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Achieving mitigation to climate change and improving food security through revitalization of sustainable agroforestry practices



Climate change is the most serious environmental threats facing the world today. Global warming, due to the increase of carbon dioxide and other green house gases in the atmosphere is becoming manifest day by day. Agroforestry is an alluring option for sequestering CO2 on agricultural lands as it can sequester significant amounts of CO2 while leaving the bulk of the land in agricultural production. Basically there are three mechanisms involved through which agroforestry can help reduce atmospheric CO2 levels (Montagnini and Nair, 2004), viz., i) carbon sequestration (creating new stocks in growing trees and soil), ii) carbon conservation (eases anthropogenic pressure on existing stocks of C in forests through conservation and management efforts) and iii) carbon substitution (substitution of energy demand materials by renewable natural resources, fuel wood production, increased conversion of biomass into durable wood products for use in place of energy intensive materials). Perennial systems like home gardens and agroforests can store and conserve considerable amounts of CO2 in living biomass and also in processed wood products. However, agroforestry remains under-recognized as a greenhouse gas mitigation option for agriculture.

Agroforestry, once practiced in Kerala as ‘Home Garden, is a sustainable system of land management suited to the fragile and brittle ecosystem of Kerala where soil erosion and germplasm loss are a major threat to subsistence agriculture. High ranges of Kerala are prone to landslips during monsoon due to extensive deforestation and subsequent unscientific agricultural practices. Agroforestry practices will help to reduce land slips and associated problems to a considerable extent. The present project proposes to undertake a planned and properly conducted campaign followed by on farm agroforestry programmes with community participation in Vamanapuram upland watersheds of Kerala. 

Is this proposal for a practice or a project?


What actions do you propose?

The present project aims to develop sustainable landuse practices, through an extensive agroforestry programme in participation with the local communities, so as to generate verifiable carbon emission reductions. The specific objectives of the project are:

  1. To popularise cost effective farm proven integrated agro-forestry practices and to create a strong public opinion on the need for carbon mission reductions through agroforestry practices
  2. Capacity building of the communities in adapting better agroforestry practices and to follow a low carbon lifestyle.
  3. To restore degraded areas that were previously cultivated and are now abandoned by adopting agroforestry system through community participation

The project will also produce research outputs into the potential of sustainable land use in the ecosystem to sequester and conserve carbon in order to contribute to the development of regionally applicable models that may be used to quantify carbon benefits in the pilot project area and in other future projects in the region.

Land use changes in Kerala were unprecedented during the past half century. A substantial decline in the area under rice and cassava, besides increases in coconut and rubber cultivation are paramount in this respect (Kumar, 2005). The consequences of deforestation, which also has been widespread in the State, include frequent flash floods and landslides, soil erosion, and silting of reservoirs, causing serious ecological and environmental problems and complex feedback effects on agricultural production. In the light of massive environmental degradation and need for climate change mitigation and the rising demands for fuel wood, fodder and timber, agroforestry holds promise. According to the Kerala State Planning Board (2003), there are about 1,476,000 ha of degraded lands in Kerala, of which about 950,000 ha experience moderate-to-severe erosion intensities. Land-use changes, and in particular agricultural intensification, affect the biodiversity of managed landscapes.

In the light of continuing environmental degradation, there is growing consensus that integrated tree-crop production systems such as agroforestry is the way to manage tropical agroecosystems in general and the fragile ecosystems in particular (Nair, 1993). This approach to land management considers not only the productivity of commercial trees and field crops, but also focuses on the underlying web of complex interactions among the organisms that are critical to ecosystem structure and functioning (Zeide, 2001). Furthermore, agroforestry, which aims at optimizing productivity and above all, sustainability, has the potential to provide many resources for which the people have traditionally depended on forests (fuel, fodder, green manure and timber). Despite such advantages, agroforestry as a land management strategy has not received adequate attention from the decision makers.

Agroforestry research is beginning to establish the scientific foundation required for building carbon accounting and modeling tools, but more progress is needed before it is readily accepted within agricultural greenhouse gas mitigation programs and, further, incorporated into the broader scope of sustainable agricultural management. Enhanced communication of agroforestry’s carbon co-benefit, as well as the other benefits afforded by these plantings, will help elevate agroforestry awareness within these discussions.

The purpose of the project is to develop sustainable landuse practices and to improve the degraded land through wide spread awareness regarding the potential of agroforestry system in C sequestration, involving and assigning the local community in developing more effiective model in planning, maintenance and protection of environment. The type of agroforestry system suited for the area will be selected based on analyzing terrain features, soil properties, and hydrologic characteristics of the area and specific environmental and socio-economic problems of the area. By ensuring the co-operation of local people in these activities, all efforts will be made to communicate these scientific tools and techniques used in the project to the local people and also to utilize their traditional wisdom and knowledge as much as possible.

The project components and activities can be summarised as follows:    

  • Popularisation of agroforestry practices
  • Identification of target groups and project beneficiaries
  • Mobilisation of target groups through various PRA techniques.
  • Constitution of implementation committee
  • Field analysis and diagnosis of the specific problems of the area
  • Formulation of treatment plans, agro forestry system and selection of species needed for that.
  • Implementation of treatment plans, seedling production and planting.
  • Monitoring and evaluation

Formation of implementation committees: The project strategy is to involve the community in all the stages of project activities and build rapport and ownership amongst the community. Panchayat/ local level implementation committees shall be responsible for the over all conduct and micro-level planning of the project under the guidance of experts from CED.

Mobilisation Efforts: Mobilisation of the community will be carried out through various methods such as seminars, discussions, mock experiments, experience narration, audiovisuals and campaign by trained community based field workers.

Diagnosis of the problem: A detailed evaluation of the study area will be carried out to understand the existing land use practices and its short comings. A proper diagnosis of the various factors related to terrain characteristics like slope, soil texture, type, depth, erosivity, water runoff, water availability, present agriculture practices and crop diversity etc., will be studied. An environmental appraisal map of the area will be prepared based on the above factors using tools in the GIS package ArcGIS. Major Agroforestry alternatives suitable to the project area will be identified.

Capacity Building: The project will achieve the objectives through capacity building of the communities in better agroforestry practices and other low cost farming practices. The project will provide experiences through trials to replace the existing inappropriate methods of agriculture and promotion of new eco-friendly and sustainable low cost farming practices.

Treatments to be done: Fifty to sixty target group farmers will be selected from each of the study location with a farm area of around 200-300hectares. Treatments will be carried out for the whole area with complimentary agronomic land management practices. These areas will later on transform themselves into excellent demonstration centres of integrated agroforestry systems and germplasm conservation areas, inspiring the farmers for its adoption.

Who will take these actions?

Small holder farmers: include individuals, women groups (Kudumbasree) and youth who engage in agricultural and non-agricultural practices. They play a vital role as the implementers of the project’s activities in order restore land productivity, conserve biodiversity, increase the resilience of agroforestry systems, and ultimately contribute to food security.

50 Young persons will be selected from the study location and training will be given to them to work as Community Based Field Workers.

Fifty target group farmers will be selected from each of the study location with a farm area of around 200-300hectares

Seedlings will be raised after finalizing the species selection in each area and will be supplied to the TGFs.

Necessary tree saplings and plants will be brought from other agencies like Kerala Agricultural University, Kerala Forest Department and Kerala Horticulture Development Corporation

Where will these actions be taken?

Vamanapuram River basin of Kerala, India

Vamanapuram River is one of the major rivers in Kerala having it’s basin areas in Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam districts. Presently, the River is gradually undergoing ecodegradation throughout its course of flow due to various anthropogenic stresses.

The main Vamanapuram River flows through 16 local bodies. The physiographic map prepared during the study shows that the majority of the drainage area is in the Midland (7.5 to 75 m) region (61%). The highland (>75 m) constitute 33%, and lowland (<7.5 m) 6%.  The area is with an undulating topography with intermittent valleys . The general elevation ranges from 76m to 1717m in the highland region, 45 m in the midland region to less than 4 m in the lowland region. The main landforms are sandy and rocky beaches, coastal cliff and sand ridges. The major soil types present in the area are Gravelly clay (82.5%), Loam (16.2%), Clay (1.3%) and Gravelly loam (0.02%).

In addition, specify the country or countries where these actions will be taken.


Country 2

No country selected

Country 3

No country selected

Country 4

No country selected

Country 5

No country selected


What impact will these actions have on greenhouse gas emissions and/or adapting to climate change?

The project envisages to carry out a campaign on multi tier cropping system of agroforestry followed by on farm programmes with community participation and project strategy will be group approach, locale specific and participatory soil and water conservation programmes integrating both the conventional conservation techniques (traditional knowledge and wisdom) as well as agronomic and agroforestry alternatives.

The outcome of the project will help to improve the degraded land through wide spread awareness regarding the potential of agroforestry system in C sequestration, involving and assigning the local community in developing more effiective model in planning, maintenance and protection of environment.

The proposed study covers two important aspects, (i) to develop sustainable landuse practices and to improve the degraded land through wide spread awareness regarding the potential of agroforestry system in C sequestration (ii) application of modern tools and techniques such as remote sensing data and GIS in scientific interpretation and analysis of data. Both these aspects are part of the thematic priority I, and find place in Afforestation Strategies and Climate Change component of the MoEFCC, India. This research project would help in developing strategies for management of degraded and other natural forests, generation of baseline data and policy development with respect to carbon sequestration.


What are other key benefits?

The information or data gathered on the contribution of agroforestry systems in climate change through carbon sequestration with varying bioclimatic conditions will help the Agriculture Department to stress the need for modifying management strategies to enhance carbon sequestration. The outcome of the study can be replicated in other states as well. Moreover it also helps in reporting GHG inventory by source and sink to the UNFCC in a more refined manner.


What are the proposal’s projected costs?

USD 10000


in the short-term;

  1. Land productivity and water availability improved through various interventions and thereby contributing to food security.
  2. Improved rural livelihoods and income.

In the medium-term;

  1. Creation of more green job opportunities.
  2. Revitalization of the old age practices will empower the local community thereby enhancing their trust in the agroforestry practices.
  3. Contribute significantly to food security goals by reducing the instances of crop failures.

In the long-term;

  1. Reduced greenhouse gas emissions resulting from agroforestry practices and increased carbon sequestration in soils and biomass lead to increased levels of terrestrial carbon stocks.
  2. The innovations and approaches in the project will lead to sustainable food production and consumption patterns in a changing climate.

About the author(s)

Dr. Vinod T R, Program Director of CED (Centre for Environment and Development, Thiruvananthapuram) earned Bachelor’s degree in Forestry (Birsa Agricultural University, Ranchi, 1991), and Masters Degree in Forestry (Kerala Agricultural University, 1994). Later pursued doctorate research (Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, 1995-99) to earn Ph.D degree (Saurashtra University, Rajkot, 2000). Further, Dr Vinod is a Diplomate (Kent University, UK, 2000) in Endangered Species Management. He also trained in GIS and Remote Sensing (2006). 

Dr. Vinod started his career at Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun as Biologist (1995-1999) under World Bank Supported FREEP project ‘An ecological study for the conservation of biodiversity in Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP), Himachal Pradesh, India: An Eco-development Approach. He served M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), Chennai (2000-2002). He joined CED as Program Coordinator in 2003 and later become the Program Director on 2009. During his tenure in CED, he completed 26 research and development projects by various National and International sponsors.

His research interests in forestry, wetlands, landscape management and climate change have been fostered by several years of experience working in various states of India, viz., Himachal Pradesh and Utharakhand in the North; Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu along the east coast and Kerala in the west coast but deep in the south. He authored 25 research papers, published 5 reports, guided 13 M Tech / MSc students and edited 22 proceedings volumes of various Environment Congresses.  

Related Proposals

Not sure 


Kumar B.M., 2005. Land use in Kerala: changing scenarios and shifting paradigms. J of Tropical Agriculture. 42 (1-2): 1-12

Montagnini F. and Nair P.K.R., 2004. Carbon sequestration: An underexploited environmental benefit of agroforestry systems. Agroforest. Syst., 61: 281–295.

Nair P.K.R., 1993. An Introduction to Agroforestry. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, 499p.

Zeide B., 2001. Resolving contradictions in forestry: back to science. Forest. Chron. 77:973-981.