In order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including enhancing livelihood, decreasing poverty, preserving the environment and biodiversity, and reversing climate change, agroforestry areas should be expanded in a variety of ways.
In this study, titled ‘GIS-based assessment of land-agroforestry potentiality of Jharkhand State, India’, an effort was made to examine the land potentiality for agroforestry at the district level in Jharkhand by using geographic information system (GIS) modelling technology. This study published in the journal ‘Regional Sustainability’ used data from the climate (temperature and precipitation), topography (slope and elevation), ecology (percent tree cover and normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI)), and social economics (poverty rate and tribal dominance) factors.
Results and discussion
Climatic factor: The climatic suitability for agroforestry in the southern and eastern portions of Jharkhand State which own approximately 41% of total area, were greater than 60%. The highest climate suitability for agroforestry in Jharkhand State was found in Simdega District (82.32%), followed by Pakur (80.31%), East Singhbhum (79.97%), Dumka (73.05%), Saraikela-Kharsawan (71.37%), Jamtara (70.36%), West Singhbhum (68.41%), and Sahibganj (61.65%) districts. Climatic factor is important for plant growth and land suitability prioritization for agroforestry (Verheye et al., 1982; Nath et al., 2021).
Topographical factor: Agroforestry crops need land with sufficient soil moisture and low erosion for their continuous growth, slope plays a critical role in regulating soil moisture and reducing erosion, as high slopes hinder tree or crop growth and vice versa (Ahmad et al., 2019). In Jharkhand, 11 districts had greater than 80% topographical suitability for agroforestry. The highest topographical suitability for agroforestry was found in Pakur District (89.39%), followed by Sahibganj (87.85%), Jamtara (87.27%), Godda (86.92%), Dumka (85.34%), Dhanbad (84.51%), Deoghar (84.19%), East Singhbhum (83.19%), Palamu (82.43%), Saraikela-Kharsawan (80.75%), and Bokaro (80.26%) districts.
Ecological factor: In Jharkhand, six districts had greater than 36% ecological suitability for agroforestry. The highest ecological suitability was found in the Latehar District (46.37%), followed by West Singhbhum (44.25%), Koderma (39.90%), Lohardaga (39.1%), Chatra (38.12%), and Hazaribagh (36.24%). An agroforestry system is closely linked to an ecological system where interaction between organisms and the environment takes place. It also highlights the land potentiality for vegetation growth (Bathgate, 2011). Our study revealed that about 23% land in Jharkhand was highly suitable for agroforestry practices, and 71% land had good ecological conditions for agroforestry.
Socio-economic factor: According to the analysis results, ten districts of Jharkhand State had greater than 70% socio-economic suitability for agroforestry and provided a better opportunity for achieving various SDGs among socio-economically deprived regions. In Jharkhand State, the highest socio-economic suitability land was in Simdega District (91.77%) followed by Gumla (86.83%), West Singhbhum (85.52%), Lohardaga (81.04%), Khunti (79.18%), Latehar (76.49%), Pakur (76.39%), Dumka (73.88%), Garhwa (73.78%), and Godda (70.41%) districts. Large areas in these ten districts were observed either barren or used for grazing or subsistence agriculture, which can be utilized for agroforestry for the economic opportunities of the population in these districts.
Land potentiality mapping for agroforestry: Landscape and socio-economic characteristics are important considerations in deciding where and how to expand agroforestry (FAO, 2018). The scale of an agroforestry project depends considerably on the needs of a community and access to resources such as available land, labour, agricultural technology, and adequate funds. The analysis highlights that five districts in Jharkhand displayed higher agroforestry potential (>60%) based on climate, topography, ecology, and social economic factors. The highest agroforestry potential was found in Simdega District (78.2%), followed by Pakur (76.52%), West Singhbhum (72.7%) and Dumka (68.84%).
In this study, we identified 513 out of 32,620 villages in Jharkhand State that were found potentially suitable (agroforestry suitability ≥80%) for agroforestry work. Such villages need to be prioritized for various agroforestry activities under various potentially suitable land use/ land cover types. Many potentially suitable lands for agroforestry can be used for agri-silviculture systems, agri-horticultural systems, silvopastoral systems, and home gardens.
Wasteland and agroforestry suitability: Under the outside forest area, approximately 8.58% area (6843.00 km2) of the total geographical land of Jharkhand is wasteland (FD Report, 2012), and nine districts had more than 10% of the total land as wasteland. Vast areas of land were wasteland in Ranchi, Sahibganj, Pakur, Dumka, Bokaro, and Jamtara districts, which need to be prioritized for agroforestry practices. The areas can be used for agroforestry under proper policy guidance to sensitize people towards self-induced agroforestry practices and the outcome in terms of economic opportunity. A robust plan is needed to convert the wastelands into tree cover areas.
Soil fertility restoration and agroforestry suitability
The initiation of a tree-planting program in an agricultural landscape in a potentially suitable area for agroforestry with adequate soil and water conservation will not only improve the land's quality by reducing soil loss, but also enhance soil fertility and achieve various goals, including social, economic, and ecological targets (Nair, 1984, 2011; Dollinger and Jose, 2018).
Land potentiality and green recovery under climate change: To achieve the sustainability goals at various levels, namely at the state, district, and village levels, we need to increase tree cover in various agroforestry domains to reduce the climate change impacts, which requires a strong institutional capacity supported by sustainable financial frameworks. Many agencies are funding efforts to boost greenery, and one of them is the Green Recovery Challenge Fund of the UK Partnering for Accelerated Climate Transitions (UK PACT). It might be a good option for improving the livelihood of tribal and rural communities in Jharkhand by enhancing the tree cover in potentially suitable sites based on the results of this study.
The funds to those farmers are essential for increasing agroforestry setup in various landscape domains for facilitating them for various tasks such as soil and water conservation practices, small check dams and/or water pond creation, and tree planting at the watershed level, which can reduce soil and water erosion and also conserve seasonal rainwater to enhance soil moisture further. This will also increase the farmers’ incomes and alleviate poverty as agriculture in most areas is presently dependent on seasonal precipitation. To achieve the ten million tree target, we need well-designed strategies with strong institutional capacity from the state to the village setup and sustainable financial frameworks supported and monitored by government officials and NGOs.
Carbon credit under landscape restoration with agroforestry option
Scaling tree cover in the potentially suitable landscapes as a land-based solution can mitigate climate change and also play an important role in poverty eradication programs through the approach of carbon offsets as supplementary income. Generating carbon offsets in agroforestry systems needs perfect monitoring, measurement, and validation by advanced tools such as a mobile app, a farm carbon audit tool, tree or plant geocoding, etc.
Rural livelihood improvement program in Jharkhand through carbon sequestration by extension of agroforestry practices, a nature-oriented solution for small and marginal farmers, namely, raising plantations on degraded land and wasteland under private landscape restoration goals, can be brought under a result-based carbon credit scheme similar to the Andhra Pradesh Model (Rao, 2022).
There is a need to develop a clear, simplified mechanism, like a rule book, with a carbon credit pilot project in Jharkhand, because designing a carbon project, including determining which type of project can be carried out such as afforestation, reforestation, advanced farming techniques, etc., where the project to be implemented, and so on, would take a long time, which would suit the local residents and support the poverty alleviation program significantly (Seeberg-Elverfeldt, 2010).
The results revealed that six districts of Jharkhand State had agroforestry potential greater than 60%. The highest agroforestry suitability was found in Simdega District (78.2%), followed by Pakur (76.25%), West Singhbhum (72.7%), Dumka (68.84%), Sahibganj (64.63%), and Godda (63.43%) districts. Additionally, we identified 513 out of 32,620 villages of Jharkhand State potentially suitable (agroforestry suitability ≥80%) for agroforestry with the objective of life improvement among marginalized society. Under the outside forest area, 8.58% of the total geographical land of Jharkhand State was wasteland, much of which was found suitable for agroforestry practices. The agroforestry setups in those wastelands can absorb 637 tonnes carbon annually in long run and can provide direct economic benefits to the locals besides additional income for carbon emission reduction.
This study concluded that Jharkhand has plenty of high potential land for agroforestry, and that the adoption of agroforestry at the village level must be given high priority. This study could guide the nodal authorities in preparing appropriate strategies for scaling the tree cover in agroforestry systems in village-level landscape planning, which needs policy attention and investment to achieve 9 out of the 17 SDGs.
The land potentiality analysis model particularly focuses on helping the decision-makers identify the land for particular objectives to fulfill the needs of local residents. We investigated the expansion land of agroforestry in Jharkhand using four factors in GIS: climate, topography, ecology, and social economics. Furthermore, we also explored the wasteland distribution pattern and their usefulness in Jharkhand and the cropland greenhouse gas emissions situation.
The results confirmed that the agroforestry potential of each district in Jharkhand needs synergic planning in terms of contexts, ideas, and farmer needs. Through proper policymaking, the land potential for agroforestry identified in the state can be used to increase agroforestry expansion. About 15% of the very high potential areas in Jharkhand should be used as the first priority for agroforestry expansion, followed by high potential and moderate potential areas subsequently.
High-poverty districts such as Simdega, West Singhbhum, Pakur, Dumka, and Godda districts were found to have high land potential for agroforestry and thus could be a good choice for poverty improvement through the adoption of successful agroforestry practices. Massive adoptions of agroforestry in Jharkhand will not only increase income, improve livelihoods, and enrich nutritious food for the local people but also facilitate agro-based small-scale industries that will contribute to the regional economy and promote ecological sustainability.