UPSC Essentials: One word a day- Agroforestry

Basic concepts, terms, and phenomena from a fixed part of the UPSC-CSE syllabus

Keyword: agroforestry
Topics: geography and ecology

What is agroforestry?

Agroforestry is defined as the cultivation and use of trees and shrubs with crops and livestock in agricultural systems. It aims to achieve a more environmentally diverse and socially productive output from the land than is possible through conventional farming. Agroforestry seeks positive interactions between its components and is also known as “social forestry”. Simply put, it involves planting trees and agricultural crops either on the same land or closely so that all land including waste patches are put to good use. It applies agricultural practices that are compatible with the cultural patterns of the local population and has many benefits.

What does history tell us about agroforestry?

The modern concept of agroforestry emerged in the early twentieth century. But history tells us that perennial woody plants were used in agricultural systems in Roman times. So one can say that combining trees with crops and animals is a long-standing tradition in the world.

What are the benefits of agroforestry?

Agroforestry is a practical and low-cost way to implement many forms of integrated land management. Therefore, it seeks to reduce the human impact on Earth. Most importantly, it contributes to the green economy. It promotes sustainable and renewable forest management in the long term, especially for small-scale producers.

Agroforestry is applied to a variety of landscapes such as fields, farms, watersheds, etc., in different ecosystems and cultures. It has the potential to improve livelihoods by promoting health and nutrition, increasing economic growth, and enhancing environmental resilience and ecosystem sustainability. Agroforestry systems are also beneficial because they are important for long-term carbon sequestration, soil enrichment, soil moisture conservation, biodiversity conservation, air and water quality improvement, protection of arable land from wind and water erosion, etc.

One of the benefits of agroforestry is that it derives from interactions between trees, shrubs, crops and livestock. In the process, it improves positive interactions, such as reciprocity and coexistence. Reduces predation on crops and livestock and competition within and between species. Positive interactions may reduce stress on plants and animals, enhance yields, conserve soil, and retain water. For example, a moist, shaded microclimate under trees of certain crops is beneficial for shade-tolerant crops such as turmeric or pineapple.

Agroforestry allows a farmer to obtain food, fodder, fuel, fruit and timber from his land. The land becomes suitable for giving maximum production and providing employment to the rural masses.

In India, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and Forestry Department are jointly undertaking agroforestry research. It strives to develop appropriate land management systems. It seeks to integrate forestry with horticulture, agriculture and animal husbandry.

Consider: What are the negative effects of agroforestry? What are the Indian government’s efforts to encourage agroforestry?

Terms to look for: mutualism, symbiosis, forestry, horticulture


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