July 18, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether agroforestry can be the key to sustainable farming. We also look at the first Esports Academy in Madhya Pradesh, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Can agroforestry be the key to sustainable farming?
Revolutions aren’t always a bad thing. At least in agriculture. They help bring in large-scale, sector-wide transformations in the way people grow their crops and earn money through it. When the green revolution happened, it made high-yielding varieties of seeds accessible to farmers across the world, reduced their reliance on manual labour, and raised income levels.
Agrofarming is expected to usher in a farming revolution. In 2023, when a world war for food and resources doesn’t seem that implausible, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has drastically reduced food grains, it’s something to consider. But its long gestation period reduces its appeal to the farmers, the very people who will be tasked with leading this forecasted revolution.
Agroforestry, a centuries-old practice, involves integrating biodiversity into agriculture. There are different types of plants and animals on the same land, either at the same time or in a well-planned sequence. This is done by intercropping and incorporating livestock into the mix. So, why do that in the first place?
Years of practising agriculture have taught many people that they could benefit from a harmonious and sustainable system. The various plants and animals work together, benefiting one another and the environment. It’s like a natural team that supports each other’s growth and resilience.
In India, agroforestry has been implemented in various ways, such as Agri-Silvi systems, Agri-Horti systems, and Agri-Pastoral systems, among others. Trees can be strategically grown along farm boundaries, near rainwater collection ponds, and incorporated into crop-fallow rotations.
In Tamil Nadu, farmers practice agroforestry by combining horticulture and industrial tree species like Casuarina, Eucalyptus, M dubia, and G arborea. They grow these trees alongside their chosen annual crops, like groundnut, black gram, turmeric, cotton, and cowpea, depending on the local conditions. They prefer timber species like teak, Gmelina, Albizia lebbeck, and neem for farm boundaries.
In recent decades, the agricultural sector has rapidly shifted towards intensifying production for food security through hybridisation and heavy chemical use. Think green revolution. The global pursuit of higher yields has come at a cost: a significant loss of on-farm biodiversity and environmental degradation, leading to detrimental consequences for human welfare.
The traditional wisdom of agroforestry took a backseat in many places. The practice of monoculture and the excessive use of chemicals deteriorates the ecosystem, soil health, and overall environmental balance.
Not that farmers and policymakers are at fault for desiring greater productivity and going along with global farming practices. Such a desire has brought food to many a table. But since the 1990s, researchers like Pamela A Matsen have been looking for ways to make a good living while preserving biological diversity on farms.
In India, the Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute in Jhansi has extensively researched silvopastoral systems, while the Central Arid Zone Research Institute in Jodhpur has analysed shelterbelts and agrisilviculture systems.
In 2014, India became the first nation to formulate a national policy for agroforestry. The National Agroforestry Policy is proof that the government considers it a viable route to sustainable farming. But will it stick?
VIEW: Sunny days ahead
Through agroforestry, farmers can create a harmonious blend of crops and trees, reaping multiple benefits. Trees act as windbreakers, preventing soil erosion, while also providing shade to crops, contributing to increased overall yield. Moreover, integrating trees on farmland encourages biodiversity, attracting beneficial insects and pollinators, and promoting natural pest control. It reduces the risk of crop failure to some extent.
By diversifying their land use with trees and crops, farmers can ensure a more stable income even in challenging conditions. Small farmers can practice linear agroforestry. Bigger farmers can become regular raw material suppliers by growing species like Silver Oak, mango, teak, pines, and sandalwood. By selling the wood to wood manufacturers, they can earn ₹3,000- ₹5,000 per tonne. Agroforestry models adopted by farmers in the Upper Gangetic region, including Haryana, Punjab, and western Uttar Pradesh, have proved highly lucrative.
The National Agroforestry Policy (NAP) aims to boost employment, productivity, and environmental conservation. It provides the necessary legislative support to facilitate farmers’ transition to agroforestry systems. In 2016, the NAP received a significant investment of nearly ₹1,000 crore to turn agroforestry into a national endeavour with the motto: “Har medh par ped” (trees on every field boundary).
COUNTERVIEW: Not the best policy
Dr Sara Burbi, an assistant professor at Coventry University, UK, stated that economically integrating sustainable forestry and agriculture is a challenge. Although some research exists, it is still in its early stages and requires further development to identify the most suitable systems in different locations.
NAP needs more detailed pathways for action points and requires several improvements. There’s no Agroforestry Tree Manual yet, that contains standard silvicultural practices and market information at the country level. It doesn’t establish region-specific models for small, marginal, and large farmers. The worst hit to the development of agroforestry was when the Sub-Mission on Agroforestry, its implementation arm, merged with the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana.
The sector also faces a financial crunch. A lot more money needs to pour into insuring and incentivising farmers to take up agroforestry. Integrating trees into cropping systems is challenging for many farmers due to varying legal practices and financial prospects across different states in India. Non-uniformity in regulations and financial opportunities hinders the scaling up of agroforestry practices.
- Agricultural Intensification and Ecosystem Properties – Science
- National Agroforestry Policy in India: a low hanging fruit – Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy
- Agroforestry practices in Tamil Nadu, India – a boon for farmers for livelihood security – ResearchGate
- How the agroforestry industry’s empowerment can have significant long-term benefits in economic advantages – The Times of India
- Can forestry and agriculture combine to feed the world? – UPM
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) Agroforestry can scale up in India.
b) Agroforestry can’t scale up in India.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
A Uniform Civil Code Will Strip the Marginalised of Their Constitutional Protections
For the Left:
Restoring Democracy: An 11-Point Common Minimum Programme for the United Opposition
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Education performance (Punjab) – The state has performed exceedingly well in school education and learning outcomes, according to the Performance Grading Index report 2021-22, released by the Centre. Several districts of the state are among the top-12 performers in learning outcomes. The state, however, came second in the overall rankings.
Why it matters: In the previous three years, Punjab ranked at the top in education performance. However, the government’s silence on the matter and the floods have affected the state’s performance. In 2017-18, the state was ranked 22. Reforms from the Captain Amarinder Singh government helped it improve.
Sound system at Secretariat (Kerala) – The state government approved the proposal for a music system at the Secretariat. It comes as a relief for those working in windowless rooms in the General Administration Department’s (GAD) All India Service (AIS) section. Now, they’ll be able to switch on soft music after normal working hours post 5 pm since most of them work till 8.30 pm on most days.
Why it matters: For the staff, staying long hours affected their physical and mental health. The AIS team is in a closed room with limited space on the first floor of the old Assembly building. Employees in other sections of the complex work in open halls with plenty of ventilation and access to the outside world.
Reviving the Falgu River (Bihar) – The Jal Shakti Ministry has decided to revive the river from Simaria to Bodh Gaya. Officials will first conduct a scientific survey of the river. The survey will be done through the Rashtriya Swachch Ganga Mission. Director General Ashok Kumar toured the river and stressed the need for its conservation and safety.
Why it matters: The Falgu River in Bodh Gaya originates from Simaria Belgada and is considered sacred for Hindus and Buddhists. It’s believed Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment on the banks of this river. The Ramayana contains references to Gaya and the Falgu. Last September, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar inaugurated India’s longest rubber dam on the Falgu River.
First Esports Academy (Madhya Pradesh) – The Madhya Pradesh Sports Department announced the country’s first Online Gaming Academy called the MP State Esports Academy. The state also announced a state Junior Esports Championship for BGMI players across Madya Pradesh. The tournament will take place from July 27 till August 7. This will be used as a platform to recruit talent for the academy. 80% will be reserved for those from the state and the remaining from outside.
Why it matters: India’s Esports ambitions are clear and growing. The country has begun sending Esports teams to several international tournaments. According to Sports Minister Yashodhara Raje Scindia, the goal of the academy is for India to be present in the Asian Games and Olympics by making the state a hub for sports.
Caution against AI images (Assam) – The Assam Police have cautioned parents against sharing AI-generated images, particularly of their children, on social media. In posts on social media, the police used #DontBeASharent, warning parents of the dangers of sharing too much information about their kids online. Many parents were thankful for the pertinent warning.
Why it matters: The Assam Police had previously warned against cybercrimes with an image of a blue sky with the words Click Here inscribed on it. With the latest campaign, the police wanted to spread the message that children aren’t social media trophies. The images could be used by unscrupulous actors.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
21.3% – Part of newly released economic data from China showed its youth unemployment rate at 21.3%. It’s a record high as GDP growth was lower than expected.