Agroforestry in Myanmar: A long term sustainable solution

HISTORY OF AGROFORESTRY IN MYANMAR – Agroforestry has existed in Myanmar over centuries. The first advent was seen with the “Taungya” system of shifting cultivation, a forerunner to agroforestry. The word is reported to have originated in Myanmar and means hill (Taung) cultivation (ya). It was subsequently used to describe the afforestation method in Myanmar.

In 1856, when Dietrich Brandis was in Myanmar, he realized the detrimental effect of shifting cultivation on the management of timber resources and encouraged the practice of “Regeneration of Teak” (TectonaGrandis) with the assistance of “Taungya”, which involved the cultivation of agricultural crops in forests. Two decades later, the system proved to be so efficient that teak plantations were established at very low costs.

In 1890s, the concept was then introduced from Myanmar to Chittagong and Bengal areas in colonial India. The “Taungya” system is often cited as a popular and mostly successful agroforestry approach to establishing forest plantations in Myanmar.

AGROFORESTRY AT A GLOBAL LEVEL – Agroforestry systems include both traditional and modern land-use systems in which trees are managed together with crops and/or animal production systems in agricultural settings.Agro forestry is a critical concept, at a global level, which looks to sustain livelihoods, alleviate poverty and promote productive and resilient cropping and grassland environments in the local regions.Agroforestry is practiced in both tropical and temperate regions, particularly relevant in regions where food security is a major issue, such as Southern Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Asia.

AGROFORESTRY AND ECOSYSTEMS – It also enhances ecosystems storing
carbon, preventing deforestation, increasing biodiversity, protecting water and
reducing erosion. In addition, when applied strategically on a large scale, enables agricultural lands to withstand weather events, such as floods and
climate change.

TECHNOLOGICALINPUTS – Another interesting view is what information technology has to offer agroforestry. As an example, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has developed a mobile agro-advisory system called mKrishi, to improve agricultural productivity and GeoVun – a GIS based technology for tracking forest cover and preservation of biodiversity in India. A combination of such technologies can help better manage the linkage of agriculture and forests. For agroforestry to succeed it must make economic sense – a business model that works for all stakeholders.

FOOD INSECURITY IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES – Agroforestry – the integration of trees and shrubs with crops and livestock systems – have a strong potential in  addressing the problems of food insecurity in developing countries. Done well, it allows producers to make the best use of their land, can boost field crop yields, diversify income and increase resilience to climate change.

– Ranjit Barthakur, Founding Chairman, Myanmar Matters