The Forest and Landscape Restoration Mechanism

Agroforestry: a viable option for diverting pressure from the natural Chilgoza forests in Pakistan

Year published: 02/06/2020

Chilgoza forests are mainly found in the dry temperate area of Pakistan, covering around 132 647 ha. In these areas, due to the lack of alternative energy, local people are cutting trees for fuelwood as they face harsh climatic conditions during winter. This practice, together with overgrazing, is contributing to deforestation as well as forest degradation. Indeed, women and children usually peel the bark from trees, causing them to dry out, and cut small trees for fuelwood, which has badly affected the density of forests. A 2005 study by the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) confirmed that the density of 78 percent of forests in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province had declined tremendously due to logging for fuelwood and overgrazing. According to the Research and Development Directorate of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Forest Department, people in the province use PKR 75 billion-worth of fuelwood annually (around USD 470 million). The wood mainly comes from forests in mountainous areas.

Around 84 percent of damage to forests is due to the cutting of trees for fuel, and extensive grazing. In order to counter this degradation, trees would need to grow annually by 57 m³ for forests to be sustained.

The government has adopted a two-pronged strategy: (i) it has banned grazing and tree cutting to allow natural plant regeneration and (ii) it has focused efforts on planting trees to remedy the low forest density within a few years. For example, 160 million seedlings were provided for agroforestry and farm forestry. By adopting this strategy, the 1 Billion Tree Afforestation Programme contributed to the reforestation of 293 000 ha of previously barren land.

In the Chilgoza ecosystem, The Restoration Initiative (TRI) project funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) will continue the efforts of the 1 Billion Tree Afforestation Programme. The project will support communities to grow multi-purpose, fast-growing local trees near the forests, as well as on terraces and uncultivated areas of agricultural lands.

These plantations will provide communities with fuelwood and fodder within 4 to 5 years, and then with timber after 10 to 15 years. They will also be a source of additional income while lowering the pressure on valuable Chilgoza and other coniferous tree species.

In order to implement this activity, TRI’s project in Pakistan first assessed the demand from local communities for various forest and fruit plants. Based on the demand and their choice of species, in 2020, 150 000 forest and 12 000 fruit plants were procured and distributed amongst identified beneficiaries. Necessary on-the-job training was also provided on planting and looking after the plantations. In addition, 200 000 seedlings were also provided free of cost by the forest department as part of co-financing. In the Diamer District, 40 ha of block plantations were also completed. This being a useful and cost-effective activity, more seedlings will be provided next year by the project. To increase seedling availability at the local level and promote economic development activities, the project is planning to establish private nurseries through the communities’ Forest Protection and Conservation Committees (FPCCs).

Moreover, in rural areas, the collection of fuelwood and fodder is under women’s responsibility. They often have to cover distances of 4 to 5 km to reach the forests, which is difficult and time-consuming. The introduction of agroforestry and farm forestry will bring fuelwood and fodder closer to home and lower the burden on women. Therefore, local women greatly appreciate the provision of seedlings for agroforestry, and the project is paying particular attention to women’s advice on the choice of tree and fruit species. Women’s care for these trees will also increase their survival rates.

For more information contact: [email protected]

Faizul Bari (FAO)