Scaling up agroforestry, a promising prospect for fragile ecosystems and livelihoods in Nepal
Nepal’s Chure region, which includes the “world’s youngest mountains”, is critical habitat for biodiversity and the country’s main lowland and lowland watershed. Over 5 million people live in the region, and most of them depend on the land for their livelihoods – largely based on agriculture and forest-related goods and services.
But this dependence currently comes at a cost. Chure’s “young” soils are fragile, which means they have low resistance to erosion and are particularly vulnerable to degradation. And, mainly due to the locals’ heavy reliance on fuelwood, fodder and litter, the region has been continuously deforested in recent decades at a rate of 1.3 percent, and its biodiversity is steadily deteriorating. This degradation affects livelihoods and food insecurity has become a major problem for many residents.
However, much of the region’s population has traditionally practiced more sustainable methods of working with the land – a number of which fall under agroforestry, a system in which agriculture and grazing are integrated with trees to produce a range of and environmental benefits.
While agroforestry has only recently gained significant international attention for its effectiveness in conserving natural resources while improving livelihoods, it is already relatively well known in Nepal, which is one of the few countries to have an autonomous national agroforestry policy aimed at further promoting and commercializing the approach.
In this context, a group of researchers from Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Of Germany University of Göttingen and Dresden University of Technology, published a new study exploring current agroforestry practices in the Bakaiya Rural Municipality of Makawanpur District – a particularly ecologically vulnerable area prone to landslides from deforestation. The research also explored the perspectives of agroforestry as an approach that could be scaled up to strengthen the resilience of the ecosystem and local communities.
Researchers conducted five focus groups, 10 key informant interviews and 100 household surveys. They found that three farm-based agroforestry systems (out of 12 possible) were practiced in the municipality: agro-sylvicultural systems (agricultural crops with forest crops); agro-horti-silvicultural systems (agricultural crops with market garden crops and forest crops) and agro-sylvo-pastoral systems (agricultural crops with forest crops and grasses for grazing animals).
However – unsurprisingly for a relatively remote area where most people have only a primary level of formal education – locals did not tend to think of their practices in these terms, and there was little promotion and development activities on the subject.
“Most people were not aware of this fact that they had already been practicing agroforestry on their land for a long time,” said Deepa Khadka, researcher at the University of Göttingen and lead author of the study.
Agro-forestry systems, the simplest of the three, have been used most commonly, perhaps due to lack of knowledge and the small size of most land holdings in the region. Despite the frequent integration of trees and tree products into farming operations, however, researchers found that only a quarter of the demand for fuelwood was met by agroforestry systems and that 75% came from community forests – which represents a major cause of degradation.
The study found that the current lack of technical knowledge of farmers on agroforestry (such as species selection and techniques for planting and harvesting trees) and knowledge of its benefits has so far been a limiting factor. in its application to Bakaiya.
However, “the region has enormous potential to support much more productive and profitable agroforestry systems,” Khadka said. “As such, better awareness and appropriate scientific knowledge and techniques could really help the development of agroforestry to its full potential.”
“Agroforestry could be a win-win model for the local people and the government of this region, as it could offer multiple benefits and ultimately reduce the pressure on the community forest,” added Kishor Prasad Bhatta. , co-author of the study and the university. by the researcher from Göttingen.
The team called for close collaboration between local people and relevant stakeholders to promote and facilitate more widespread adoption of agroforestry systems.
“We recommend further study of the motivations of agroforestry, political skills in agroforestry development and quantitative targets for the contribution of agroforestry to the total income of the local population and to the market for agricultural and forestry products. in this domain”. said Bhatta.
At CIFOR and the World Agroforestry (ICRAF), research has shown that integrated agroforestry systems need to be designed strategically. Deciding where, when and how to plant trees requires ongoing negotiations with all stakeholders, ”said Himlal Baral, senior researcher at CIFOR-ICRAF.
Choosing the right tree, in the right place and for the right purpose, while involving community members, custodians of seed sources, small-scale nursery networks, scientists, non-governmental organizations, businesses, governments and international organizations is essential to ensure that tree planting projects are successful, he said.
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