Agro-forestry is the combination of agriculture and forestry in which agricultural crops are cultivated along with forestry seedlings. It is also introduced as a multi-storey cropping system. The major objective of this farming technology is to get optimum returns in the terms of agricultural and forest products to fulfill the basic needs of the farmers without any harmful effect on the environment and on the productivity of land. This is implemented by RRAFDC since 2001 through the several communities of southern Terai in Nepal.
This program implements in the farming community on the basis of group approach. Women group is prioritized for the regular operation and conduction of the program. Most of the groups are formed by 100% of women in this program. RRAFDC has categorized the farming community into three levels i.e. Rich farmers, mid-level farmers and landless poor farmers. For all of the three levels of farmers, RRAFDC has designed three types of Agro-forestry systems in the community.
The rich farmers adopt Agro-forestry in large land area but the agricultural crops cultivated only in the initial years just for the purpose of protection of forestry plants at primary 2-3 years. The middle-level farmers adopt agro-forestry in their small land as their requirement and they cultivate agricultural crop upto harvesting time of the forestry plants on a continue basis basically for their income generation. The landless poor farmers adopt Public/Communal agro-forestry. This system of agro-forestry implement on the public land of the locality where the landless poor farmers are settled. The main objective of this activity is to generate income of the poor families on a regular and sustainable basis and also to prevent the environment degradation. RRAFDC has introduced three basic models of agro-forestry in the grass root level of community. The models are:
1. Private Agro-forestry
Private agro-forestry is designed basically for the mid-level and rich farmers who have their own land to plant forestry crops for the purpose of agro-forestry. In the context of southern Terai, Nepal, private agro-forestry is very much familiar and popular amongst the distant users. The distant communities who are far from the government forest, they have adopted private agro-forestry in their own private land to fulfill their basic needs regarding fuel wood, fodder, NTFPs, etc. In this system, landowners declare their part of land as per their requirement and initiate the agro-forestry. They get regular income from agricultural crops and after certain time, they harvest their mature trees for getting a large amount. This income is sufficient and relevant for their family.
A Model of Agro-Forestry
2. Public / Communal Agro-forestry
Landless poor community adopts Public/Communal agro-forestry. This activity is also based on the group approach prioritizing to women groups. The Village Development Committee (VDC) or other local level institutions provide the public land to the relevant groups. The written agreement is also made between the group and the land provider. The land is basically provided by land owner to the groups generally for 15-16 years. The land provider get up to 40% income from forestry crops after harvesting where as the groups get 60% income from forestry crops. The individuals of group get the entire income of agricultural crops too. The land provider will utilize the 40% amount for social development of the same community where the group members are settled. But in the case of Group members, the income of agricultural crops, they consume individually for their family and the 60% income of forestry crops are not utilized on individual basis but on the group approach for social development at the same locality by a common decision of the group.
3. Lease Land Agro-forestry on Cost Free Land
It is very similar to public / Communal Agro-forestry. On the basis of demand of market, it is adopted as a very successful intervention for better livelihood of poor communities. It is also adopted and familiarized basically by the landless poor community. Women are emphasized and pushed to organize in a group to implement the interventions on a group based approach. The land owner and/or rich farmers provide their private land to the formed group of poor women/families. The written agreement is also made between the group and the land owner as it was explained previous in the process of public/communal agro-forestry. The land is basically provided by rich farmers to the women group generally for 10 -12 years for agricultural productions and partially to get income from long-term fruit plants. The lemon farming is undertaken as a long term fruit farming whereas the papaya farming is standing for short term fruit farming. This mechanism provides maximum benefit to both parties i.e. land owner and cultivator. After 10-12 years, all the forestry crops and lemon trees goes to land owner. During the agreement period, the poor farmer/ cultivator gets regular income from agricultural crops, papaya farming, pruning of forestry crops, 60% income from lemon farming. After 10-12 years, the poor farmers become able and capable to make or to purchase their own 2-3 kattha (7300 – 10950 Sq. Ft.) land by the income.