Generating income and decreasing deforestation from agroforestry

Graphic illustration of the different project components
Picture from one of the agroforestry systems in the four districts: Chitwan, Nawalparasi, Makwanpur and Rasuwa
Women group members harvesting lemon grass in Daunne community forest in Nawalparasi District
Destilling lemon grass for essential oil making
Women group workshop on agroforestry with Martin Jørgensen

You often come across the term agroforestry when reading about internal development project but what exactly does agroforestry mean? Agroforestry covers the broad range of methods where agricultural production is combined with trees (including woody perennials such as shrubs, palms, bamboos, etc.). The crops and trees interact with each other both in an ecological and economic way to optimize the productivity and the economic outcome of the field. An example of the Agrisilvicultural agroforestry system where crops and trees are combined is illustrated by this project illustration from Nepal:

The project originated from observing the unsustainable tendency of women collecting firewood from the local community forest as well as having livestock grazing uncontrolled in the forest – two activities increasing the pressure on the forest to regenerate the removed biomass and thereby continue to sustain the communities. The women also experienced negative social and health related impacts from carrying heavy loads on firewood and inhaling daily smoke from cooking over open fire. The project aimed to design a solution to this scenario without compromising access the daily livelihood necessities which the women depended on. As illustrated the women has been organized in local democratic women growers’ groups and the communities in Community Forest User Group who have been trained and now are responsible for planting, managing and collecting the commercial the Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP): Wintergreen (Gaultheria fragrentissima) and the domesticated variety Pachouli (Pogostemon cablin). They also plant fast growing, commercial tree species such as cinnamon, timber and eucalyptus trees. All herbs and trees are planted in the native forest and generate both a cash income and protein rich fodder for the livestock so they no longer enter the forest to graze. By growing these products in the natural forest, the local forest user groups have an economic incentive to protect the native forest and thereby take advantage of the beneficial growth climate and soil of the forest while at the same time leaving the natural trees for carbon sequestration. The system is thereby a way to combine both climate mitigation and climate adaptation. The protein rich fodder increases the local milk production from the cows which strengthen the household income and enriched the family diet. The project has supported the households to install local biogas units using the cow dung to generate biogas for cooking. This has two major benefits: firstly, the cows are kept out of the forest as the farmers need their dung and thereby pressure on the forest is released, secondly using biogas for cooking reduces the need to collect firewood – which further reduces the forest pressure and co2 release. On top of this as the women does not have to spend time collecting firewood in the forest they have more spare time for other activities such as income generation, they are subject to much less smoke from the daily cooking activities and they can use the bioslurry bi-product as fertilizer either increasing their agricultural production or serving as another income generation opportunity.

As illustrated on the below photos the women grower’s groups collect their planted wintergreens and process it into commercial essential oil through the use of local distillation units. The project supports them to produce at an attractive quality and quantity to be able to sell the oil and thereby generate income.       

The project is a partnership between Danish Forestry Extension and the local partner Wildlife Conservation Nepal as well as the commercial partner Himalayan Bio Trade Ltd. who plays an important role in the processing and commercialization of the NTFP. The Danish company Biosynergi helps to train the women in how to design and manage their agroforestry systems so the optimal growth conditions and output can be achieved. 

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