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Green society

AGROFORESTRY IN INDIA K G Tejwani Publisher : Oxford & IBH Publishing Price: not stated

By Meera Iyer
Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

Growing up with forests: irrep (Credit: Anil Agarwal / CSE)IN ANDHRA Pradesh, woodlots maintained by farmers are the venues of social, cultural and religious festivals. In the northeast, much of the cultural life of the people revolves around events in the jhum calendar. Agroforestry has been around in India for a long time: the traditional practices have evolved in response to a region's agroecological situations and are inextricably woven into the local lifestyle.

A lot of research has been done on agroforestry in India and umpteen papers published on the subject in scientific journals. But one yearned for a comprehensive book that would bring together in one volume all knowledge on the subject. For all those who wanted to know all there is to know on agroforestry in India, this is the book to read. As a former co-ordinator for South Asia in the Tropical Agroforestry Systems Inventory of the International Council for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF), Tejwani is perhaps uniquely qualified to have undertaken this task. His book is essentially a compilation of information from various sources that gives one an uptodate picture of agroforestry in the country.

The book tackles a whole gamut of systems that fall under the category of agroforestry. The distribution of the various practices, the edaphic requirements of the trees and their uses are outlined in each case. The ecological and economic interactions of the trees with the crops are also mentioned. The text is interspersed with about 50 tables and figures, which makes for easy reading.

The home gardens of Kerala and Tamil Nadu are fascinating ecosystems in themselves. As many as 60 species, including trees, cereals, pulses and spices, may be grown in less than half a hectare of land. The farmer imitates the multilayered structure of a forest in his garden, thereby achieving optimum resource utilisation.

Unfortunately, not much information is available on the interactions between the various components. Shifting agriculture also makes for interesting study. The ICAR seeks to do away with this system in the northeast and has proposed an alternative form of settled agriculture for the region. What has escaped them is that a rejection of jhum would mean a rejection of the entire way of life of the tribals, requiring nothing short of an upheaval in their social life.

One is rather surprised, however, by what appears to be a conscious effort on Tejwani's part to avoid all controversies. On the Prosopis juliflora, he contents himself with saying, "It was earlier considered a weed by foresters but it has now been realised that it provides fuelwood to the extent of 90 per cent in Tamil Nadu." Surely, a tree that has been maligned by many, and over which there is a raging debate, deserves a little more than a line? Similarly, entire sections of the book are devoted to the eucalyptus, but nowhere does Tejwani so much as mention the controversy surrounding the trees. This is strange when one considers that one can almost divide society into 2 on the basis of opinions people hold on the eucalyptus.

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