The government has decided to accord agro forestry equal status with agriculture by setting up a national-level board to promote national agro forestry policy.
Besides agro forestry is proposed to be treated as priority area under Corporate Social Responsibility programmes (CSR) and thus the policy envisages a major role for the private sector. To this effect a separate corpus will be set aide which will pull around Rs 4,000-5,000 crore from ongoing agri programmes into this fund for agro forestry.
Agro forestry systems include both traditional and modern land-use systems where trees are managed together with crops and or/animal production systems in agricultural settings. It is practiced in both irrigated and rain fed conditions where it produces food, fuel, fodder, timber, fertilizer and fibre, contributes to food, nutritional and ecological security.
The agro forestry policy, recently approved by the cabinet is supposed to be the only alternative for increasing forest or tree cover to 33% from the present level of less than 25%, as envisaged in the National Forest Policy (1988). In short, trees on farm or agro forestry have the uniquely potential for achieving multiple objectives of food, nutrition, employment, health and environmental security.
The policy envisages a major role for private corporate sector through public private participation in areas of technology development and dissemination, especially for planting materials, processing, etc, providing extension services to the farmers, providing market information and future trends, certification of nurseries, seeds and finished products for sustainable management practices, developing agro forestry plantation on government lands on lease contract and in partnership with local people’s institutions, etc. This is besides the existing expertise of private sector in the area of providing quality planting material as in case of poplar and clonal eucalyptus plantations.
While provisions of interest subvention in line with agricultural credit is proposed to be extend to agro forestry, role of private sector lies in providing institutional credit and insurance cover. Besides as per the policy, the private sector could take up the role of mobilizing dedicated farmers producer organizations (FPOs) to take up agro forestry in large scale.
In order to promote agro forestry, the policy recommends decentralization of local governance at ground level like GramSabhas, Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMCs), Eco Development Committees or other similar people’s institutions, such as those under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996 (PESA) etc. for playing a role in the regulatory mechanisms.
Agro forestry is known to have the potential to mitigate the climate change effects through microclimate moderation and natural resources conservation in the short run and through carbon sequestration in the long run.