World's governments must encourage investment in agroforestry, remove constraints hindering contribution of trees to farmers' livelihoods, say participants in World Congress on Agroforestry in India in final joint statement

NEW DELHI, India , February 17, 2014 (press release) – Governments and business leaders worldwide have been challanged to adopt, develop and implement agroforestry policies that provide solutions to many of the economic and environmental challenges facing developing countries.

Speaking during the World Congress on Agroforestry in India this week, President of India Shri Pranab Mukherjee said: “Agroforestry holds immense promise in enhancing the productivity of land in an environmentally and economically sustainable manner.”

It is estimated that 1 smallholder farm in developing nations sustains 4 livelihoods. Globally, that equates to 2 billion people relying on smallholder farms. This population is growing and according to Shri Mukherjee these smallhold farmers are “economically vulnerable”.

President Shri Mukherjee advises that rather than being discouraged by long gestation periods normally associated with agroforestry projects, countries need to implement innovative models that encourage investment in this sector.

More than 1000 delegates from 80 countries spent the week at the Congress deliberating how best to promote the practice of agroforestry—integrating trees and shrubs on farmlands and rural landscapes.

A final joint communiqe challenges governments and policy makers to prioritise the promotion of agroforestry by formulating national agroforestry policies that encourage investment, restore degraded landscapes, establish sustainable enterprises and remove constraints that hinder the optimal contributions of trees to farmers’ livelihoods.

The delegates also challenged business leaders to engage strongly with small holder farmers to build robust supply chains, dialogue with governments to remove barriers and increase incentives for agroforestry practices and systems to thrive.

Agroforestry comes of age in India

Congress delegates noted that agroforestry has been recognized the world over as a form of land use that provides solutions to challenges facing developing countries, but the full potential of agroforestry is not being realized.

India is the only country that has designed a comprehensive policy that aims to improve productivity, create employment opportunities, generate income and meet the ever increasing demand for timber, food, fuel, fodder, fertilizer, fibre from a growing population.

India’s Secretary of the Department of Agricultural Research, Dr. S. Ayyappan, says that although agroforestry has come of age as a scientific discipline, its impact on business and development sectors has not yet been appreciated.

“The principal reason for this has been the various institutional, regulatory and technical constraints that impede its adoption,” he said.

To overcome this problem, he added that the Government of India decided to formulate a National Policy on Agroforestry. He is now advising other Governments to do the same: “ I hope other countries where such policy frameworks are lacking may follow suit.”

Farmers are also being asked to embrace new technologies and engage in more sustainable agricultural practices, and where feasible incorporate agroforestry practices, especially those that contribute to better nutrition outcomes. 

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