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Agroforestry Sustainable Models and Approaches
use of resources has impacted on people through deforestation and forest degradation, with forest land use change causing a domino effect on local and regional
 

Everyone is aware that in the past decade or so, the world has changed. There are now more global scale connections and linkages, with the ability to communicate quickly and cheaply through the internet with people in different time zones, different countries and with ways of life.  However, while these linkages have been embraced, enhanced and applauded by the industrial sector and put on show in most large urban centers worldwide, the changes are not so clear or as positive to the poor and those laboring in rural farming.

Recent major environmental tragedies like tsunamis and volcanic eruptions have shown how unequal the human race is in terms of opportunities and access to basic needs like food and shelter. Natural resources have been and continue to be used at unsustainable rates.  The use of resources has impacted on people through deforestation and forest degradation, with forest land use change causing a domino effect on local and regional biodiversity, environmental degradation and pollution, with the alarming end result now being considered at the global level through climate change.  These changes have a negative effect on people – food insecurity, poverty and increased social differences.

How can we overcome all this?  We cannot just say stop!  Stopping agriculture and forestry is not an option. However, changing what we do and how we do it is not only an “option”, but perhaps the only way we can step back from a frightening scenario of expanding misery and pollution affecting more and more people. Let’s consider retracing our steps from a fanatical fascination with annual monocultures back to more multiple cropping with perennials. This process has brought trees into the foreground of necessary land use changes.


In Thailand
, in the past, agroforestry has been used to restore assets to landless farmers – through the forest village program in which the “Tuangya” agroforestry system of integrating annual crops and later livestock into forest plantations was used successfully. These initial programs recognized that ongoing population growth and economic pressure will mean agricultural expansion will continue, but with an increased tree focus.

tea hedgerow

While these early programs often had widespread acceptance and resulted in millions of rai being established with trees, the problem was that the trees often did not provide the essential short term benefits to maintain new grower interest and commitment. For example, the forest village concept allowed people to share in plantation establishment and reforestation through incentive schemes, as with earlier land for agriculture programs. Later, if the farmer takes care of the trees, then there is a share in the reward of harvesting benefits.  But this was not really self sustaining, as landless people did not get the direct benefits from the trees, they did not have right to manage the trees and often did not have the skills or tools to carry out important silvicultural tasks even if they were allowed to.

teak plantation promoted through RFD

The economic tree promotion program in Thailand also proved that it was possible to expand the number of farmers involved, but the red tape discouraged ongoing use and many trees were removed and replaced with oil palms or rubber that were seen as less trouble and provided more immediate cash flows.

Growing from the early recognition of the expanding problem and the call to action through his Majesty the King’s “Sufficiency Economy” concept, there is now increasing interest in managing landscape agroforestry.

There have been some resounding successes and steps forward. For example, farmer organizations developed the concept of the Tree Bank, where debt from loans to develop failed agricultural crops can be balanced by using trees grown as collateral security, with the trees gaining in value (and hence increasing their collateral, for use in repaying a loan) as they grow bigger.

Thailand has also seen examples of changing land use from annual crops to forest cover crops. It has been a step-by-step process, with many models depending on the situation – for example, changing from opium to fruit trees - implemented by Royal Project foundation.

The Master Plan for expanding private plantations was developed by a team from Kasetsart University and advocated regional planning to identify suitable species and sites, with trained government extension staff available to provide long term technical advice and support to the farmers participating.  The plan deserves strong support and would put the nation on the right track to achieve the goal of at least 40% forest cover.

 

agroforestry in highlandFuture projects should concentrate on the trees, not the timber in the trees.  While there may be some longer term benefits in terms of timber, more immediately, the trees value is in the provision of shelter for crops and livestock and people, erosion control, improved water quality, fruit, medicinal products and other non wood benefits.  It is also essential to change the global perspective from an industrial one (one market) to of “one home”. We need to learn quickly from best practice in other countries and adapt and adopt the best of the best from the many opportunities being promoted- green supply chain, corporate social responsibility, carbon credits and CDM –the environmental market now has a higher profile. The challenge is to use these “innovations” to recover lost land use and resources, especially through the wise and sustainable use of the forest cover in conjunction with adjacent agricultural practices. This will require zoning to encourage the right products and outcomes on the right sites.  Policy incentive must come from the government and be devolved to the region and then to the farmer, with links from the farmer to the downstream industry, so that farmers can share in the sustainable economic benefits.

And the educational institute's role is important. To link the farmers with industry will require additional educational effort in training and information management, not just as a one-off project, but through the development of sustainable systems that will endure for the longer term.


Last updated: 0000-00-00 00:00:00


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