PROMOTION OF UNDERUTILIZED CROPS FOR INCOME GENERATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY
Over 30% of rural families in India are living in poverty due to small holding size and low soil productivity, resulting in uneconomical agriculture. As many underutilized tree species are tolerant to harsh agro-climatic conditions, BAIF has promoted agri-horti-forestry using these tree species on degraded hilly terrains in the Western Ghats region of Gujarat and Maharashtra. The tribal inhabitants of this region, traditionally dependent on non-timber forest products, preferred local fruit species instead of arable food crops, and selected tamarind (Tamarindus indica), jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus), Indian gooseberry (Emblica officinalis) and ber (Zizyphus mauritiana), apart from mango and cashew, for establishing agri-horti-forestry for their livelihoods. Oilseed tree species like neem (Azadirachta indica), mahua (Madhuca indica) and jatropha (Jatropha curcas) were also introduced on field borders, while the interspace was utilized for cultivation of food crops. While accepting various plant species for cultivation, the major concerns of the farmers were adaptability, higher returns, short gestation period, availability of superior quality germplasm, easy access to post harvest facilities and assured markets. Farmers preferred local species due to their utility and marketability. To ensure higher yields and superior quality of the produce, selection of elite germplasm, domestication through standardisation of cultivation practices and facilitation for supply of planting material are essential. It is further necessary to increase the demand for the produce by exploring their uses, create awareness among consumers and establish a good distribution network. Intercrops like foodgrains, vegetables and medicinal herbs not only generated additional income but also reduced risk in case of failure of underutilized crops. As promotion of underutilized crops without market linkage is risky, it is advisable to introduce such crops on a small scale with other well-known crops and expand the cultivation with increases in demand.
Hegde, N.G. (2009). PROMOTION OF UNDERUTILIZED CROPS FOR INCOME GENERATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY . Acta Hortic. 806, 563-570
underutilized fruits, oilseed trees, agri-horti-forestry, tribal rehabilitation