Critically examine the impact of different agroforestry practices on rural development.
Selecting a country/region as a case study; examine the various agroforestry practices adopted by that country/region; and discuss the socio-economic and environmental impacts of these practices on rural livelihoods in the country/region selected.
Agroforestry as a land-usage practice in Australia
In Australia, it comes into view that the term ‘agroforestry’ is comprehended in various ways. For example, it has been used in order to signify land usage that is characterised by productive trees over a pasture. However, in realism, this is one of the forms of agroforestry. In recent times, more extensive explanations have arisen whereby agroforestry is regarded as synonymous with ‘trees-on-farms’ whereas, in some instances, it is perceived as generalized rural forestation (Gordon, Newman & Coleman, 2018). The term ‘agroforestry’ regardless of certain confusion over its precise meaning and complexities in translation to other languages is being used to illustrate the growth of trees with agricultural harvests and livestock on similar pieces of land (Dawson et al., 2014). However, Bhatt et al., (2017) noted that forestry, as well as agriculture, had been existent for centuries in simple societies. These simple societies had been perceived as universal vocation wherein the farmer, hunter or woodsmen were distinguished by similar identities. While Gordon, Newman and Coleman, (2018) recognized agroforestry as a considerably advanced field of organized scientific activity that signified agroforestry as an ancient land use form of practice. The following essay will explore the significant impact of various agroforestry practices on rural development in Australia. In addition to this the paper will highlight on the socio-economic improvements of rural communities by the method of agroforestry.
Agroforestry is referred to the set of land-usage practices including the purposeful combination of trees, agricultural harvest or animals on the same land management unit in some form of spatial organization or temporal sequence. Swamy and Tewari, (2017) noted that cultivating trees in amalgamation with crops, harvests and livestock is an ancient practice. However several factors have contributed to the rising interest in agroforestry since the 1970s such as the deterioration of the economic situation in various parts of the developing world and along with increased tropical deforestation and scarcity of land due to population pressures (Dawson et al., 2014). Primary agroforestry practices involve improved fallows and growing annual agricultural harvests at the establishment of a forestry plantation that is known as taungya. The importance of agroforestry has been typically attributed to the competence of mitigating specific general issues for rural land usage in several developing countries while applying these production systems (Sharma et al., 2016). The problems are associated with deforestation, shortage of chemical inputs and tree produces. Recently awareness has grown over the potentials which agroforestry can provide in order to increase the level of productivity and further raise the level of rural household security and offer regional environmental gains.
Swamy and Tewari, (2017) in recent years have observed a heightened increase in adopting and supporting agroforestry technologies among smallholder cultivators in Western Australia (WA). People thrive within a physical environment whereby physical factors related to soil type, climatic conditions of vegetation and topography all impact agroforestry. However, socio-economic issues tend to concern the human environment within which people live and act. Furthermore, Sharma et al., (2016) analysed that the selection criteria for farmers’ implementation of agroforestry practices rely on the range of environmental and socio-economic prerequisites which are associated with the successful cultivation of lasting harvests and trees. According to Harrison et al., (2016) the climatic conditions that correspond with increase are vital for trees to grow. Secondly, the soil types, in particular, the deep ones provide a high level of potential for the growth of trees. Though the above environmental preconditions by Quandt, Neufeldt and McCabe, (2018) determined the promotion of agroforestry, it is crucial to comprehend the definite occurrence of agroforestry practices.
Primary agroforestry practices in Australia
Cultivators and pastoralists have longed been using fodder trees and shrubs in order to feed their cattle. However, such conventional practices are identified as highly extensive with cultivators removing branches and permitting their livestock to browse (Sharma et al., 2016). Efficiently integrating trees into systems whereby they can be harvested close to each other and successfully reduced intensively can influence the economic benefits of rural communities in Western Australia. Harrison et al., (2016) claimed that in the northern agricultural region of Western Australia (WA), farmers grow fodder shrubs such as Calliandra calothyrsus and Leucaena trichandra in order to feed their stall-fed dairy cattle. Consequentially, these farm-harvested fodders significantly increase the rate of milk production and further can be substituted for considerably expensive purchased dairy products by raising the income level of the cultivators.
Meanwhile, Quandt, Neufeldt and McCabe, (2018) have been of the opinion that a combination of better quality fodder pastures and trees has facilitated the section of cultivators to raise their profits from livestock production. Further to this, Lasco et al., (2014) critically evaluated the combination of Gliricidia sepium also increase crop supply and reduce farm labour specifically for herding purposes as well as tethering. On the other hand, the author observed that the harvesters of agricultural regions of WA have been growing tagasaste in their daily farming and plantation practices which has increased their level of revenues whose cultivation has formerly been cropped on annual grasses and legumes (Harrison et al., 2016).
Furthermore, Quandt, Neufeldt and McCabe, (2018) critically evaluated that with the increased agriculture and concentrated fallowing periods; soil productiveness has emerged as a crucial problem in wide-ranging farming systems throughout the tropics. Lasco et al., (2014) noted that in several areas researchers, as well as cultivators, have significantly developed the shortage of tree cultivation as a critical way of increasing crop yields. At this juncture, another essential agroforestry practice known as biomass transfer identified by farmers is necessary to note that has been improving level of soil fertility or productivity (Tscharntke et al., 2015). This biomass transfer helps in manual transferring of uncultivated manures to matured crops and results in the increase of vegetable yields and also expands the duration of harvesting seasons.
Tscharntke et al., (2015) found that research on environmental gains of agroforestry is considerably less in regards to the studies conducted on factors of economic benefits on rural development. However available studies by Lasco et al., (2014) shed light on the extensive range of provisions of environmental benefits which agroforestry practices of fodder and soil fertilization offer to the farmer communities in Australia which the traditional types of the annual crop were unable to provide. Windbreaks on the Australian farms are considered as one of the oldest agroforestry a practice which has led to the plantation of over 45,000 km of windbreaks safeguarding over 700,000 ha (Tscharntke et al., 2015). Furthermore, several examples of private organizations have been stated who have been promoting agroforestry practices in exchange for carbon benefits. Papyrus Australia, one of the renowned developers of world-first technology has been purposefully promoting agroforestry practices by converting waste trunk of banana palm into alternatives to forest wood products (Papyrusaustralia.com.au, 2018). These forest wood products are further to be used in paper, packaging, furniture as well as other industries. These agroforestry supporting companies have been using a renewable source which is highly sustainable and does not result in any destruction of natural or purpose-planted forests. Bi et al., (2014) at this juncture, emphasizes the substantial amount of revenues which these companies contribute to the rural development of Australian farmer populace.
Environmental and socio-economic factors affecting the implementation of agroforestry in Australia
However, the question tends to prevail whether these revenues and returns from agroforestry will be sufficient for farmers in order to efficiently maintain their agroforestry practices once carbon expenses have ended (Calviño-Cancela & van Etten, 2018). Furthermore, in the highlands of Western Australia, cultivators engaged in specific carbon-trading projects have been growing indigenous species along with hardware species like eucalyptus globules and software species like radiata pine. Ballesta et al., (2015) claimed that while pine and eucalyptus have been lucrative for the Australian farmer communities, the slow-growing indigenous species tend to be unproductive to farmers thus generating negative returns. These factors again trigger queries regarding the sustainability level of carbon trading tree projects which entails projects which shows unprofitability in them (Acuna & Strandgard, 2017).
As Australia has an enriched history of agroforestry research, a considerable amount of R&D has been conducted under the Joint Venture Agroforestry Program (JVAP). Harrison and Harrison, (2016) critically evaluated that the JVAP programme has been purposed as a significant collaboration between Rural Industries and Development Council and Wood Products Australia. Agroforestry research in Australian regions has been considered silent in years since the publication of JVAP program. However, the practice of Agroforestry has been recognised as a vital contributor in securing the distribution and supply of National forest resources with significant recognition in the Australian forest products association 2016 policy paper (Bi et al., 2014). In addition to this, the program has been a part of the recommendations constituted within the forest industry Advisory Council strategy in order to expand the productive forest estate. Ballesta et al., (2015) noted that the diversification of farm revenues through Agroforestry practices had been identified as a potential approach to raise both profitable as well as the environmental flexibility of the Australian farming Enterprises. However, the revenues related to Agroforestry are typically considered to be diminutive, and the prolonged frames involved has been creating obstacles to the implementation of the farm Forestry systems. Harrison and Harrison, (2016) further explored that Australia should have a similar benefit in the production of wood as the fully-grown trees provide substantial land care along with agricultural productivity revenues. These productivities will also be increasing the number of resources which will further be dispersed and resulting to transport expenses to be a significant factor in the viability of any industry dependent on those wood products.
Australian commercial forestry
Acuna and Strandgard, (2017) revealed that in 2015 to 2016 Australia segregated commercial plantation area that has been estimated to be 1,984,660 hectares out of which softwood species comprised over 50% of the share. However, in these years, Victoria reportedly involved the largest total area of plantations that is around 432,000 hectares which are followed by New South Wales and Western Australia. It is important to note that the substantial proportion of plantations that is over 75%in Australia in private ownership while the public ownership accounted a small proportion of around 21 per cent along with a collective plantation share of only 3.8% (Bi et al., 2014). However, Acuna and Strandgard, (2017) claimed that in 2016 over 97 % of this softwood plantations were managed in order to producer sawlogs for sawn wood.
The role of agroforestry in improving rural household security and socio-economic conditions
Nevertheless softwood logs produced from the thinning operations and low quality parts of the stems were used in order to supply the production of engineered wood products and paper products. On the contrary as per the analysis of Bhardwaj, Navale and Sharma, (2017), around 82 % of the hardwood plantations where manage to produce pulp logs for products such as wood chips and paper. At this stage, it is essential to observe the role of commercial agroforestry practices in Australia which have undergone several forms such as plantations on farmland lease white space tree planting our native forests (Mortelliti, Michael & Lindenmayer, 2015).
Swamy and Tewari, (2017) reveal that the commercial agroforestry in Australia can take various forms such as alleys, woodlots, farmland along with substantial amount of endeavours under the collective effort of JVAP which has analysed such potentials. Tscharntke et al., (2015) examined that farm forestry may be executed by the enterprise or may have the propensity to involve large plantings under the joint venture arrangements or the leasing of farmland to forestry companies. These models, however, may concentrate the level of risks and threats to the farm enterprises as the management of the plantations would be performed externally. Consequentially, through these models, the cultivators would receive direct yearly financial revenue based on the lease expense of the land that is 5-9.3% of the land cost (Harrison & Harrison, 2016).
While direct financial benefits of agroforestry practices have been broadly evaluated, there has been a considerably lesser number of direct economic analyses of the potential and capacity of agroforestry practices in Australia. Thus to conclude it can be stated that the promotion of agroforestry practices has been considered to be crucial as it offers the broad prospect of increasing level of production and thus elevating the farmers’ earnings. Sustainable development through effective agroforestry practices can further be attained through a concerned endeavour to be proactively and continually promote cultivators’ participation in agroforestry practices. Thus identifying and dealing with primary factors which tend to determine cultivators’ involvement in agroforestry practices influences wide-ranging agroforestry practices to attain successful local involvement.
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