Agroforestry in Meghalaya: A workshop for strengthening and rethinking practices for sustainable growth

Agroforestry in Meghalaya: A workshop for strengthening and rethinking practices for sustainable growth

Shillong, Apr. 24: Communities in Meghalaya have long practiced traditional methods of agroforestry, initially aimed at fulfilling their own needs. However, recognizing the need for innovation and revitalization of such agroforestry practices, a workshop titled “Reimagining Agroforestry in Meghalaya: The Need for Strengthening and Rethinking” was jointly organized by the Centre of Excellence, The Community-led Landscape Management Project (CLLMP), IORA, and the Government Innovation Lab (SCEP) at the conference hall of MBDA/MBMA in Nongthymmai, Shillong on April 23, 2024.

This workshop is dedicated to identifying the best sustainable agroforestry models across diverse agro-climatic regions of Meghalaya, integrating optimal tree growing and agricultural practices, exploring strategies to enhance existing plantations/agroforestry models or develop new ones, fostering cross-department collaboration to create a stakeholder ecosystem for expanding the benefits of carbon finance through agroforestry and outlining the requisite support needed for successful agroforestry implementation in Meghalaya.

“Meghalaya, with its large indigenous population, shares a symbiotic connection with nature, which is one of our greatest advantages,” stated Sampath Kumar, IAS, Principal Secretary & Development Commissioner, Government of Meghalaya. “We must prioritize conservation efforts and explore innovative solutions to combat global warming. Initiatives such as the carbon finance project will play a crucial role in incentivizing environmental conservation, with 80% of the benefits directed towards farmers.”

He emphasized the need for collaborative efforts in the state to advance sustainable development initiatives. Mr Kumar also highlighted the government’s commitment to creating value and purpose, particularly in addressing climate change challenges and harnessing associated opportunities.

He said, “It’s crucial to link global conservation efforts with the distinct local methods, stressing the importance of adaptability to cater to farmers’ changing requirements. I’m excited about the continuous research in natural farming and its fusion with agroforestry practices. Furthermore, I urge various line departments to delve into carbon credit opportunities and assume responsibility for conservation initiatives to enhance self-accountability.”

During his welcome address, Gunanka D B, IFS, Executive Director of MBDA & APD – CLLMP and Meg-Life, highlighted the strategic initiative to integrate existing plantations into a carbon finance project, with a parallel goal of enhancing their sustainability through agroforestry practices. The implementation of agroforestry presents a pathway for transitioning away from monocropping and shifting cultivation towards a diversified, multi-cropping system. This workshop is dedicated to identifying the best sustainable agroforestry models across diverse agro-climatic regions of Meghalaya, focusing on integrating optimal tree growing and agricultural practices, and exploring strategies to leverage financial incentives for this transformative agenda.

Dr. Subhash Ashutosh, IFS, Co-chairman & Director, Centre of Excellence (NRM & Sustainable Livelihoods), Government of Meghalaya, set the tone for the workshop with his insightful remarks. He emphasized the need to leverage agroforestry for soil health, biodiversity enhancement, increased productivity, and farmer incentives.

In his presentation, Dr. Ashutosh highlighted the multifaceted benefits of agroforestry and its potential to address several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He addressed the pressing issue of soil erosion in Meghalaya and emphasized the need to expand green cover outside forest areas to restore ecological balance. According to NITI Aayog, the report on greening and restoration of wasteland with agroforestry (GROW) is a collaborative effort aimed at addressing environmental challenges while fostering community engagement and cultural preservation. Dr. Ashutosh’s insights during the discussion of the technical aspects underscored the importance of integrating agroforestry initiatives with local customs and traditions.

Following the presentations, a lively question and answer session ensued, allowing participants to engage and delve deeper into the topics discussed.

 

The session seamlessly transitioned into a group discussion focused on reviewing successes and challenges to scale up existing models. Emphasis was placed on various agroforestry models, including those based on areca nut, broom grass, other fruit and commercial species, and forestry tree species. Participants shared valuable insights and ideas, with one community member suggesting the cultivation of litchi and plum. Another participant highlighted the challenges associated with profitability, especially with fluctuations in the price of broom grass.

On the other hand, transitioning to the topic of agroforestry-based carbon financing, Mr. Swapan Mehra, CEO of IORA Ecological Solutions, and Ms. Anne-Lot Kemna, RM Partnerships India, Acorn, highlighted their ongoing efforts to develop a green economy in Meghalaya. They outlined plans to cover 50,000 hectares of existing and 100,000 hectares of new plantation over the next two years, with a focus on sustainable forest management and community empowerment.

Notable Speakers and experts from various line departments and organizations including the Soil and Water Conservation, Forests & Environment Department, Community and Rural Development Department) (C&RD) Department, Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Department, Meghalaya Farmers Empowerment Commission (MFEC), Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), (Martin Luther Christian University (MLCU), North East Society for Agroecology Support (NESFAS), Meghalaya State Rural Livelihoods Society (MSRLS) and Community Members from different districts of the State were among the attendees at the workshop.

 


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