Multipurpose, climate-resilient agroforestry in the Eastern Himalayas


Authors: Ghanashyam Sharma

General - 2024

ISSUE No.: 62


Language: English


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Traditional, small-scale agroforestry systems offer a range of socioecological, sociocultural, and socioeconomic benefits for communities in the Eastern Himalayan region. Successfully managed by Indigenous farmers for generations, these systems involve intricate farming practices that integrate trees, shrubs, crops, and livestock, while avoiding any dependence on modern agricultural technologies like mechanisation or chemical inputs. The Eastern Himalayan region is home to seven agroforestry practices: farm-based, forest-based, large cardamom-based, mandarin-based, crops/mixed trees-based, slash-and-burn based, and tea-garden-based. The output-to-input ratio is highest for tea-based agroforestry and lowest for farm-based agroforestry. Farmers should carefully consider their choice of agroforestry system to suit their circumstances, but each system contributes to livelihood improvement, biodiversity conservation, and ecological sustainability. Several of the systems support high-value cash crops and they all provide a variety of functions and services, including maintaining soil fertility, conserving resources, enhancing productivity, and reducing erosion. They also support a remarkable level of crop diversity and preserve genetic resources, contributing to agrobiodiversity conservation. These traditional agroforestry systems, therefore, offer a sustainable approach to agriculture, balancing short-term food and livelihood needs with long-term environmental conservation. Research is now needed to assess gaps, especially related to multipurpose trees, to ensure the resilience and sustainability of these systems in the face of socioeconomic shifts.  

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