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Agro-forestry & its socio-economic impact

  • Category
    Ecology and Environment
  • Published
    4th May, 2022


In order to aid carbon-neutral growth, India needs to stress working extensively toward agroforestry in the country. 


  • Trees play an important role in ecosystem in all terrestrials and provide a range of products andservices to rural and urban people.
  • As natural vegetation is cut for agriculture and other types of development, the benefits that trees provide are best sustained by integrating trees into agricultural system.
  • Cultivating trees in combination with crops and cattle is an ancient traditional practice across South-east Asia.
  • Agroforestry in India was practiced from the ancient times which provides several raw materials like timber, wood and leaves for building house, fire and other engineering activities.
  • Agro forestry also has the potential to increase the farmers’ income.


What is agro forestry?

  • Agroforestry is a low-cost integrated land management where trees are cultivated with cash crops.
  • It is a process of interaction of agriculture and trees along with agricultural use of trees.

Classification of agro forestry:

  • Agro forestry can be classified into four major divisions:
    • Structural
    • Functional
    • Socio economic
    • Ecological
  • These 4 divisions can be sub divided into other categories
    • structural basis
      • nature of components
        • Agrisilvicultural systems  (crops and trees including shrubs/vines and trees)
        • Silvopastoral System (trees + pasture and/or animals)
        • Agrosilvopastoral System (trees + crops+pasture/animals)
        • Other Systems
          • Apiculture with Trees
          • Aqua-forestry
          • Multipurpose Wood Lots
        • Arrangement of components
          • spatial arrangements
          • temporal arrangement
        • functional
          • productive functions
            • Food
            • Fodder
            • Fuelwood
            • Other woods
            • Other products
          • protective functions
            • Wind-break
            • Shelter-belt
            • Soil conservation
            • Moisture conservation
            • Soil improvement
            • Shade (for crop, animal and man)
          • socioeconomic
            • commercial
            • intermediate
            • subsistence
          • ecological
            • humid/sub-humid low lands
            • arid/semi-arid lands
          • highlands


Types of agroforestry in Non-Forest areas:

  • Farm forestry: A name given to a kind to forestry where farmers grow trees for commercial purpose on their own land.
  • Extensive forestry: It is the practice of forestry in areas devoid of tree growth and other vegetation situated in places away from conventional forest areas. Extensive forestry has three of its own kind
    • Mixed forestry: Practice of forestry for raising fodder grass with scattered fodder trees, fruit trees and fuel wood.
    • Shelter belts: Belt of trees or shrubs maintained for the purpose of shelter from wind, sun, drift etc.
    • Linear strip plantation: Plantation of fast growing species on linear strips of land.
  • Rehabilitation of Degraded Forests: Forestry by the community on a degraded forest land to meet their socio economic needs.
  • Recreation Forestry: Practice of forestry with the objective to develop or maintain a forest of high scenic value.

What is the main objectives for adopting agro forestry?

  • Agroforestry is agricultural and forestry systems that try to balance various needs:
    • To produce trees for timber and other commercial purpose.
    • To produce a diverse and adequate supply of nutritious food for both domestic and global demand.
    • To ensure protection of environment so that it continues to provide resources and environmental services.

What are main benefits of agro forestry?

  • Agro forestry ensure benefits on various fronts:
    • Bio-physical and environment
    • Social benefits
    • Economic benefits
  • Bio-Physical and environmental front: Agro forestry creates a significant positive impact on the environmental growth and sustainability. Various such benefits which impacts the environments are:
    • Increase soil fertility
    • Reduce level of soil erosion
    • Increased nutrient cycle
    • Higher crop yield
    • Induced favorable micro climate condition
    • Watershed protection
    • Carbon sink
  • Economic benefit: Agroforestry in farmlands or crop lands brings significant economic benefit in the agricultural sector, which includes:
    • Increment in an maintenance of outputs of food, fuelwood, fodder, fertilizer and timber
    • Reduction in incidence of total crop failure, common to single-cropping or monoculture system
    • Increase in levels of farm incomes due to improved and sustained productivity
  • Social benefits: Agroforestry also plays a central role in development and growth of rural households and rural society, which are as follows:
    • Improvement in rural living standards from sustained employment and higher incomes
    • Improvement in nutrition and health due to increased quality and diversity of food outputs
    • Stabilization and improvement of upland communities through elimination of the need to shift sites of farm activities
    • Increasing farmers income and sustainable growth of rural economy is one of the major objective behind Aatmanirbhar Bharat
    • Ensuring social security to the rural society specially to the youth and marginalized section becomes more challenging step for the government which can be secured by diversifying the income sources of the rural households
    • Availability of nutritious food can also be enabled by the process of agro farming which may help to boost up the Poshan Abhiyaan by Government of India.
    • Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan: Making rural economy and households more sustainable and self-dependent the potential of agroforestry can be taken into account to meet the targets
    • Sustainable development goals:
      • SDG 1:  No Poverty, which can be achieved in rural economy by the means of agroforestry.
      • SDG 10: Reduce Inequality, increase in income of the farmers will reduce the income gap in the rural households and societal gap in the rural society.
    • Reduction in Urban migration and Urban poor

Limitations of Agroforestry:

  • Potential to have a competition between forest cover and food crops which may lead to less crop yield and can impact food security.
  • Potential trees may act as shelter for many pests which are harmful for the crops.
  • Rapid regeneration of trees may displace the food crop from a particular field.
  • Labour intensive process.
  • Lower crop yield may give rise to a income gap between small and marginal farmers and big farmers.
  • Big farmers have a huge share in the profitability in agroforestry, whereas, small farmers could not afford to diversify the field for other purpose other than food crop as most of them are self-sufficient farmers.

What has government done to promote agroforestry?

  • National Action Plan for Climate Change: Under NAPCC government of India has launched a sub scheme of Green India Mission where the agro forestry has been a primary focus to increase the farmers’ income and increase the forest cover of India.
  • Har Medh Par Ped: Scheme introduced by government to promote agroforestry
  • Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture

What can be done to promote agroforestry?

  • Subsidizing or incentivizing the cost of inputs to the farmers.
  • Issues related to income gap and decline in crop yield shall be secured by the government especially for the small and marginal farmers.
  • Improving the quality of infrastructure growth for storage and transportation of forest products.
  • Increasing the penetration of processing industries and corporate farming in the rural areas.
  • Increasing the penetration of formal banking sector in the rural economy to protect the farmers and agro foresters from viscous cycle of debt.
  • Introduction of insurance schemes for health income and crop yields.


Agroforestry has the potential to improve the condition of the farmers’ socio-economic structure as well as increase in green cover and reduce the impact of climate change by improving the environmental conditions. Aatmanirbhar Bharat scheme, Poshan Abhiyaan and Sustainable development goals can be achieved by the means of agro forestry. Eradication of poverty in any form can be achieved in the rural sector by doubling the farmers’ income. Rise income of the farmers and rural households will make the rural economy more self-dependent and the stepping stone for Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan will get a proper space to provide a wide base to the future developments.

Practice Questions

Q1. What do you understand by the term agroforestry? How can agroforestry help in increasing income of farmers?

Q2. “Climate change will affect lives and livelihoods of communities dependent directly on land, water, and forests. Agroforestry can help them tackle this challenge”. Discuss.


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