building programmes we discovered that most of the locals are planting fodder trees and grasses just out of their interest and they are totally unaware about scientific plantation and multiplication techniques. Some women were even too excited initially in grabbing free of cost seedlings without understanding that not all species can grow on all altitudes.

They were stiff in starting the experiment in their own kitchen gardens “This is all by government for us only” yelled one of the dominant looking woman in the group. Sustainable harvesting of fodder from trees and shrubs was also demonstrated in these small capacity building training programmes. Taking a step ahead while we started our activities at the fodder bank site we also started plantation of all these high biomass, fast growing grasses on cropland bunds of locals.

The Impact

After almost a year from 2010 onwards more than 65 household of the village initially reported 15 harvestings every month and stall feeding of Napier grass and other indigenous fodder species to their milching animals. There are few families in the village those are not visiting nearby forests anymore. Number of women beneficiaries is increasing every six months who are introducing these fast growing high biomass yielding species in their own cropland bunds and kitchen gardens. Lactation yield of local livestock has also improved and directly indicating the nutritional quality of the fodder.

The future

For the sustainability of this whole concept after three years in 2012 the model was transferred to local Mahila Mangal Dals. Women of the village consider it their own community forest and harvest fodder on a rotational basis. Person not abiding with regulations have to pay compensation that directly goes in maintenance of nursery and fodder bank site. Nursery is still running with nominal financial support from me and selling seedlings and fodder seeds at nominal cost.

Locals have not stopped yet and they are still working in multiplication and plantation of these fast growing grasses on cropland bunds of entire village to become a green and self sufficient village in long run. For women and locals of the valley, Fodder bank Model has brought the discovery that the solution to seasonal fodder deficit, and milk output from, lies not with the cattle, but with growing smart grass.

Further reading:


Photo: Capacity building for planting fodder grasses

Blogpost by Dr.Shalini Dhyani, Scientist, CSIR-NEERI (Nagpur, Maharashtra, India) – shalini3006(at)
Photo by Dr. Deepak Dhyani


This post is entry nr #21 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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punjab farmer

I am neither a scientist nor a politician. I am just a type of person considered as a ‘development practitioner’. I try to look at the problem from a macro point of view – considering an institutional framework, as well as the ground challenges and YES, my name is Meerim and I am from Kyrgyzstan.

This blogpost is an attempt to present complex ideas which succinctly drives the forest sector in Kyrgyzstan. You have to limit yourself to explain something, so don’t expect academic tracts or state-of-the-art info graphics. Instead, look forward to surprisingly simple explanations of our inexplicable society and to having some of preconceived ideas radically challenged in Kyrgyzstan and worldwide.

This blogpost is about change from our day-to-day lives to the big and almost incomprehensible changes with a specific focus on youth involvement in forestry and other important ecosystems. Some are more serious and complicated than others. And none of them are explored here in depth: I am giving you a food for thought that I hope will whet your appetite to find out more.

This is my feelings and thoughts which I got from my master thesis on natural resource management in Kyrgyzstan with a focus on the forest sector. Of course, the 700 words in this blog post it is just a selection of my findings and some of today’s fundamental upheavals.

The focus of my study was on forest ecosystems in Kyrgyzstan, especially the community participation and its management. Because the way forest resources management is organized (globally) has strong implications in cultural terms, and on the way society it controls and distributes access, in terms of social institutions as well as in terms of political/legal arrangements. In other words, not only “economy” and “law” but “cultural, social and political” elements as well.

For this study, I looked at the Community Forest Management model in order to identify and analyze challenges in local communities in the country. Through this study several of discussions and interviews were carried out, including representatives from the Government, forestry specialists and experts in the country, moreover a field trip was conducted to interview the local people, particularly forest users. It was identified in my study that there is a need for a more intensive social mobilization of the community as a whole and the opportunities afforded by community based management should be conducted to allow for broader participation.

However, the most important thing which came out of this study is a lack of young people living in rural areas. A huge migration flow is rising to urban areas or/and abroad and therefore old people and women became the main labor force. Women and old people have become the main labor force, playing key roles in local communities, however they are not being capable of handling some of the labor requirements and hence these local communities are not given the opportunity to handle a portion of the land.

Participation of young people in rural areas is crucial and in long-term prospective this issue may curb the pressure on the forest sector in the country as whole. I believe the same thing happens in many developing countries and globally speaking this may led to greater challenges in the forest sector. It is important to highlight the importance of this sector which contributes many key political and economical interventions and they way forests are managed can whether significantly influence the success or dramatically fail it.

The lack of youth involvement and management creates different challenges in our societies including governance problems, environmental degradation, livelihoods problems/economic cause and climate change impacts which appear to be intensifying to the problems and potential worsening of our future. Youth participation in forest resources management (and other ecosystems) is a global problem and it can not be solved by the global economy that we have, but it could be changed by a global government that we do not have.

The future is already tomorrow and without youngsters our world will degrade and fall apart. Therefore the question pops up: “Who rules the world ?” Youth?

Blogpost by Meerim Shakirova (Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan) – mshakirova(at)
Picture by Peter Casier/CCAFS


This post is entry nr #20 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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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)


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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ber wadi

A farming system based model piloted in ecologically fragile arid-desert areas

This story is about emerging initiative that demonstrates that agro ecological farming with arid specificity is an appropriate and cost-effective approach to increase resilience in drought prone, ecologically fragile arid most/desert areas. There is growing agreement amongst planners, researchers and development agencies about the need for different development approach for Drought Prone and Ecologically Fragile Arid Most Region  of North -Western India.

These regions are characterized by poor natural resource base, perpetual drought, very high temperature, and very low precipitation, scarcity of water, low content of organic matter and presence of soluble salt in the soil. Agriculture is mostly rain fed with annual rainfall being 250 mm, received over a period of 12-15 days . Communities face difficult life owing to scarcity of water, fuel and fodder and subsistence agriculture yield. Migration to cities is mostly adopted as a coping mechanism.

Human communities have adapted to very harsh and adverse physical environments. There is however scope and opportunity for enhancing livelihoods in adverse conditions, by bringing in new knowledge and ideas and systematically integrating them with traditional indigenous knowledge and skills.

In this new paradigm, farming systems are seen as a whole, integrating agri- horti-livestock, fodder and water at household level which helps farmers to reap multiple benefits. The programme is being implemented in Barmer district of Rajasthan in coordination with Rajasthan Rural Institute of Development Management, Udaipur

As a strategy, it was decided to utilize the existing natural resources judiciously by conserving every drop of scarce water, strengthen the livestock based farming system, improve the degraded community pastures through promotion of silvipasture, increasing land productivity and income through various inventions like agro-horticulture, agro-forestry and diversified improved agriculture. The interventions were also aimed at creating more productive assets both at family and at the community level   .

The model is built around traditional tanka (underground water storage structure)  system of desert communities. The efforts are made to integrate its use in agro ecological farming system combining agri, horti, fodder and livestock promotion on lands adjacent to Dhanis (Traditional hamlet). Farmers were motivated to plant trees that required less water for getting a stable income from the land.

The choice of fruit plants included ber (Ziziphus mauritiana), Pomegranate (Punica granatum), Gondi (Cordia gheraf) and date palm owing to their tolerance to excessive heat, survival in salinity and less water requirement. Around 50 plants of two hybrid ber varieties (Gola and Seb) promoted by CAZRI, were planted along with 50 other fruit-yielding plants on half an acre area. Other adaptation techniques were also used. For instance, SYBOIN –S, a PH reducer, was used to increase water storage capacity of sandy soils. Vermicompost and organic manures were added to enhance root growth. In forestry, trees like khejari (Prosopis cineraria) were introduced to meet fuel wood and fodder requirement. For nutritional security, vegetable crops suitable for arid region like water melon, cucumber, ridge gourd, bottle gourd were grown on fence.

Apart from land based interventions, to improve the quality of the existing breeds, cross breeding with ‘Sindhi’ breed of goat was promoted which has higher yield of meat and milk as compared to mix of Marwari and Sirohi breeds which were reared originally.

To improve forage production, traditional practice of protection of commons was revived for silvipasture development.and  perennial forage grasses like Sewan (Lasiurus Sindicus), Dhaman (Cenchrus setigerus) and stylo hamata, and fodder trees like Pilu (Careya arborea), Gondi (Cordia dichotoma), Neem and Shirish (Indian siris).were planted.

Activities were introduced with technical inputs from various technical institutes working on dessert issues like, Central Arid Zone Research Institute (CAZRI),Jodhpur, Arid Forest Research Institute (AFRI), Jodhpur and Rajasthan Agriculture University (RAU), Bikaner.. Local KVKs provided training and extension, soil testing support along with supply of improved seeds suitable for desert regions.

After a consistent effort of past 5 years, today one can see a synergistic impact that is  produced on the livelihood situation of desert communities in this region. The  income from fruit trees is fully realizable from year 4 . Average income from 80 plants per household from forth year are around Rs. 30,000/- Where as additional income from goat intervention is Rs 4500/- in two years. Ber also  plants provided an additional advantage with their green foliage serving as fodder. From the fourth year onwards, each ber plant has yielded around 4kg of fodder. With 80 trees per wadi, every household had a potential to harvest 320 kg of fodder, which could support goat rearing.

Apart from direct income gains, there are several ‘’income plus ‘’ benefits which are valuable to farmers.  When asked about scope for sale of vegetables that were ready to harvest from wadi  , the farmer  refused the  idea saying that, ‘’ This is a gift of God to me for the first time from this land . So, I will not sell it but will distribute it freely! ’’

This farming system model combining water-resource development with agri-horti-forestry and fodder and livestock development, is thus  emerging as a viable and sustainable approach for addressing a gamut of core needs of desert communities with replication potential. The efforts are now required for proper mainstreaming of this approach across arid parts of South Asia…

Photo: A farmer from Barmer district of Rajasthan looking at fruit bearing ber wadi
Photo by: Abhay Gandhe and BAIF team

Blogpost by Rajashree Joshi -Thematic Program Executive, BAIF Development Research Foundation (Pune, India) – rajeshreejoshi(at)


This post is entry nr #18 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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In the forest communities of Africa, a division of labour has long been clear among men and women. Women have typically been in charge of feeding the family through food crops cultivation with their diet completed with non-timber forest product (NTFP) collection, while the men helped to clear the food crop plots and concentrated more on cash crop cultivation and hunting. NTFP gathering and food crop cultivation were mainly for domestic use. But gone are those days! Nowadays, the opening up of remote areas, better access to urban markets and new opportunities of income have motivated women as well as men in forest communities to be actively involved in the sale of NTFPs and agricultural products in order to make more money.

Unlike in the past, one can say things are improving for the best for the rural woman” says Mr Kira TONGO Boniface, a Bantou native from Petit-Pol village in the East Region of Cameroon, during a gender-segregated focus group discussion (FGD) in his community. He claims there are so many activities – agriculture, NTFP gathering, etc. – the rural woman is involved in presently, which provide her with daily income to sustain her family. Is this really the case?

Interestingly, information obtained through gender-segregated FGDs showed that men and women have a similar access to NTFPs in the wild, with restrictions occurring only on plots of land under cultivation or in fallows, where in general the land owner and his or her close relatives have exclusive access to these products. However, the men and women who participated in the discussions expressed having different preferences for forest products.  The women take more interest in NTFPs such as Bush mango, for which they are the primary gatherers, processors and sellers. Fewer men are involved in this activity. Those involved say they do to raise income when they are in dire need for money while some do it as a form of assistance to their wives when they are out of activities. Men are much more actively involved in other forest-related activities such as bush meat hunting and small-scale logging.

Nowadays, NTFPs are more valued because the revenue they provide is becoming increasingly important to rural communities. But then, some hindrances – the seasonal nature and unpredictable productivity of NTFPs, lack of experience by traders, limited access to processing technologies, poor marketing strategies and inadequate market information, etc. – arise! This weighs on the amount of income realised from NTFP sales.

Though NTFP gathering and sale are important and profitable to some extent, we cannot rely solely on them for our survival”, says Madam Ndimba, a Bulu native from Metylkpwale village in the South Region of Cameroon. “We can’t eat only (?) NTFPs every day, we need to diversify our diet, we need money when NTFPs are not producing and money from NTFP sale is not enough to provide income for the family throughout the year. We need more money. As a result, we expanded our agricultural activities (more plots of farmlands were open, more crops were planted) – which is now the principal activity – primarily for subsistence and secondly as a means to raise income for the household” she said.

Because of the increasing cash flow from NTFP gathering and food crop cultivation and sale, men are becoming interested in these “women’s businesses”. When asked why, Mr. Menguele Jean, a Bulu native from Ngon village, South Region of Cameroon, replied: “cocoa produces just once a year and before production we need money for farm maintenance and also for family upkeep. We therefore, decided to open larger plots in order to produce more food crops too for sale.” This new drive for income over time has led to more labour for the women who are expected to cultivate larger plots while maintaining their demanding daily house chores.

During a FGD in Melambo village in the East Region of Cameroon, Mrs Adrienne, a newly wed lady complained that she laboured more for money, yet earned less than she thought she would. She said: “we the women, who do most of the labour, get to remain retailers of NTFPs and food crops with very little profit, but the men – natives and non-natives alike – have become more of wholesalers and are enjoying most of the profit without labouring as much as we do”. As a result, the respective share from the sale of NTFPs and agricultural products between men and women needs to be renegotiated.

Photo: Family in Kouedjina,East Cameroon collected bush mango for sale as a family business

Blogpost by Yvonne Kiki Nchanji – Consultant/Gender Fellow, Center for International Forestry Research-CIFOR (Yaoundé, Cameroon) – ynchanji(at)
Photo by Camille Dehu


This post is entry nr #17 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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I am Manish, from a small village called Navinagar in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. Currently I am pursuing Masters Program in Agro-Forestry from SHIATS, Allahabad, where my journey to initiate a change in the present form of agriculture which mostly is concerned only with crop cultivation began, at least at a micro level.

Basically I belong to a family having sole agricultural background and family income is largely dependent on it. I started visiting the fields with my father since I was 13-14 years old. I saw how the farmers’ fate was at large determined by the will of the monsoons due to much dependency on rains for irrigation and lack of adequate irrigation facilities.

After completing my secondary education from agriculture stream at intermediate level, I decided to opt for forestry sciences as major subject for my further studies, the reason behind being my strong inclination towards nature and environment. So for my higher studies in the desired stream I took admission in SHIATS, Allahabad, which is one of India’s premier institutes in the field of Agricultural and Forestry sciences.

It all started when I visited my home after completing my first year of graduation. I realised that the kind of farming practices farmers were following were not fetching them decent returns, all credited to the backward farming practices adopted by them. The farmers were reluctant to go for tree plantation in or around the fields. This tendency was due to the belief that growing trees with crops will adversely affect their crop yields because trees will consume much of water and nutrients and there will not be sufficient production due to such scarcity. Not much emphasis was laid on the scarce forest cover which was gradually reducing as more parts of land were being cleared and brought under cultivation to get higher gains in economic terms.

This prevailing system required a change and I took this chance as an opportunity to impart my academic knowledge in the interest of farmer community towards some applicable good. So first of all I discussed this matter with my father. Although he was aware of all those things but the benefits of the technical front that
I put forward were hard to digest even for him, leave rest.

It required keeping at stake a huge chunk of land and above all the related output for the sake of experimentation and this made him a bit shy. The reason for this was age long traditional cropping pattern and the belief that trees and crops cannot be grown together in a compatible manner. This required a paradigm shift. I told my father that there is no such issue that trees will hamper crop cultivation. Instead this will raise capital by providing timber and other produce ultimately contributing to the financial strengthening.

I somehow gained a bit in convincing him. Since Poplar was easy to grow, required less or no special care and provided handsome timber output, we decided to plant Poplar trees along the fields’ periphery. We grew wheat, rice, mustard and potato along with Poplar and the results were quite fascinating. There was no significant reduction in the crop yield and the first batch of Poplar was ready within four years. The timber was in high demand so it also fetched good sum.

Since the results were quite fruitful, it inspired other farmers also to take up this practice and a new trend of agro-forestry based farming began in my village. I also tendered my cooperation and with their help expanded the new practice.

This practice has now become very popular among the farmers. At present about 85% of the farmers in my village are using agro-forestry models. They are also planting Teak and Subabul trees other than Poplar. The production from one hectare plantation is 120-180 cubic meters of saw log timber, depending upon the tree type.

I found that the awareness for agro-forestry technologies among farmers is low and this could be due to ineffective communication about the long term benefits of agro-forestry technologies between the change agents and other farmers.

This is the right time for agro-forestry extension. Natural tree cover has been diminishing over the years due to human activities of settlement and agriculture, gradually leading to land degradation by soil erosion, which has become a cause of constant drought, landslide, flood and ecological imbalance. This has also led to various socio-economic problems of which exorbitantly high cost of timber for construction work and industries, crisis of fuelwood for cooking and other purposes, scarcity of tree based fodder for animals in arid and semi-arid areas are only to name some.

There should be concern regarding steps required to be considered for extension. Local resources need to be identified prior to necessary external assistance for system and community needs should be kept in mind while planning for such activities; these may include items like water, food, shelter, energy etc. Different society groups could be assigned specific roles while coming up with the plans. Well organised surveys should be carried out to establish the resources base of the community, including land, labour and capital and the problems associated with utilization of the resources in the much anticipated agro-forestry system. The entrepreneurial ability of the community members must also be identified because this influences the intensity with which the existing resources are exploited.

At last concluding I would like to say that youth should come forward and enhance the scope of agro-forestry based systems. They are innovative and should impart their technical and managerial skills towards this developmental framework. With this pattern we can lend out a helping hand towards the depleting forest resources and simultaneously contribute to the economic upliftment of a larger section of the society which is directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture. Growth is important but sustainable growth is what present concern is.

Comments & suggestions are warmly welcomed

Picture: Top: different Agro-Forestry Models – Bottom: author (center) with farm labourers

Blogpost and photo by Manish Kumar (Navinagar, Uttar Pradesh, India) – manishmaanchaudhary(at)


This post is entry nr #16 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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A Giant Bamboo plant on the edge of River Njoro in Nakuru, Kenya

Bamboo used to be commonly referred to as the poor man’s timber. However research on and demand for bamboo products is defying this tag in an era. As demand for wood surges, several bamboo species are now being used for different purposes ranging from furniture making to land reclamation.

Bamboo has been popular and in very high demand in Asia where it is common in rafting but now this grass is being used the world over.

Yellow bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris) is mostly used for ornamental purposes while the giant bamboo (Dendrocalamus giganteus) is used in building, for food and furniture making. The edible bamboo shoots have become a delicacy in several fine-dining establishments especially those that cater to those with oriental preferences.

Bamboo in Kenya

In Kenya, the major uses are on river beds for soil conservation especially in areas where surface runoff threatens soil health.

The country has experienced a boom in the need for timber as the construction industry expands. This has left most lands denuded as forests are cleared for wood and cultivation.

The fast growing giant bamboo can be used as an alternative source of fuel and timber in the country. However, its production has been limited as it requires expansive swathes of land to be commercially viable.

The country has several bamboo types with the most common being Arundinaria alpina which is restricted to the highlands above 2,000 meters above sea level.

A now defunct project in Thika focused on the yellow and giant bamboo species. The project ostensibly failed because large tracts of land would be needed to commercially grow the giant bamboo. This is beside the fact that most forest land has been deforested and the rehabilitation of water towers like the Mau and Mt. Kenya forests have not incorporated the giant bamboo.

The Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) is growing several edible bamboo species shoots, as they are high in trace elements and vitamins but low in carbohydrates, fat and protein.

There is also a new venture in bamboo clothing as it is durable and the target is a self-sustaining clothes line with bamboo as the raw material and with products ranging from bags, shoes, curtains, carpets and many more to create job opportunities and self-sustenance for several families.

The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) has trained local artisans to make bamboo furniture. Among these was the Undugu Society which deals with accommodating and rehabilitating street children.

The products were made under the tutelage of Wayan Neka, an Indonesian, who taught artisans from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda to make high quality bamboo products.

Margaret Oluoch, author of “Putting Science into Practice”, is one beneficiary who learned from Dr. Chin Ong who was in charge of the project at ICRAF. She founded Smejak, an organization dealing with conservation in agriculture.

Margaret has managed to apply the science and replicate it in her rural home in Kisumu to rehabilitate a river and also for fruit production on her farm in Kisumu. She says, “It came to me as a surprise that we can restore our land using resources we already have as we do not need to search for seeds. For instance, if I have to plant croton, I just need to collect the seeds and in due time they will germinate and be ready for transplanting.”

Margaret adds that science was so much in the books but is now implementing it to rehabilitate the Oroba River through the Friends of Oroba River initiative bringing the community together harnessing the resources and reclaiming them.

For the environment conservationists, advocating the use of Bamboo for its products will help not only in conserving nature but also addressing the emotive climate change issue.

Giant bamboo is one of the best sources of the demanded building materials that are sustainable. Unlike other trees, it grows at very high rate (three times faster than eucalyptus!) and matures in only three years. The towering plant can grow to a height of a hundred feet.

As a source of food, edible species of bamboo are being used extensively in Asia with the world consuming an estimated two million tonnes a year. Europe and North America are importing over a hundred and thirty tonnes a year!

Bamboo has several advantages, the major ones being self-replenishing, resilient and easy to maintain. Another reason why bamboo is preferred to other trees is that it creates a source of income generation which is manageable to many people especially those in low income groups who cannot afford a high capital to start their sources of livelihood.

Environmentally and most importantly, bamboo does not consume a lot of water. It can be grown in all areas from sea level to the highlands and it also has excellent hydrological properties in terms of high infiltration rates and low erosion rates compared to other types of land use.

Bamboo is very effective in soil erosion control as its rhizomes are very good in holding surface runoff thus it can be used to curb the problem of silting and sedimentation in rivers and lakes which is a problem on the headwaters, especially the Tana river which has as much as five litres of top soil per cubic meter of water flowing into the Indian ocean.

Bamboo is also very important in balancing oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with some species sequestering up to twelve tonnes of carbon dioxide from the air per square hectare and is also the fastest growing canopy for the re-greening of degraded areas.

The bamboo plant is known to absorb heavy metals from water bodies thus can be very effective in sewage cleansing and can be planted along river banks for the same purposes.

Bamboo is also being used in the manufacture of parquets which is a direction away from the tradition of boards being made from other trees like the eucalyptus, mahogany and many more.

The market response in Europe and North America has been described as ‘very good’ where a square meter of the board is retailing at a range of between eighty and a hundred dollars.

Photo: A giant bamboo plant on the edge of River Njoro in Nakuru, Kenya

Blogpost and photo by Njenga Hakeenah (Nairobi, Kenya) – njenga.hakeenah(at)


This post is entry nr #15 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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I grew up in a small family farm in Shivalik1 foot hills during 1960’s & 1970’s, listening to my mother & aunts mostly talking agonizing fodder scarcity.

Here crop-livestock integrated farming was the major source of livelihood & women in my village would mostly talk about fodder & livestock than chatting about their kids, their food & education. With ever reducing village commons & small land holdings, preferring fodder cultivation over growing food crops was considered a crazy idea then. Livestock would better graze in the nearby forest and survive largely on crop residues and lopped tree fodders.

Later, equipped with highest degrees in agricultural science from premier agricultural university and a veterinary research institute, I spent over six years during 1990s in Central Himalayan region of India as an Agricultural extension scientist. I extensively toured the region, to understand the local farmers & their problems so as to find ways to improve their life through improved livestock productivity.

I found feed and fodder scarcity was still a major constraint in the region, making life of rural women further stressful adding to drudgery as they had to spend most of their time in collecting fuel wood & fodder for livestock. Livestock has always been an integral part of mountain mixed farming system, which not only provide milk & meat but also an important source of manure for fertilizing soil.

From my childhood to half a century now, the women in this region still discuss the same old problem-fodder! my mother over 80 years now, whenever, I go to my village, her major worry remains- fodder for her single cow! Pity, I can’t help my mother- for things as small as grass!!!

We can see every morning women leaving homes in search of either fuel wood or fodder, risking their lives they climb up fodder trees every day. While lopping trees for fodder, women sometime fell down causing at time irrecoverable injuries making them handicapped for life. The hard working rural women of this region almost worship & nurture Grewia optiva, Celtis australis & Quercus leucotrichophora- the important fodder trees of the region. Women love these trees, may be more than their men, especially Grevia optiva is valued much for its multi- purpose uses like making ropes from its fibre, fuel wood & fodder which is also said to improve fat content in milk if fed to milch animals.

Since women continue to do most of the animal husbandry related tasks, they spend substantial time on fodder collection, hey making etc. I’m grown up since my childhood with lot many changes in my life, but the life of women here remains same regarding fodder needs for their livestock. In foot hills, farmers have adopted green fodder cultivation especially clover to some extent, but up in the hills problem remain as mountainous as it has always been!

At 50 years now, just like a middle age crisis/middle age blues, I wonder, if we can reduce the drudgery of women in rural areas of Uttarakhand by improving the fodder biomass production on- farm! Can we improve the availability of fodder through improved fodder cultivation practices or by improving the productivity of fodder trees through suitable interventions?

Maybe we can do a little good for women & livestock, if:

  • Contribution of women in terms of their time & energy spent on fodder harvesting from trees & risk involved is worked out and life is insured.
  • The importance of fodder trees, their potential for multiple uses especially for fodder availbility is documented.
  • Research is carried on enhancing the biomass from these fodder trees including the nutritional profile of such trees.
  • Women are trained on improving the net productivity from livestock by improving feeding strategies involving cultivated fodder production practices.
  • Men start appreciating women’s role & share their livestock related activities including fodder harvesting from trees.

I wish what I have seen since my childhood- a life full of drudgery for rural women of Uttarakhand, change to better quality of life through improved fodder biomass production on-farm!

Photo: Two women in a fodder tree

Blogpost and photo by Dr Mahesh Chander, Principal Scientist & Head, Division of Extension Education, Indian Veterinary Research Institute (Izatnagar, India) – mchanderivri(at)


This post is entry nr #14 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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Is it easy to grab a bull by the horn and force it to drink water in a well?…. That might not be an easy task even if the bull could be thirsty.

When the populace of Northern Uganda begun experiencing relative peace after the 20 years of Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency (LRA – popularly known as KONY 2012), there was need to restore the degraded landscape where a semi-scorched earth policy was used by both Ugandan Militia and the LRA rebels.

The Ugandan militia cleared vegetation and set fires in woodlands annually for 20 years so that they could expose the LRA rebels from their hideouts and for easy visibility if the rebels were attacking the Internally Displaced Persons Camps (IDP). The rebels engaged in massive lumbering and charcoal production in the forest and woodlands to exchange with ammunition with Sudan government.

The IDPs also did not spare vegetation in vicinity of the camps and the remaining scattered trees in woodlands upon return home and trade in forest produce was the only source of deriving a livelihood all of which exacerbated the weather of the region.

Having defeated and driven away the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels from Northern Uganda, Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) were also having some rest in their barracks as the people resettled to their original homestead. As people resettled, their immediate priority were food, healthcare and educating their children. This required avenues where they could make quick money. Most of them believed that afforestation or agroforestry was not one avenue to derive quick money to meet their immediate needs though trade in forest produce was one of their best avenues of survival since agricultural productivity where affected by unreliable weather given the prolonged drought and frequent floods experienced. As we left the camps to resettle in our original homes, we were not entitled to food ration we enjoyed in the camps given by United Nations World Food Programme (UN-WFP).

Through our face to face outreach in homesteads, schools and public meetings, use of mass media (Tree Talk Magazine and Radio Talk shows) the community and children in schools where motivated and therefore got engaged in massive afforestation drive through which over 3 million trees where grown in households and schools between 2008 and 2011, more than 1500 energy saving stoves constructed in households, 500 school teachers trained, Local Environment Committee formed among other key result areas with funding from USAID under Wildlife, Landscape and Development for Conservation (WILD) Project.

Accessing military barracks in Uganda during and after the LRA war if you are a civilian is very difficult, like castrating a dog. Since the government militia participated in degrading our landscape and won the war, there was need to reach to them in their various barracks to convince them to get involved in restoration processes in the degraded landscape since the barracks also had vast hectares of land.

Armed with data/information on the extend of degradation in our landscapes we dared to visit Pajimo Army Barracks in Kitgum and made to wait at the quarter guard (gate) for 6 hours being interrogated for our motives of visit. It is through this 6 hours interrogation that I realized the power of passion; that if you are driven by passion, you will never cowardice and never run out of words however tough a question might be asked.

When given opportunity to meet and discuss with the Brigade Commander of the barracks, he got convinced that the military indeed must be part of the restoration and rehabilitation process of post-war landscape and also apologized on behalf of the entire army and pledge immediate involvement of all the barracks under his charge if we could provide the seedlings they required. Together with the Commander and my fellow colleagues, we immediately embarked on a reconnaissance of the barrack to do site species matching and it is here that I saw some of the weapons I feared there sound during the war.

When asked why he accepted us to enter and took us round the barracks, the commander told us that first, we were young, looked harmless and secondly that we had a strong justification for immediate action and that that was the best way of showing to us his commitment. But we also later realized that he underwent University education and partly why it was easy to have him convinced.

To date, all the barracks in Kitgum and Lamwo District have a minimum of 2hectares of woodlots, there is a Tree Nursery in Banabana barracks where they raise seedlings for sale and own planting, tree canopy is now helping them hide the ammunitions and able to meet their energy requirements, construction materials and diet enriched given the fruit trees we donated.

When I visited the barracks during Christmas of 2013, I was humbled. The commander told me that the greatest achievement in his 35 year military career was defeating Kony rebels and the trees he planted in the barracks. That he will never regret the orders he gave to his soldiers to plant trees in the barracks and that once he retired, all he will miss in the barracks are the trees.

The sight of his soldiers feeding on fruits brings him great joy. That when food ration for soldiers delays, he is no longer stressed because he is sure they will feed on the fruits as an option for some time. He tells me that if I am willing, he could take me to other barracks to do the same and that with the relative peace we are enjoying now in Uganda, barracks must be re-greened and all soldiers and civilians must plant fruits trees in their individual homes.

Photo: The author (front) and Ugandan soldiers loading seedlings from the author’s nursery to be planted at the first barracks

Blogpost and photo by Joseph Otim, a Forest Supervisor at National Forestry Authority (Kampala, Uganda) – jpotim(at)


This post is entry nr #13 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 26 votes, with an average score of 4.5 (out of a max of 5).

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Here in Central Alberta Canada, we live in the Aspen Parkland Biome. This means that our natural ecosystem consists of groves of poplars and spruce trees with a variety of understory perennial shrubs, vines and ground cover species. These clusters of trees would be interspersed with areas of prairie grasslands that were historically home to massive herds of grazing bison.

This biome is extremely resilient, very productive and perfect for our climate. Seeing as this is what our landscape naturally wants to become; why not work with it to achieve its true potential instead of fighting natural succession, expending huge amounts of time and resources in the process! Why not set up a farm that mimics our native biome?

By using the Aspen Parkland Biome as our template we can create a farm that is beyond organic and beyond sustainable. A farm that is regenerative and resilient because it functions as nature intended. What if we swap poplar, birch and box elder for apples, pears, cherries, plums and apricots? Change our native conifers for Korean Pine and we’ve got pine nuts as big as pistachios! Throw in some walnuts, chestnuts and oaks from the Oak Savannah Biome just south of us and we have our canopy species!

The mid story and understory is a little easier as hazelnuts, raspberries, cherries, saskatoons, cranberries, gooseberries and currants are already native here. However, we could add a few extras like mulberries, haskaps/honeyberries and hardy kiwis just to mix things up a bit. As for the ground layer, well we can just stick to strawberries and an incredible variety of medicinal plants that already call this place home! That covers our wooded areas, now what about the interspersed areas of grasslands?

We can simply plant some native grasses and some legumes in between our groves of fruit and nut trees and we are almost done! The last step is integrating animals into our farm system to manage the grassland and contribute to the fertility cycle. Seeing as bison are a little hard to manage and the fact we already have cattle, pigs and some chickens why not let them roam around keeping the trees and lush grass in check! Now add in all the native birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects and mammals that are desperately looking for a place to call their own, and there you have it! A farm cleverly disguised as a thriving ecosystem.

But how do we harvest these 25 plus edible trees, shrubs and perennials along with the hundreds of other culinary and medicinal herbs that would undoubtedly love to call this place home? Well by dividing our summer growing season, from about June to October, into 3 harvest periods per month we would get a total of 15 harvest times. Then, by simply grouping all of our desired edible crops into one or possibly two of these harvest periods our harvesting suddenly becomes less daunting and incredibly efficient.

Now, if we dig a shallow swale that follows the natural contour or Keyline of the land we can plant our trees, shrubs and perennials on the lower side of these swales. This will allow any and all water that falls on the landscape to be be spread out evenly and absorbed into the ground above the plant’s roots. Then, as the subsurface water plumes towards the awaiting roots it will be safe from the evaporative effects of the Sun! Plant these rows in pairs at regular intervals across the land, fence them off and bring in the animals! This farm is ready to roll!

So there you have it, a farm that can create and manage its own fertility, build soil, passively manage water and sequester carbon all while provide carbohydrates, proteins and oils for human or animal consumption, fruits that contain hundreds of nutraceutical properties, trees for timber, fuel and forage among many, many other things! We already have two small examples of this systems on our farm near Ferintosh, Alberta.

With over 80 fruit and nut trees and 200 plus support plants in the ground, it covers just over one acre. In the summer of 2014 we have plans to expand this to a larger 25 acre parcel. This expansion is going to be in partnership with our local community in the form of Community Supported Agriculture Forest Garden Shares. By working with our community we are adding a whole other level of diversity and resilience to our plan that we feel will get people back on the land to actually see where there food comes from. For more information about our farm and to see a video we made about our vision. Just visit our website, it should help you get a better picture of how it will all come together.

There is a Greek Proverb that reads “societies become great when old men and women plant trees who’s shade they know they will never enjoy”. I believe this adage is extremely relevant given our current state of affairs on our planet. Our current Agricultural system is largely responsible for the degradation of our Air, Soil, Water and diversity. We are literally eating our planet to death, but this doesn’t have to be the case!

By paying attention to our local biomes around the world we can tailor our farming practices to flow with the natural patterns that best suit the land were we live. Many people all around the world have been practicing this new kind of farming for years now! People like Martin Crawford, Mark Shepard, Sepp Holzer, Geoff Lawton, Bill Molison, Stefan Sobkowiak and many other greats! They all saw that Mother nature is here ready to help, and they all reached out and took her hand!

These kinds of natural farms will take years to establish but once in production it will provide nourishment for decades and with a little care even longer! Now is the time to start implementing farms like this en mass. Just think, some day our children’s children will have a place to sit in the shade and marvel at this wondrous world we call home.

Photo: Cherries in the Forest Garden

Blogpost and photo by Takota Coen – Grass Roots Family Farm (Alberta, Canada) – takota_coen(at)


This post is entry nr #12 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 18 votes, with an average score of 5 (out of a max of 5).

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Poplar based agroforestry (PBAF), in North India, is widely quoted as a successful land use intervention for sustaining farming and generating benefits to the farming community. Spearheading the forestry program in the company which has been and is still the backbone of poplar program, I feel it is an appropriate platform to put up some of its salient features in this blog for the benefit of agroforesters, scientists and other followers.

Indo-gangetic plains of North India are the food bowl of the country. This region is one of the highly productive belt for food grain production and was the torch bearer of green revolution. This revolution undoubtedly secured food for millions of Indians and we have been the food surplus Nation for decades now.

High input intensive agriculture during green revolution deteriorated soil health and stagnated crop productivity. Farm income from agriculture crops has been marginalized with successive increasing production costs. Search for alternative land use led to economically viable integrated PBAF which is often referred as commercial and industrial agroforestry. It is generating remunerative returns (sometimes up to Rs. one lakh/acre/year net returns) to the growers and many innovative partnerships are developing for its extensive culture among landless, land owners, poor and rich peoples.  The success is based on introduced Eastern Cottonwood species (Populus deltoides) in new geographical locations where non of the indigenous or introduced poplars have ever existed before this endeavor.

Some states are now recommending and promoting PBAF for diversification from intensive land degrading paddy culture to multifunctional, sustainable and tree-crop integrated stable farm land use production system. It is now meeting the twin objectives of food and wood security in addition to other forestry, environmental, industrial, economical, financial, and rural development applications. Timber production from PBAF is now providing wood security for around 2000 poplar based industrial units manufacturing three dozen products in addition to firewood security for rural inhabitants.

PBAF, through its integrated components of agriculture and tree crops, is maintaining greenery on farm land throughout the year and is a reflection of true evergreen revolution. Poplar has better integration with intercrops on farm land and over dozen agriculture crops are grown in PBAF throughout the retention of trees on farm land. There is some loss in crop production under PBAF which increases with age of trees but is compensated with better returns from sale of trees as cash crops.

The retaining of trees on farm land for providing goods and services has been an age old practice in India. Evolution of PBAF is a recent intervention and it took almost three decades to firmly establish its roots.

The practice of PBAF was initiated during 1970’s when the match company-WIMCO Ltd. started its promotion for securing matchwood production for its factory in Uttar Pradesh, India, with its own resources till 1984 and under contract farming model between 1984 to 1995. Thereafter, poplar saplings and some other technical inputs are also being provided by some others including private nursery growers, state forest departments, research institutes and state agricultural universities but the volume is still controlled by WIMCO and Ex-WIMCOITE’s. WIMCO supplies poplar saplings to around 15000 farmers every year. The company now hardly uses 0.2% of total poplar timber produced for match splints and the rest is used by others.

The industry has adopted this approach and synergy with farmers as it is not permitted to hold land for raising industrial plantations under the existing land laws. Government forests are now largely maintained for environmental services. The major timber supply to industry and domestic needs comes from farm grown trees like poplars.

Farmers prefer to purchase quality saplings from mainly private nurseries and sell their tree produce at market controlled prices. Farmers, many a times, sell their poplar trees through negotiations by sitting in their drawing rooms on standing tree inventory/weight basis compared to most agriculture produce being sold in grain markets. Initially, large and absentee farmers adopted it but now numerous small farmers planting a few dozen saplings are also engaged in PBAF. Some good corporate houses promote its plantations under their corporate social responsibility programs.

Poplar culture is presently spread over 0.312 million ha, 99% of which is grown in agroforestry by over 0.3 million small growers, 60% being inside fields and 40% on field boundaries. Twenty to thirty million poplar saplings are planted annually by around 60000 small growers. Each year, poplar produces 8 million tone fresh timber, 1.8 million tone pulpwood, 3 million tone firewood, and generate over 100 million person days employment largely in rural areas where job opportunities are very less.

Poplar nursery production, tree culture, wood usage, silviculture and tree improvement research is largely in private sector. Research on poplar protection, wood working technology and some other aspects is being carried out by national and state research institutions.

The carbon sequestration potential of poplar based agroforestry is much higher than most other land uses in practice. Some other environmental aspects of excessive water usage and isoprene production by poplars are also being debated by the scientific community.

PBAF is unique example that created win-win situation for all- the farmers, wood based industry, financial institutions, central and state governments. A new useful tree has been firmly established on farm land with a symbiotic relationship between industry and small growers. It is considered a potential mean for rural development by self sustaining productive and integrated land use system without much investment and engagement from government institutions. The success achieved with PBAF is a motivating factor for similar programs initiated in India and elsewhere. It is an ideal example for replication with other species in land deficit, over populated, low land holdings and wood deficit countries like India.

Number of blogs and likely abstracts on poplar based themes quoting experiences of some farmers included in WAC2014 indicate its transformational impact in rural economy.

Photo: Four years old poplar plantation with wheat as intercrop on farm field

Blogpost and photo by Ramesh C.Dhiman – WIMCO Ltd./Wimco Seedlings Division (Rudrapur, Uttarakhand, India) – dhimanramesh(at)


This post is entry nr #11 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 36 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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I am Keshav Bansal, M.Phil Public Admin from Bhatinda in Punjab. I worked as lecturer, Principal in rural areas of Punjab, during my 30 year. I aspired a job of doing agriculture in villages.
In our area only paddy-wheat-cotton cycle is there. Water level is going down day by day. Farmers are not ready to change their mind.

I left my job and started searching into a scope of agriculture. During family visits to Haridwar I saw lot of tree plantations in the fields. I visited Yamunagar, Hoshiarpur and FRI Dehradun and went through the system of Agro forestry in Haryana, Punjab and U.P. After calculating profits and scope, I planned to do the same.

After consulting with experts, friends, different farmers and relatives we decided to start a poplar plantatation in Yamunanagar Distt. of Haryana. I prepared a complete project report, refined by the accounting experts and same was put in PNB Bank for Finance.

The project was approved and financed by PNB. We created an Organised OASIS AGROINFRA LTD, acquired 300 acres of land from different farmers on lease for 5-6 years duration and started poplar Plantation in January 2011 along with different inter crops like sugarcane, wheat, maize, zimikand, turmeric, potato, mustard and other suitable crops.

We achieved wonderful growth of poplars and crops. The following year in 2012 we acquire 500 acres of land and planted poplars, eucalyptus there in. We made SELF-HELP Groups and handed over land in small pieces to them for working, caring and supervision of all the fields on sharing basis. We have given work to lot of families, a lot of small farmers and handsome lease to land owners.

Later on after taking land on lease in 2013 we planted poplars in 200 acres. Now in 2014 we are planting poplar trees in 200 acres of land totalling 1200 acres land, this is a lifelong project with handsome income and satisfaction doing creative work which is eco-friendly.

There is a lot of chances to rise in this field and to provide job and work to others. We are maintaining day to day reports and growth progress charts, we have achieved wonderful growth in all our plantations. One can earn minimum 1 lac INR or 1700 USD every year from one acre of land after all the expenses.

We think we are the largest poplar plantation in North India, and we will increase the area every year.

We have our own nurseries of poplars for own use and for sale purpose. We are motivating farmers in Punjab & Haryana to plant trees along with intercrops instead of traditional crops. We supplied poplar baby plants to farmers on concession bases to plant the same in their fields and guide them method of plantation and caring the same.

Every year with the growth of poplar plants different new farmers are contacting us for poplar plantation day by day our network of plantation is increasing. There is a great scope of agro forestry for the farmers, younger’s and other entrepreneurs, those who want to do something, just an effort and confidence is required.

Photo: Oasis Plantation at Klanaur Village – With Keshav Bansal and Mahesh Goyal

Blogpost and photo by Keshav Bansal (Bathinda, Punjab-India) – oasisbtd(at)


This post is entry nr #10 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 28 votes, with an average score of 5 (out of a max of 5).

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DHIROJ prasad koirala

I woke up early in the morning when light penetrated my eyelids very softly. Uff! It was already 6; I threw my blanket and went outside of my room. I observed my farm from balcony. Meanwhile, my mother yelled me to have breakfast. Thereafter, I went to our farm to bring grasses for cows.

It was easier for me to cut small tree rather than cutting grasses for hours. Therefore, I cut down a small tree. After cutting down, I noticed a nest of bird with eggs which were found to be cracked. That day, cows enjoyed the fodder I brought. At evening, my father told that each cow gave few more milk. Immediately, my mother pointed me and said, it was me who feed the cow and asked me to do every day.

Thereafter, I started to exploit trees of our farm to feed cows and get more milk. After about 3 months, there were no any trees in our farm. The grasses were drying up due to seasonal change and I was compelled to travel hours to fetch fodder.

Hours of struggle just to bring fodder for the livestock, made me frustrated. I was doing all these just for few liters more milk. Therefore, I told mother that I was no longer interested to fetch fodder. Mother asked the reason and asked further that who would feed those cattle if I don’t? I replied her in very occasional manner to hire a guy to take care of her cattle. I’m not a cowboy just looking after cows all the time. I did have my own business, I told her in very ignorant way. There was some discordant between us. My mother slapped me and told never to ignore her as I was only offspring of them.

Milk was not as sweet as before and very little food quenched my hunger that evening. I slept with much tensed mind. It was the first time when my mother slapped me as perhaps it was the very first time I had ever ignored her.

Oh! It was a terrible nightmare. It was just 3 of morning. I tried to sleep but couldn’t. It was almost 6 when I left my bed.

I went to our farm without breakfast and observed those dead stumps made by me. There was like absence of something more important in the field. I thoroughly observed the atmosphere, there was no sweet twittering of birds, I suddenly remembered those cracked bird’s eggs and, there were no rustling movement of leaves as well. The natural worthiness of farm was lost somewhere else and I thought, if I had not cut down all those trees, I wouldn’t have to go for hours just to search for fodder. Suddenly, I realized the productivity of land was slightly declined due to lack of leaf litter composting in the field.

My mom was complaining that she noticed little decline in production of maize this year. Now I realized that the grasses were dried sooner because it was exposed directly to the skin burning sun. Now, I took a determination of making my farm green again because I wanted to increase the productivity and again to hear the sweet sound of birds and rustling movements of leaves. I finally wanted to make my parents happy again by making cows more productive.

I went to visit forest extension officers. I took information about the tree species that can be incorporated in different agricultural systems. The day, I came to know that use of trees in agricultural cultivation in mutual benefit of trees and crops satisfying needs of farmers, is called as agro forestry.. I was an ordinary, rural youth; the term was strange for me and had heard just now although we were practicing it for years. We simply used to call it “Trees in farm”.

The officers provided me some very suitable trees species whose fodder were highly nutritive and were able to improve soil fertility giving economic benefits as well. I planted those trees in the terrace.

The sweet sound of birds, their nest, scene of young birds just starting to fly, movement of leaves delights me. The trees are grown up. When mother told production is augmenting these years, I see a perfect coordination of forestry and agriculture crops. Finally, I start to think, trees are the homes of thousands of creatures helping to increase agricultural production. They feed us as well. Trees provide us oxygen, absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide and ultimately assist us to be healthy.

Both tangible and intangible goods and services are provided by trees. Not only the direct benefits but also the indirect benefits of trees are quite important for a sustainable world. The tangible benefits can be converted into monetary values but intangible benefits can’t be expressed into exact monetary term. In the context of changing development pattern with changing geopolitics and economies, agroforestry has huge potentiality to reduce the increasing gap between demand and supply. It helps to reduce poverty by providing a better chance of agribusiness and livestock farming. In addition, by sequestering carbon it helps to mitigate climate change, it also helps to ease pressure on forests. Such farming system improves water quality by avoiding nitrate leaching. Therefore, It helps to attain overall human well-being.

Agro-forestry is potential to play very vital role in changing context of resource use and economic enhancement. It also helps to preserve biodiversity and maintain food security which is very important in present context.
Therefore, trees are our life because we exist if our woody friends, trees exist.

Photo: Nepal is a least developed country whose economy is sustained mainly by agriculture and forestry. Therefore, scientific agroforestry system can transform Nepal into a prosperous country.

Photo and blogpost by Dhiroj Prasad Koirala (Pokhara, Nepal) – Koirala1dhiroj(at)


This post is entry nr #9 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 342 votes, with an average score of 5 (out of a max of 5).

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I grew up with a big garden. The growing season in Sweden is short, but my mother was passionate about planting flowers and testing new varieties; we also had lots of fruits and berries, and as a child, I loved to pick them and eat them – and to earn pocket money doing yard work.

I went on to become a geographer, and after the 2004 tsunami, I found myself in Sri Lanka, studying the storm’s effects on vegetation. During my visit, I discovered the local approach to “homegardens”: small, densely planted spaces with flowers, food crops and trees in multiple layers, creating complete mini-ecosystems. I was half a world away from my mother’s garden, yet the beauty and tranquility of the gardens, and the self-sufficiency they provide, took me back to my childhood.

The colours in Sri Lankan homegardens are rich and bright, and the hot, heavy air is filled with sweet scents, sometimes spiced with the aromas of meals being cooked in the families’ kitchens. The lush vegetation attracts birds, butterflies, lizards and monkeys, and if you close your eyes, especially in wet-region gardens, the wildlife sounds could make you think you’re in the rainforest.

Yet these gardens are not grown for the aesthetics alone. They provide fresh, organic, nutrient-rich food – a huge benefit to the families – and fuelwood as well. The gardens are also extraordinary in terms of biodiversity: though most include at least a few coconut, mango, banana and papaya trees, I’ve found all sorts of other plant and tree species in the gardens of rich and poor people alike. That’s part of the thrill of visiting Sri Lankan homegardens: you never know what flora or fauna you may encounter.

From a research perspective, I see these homegardens as prime examples of multifunctional landscapes: spaces that combine agriculture, forestry and natural ecosystems. The “landscape approach” is gaining prominence as a more holistic – and effective – approach to food security, reforestation and overall sustainability than the single-sector interventions that have long prevailed in the development world. I strongly support that approach, but if it is to succeed, we need to start by realizing that people in Sri Lanka and many other countries have long built multifunctional landscapes. Yet modern agriculture, forestry and development practices have driven a shift to often-unsustainable, single-use landscapes.

My research focuses on the role of land-use change and forestry in climate change mitigation and adaptation, with an emphasis on conservation, sustainable management of forests, enhancement of forest carbon stocks, and reduction of emissions from deforestation and land degradation. In that context, I have explored ways for Sri Lanka to realize its climate change mitigation and adaptation potential in the land use and forestry sector, including potential REDD+ activities.

My latest study, which I will be presenting at the World Congress on Agroforestry, examines the role that homegardens in meeting Sri Lanka’s climate-related goals – and, in turn, how climate programmes such as REDD+ could encourage more families to grow gardens, or expand existing gardens. To gauge homegardens’ carbon storage capacity, we visited 45 dry-zone homegardens in two villages in Moneragala district, in southeastern Sri Lanka, and documented the types and sizes of trees on each property – a total of 4,278 trees of 73 species. We calculated the above-ground biomass stock and found it averaged 13 Mg carbon (C) ha-1 – but with huge variations: an average of 26 Mg C ha-1 in the 11 small gardens we sampled (under 0.2 ha), versus 8 Mg C ha-1 in the seven gardens over 1 ha that we sampled (mid-size gardens’ carbon stocks were similar to those of large ones).

Our analysis provides two key insights: First of all, homegardens clearly have great capacity for carbon storage and could make good candidates for Sri Lanka’s newly commenced UN-REDD National Programme. Second, tree density and species diversity make a big difference; the small gardens had much higher carbon storage per hectare than large ones because they were far more densely planted.

In our study area in particular, conditions may be particularly suitable for increasing homegardens. Large-scale infrastructure developments and investments in the area are driving up population density, increasing the need for efficient food production. And a water storage tank is being built that could support irrigation as needed, making it easier for farmers and homegardeners to plant more trees and perennials of different varieties, enhancing the carbon density and biodiversity of the land while also improving food security.

More broadly, Sri Lanka may also want to consider promoting homegarden establishment on lands adjoining the remaining natural forests, creating buffers in areas that are experiencing pressure from increasing populations. For best outcomes at the local level, schemes such as REDD+ could be linked to existing or emerging development programmes, highlighting food security and market integration – both of which are likely to be greater priorities for farmers than climate change mitigation.

Eskil Mattsson is a post-doctoral fellow at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, and a theme leader of Focali, a Swedish research network focused on forests, climate and livelihoods. He will present his work at a WCA session on tropical homegardens on 10 February.

Photo: Example of a wet-region homegarden

Blogpost and photo by Eskil Mattsson (Stockholm, Sweden) – eskil.mattsson(at)


This post is entry nr #8 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 86 votes, with an average score of 4.5 (out of a max of 5).

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Green Eritrea

For countries located in the arid, semi arid and mountainous parts of the world, like my country Eritrea; cutting trees and clearing forests to create farmlands seems the only option to feed the population. Although the approach sustains the food security of the population for a short time, the merciless cutting and destruction of forest resources have resulted in environmental degradation and expansion of desertification. Land is exposed to erosion and the fertile part of the soil has been depleted.

Therefore to combat this alarming situation and having realized the precarious conditions of the environment different sectors of government have been involving in a strategy of seizing farmlands from the population and reforest them. Still this approach meets a strong opposition from the population whose live hood is completely dependent on farming. It seems as if there is no way in collaborating the need of the population and nature.

The spark of Enlightenment

Two years ago, I visited my mother’s village in Obel, a farming village of recently cleared forests. Fortunately for me there was a village assembly going on. The villager’s discontent with the recent policy of the government to seize their farmlands and reforest it was clear on their faces, voices and speeches. There was an environmentalist- a technocrat- who gives a long scientific speech on conservation and environmental awareness that is not understood by anyone -except a fellow environmentalist, that is me.

The villagers were quite, bored and some of them sleepy. It was not until their turn to speak that the uproar began. A much respected elderly stands and start to speak; he says “We love our trees and forests! We live in it for generations! It is a source of food, firewood and security for us! But we also need farmlands to feed our children! Human life is more important than trees! You are trying to value trees more than our life…… and broke in tears.

What happens after that is a murmur, some wailing and crying. I can imagine the plight of the villagers and I can’t stop agreeing with the environmental expert. I vow to myself there has to be a solution to the dilemma. There has to be some way through, to conserve the environment and at the same time to satisfy the farmers.

A way through

Later on I come up with a strategy of, planting multipurpose species. This is because planting multipurpose species will provide the assurance of growth, an economic benefit and environmental sustainability. My mind goes to Aloe, a species that has been demonstrated it’s multipurpose for centuries. Most Aloes have some medicinal or commercial value, but it is the Aloe Barbadensis Miller (Aloe vera or “true Aloe”) plant which has been of most use to mankind because of its multiple benefits. Cultivation of Aloe vera has a multiple objectives that include Health benefits, productive and social welfare benefits, soil and water conservation, environmental Provision and Tourism. It is one of the most versatile plants in the surface of the Earth.
For those with a little interest in plants, Aloe vera is a perennial, species of Aloe, native to Africa. This species is now popular both with modern gardeners and commercial farmers. I am sure you will have it in your garden, shampoo or some other cosmetics. Next time you are using a plant-extract cosmetic product, please look for Aloe vera in the ingredients.

I choose Aloe vera not only because it is simple to grow, but also it is a native crop that grows naturally in most parts of the country, including my mother’s village. Eritrea has the right climatic conditions, diverse ecology, an arable land and concerned government sectors to carry out successful Aloe vera plantation. The Aloe vera can be cultivated in hillsides and mountains, around coastal areas, in community closures and in modern farms. If we effectively utilize this plant we will be one of the greatest producers in the regional and international markets where the demand is sky rocketing.

Why do I launch this project?

My primary objective of this project was to meddle between humans and the environment -what a peace keeper. My other objective was my country Eritrea, a country that has been damaged by long term colonialism, war for independence and natural problems. I owe too much to the people and a country that provides me a free education in which otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to afford. My project is a contribution: in addition to the promise held by the Eritrean people and government to heal this damage –another lame excuse to launch my scientific research.

The result

My project was an instant success, as long as the villagers promised to reforest the degraded land the village administration and the National government agreed to give the people their seized land. At the same time the people start to reap the benefits of the plants. This year they sold their first cultivation to the market. Now everybody has his farmland and a fat amount of money in their pocket and they don’t have the wrenched face that I have seen during that memorable day of village assembly. I become a local hero in my mother’s village and my trips to that village become constant and pleasant– everyone wants to invite me to his house.

The future

I am planning to introduce this project to the wider community. There is a constant discussion with the policy and decision makers of the government to implement the project nationwide. The future of the project is to reduce poverty by exposing farmers to Aloe vera farming and its value addition for income generating and poverty alleviation within the semi arid lands of Eritrea.

Now for people who only knows Gold can be found only inside earth, they have a reason to call Aloe Vera “The Green Gold”.

Blogpost and photo by Angesom Ghebremeskel Teklu (Asmara, Eritrea) – angesomteklu(at)


This post is entry nr #7 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 4,809 votes, with an average score of 5 (out of a max of 5).

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Two years ago the family Phang borrowed money to buy cattle. Then came a harsh winter and only one cow survived.

With the advent of increasingly intense weather events, adapting to climate change in Southeast Asia is more important than ever. But policymakers and scientists depend on farmers’ knowledge to guide them when it comes to adaptation. After all, farmers have been adapting to changing weather for generations. The question is how can we fuse local and scientific knowledge so that farmers have the best options available to them to adapt to a changing climate?

A key factor in answering this question is making local knowledge more visible. And this is where unique participatory exercises can play a big part in guiding discussions with farmers, brainstorming, and letting them have their say.

By these exercises, we mean outlines for structured discussions which help farmers and scientists jointly brainstorm problems and solutions. We call the exercises ”tools”, hence the Toolkit.

Mix and match

When brainstorming what trees to plant where, the most appreciated exercise by farmers and local planners) is the tree-climate-ranking tool. Farmers first listed the extreme weather events they thought were most problematic. Cold spells killing rice seedlings and livestock. Storms damaging trees and houses. Droughts and floodings reducing harvests and bringing more pests. Then they discussed and ranked the suitability of each tree and crop they grow against each weather events. The resulting table gave a clear picture and explanations for how sensitive their crops and trees are.

Doing this exercise helped farmers mix plants and trees that are not all sensitive to the same type of weather. For example, farmers knew very well that planting trees with different heights reduces wind speeds and prevents grain crops from falling down (lodging). They knew that planting bamboo on slopes cushions against landslides and that intercropping legumes with maize or cassava improves soil fertility and soil moisture. This is what agroforesters call “the interaction effects” of trees. Agricultural technicians who recommend new climate-smart land uses can therefore easily use the same principles pointed out by farmers, making it easier for farmers to work out what they want to try and plant. Scientists and policymakers can combine the village matrices to suggest adaption strategies for larger areas.

Who knows best

Returning to the village map, we sat down and looked where weather-related risks were high. The table was used as a guide to find new combinations of trees and crops that could reduce the impacts of a landslide or strong winds, not only in one field but also in neighboring fields. Designing these “climate-smart” agroforestry systems, the women quickly transferred the ideas of multiple canopy layers, inspired by their home gardens with tall fruit trees, some crops or bushes and shade-tolerant crops near ground.


This simple method, the tree-ranking table therefore became a bridge to show where there were disagreements – between local and scientific knowledges or between farmers and planners. Do women and men rate the suitability of trees differently? Do people who live at the bottom of the valley consider the same trees sensitive as those who live at the top? Why so? Do local leaders rank the same way as the farmers? We did the same tree-ranking exercise with the local land-use planners. Interestingly, they did not always have the same idea as farmers about how sensitive certain trees and crops were. Sometimes they thought that the drought risks were lower compared to farmers.  So, just as the exercise can highlight differences between different groups it provides an opportunity for knowledge exchange.

Best bet

Often we (scientists, practitioners) enter the villages and don’t know where to start or how much farmers already know to start at the appropriate level. A few hours with a few of these exercises can give a quick picture of the existing challenges and the responses. Group discussions where all participants are able to talk freely can also help clear potential misunderstandings.

However, just running a series of group discussions is not a magic bullet. In our case they helped formulating more appropriate household questionnaires and running a dialogue about land use planning between villagers and local leaders. This is one way to find the right trees for the right place.  Had Phang’s family known that planting strips with fodder grasses beside the trees could have prevented malnourishment, they might have still have had all their cows and paid back the loan.

1: Farmers and extension workers discussing the suitability of trees during problematic weather situations.
2: A table showing the suitability of trees (green is good and red is bad) averaged for nine villages in a district.

The Toolkit was developed for a land-use planning project funded by CGIARs Research Programs on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and Forests,Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

Blogpost and photos by: Elisabeth Simelton, Climate Change Consultant, World Agroforestry Centre Viet Nam – e.simelton (at)
Edited by: Georgina Smith, CIAT Viet Nam


This post is entry nr #6 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 99 votes, with an average score of 5 (out of a max of 5).

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banana bread

Charcoal stoves, or “Jikos” (as they are known in Kiswahili), are an essential part of Kenyan cooking, from beans to chicken masala and from roasted maize to all kinds of roasted meat. In 1982, Dr. Maxwell Miringu Kinyanjui, made the initial prototype of the “Kenya Ceramic Jiko” and over time invented other energy efficient jiko designs including ovens and barbeques. For example, the Cookswell Charcoal Oven eliminates dependence on electricity or gas for all household cooking needs. This can translate into reducing energy bills by up to 70% through switching to charcoal. Given the high demand and use of Jikos, switching to an efficiently designed Jiko saves time, money and forests.

In 2007, Dr. Kinyanjui’s son, Teddy Kinyanjui, perfected the design for the Charcoal Drum Kiln. This kiln provides users with a simple, sustainable way to make charcoal without cutting down trees. Promoting the use of this kiln completes the Cookswell philosophy as illustrated by the “Seed-to-Ash Cycle”. The Seed to Ash Cycle shows how trees and biomass can be managed responsibly to ensure the protection of Kenya’s forests. Indeed, the correct management and utilization of trees is the key to promoting an environmentally friendly energy solution for East Africa.

It is easy to participate in the seed-to-ash cycle by growing more trees, harvesting only the branches without cutting the whole tree down, and using energy-saving stoves.

Knowledge building

Cookswell Jikos is unique in that its daily business operations provide many opportunities for collaborating with community members, organizations and other businesses involved in the green energy sector. For example, the Cookswell team regularly provides demonstrations and training for products at a variety of venues including horticultural society meetings, farmer’s markets, international trade shows, and student gatherings. The Cookswell Jikos team actively participates in academic forums and to share its latest findings, access and discuss new information provided by others. For example, the Cookswell team recently began successfully experimenting with (a) reducing the amount of emissions from charcoal production in the Cookswell drum kilns, and (b) condensing and recovering as much of the smoke into a usable product for home/farm use (known as Stockholm or wood tar). According to the FAO, wood tar serves as a useful vetinary antiseptic and wood preservative. Regular updates on the process of capturing this wood tar have been shared with colleagues in the renewable energy sector for feedback and collaboration.

Community participation and inclusiveness

The Cookswell approach is to incorporate customer and user feedback into product design improvements as much as possible. The team actively solicits customers’ experiences with using the stoves, ovens, kilns, and planting trees. When customers find unique applications for Cookswell products, the team works to stay engaged and provide support where needed for these applications. For example, customers have started to use the Cookswell drum kilns to make large batches of alternative biomass charcoal (maize cob and coconut) for domestic use. Cookswell remains involved in providing feedback and assistance during these processes. Successful mobilization of local interest has been generated through staging demonstrations of Cookswell products at events such as farmer’s markets and trade shows.

Political ownership, collaboration and approval

The Cookswell Team actively participates in forums to provide policy input in the biomass stove sector. For example, Cookswell is an active contributor to the Energy Regulatory Committee and the Kenya Bureau of Standards in an effort to develop nationwide regulations for improved stoves in Kenya. In addition, Cookswell works closely with the Woodlands 2000 Trust to provide regular information and feedback to the Kenya Forest Service about ongoing progress with demonstration woodlots and tree planting activities.

Financial sustainability

Cookswell Jikos is a for-profit entity generating profits from product sales and consulting services. A portion of the profits is allocated towards covering the costs of providing two hundred free tree seeds to each customer with every oven and charcoal drum kiln purchase. Going forward, Cookswell will continue to build its customer base and strategically manage funds to ensure strong continuation of tree planting activities, expansion of wood energy technologies, and sustaining the growth of the company. Cookswell is proud to be 100% Kenyan owned and operated with a hard working team making quality, self-sustaining products. With a loyal and expanding customer base, Cookswell looks forward to expanding its agroforestry and stove activities.

Building local capacity

Cookswell Jikos is based on a model that places great value on incorporating outside ideas, innovations and the wealth of local capacity in Kenya. The following examples demonstrate how outside participation is valued and incorporated: (i) Cookswell provides linkages between new and experienced product users to facilitate knowledge and experience sharing; (ii) The team’s approach is to respond to training requests and needs both through the provision of comprehensive user instructions for all products, and hands on demonstrations of all the uses of the products.


Currently, Cookswell Jikos focuses on serving the East African market. While partnerships are underway to export products beyond East Africa, manufacturing is centred in Kenya. The business model is one that can be replicated anywhere where materials and labour exist to manufacture the products, which includes most of sub-Saharan Africa.

Monitoring and evaluation

In addition to standard business practices for measuring revenue, profit and loss, etc., Cookswell Jikos maintains strong communication with its customer base to ensure that products are being used successfully and are providing the intended benefits. Team meetings and discussions with stakeholders (e.g. partners implementing tree planting projects) ensure that evaluation of overall business objectives and goals is undertaken on a monthly basis to assess progress made towards meeting milestones. The Cookswell team also works closely with the Woodlands 2000 Trust to monitor progress and impact regarding the relationship between charcoal production and forest management.

Blogpost and photo by Teddy Kinyanjui (Nairobi, Kenya) – cookswelljikos(at)
With thanks from to African Climate for the original interview.
Post originally published on Kenyan Charcoal

Note by the editor: On this blog, we publish private initiatives in the framework of forestry and agroforestry, like the post above. This does not mean the conference nor its partners promote or endorse these projects.


This post is entry nr #5 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 15 votes, with an average score of 4.5 (out of a max of 5).

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Don’t we all like the brownish pieces of bitter-sweet goods that melt on our tongues like a state of the art bowl of ice cream? Utterly demanding for producers, a logistical masterpiece for traders, unimaginably technical yet highly creative for chocolatiers; chocolate has the seducing power to blow the mind of the masses.

Problems with sustainability

However amazing our fantasies around chocolate may be, the world of chocolate is facing a big threat related to sustainability; In other words: the sustainable supply of the raw material, the cocoa beans needed to produce chocolate goods, is at stake. The fragile tree Theobroma cacao L., taken from its natural environment, the dense humid Amazon rainforest, and placed into full sunlight on extensive monocultures in West Africa and beyond, is exhausted. The sudden exposure of the trees to a rate of photosynthesis they had never known before overstrained them. Just like a mouse you put into an exercise wheel, they went full speed to produce unsustainably high yields for a rather short period of time compared to their natural life span. But there are two sides to every coin: While the sustainability of cocoa production is at stake worldwide, population rich countries like India and China are driving up the demand as they become prosperous.

Meanwhile, the industry has become aware of the threat to their business and producing cocoa in a sustainable manner is high on the agenda of big players such as Mars. Yet there are still many important questions left unanswered:  What is the best form of producing cocoa sustainably? How much shade do the novel varieties (some of which might have been bred for tolerance of high light intensities) still need or tolerate? What are suitable shade trees? What other problems might arise in shaded agroforestry systems with higher relative humidity (e.g. pests and diseases) and are there practicable solutions to them? And perhaps most importantly: how long does it take until an agroforestry system catches up with a monoculture (and what is the contribution of cocoa by-products to compensate for the lower cocoa yields in the first decade or so)? These question need to be resolved for policy makers to know what incentive it takes to make farmers produce cocoa in sustainable agroforestry systems. As nice side effects they would help in the conservation of biodiversity, sequester substantial amounts of carbon and thus help in climate change mitigation, etc.

After all, novel technologies that don’t get adopted by farmers do not change anything, even if excited researchers developed them with the best of intentions in order to contribute to the resolution of the problem.

Research addressing the problem

Science has to provide information on advantages and limitations of different cocoa production systems. However, data on the long-term performance of cocoa monocultures as well as agroforestry systems under conventional and organic management are inexistent. The Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) is pioneering to fill this knowledge gap with a unique long-term field trial in tropical Bolivia established in 2008. Collaborating institution include Ecotop Consult, the Institute of Ecology UMSA La Paz and the PIAF-El Ceibo Foundation. The trial is expected to run for a minimum period of 20 years and will provide indications on the long-term sustainability of the different systems.

First results are matching the expectations; significantly slower tree development and lower yields, but also less disease incidences in agroforestry systems compared to monocultures. How much the additional products harvested in agroforestry systems (e.g. plantain, cassava, pineapple) can compensate for the lower yields remains to be seen.

Photo: Producers, extension officers, scientists and students participating in a training course on sustainable cocoa production in agroforestry systems at the research and training centre Sara Ana, Alto Beni, Bolivia.

Blogpost and photo by Christian Andres/FiBL (Frick, Switzerland) – christian.andres(at)

This post is entry nr #4 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 178 votes, with an average score of 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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When the company he worked for was celebrating lavish annual function at Goa, India my husband Gaurav Chaudhary was bringing 20 calves from outskirts of Delhi to the deep interiors of Uttar Pradesh where he is actively engaged in Agroforestry, Dairy and Agribusiness.

Gaurav, post graduated in Economics from prestigious Delhi School of Economics in 2006, worked for few months as an economic analyst with WNS Global Services and quit his high profile job for farming. Having grown up in farming family he knew how much an educated youth like him could contribute to farming community and village if they work with full enthusiasm and determination in agriculture.

My father in law Chaudhary Veerpal Singh was the first person in the village to plant Poplar trees on farm in 1987 when West India Match Company launched an extensive campaign in North India to motivate farmers to adopt poplar based agroforestry as the local matchwood and timber companies were facing acute shortage of supply of wood. Since this was new to farmers and required a waiting period of 7 years farmers were reluctant to plant it. “ I thought it to be my responsibility to promote trees on farms as it would not only save our forests from being cut but also benefit our environment in long run”, recalls Chaudhary  Veerpal Singh.

Gaurav had seen his farmer father Chaudhary Veerpal Singh working hard throughout the year to take best yields of crops so that he could be educated. “ In school only I had decided that after completing my higher studies I will go back to my village and get involved in farming , modernize agriculture and improve attitude and perception of people towards this very important sector of our economy.”

Gaurav ‘s passion for farming and for rural India  inspired me too and after completing my MSC Business Economics from University Of Surrey , London I married him in 2011. Both of us are thoroughly enjoying our work and it gives us immense satisfaction that with our intelligence, good education background we are actually transforming our village. We raise very good poplar plantations on farm, guide farmers on right practices of growing poplar, eucalyptus trees and other crops. With good returns from trees and crops we are continuously growing in related areas as well. We are expanding our dairy farm where we rear H.F cows and sell milk in city. Dairy and agriculture go very well together. Farmer can earn daily from milk by selling it and make their soil rich by adding cow dung. In order to improve farmers know how on running successful dairy farm we have also set up an association called Progressive Dairy Farmers Association, U.P wherein regular meetings with Dairy experts are conducted.

Our Journey from agriculture to agroforestry, from agroforestry to Dairy Enterprise and further to Agro inputs business shows endless opportunities for growth and innovation offered by Agriculture. I and my husband are earning more in agriculture than we could have earned in Corporate.

Farming needs intelligence, good know-how, and lot of professionalism to carry complex agricultural operations. We need to change our attitude and perception towards farming and I request youth to come up with green thumb and not to underestimate farming. Agriculture has the potential to provide them with not only very good income but also the chance to transform rural India.

Seeing us many farmers in the region started planting poplar on their farms. Small farmers plant poplar and eucalyptus on boundary while large farmers plant block plantations of poplar trees and grow intercrops underneath which ensure them annual returns. They are further diversifying to Dairy and Poultry farming.  They now feel proud of their work and realize how much they can grow if they work with sincerity on their farms.

Not to forget poplar based agroforestry has improved lives of farmers with its higher returns, provided security against crop failures due to extreme weather and climatic conditions; reduced regular engagement and attendance on high input intensive culture of other crops and provided financial stability to farmers. Higher returns from agroforestry facilitated farmers to give their children best education. It has opened an avenue for youth to grow in agriculture. 

The Net Present Value of returns from poplar agroforestry per acre per year (1 acre = 0.4 hectare) turns out to be USD 2000 compared to just USD 491 from paddy- wheat rotation the traditional agriculture practice followed in this Pilibhit, U.P. Poplar has become popular among farmers as it is ready for harvest in 6 years, allows intercropping with it, meets fuel wood requirement of farmers, needs less management compared to other farming practices. Agroforestry is to some extent also playing a positive role in reigniting the love of youth for farming which is also very important if we’re to meet the challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2050.

I request educated youth to come back to their roots and give shade to many people who have worked hard in fields day and night to feed them. Youth can transform rural India with its great determination and hence make tremendous contribution to society and environment.

Photo: Nikki and Gaurav Chaudhary (center) and their staff on their farm’s poplar tree plot

Blogpost and photo by Nikki Pilania Chaudhary/Chaudhary Farms (Pilibhit,India) – chaudharyfarms(at)


This post is entry nr #3 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 1,229 votes, with an average score of 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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kenya 13102010 031

The holidays are gone and I am back to the city from my home village. I come from a very remote village in Central Kenya called Bush, where I was the first and still the only female graduate. I am regarded the most bright and fortunate lady and therefore expected to know everything written in books and have as much money as everyone would require.

 As usual, am expected to dish out “Christmas” gifts to women, who will often visit home to say hello to me and to children, who will nickname me “Auntie”, a costly name indeed. However, these are not the only expectations; as a holder of a basic degree in forestry, I am expected to know everything about trees and especially exotic tree species.  

One evening, a neighbour visits home. She has a small plantation of cypress (Cuppressus Lusitanica) on her farm, which has had retarded growth in the past several years. She is not the only one, as a second neighbour approaches me because his “South African” eucalyptus plantation, which he was told would be mature in 10 years since the time of planting, is not doing well. He may not reap the profits as promised. Others want to know what crops and trees they could plant in order to reap bounty harvests and market without hitches.

I take a walk to the cypress plantation; the trees were planted using the same spacing as potatoes, which is the most common crop in the area. No pruning was done either. I therefore advise her to prune and thin the plantation, which she expects to sell later for timber.  To the Eucalyptus plantation farmer, I also advise him to space his trees as they were less than a meter apart. The plantation is actually a mixture of E.saligna, E.grandis and E. campanulata. It then got me thinking; “from where did the two farmers obtain information before investing in their plantations if they ever did? If not, from where were they expected to obtain advice? The best answer could be; “they are supposed to obtain advice from forest extension officers but most probably they obtain it from seedling dealers”. The problem was simply misinformation.

The two farmers in my village are a reflection of the scanty information accessible to the very people who are the reason for research and the reason for this congress. It is also a reflection of how much farmers are willing to invest in agroforestry, with the hope of returns on investment. I therefore feel obliged to not only conduct research on trees but also address the issue of research communication. Communication challenges are often taken advantage of by middlemen and companies, which dictate prices to farmers, buy their products at throw away prices and fail to provide correct information.

What could be done?

To ensure increased and diverse access to information, I imagined of a communication tool or system that matches  tree species with sites and management options, simple enough to be understood and used by semi-illiterate persons, and flexible enough to provide diverse information as well as get updated with the most recent information on trees. This tool could also be linked to potential markets for products, thus minimizing the impacts of middlemen. Such a tool could work a great deal to lift the lives of my village folks and others around the globe in such scotching poverty. As Pablo Picasso said, “Everything you can imagine is real”; I therefore believe this could become a reality too.

Photo: Kenyan farmer and extension officer inspect tree nursery

Blogpost by Caroline Gathoni (Nairobi/Kenya) – cgmumbi(at)
Photo by Peter Casier/CCAFS


This post is entry nr #2 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 35 votes, with an average score of 4.5 (out of a max of 5).

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Coffee drying- San Isidro, Merida

I lived in San Isidro, Venezuela in 2013 to investigate reasons why farmers plant trees despite the common belief that trees interfered with their crops. Locals say their communities were founded hundreds of years ago by families travelling the Andes with Venezuelan Independence hero Simon Bolivar. These families developed a deep knowledge of the land and had once thrived as farmers.

I was interested in defining factors that predicted smallholder tree planting so that support services could improve programs that promote tree cover in the area. According to studies on Forest Transition, smallholder tree-based land systems notably contribute to global tree cover (Lambin and Meyfroidt 2010). Research also confirms that trees contribute to food security, secure tenure, climate mitigation and overall healthier communities. My research interests were driven by the idea of multifunctional landscapes. Can we manage land for food, income, communities and the ecosystem?

Farming in San Isidro

My neighbour made crashing noises as she described the landslides that destroyed land and homes in 2005. Many farmers realized that tree cover could have reduced the destruction. Since then, Venezuela’s government has invested in technicians who instruct farmers to plant trees. The government also manages several reforestation programs that hand out trees, establish local nurseries, and run education programs to promote tree planting.

San Isidro is a 52 km2 micro-watershed in the Mocoties Watershed, Merida, Venezuela. One farmer from the watershed told me, “Sadly we have deforested and converted from the coffee industry to the cattle industry”.  However, in San Isidro, the locals say the coffee industry has been spared because of the cooler climate. While I was there, I adjusted to the perfume of fermented coffee. We were offered up to five sugary cups of coffee in tin mugs everyday, coffee that had dried and roasted on local patios. Farmers generously shared memories of coffee varieties that grew under trees and tree oil collected for lamps that they used before electricity.   

San Isidro represents three distinct agricultural land-uses along a 2300 m elevation gradient. Many households rely on farming as their main source of income. The highest and coolest communities produce potatoes, carrots and onions. The lowest and warmest community had mostly abandoned farming after experiencing heavy pest infestations, though some households recently produce citrus. In mid-elevation communities, smallholder farmers struggle to produce coffee to sell in a heavily regulated national market at a fixed price.

Selling harvests provides farmers with a small income, but many households rely on subsistence farming, trading with neighbors, and government assistance to support a healthy rural life away from insecurity in the city. As a result, the government of Venezuela provides many support services such as subsidized supplies, credits, and technical service to support farmers. I also noticed many new schools, clinics and houses that the government had funded.

Despite this, many farmers complained to me about disappointing support programs that did not provide enough technical service, adequate coffee prices, and credits. They told me that subsidized fertilizers were scarce and other options were too expensive. They also told me about a changing climate with unpredictable rain that ruins their crop. I knew farmers who used their credits to purchase motorbikes; many who regretted that they would not be as valuable to their families in the long-term as increasing their production of coffee. The youth in the community sometimes missed school to make money, instead spending their time harvesting vegetables on other farms.


My results revealed that many farmers had planted trees. Therefore, I examined economic and environmental reasons for tree planting separately. In the 150 surveys collected over two months of hiking through the fog, I found the following:

1. 80% listed economic reasons for planting trees, such as collecting timber and food; 47% listed environmental reasons for planting trees such as erosion control, maintaining water sources, and providing shade.

2. Most of the factors I identified from previous studies on smallholder tree planting contributed to tree planting for economic reasons but few of these factors were significant to tree planting for environmental reasons.

3. Elevation vastly altered the needs of farmers in the micro-watershed. Farmers in the lower communities were interested in trees to improve their ability to farm. In the higher elevation, farmers lived in cloudy climates and were more interested in growing trees to produce alternate sources of income.

4. Households who received support services were not more likely to plant trees.

Past studies focused on commercial tree planting to increase household income and the influence of factors that were not included in these studies, like environmental services (e.g. water), was less understood. However, I found these missing factors were significant to tree planting for environmental reasons. This could be especially relevant as a way to promote tree cover in communities with limited income opportunities.


My experienced taught me that communities like San Isidro have vulnerable livelihoods. They adjust to these livelihoods by finding ways to survive and rely on the government for additional assistance.  They plant trees for complex reasons: maybe for food, to sell as timber, or to protect a valuable source of water. Unfortunately, many support services they receive do not effectively promote tree planting.

To promote multifunctional landscapes we need to understand the many ways smallholders value trees and use this knowledge to scale up initiatives that promote tree planting. It is crucial to consider both environmental and economic decisions as well as the factors that influence them. Without a deep understanding of smallholder values, we will limit the functions of our landscapes and continue to fall short on sustainable land-use goals.

Photo: Coffee drying- San Isidro, Merida

Blogpost and photo by Kumary Ponnambalam/ Faculty of Forestry, University of Toronto (Toronto, Canada) – kumary.ponnambalam(at)
She is supervised by Shashi Kant and supported by SSHRC and partners at INDEFOR.


This post is entry nr #1 for 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 88 votes, with an average score of 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!

Follow our #WCA2014 social reporting team via the #WCA2014 tag on Twitter, our blog and our Facebook page.


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