Agroforestry Models in South India

Axis 3. of the Ecology Department /

In the context of the rapid degradation of soil, forest vegetation, water resources and the impoverishment of farmer’s economy, the role of agro-forestry has become vital in terms of balancing the conflicting issues of conservation of natural resources and their usage in sustaining agricultural development and rural area livelihood.

The appropriate management of multipurpose trees (MPTs) in agro-forestry systems can lead to a sustained production of such basic needs as fuelwood, building materials, food, fodder, medicaments as well as indirectly reduce the pressure on forests. Unfortunately, very little is known about the many MPTs and agro-forestry systems that are practiced in the various agro-ecological zones of South India, particularly in terms of their dynamics and functioning, economic and ecological contribution.

Against the backdrop of such lacunae, a comprehensive Information System on the MPTs of South India was initiated to develop a requisite tool for researchers and development actors to design viable agro-forestry models through adaptive tree management practices.

The objectives are:

  • To list the MPTs i.e their management and multiple uses; to characterize their socio-economic and ecological relevance with regard to farmlands and the agro-ecological zones of South India
  • To document baseline information on MPTs and tree based systems at farm level in order to enable researchers and development actors to design adaptive tree management practices as well as adoptive agro-forestry technologies.
  • To ultimately promote tree-based ideotypes and agro-forestry models required for sustainable development.
Materials and Methods:

The Multi-purpose tree database for Agroecosystem Research and Appropriate Management (MARAM) in South India was initiated in 2002 and comprehensive fieldwork effectuated through surveys and inventories at macro and micro scales:

  • at agro-ecological level, from the agro-climatic map of National Bureau of Soil Survey and Land Use Planning (NBSS & LUP, 1993 &1996) covering six principal zones in South India, from the arid plains of the Deccan Plateau, at the junction between Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, to the humid slopes of the Western Ghats shared by Kerala and Karnataka, including parts of Tamil Nadu (Map);
  • at farm level, the basic unit of management where diversity of species and practices in tree-based systems reflect farmer needs, constraints and strategies under site specific conditions.

Farm samples were randomly selected within the delineated agro-ecological zones at district level, the administrative unit, where both socio-demographic and agro-economic data can be easily obtained. At the present stage the CD-Rom is about to release for the public utility, a total of 544 farms have been surveyed in all the Districts of Tamil Nadu (29) and Kerala (14), in South Karnataka (19) and Pondicherry.

Surveys were developed from a semi-directive and tested questionnaire comprising of 25 variables for the purpose of basic geographical and socio-economic identification of the farm. Simultaneously a list of the more important species was drawn which included a complementary set of raised queries representing 130 variables for each of the species cited. Data collected from field surveys and iconographic information on MPTs with regard to botanical traits, management and usage, were integrated into a MS Access data base and a prototype of the CD-ROM intended as the end product, designed for the specific purpose.

  • Dr Santhoshagouda V. Patil, Researcher, Ecology Department, IFP – Principal Investigator
  • Mr. Sathayanarayanan, programmer, IFP
  • Mr. Orukaimani, research assistant, IFP
  • Mr. Aravajy S., research assistant, IFP
  • Ms. Uma Maran, programmer, IFP
  • Mr. Ravichandran N., web designer, IFP
  • Dr. Depommier D., researcher, CIRAD-forêt, France


– Funding Agency(ies): IFP ; CIRAD ; Karnataka Forest Department