PESHAWAR: Niaz Ali Haji, a farmer from Gul Bela village in Charsadda district, considers farm forestry concept a boon for him and his colleagues because of the positive turn around in their lives due to economic benefits of the practice.
“For the last 12 years when I decided to switch over from crops farming to growing poplar and eucalyptus trees on my 120 kanals of land, it proved to be a godsend for me,”remarks Niaz Ali while sharing his experience of farm forestry with the media
During a visit to his fields.”The return of planting tree is slow, but huge, much beyond the expectation based on experience of crops farming,” discloses Niaz.”Earlier I used to grow wheat and sugar cane on my land which in return provided me financial benefits though it was a `hand to mouth’ living.
Whereas financial benefits of fast growing trees like poplar, eucalyptus and tamarix are much more from growing ordinary crops, Niaz claimed.
Niaz explained that he grows one thousand trees on four kanal of his land and each tree in return provides an average earning of Rs. 2,000 after maturity in five years making a total of around Rs2 millions.”So in total I grow 30,000 trees on my 120 kanals of land and returns are in millions of rupees which is impossible to earn from ordinary farming,” he went on to say.
“High returns of commercial forestry are attracting landowners towards growing trees and this practice is not only proving to be economically beneficial for growers, but also a big source of overcoming accelerated rate of deforestation,” comments Bashir Hussain Shah, a renowned exper on forestry and former Director of PFI (Pakistan Forest Institute).
The burden of wood based industry has been shifted from natural forest to farm forests because of low price and availability of wood in abundance, he told APP.
“Keeping in view the state of environmental degradation because of accelerated rate of forest depletion in Pakistan, its high time to promote the ideas of farm forestry, Agro Forestry and social forestry to recover green land besides economically benefiting people,”Bashir suggests.
“There are currently nine MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) plants operating in the country producing annually 324,732 cubic meters sheets,” apprises ZRK Industry Director Forestry Syed Mujtaba Husnain Zaidi.in Peshawar which is the Peshawar biggest MDF industry in South Asia.
SMH Zaidi, a gold medalist from PFI, told APP that out of nine MDF plants, five are in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, two in Punjab and two in Sindh.
Similarly there are twenty five particle based plants collectively producing around 600,000 cubic meters sheets annually in the country without using a single kg of wood from coniferous natural forests of the country.
The wood based industry of Pakistan is annually consuming 13,875 acres of tree plantation and therefore causing to grow 80,000 acres of plantation at any given time under farm forestry which is equal to 323 square kilometers area, he went on to say.
Zaidi said the wood based industry realizes importance of natural forests in maintenance of clean environment and in this regard is in process of tabling a resolution in K-P Assembly to impose ban on use of timber from natural forest by MDF or particle board industry.
Similarly, the All Pakistan MDF Manufacturing Association completely supports UNFCC initiative of REDD+ which aims at reducing deforestation and forest degradation.”Growing trees under farm forestry is like win-win situation for protection of forest and for economic benefits of farming community,” observed Tahir Rashid, CEO South Punjab Forest Company, set-up to stimulate private sector investments alongside public money to reduce deforestration and to combine forest conservation with sustainable economic development.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2017.