The federal government has adopted a policy of encouraging local communities to plant trees of agroforestry species on private and public land in an integrated manner.

It aims to contribute to the national economy through commercialisation of agrofrestry and creation of employment opportunity for local communities by enhancing land productivity.

As per a ''Model Agroforestry Programme Implementation Procedure'' recently endorsed by the Ministry of Forests and Environment, agroforestry system will incorporate cultivation, tree plantation and livestock farming simultaneously.

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

According to the procedure posted on the website of the MoFE, agroforestry programme can be pursued in government and public lands and forest areas that are free from encroachment, degraded forest area, and land below the electricity transmission line.

"The government will provide saplings of medicinal plants, non-timber trees and multipurpose tree species to the communities for management and implementation of agroforestry programme.

The local communities will also be entitled to goods in-kind and grant amount as well as technical support," the procedure says.

There is provision of a five-member programme management committee led by 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 will be required to manage a land area of least 10 hectares individually or jointly. If the lands belong to more than one person, the should be adjoined to one another. After the selection of the communities for the agroforestry programme, the concerned programme implementation agency under the MoFE will sign an agreement 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 MoFE, agroforestry is a key to protecting land through control of soil erosion.

Agroforestry can also reclaim degraded or eroded land and regain its lost soil fertility. The local communities will also benefit from 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.

A version of this article appears in the print on December 30, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.