|Regenerative Agriculture Technologies for the Hill Farmers of Nepal: An Information Kit (IIRR, 1992, 210 p.)|
|Natural resources and their enhancement|
Multipurpose tree and their uses
Decreasing forest resources, shrinking land holdings and labor shortages have forced farmers to look for viable farm alternatives. Fodder for cattle, fuelwood for cooking and fertilizer for the field remain priorities for farmers.
The importance of trees for firewood, timber, food and fodder is well-recognized by communities in the rural hills of Nepal. However, planting trees is not commonly practiced due to the common thought that trees belong in a forest. People are reluctant to plant trees on their croplands as they suspect that trees can have a negative impact on field crop production.
Survey findings show that households spend an average of 3-8 hours a day gathering fodder and fuelwood. Therefore, by planting tree species which have multiple uses on the farm, less family labour is devoted to these tasks and can be used for other activities.
Before making any decision regarding the establishment of trees, it is important for both the extension worker and the farmer to know the specific details of a tree species. For effective planning the following must be considered:
· water and nutrient requirements
· tolerance to adverse climates
· root system development
· foliage density
· coppicing ability
· multiple uses
· palatability of leaves to animals.
The use of fast-growing, leguminous tree species should be emphasized. In addition to fuel and fodder, legumes will add nitrogen and organic matter to the soil. Small-sized trees with an open crown and good coppicing ability should be given priority.
TREE-GROWING NICHES ON SMALL FARMS
When proper on-farm niches for growing trees can be identified, trees can meet the social needs of firewood, food, fodder and timber production. Also, soil fertility can be maintained and enhanced and landslides can be controlled. Growing trees on croplands near the home can save time in collecting fuelwood, fodder and timber and helps to maintain the natural vegetation, thus reducing human pressure on existing forest resources. However, tree species must be planted in appropriate tree growing niches within the farm.
Tree management must be based on individual farmer decisions because a farmer categorizes his management priorities on the basis of the expected harvest. It is important to understand that farmers require multiple products from their trees. This can be most effectively ensured by selecting tree species that have a valuable primary harvest, as well as secondary products.
Some of the tree species identified on the basis of their multipurpose uses are presented in the table. (Exotic species such as Ipil ipil, Caliandra, etc., are not included as sufficient information exists on these species.)