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Social Forestry for Sustainable Development


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Social Forestry for Sustainable Development

N.G. Hegde



Introduction
Increasing population has been causing a serious problem of unemployment and poverty throughout the world. Agriculture is the major source of livelihood in rural areas. However, agricultural production is heavily dependent on rainfall, microclimate, surrounding forests, eco-system and ability of the farmers to make timely investments on critical inputs. Unfortunately, all these natural resources such as land and forests have been over-exploited, while the other resources like water and livestock have been neglected and misused in the past.
As a result of denudation of our forest resources, there has been an acceleration in soil erosion and floods. This has affected the ground water table and storage capacity of our reservoirs. As an effect of change in climate, farmers all over the country have been experiencing erratic and scanty rainfall more frequently than before. This has been suppressing agricultural production directly. Furthermore, small land holdings, over-exploitation of land resources and inadequate capital have turned rainfed agriculture into a losing proposition. Gradually, most of these lands located in semi-arid tropics are turning into wastelands.
Presently, over 50% of the land resources are either underutilised or wasted due to low productivity and uncertainty of recovering the investments. Such lands are suitable for introducing treebased farming, as the trees are hardy and capable of surviving the vagaries of nature. Among the tree species, farmers have a wider choice for selection, but profitability should be the most important factor for cultivation. Over the last three decades, many schemes to promote tree planting were launched by the Government and private agencies. Among them, cultivation of fruits and timber species on private lands was most successful. This was because fruits and timber could be sold easily in the local market at a remunerative price and hence the profitability of such schemes was very high.
Tree Species for Income Generation
According to a recent study, a majority of the farmers in Maharashtra State have opted for growing fruit trees on their wastelands. This was followed by timber and pole species. Among 35 most popular tree species of the state, 18 species were grown for food, 8 for timber, 3 for fuelwood, 2 each for oil and ornamental purpose and 1 each for fodder and fibre. The most preferred among them were, eucalyptus (Eucalyptus hybrid), mango (Mangifera indica), teak (Tectona grandis), Custard apple (Annona squamosa) and jujubee (Zizyphus mauritiana). Well established fruits grown on commercial scale were not a part of the study.
However, this preference is not only based on the profitability, but also on market demand for the produce and field publicity. Eucalyptus is the most popular species, because of reasons other than high returns. First of all, eucalyptus has good demand as pole in local markets. Any wood that is not sold as pole is purchased by paper and pulp mills at the site. In addition to assured demand and an attractive price, eucalyptus is a fast growing,

non-browsing, coppicing species with a short harvesting cycle of 4-5 years and well adapted to adverse agro-climatic conditions. Being one of the very few species promoted by the



wood based industries, it has received wider publicity. Other tree species which were cultivated in India on a commercial scale under farm forestry by farmers were Casuarina equisetifolia in coastal areas and Poplar (Populus deltoides), which is confined to small regions in Northern India, beyond latitude 28o N. It was also observed that the popularity of the species varied from region to region, depending on the demand for the produce, marketing infrastructure, agro-climatic conditions and availability of inputs. In Nashik district of Maharashtra, eucalyptus was grown by a large number of farmers, because of the infrastructure established by the Eucalyptus Growers' Cooperative for the supply of technical know-how, inputs and marketing of produce. However, the small holders had shown preference for fruit species, while the medium and large holders preferred timber species. In spite of its popularity among the farmers, it was surprising to observe that eucalyptus was not the most profitable species promoted under social forestry in India.
The benefit cost analysis of 14 important fruit and timber species based on the data collected from the farmers is presented in Table 1. These species include Eucalyptus, Leucaena leucocephala, Melia azedarach, Thespesia populnea, Dendrocalamus strictus, Sesbania sesban, Annona squamosa, Zizyphus mauritiana, Tamarindus indica, Anacardium occidentale, Mangifera indica, Moringa oleifera, Azadirachta indica and Tectona grandis. It can be observed that pole timber such as Melia, leucaena, bamboo and portia start generating income from the third year. Sesbania sesban starts generating income during the first year itself and completes its economic life in 2-3 years, while eucalyptus needs 4-5 years for the first harvest. Sesbania sesban coppices well in the areas where moisture supply is adequate, but it is advantageous to sow the seeds again after the first harvest, because of high vigour of the seedlings. Melia, Subabul and Eucalyptus coppice well and thus the plantations can be maintained to harvest 3-4 crops. Portia trees are pollarded at an interval of three years and maintained for 20-25 years. Harvesting of bamboo starts in the third year and continues every year for about 20-25 years.
TABLE 1 : ANALYSIS OF INCOME (IN INDIAN RUPEES) FROM DIFFERENT SPECIES


Name of the Species

Common

Name

Duration

No.trees/

Ha

Net/Tree/Year

Net/ha/year

Sesbania sesban

Sesbania

2

5000

4.80

24000

Melia azedarach

Chinaberry

9.

974

24350

2500

Leucaena leucocephala

Subabul

9

2500

13.88

34575

Eucalyptus Hybrid

Eucalyptus

9

2500

9.24

23100

Dendrocalamus strictus

Bamboo

10

625

23.33

14581

Thespesia populnea

Portia / (Bhendi)

10

625

83.93

52456

Tectona grandis

Teak

20

625

80.00

50000

Azadirachta indica

Neem

75

200

50.00

10000 *

Moringa oleifera

Drumstick

10

400

124.00

49600 *

Annona squamosa

Custard apple

10

400

29.69

11876 *

Zizyphus mauritiana

Jujubee

10

400

48.52

19568 *

Mangifera indica

Mango

50

100

100.00

10000 *

Anacardium occidentale

Cashew

50

156

125.00

19500 *

Tamarindus indica

Tamarind

50

45

463.00

20835 *

* Income from wood has not been taken into account.

** Prices of 1989-90 have been taken for calculation.
Neem is an oil seed tree with pesticidal properties, which starts fruiting from the fourth year. However, good bearing starts after 7-8 years and continues for 75-100 years. A neem tree can yield 50-100 kg seeds every year. Drumstick starts fruiting from the second year and continues to provide income for 10-15 years. Fruit trees like Jujubee, custard apple, mango and cashew start fruiting from the third year while tamarind starts producing fruits after 7-8 years. All these species except neem, mango, cashew and tamarind, can be planted on field bunds without affecting arable crops, if the farmers do not have adequate land for establishing large plantations.
Development of Orchards - Superior System
Establishment of fruit orchards is the most beneficial system, if the farmers have water resources to nurture the plants in the initial years. Land having a soil depth of 1-2 m, even with uneven topography can be used for establishing orchards with fruit species such as mango, cashew, tamarind, ber, custard apple, Indian gooseberry (Amla), etc, which can bear fruits without regular irrigation. These species can be easily grown in regions where the annual rainfall is more than 800 mm.
For ensuring success of this programme, the primary step should be to develop the land into small levelled plots. If the land is sloppy, then it should be converted into contour terraces of 5-10 m width. This helps in preventing soil erosion and retaining rain water in the field itself. It is also advisable to dig pits 10 x 10m apart. The surplus rain water can be stored in a farm pond dug at a lower elevation of the field, and used for providing protective irrigation to fruit trees. Supplementary water sources should be tapped, either through open or borewells to irrigate the plants during summer, as the farm pond will not have water throughout the year.
The grafted fruit plants should be planted either in the centre or about 1m away from the field bund (in case of terraced plots). Then, the field bunds can be used to plant short duration tree species such as papaya, drumstick, pigeon pea, castor, mulberry, etc for supplementary cash income. Other tree species such as leucaena, gliricidia (for fodder and green manure), acacia, casuarina (for fuel), agave and a wide range of medicinal herbs can also be established on the bunds and borders. The interspace can be used to grow locally grown food crops, to ensure food supply for the families. The short term crops help the families to earn some supplementary income, till the fruit trees start bearing. As the farmers visit their fields regularly, it has been observed that the crop yields increase by 50-200%, in spite of 20% space being reduced due to the establishment of fruit plants.
Generally, the fruit trees start bearing fruits in 4-5 years, when the farmers can easily earn about Rs 20,000-25,000 on 0.4 ha land and lead a comfortable life. This is an ideal system as it ensures the supply of food, fodder, fuel, timber, medicinal herbs and cash income. With establishment of orchards, they can also maintain some livestock and further increase their income. Above all, these orchards establish a permanent green cover on the earth, which is necessary to protect our environment.


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