Agroforestry in FBLS

Special newsflash August 2019

Agroforestry is defined as agriculture incorporating the use of trees. Trees have many different benefits like sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, bringing up water and nutrients from depth, building up soil organic matter and thus soil carbon and improving the microclimate. In FBLS (Flood-Based Livelihood Systems), trees have an important role to play with many different uses that considerably contribute to livelihoods of its people. The main uses are firewood, fodder, timber, edible fruits and fencing. More information on different tree species and their uses can be found in this practical note. To promote the use of trees in FBLS, we will share several successful agroforestry practices in this special newsflash.

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The Hurry system

Acacia Nilotica locally known as Babul or Kikar is an indigenous species of southern Pakistan. It is known as the “golden tree” of the Sindh province in Pakistan as it is extensively grown in the forests and farmlands. Babul is also the main species of riverine forests and irrigated plantations of Sindh and a main component of agroforestry in Sindh on private farmlands grown as woodlots, tree lines and scattered trees. It is a multiple use species as it performs a wide variety of uses such as fuelwood, constructional timber, farm implements, furniture and pit props in coal mining industries. It is a fast-growing species with a rotation of 20 years if managed for large timber and 6-8 years if managed for industrial uses. Among a wide range of agroforestry practices in Sindh, an indigenous agroforestry system locally known as Hurry is a commonly used system. It is common on farmlands in Hyderabad, Matiari, Sanghar, Mirpurkhas, Shaheed Benazirabad (Nawabshah) districts and in forests all over the province and used for soil improvement and wood production. Hurry is defined as “Growing of Acacia nilotica at close spacing (less than 1 meter between plants) for short rotation (6 to 8 years) over time followed by agricultural crops”.

The main objectives of the Hurry cultivation are improvement of the soils of degraded farmlands and wastelands and production of wood. This wood needs to meet the requirements of wood-based industries (especially coal mines) and for several domestic purposes. Babul is a nitrogen-fixing tree species which has proven able to capture atmospheric Green House Gasses (GHG’s), fix nitrogen gas and transfer it to the soils and ultimately improve the soil fertility. In Sindh, the land degradation problems are increasing day by day due to various climatic and environmental problems which makes the use of Babul very important. Furthermore, this tree (as a component in the Agroforestry system in the form of Hurry) is a successful tool for environmental improvement and meeting the socio-economic needs of the people (especially the farming communities) of the areas is in use. Here you can find more information about this Hurry system.

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Charcoal and qataran production from the Selam tree

The Selam tree (Acacia Ehrenbergiana) is said to be the most important and dominant tree in spate irrigation systems in Yemen and Ethiopia. It has an estimated land coverage of over 22,000 ha. The Selam tree is very resilient to drought and grows well in areas with rainfall less than 150 mm/year. It is moderately tolerant to salinity and has a high generation capacity. Like in other countries, the Selam tree is used in Yemen for a.o. firewood, timber, fencing, animal and bee feeding and honey production. But Yemen has two major Salam products that have unique processing procedures: charcoal and qataran. Charcoal is mainly used for smoking pipes and as fuel in cooking some traditional Tihama food dishes and bread. The figure below shows the different steps of charcoal production.

Qataranis a black colored liquid which can be extracted from Selam trees in two different forms. The first form is as a thin and watery fluid which is used as animal medicine, treatment of insect and fungi parasites and treatment of human skin diseases caused by parasites. The other form is as a heavy and thick fluid which has a strong smell and is used for painting wooden material for preservation (protection from insects like termites) and protecting stems of fruit trees from insects and fungi. Below you see a figure showing a schematic overview of the qataranextraction device. 

In the Tihama region in Yemen, there are private investments in plantations of the Selam tree, mainly for the production of charcoal and qataran. This development may revert the long-time degradation of indigenous tree resources in the region. For more information on the process of these products and a cost-benefit analyses, read this practical note. 

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Roadside tree planting

In Kitui, Kenya, farmers plant trees like Sienna siamea, Jacaranda and Euphobia along the roadside as a fence or boundary. These trees grow fast, are drought resistant and hardly destructed by livestock and children that are moving around them. Besides functioning as a fence, road side trees have many other beneficial purposes. Road side tree planting can be a source of income (from sales of for example timber, firewood, honey, charcoal, seeds and seedling), it can increase conservation agriculture and diversification of agricultural production, increase road stabilization, increase the water holding capacity of the soil, reduce erosion, retain fertile soil in place, buffer harsh dry conditions, provide nutrients (rotting leaves) and thus increase the agricultural yield and the farmers income. For more information on the socio-economic importance of roadside tree planting in arid and semi-arid areas, you can read this report. In spate irrigation areas in Pakistan, roadside oasis are created by roadside tree planting which you can see on the image below.