The Ministry of Forests and Environment has issued the 'Model Agroforestry Programme Implementation Procedure' to incorporate cultivation, conservation and tree planting along with crops or livestock farming.

Agroforestry is an age-old practice of growing forest crops and shrubs in and around agriculture fields to create environmental, economic, and social benefits.

The objectives of this procedure are to encourage farmers to plant trees of agroforestry species in private and public lands in an integrated manner, contribute to the national economy through commercialisation of agrofestry by enhancing land productivity, prepare and expand the appropriate models of agroforestry, and create employment opportunity for local communities.

As per procedure, an agroforestry programme can be operated in private land, government and public land, forest areas that are freed from encroachment, degraded forest area, and land below electricity transmission lines.

"The government shall, in addition to goods in-kind and grant amount, provide saplings of medicinal plants, non-timber trees and multipurpose tree species to the communities for management and implementation of agroforestry programme.

The communities shall also be entitled to technical assistance," it says.

The procedure stipulates a provision of a five-member programme management committee led by a programme implementation agency under the MoFE to coordinate and facilitate the agroforestry programme in all districts.

"In order to be eligible to implement the agroforesty programme, the local community shall manage a land area of at least 10 hectares individually or jointly. If the land belongs to more than one person, it should be an adjoining land," the procedure reads. After selection of the communities for the agroforestry programme, the concerned programme implementation agency shall sign a pact with them.

The selected community will plant trees of agroforestry, fodder and fruit along with crop farming and operation of fisheries in an integrated manner. According to the procedure, agroforestry helps protect and conserve land through control of soil erosion. This system improves the soil structure by increasing the nutrients present in the soil. Agroforestry can reclaim degraded or eroded land and regain its lost soil fertility.

Similarly, farmers benefit from the extra income generated by selling tree products.

Trees provide farmers with fertilisers, timber, livestock fodder, and more, which they would otherwise have to buy, consequently reducing their overhead expenses.

Agroforestry provides farmers with regular income ending their need to migrate to urban areas in search of jobs, it says.

A version of this article appears in the print on February 21, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.