How Trees Increase Farmers Incomes

There are several case studies of farmers’ incomes rising when they shift from crop cultivation to tree plantations. In Tamil Nadu, even farmers with just half an acre are reported to be earning Rs. 5 lakh a year. In Maharashtra, some farmers’ earning have increased almost seven-fold from about Rs. 20,000 an acre to Rs. 1.5 lakh an acre.

Farmers are also making money through Carbon Credit trading. The Maharashtra government is finalizing a trading exchange to encourage people to plant trees. It is estimated that 1 hectare with 200 sandalwood trees would give the farmer Rs 3500 in the first year. This income would increase by Rs. 3500 every year as the tree grows and captures more carbon. So at the end of 5 years, the farmer would be making Rs 17,500/yr.

Some companies in Tamil Nadu have already created a business model where farmers plant trees and earn a commission, and companies trade these carbon credits on the international exchange.

In Himachal Pradesh, over 50,000 farmers raised forest plantations on degraded public land and shared cash benefits of Rs. 1.93 crore earned through carbon credits.

Tree-based products such as neem leaves, honey, craft products, ayurvedic medicines and tree-based products such as rubber are also an income source.

Tourism is another income source. Farm tourism or rural tourism is a small but growing trend. Ecotourism is another sector applicable when trees and the surrounding ecosystem reach maturity. Worldwide in 1994, nature tourists (distinct from wildlife tourists) spent about 90 billion USD. India rarely even makes it into popular nature tourism lists right now, indicating lot of scope for growth.

Tree & farmers – Success stories                                                

  1. Siva Prasad in Thippaipally, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh (pomegranate)

Siva Prasad was growing crops like bengal gram, maize and groundnut on his 25-acre farm. Annual farm expenditure was 2.15 lakhs and revenue stood at 4.9 lakhs. After joining a government horticulture scheme, he took up pomegranate cultivation on his land. He had no knowledge of irrigation, pruning, usage of fertilizers, harvesting or marketing from a horticulture point of view and was trained accordingly by the government.

Organic manure, vermicompost and oil cakes were used. Drip irrigation was followed and inorganic fertilizers applied through fertigation. Drip irrigation was especially useful in preventing the growth of fungus which cracks the pomegranate on the tree.

Currently, his annual expenditure is 12.5 lakh and revenue is 35 lakh.

  1. K.P.Muthu Nagathasampatti, Dharmapuri district, Tamil Nadu (citrus, jasmine)

Mr. Muthu, grows jasmine and citrus in his land that is 50 cents (0.5 acre) in extent. He earns over Rs. 4 lakh annually. All the crops are being grown using goat manure, farmyard manure, groundnut and neem cake. With five goats and five bulls, he faces no difficulty in sourcing the inputs.

The 25 citrus trees are pruned during the summer and the fruits have a good demand in the market. “The reason for the demand is that the fruits are round, juicy, big, free from spots, scars and glossy in appearance,” he says. “I am able to harvest about 5000 fruits from each tree in a year. Each fruit is sold at the local market for Rs. 1.50 to Rs. 2 and I get a regular income of Rs. 1500 to Rs. 2000 per day,” says the farmer. During the jasmine season, the rates for the jasmine flowers also hit a peak and Mr. Muthu is able to get upto Rs. 300 a kg for the flowers. All the crops are grown organically.

  1. Mr. R. Kolandaisamy, Marungulam village, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu (amla)

Mr. Kolandaisamy has integrated a high-tech nursery with his 25-hectare organic farm. He has also laid a demonstration plot of 0.4 hectare with more than 400 grafts of high yielding varieties of amla. Good organic manure, mulched with coir pith compost, neem cake and vermicompost is used to increase the water holding capacity of the soil. Drip irrigation is applied. Biofertilizers such as Azotobacter, phosphobacterium and Vesicular Arbuscular Mycorrhiza (VAM) are applied regularly to boost plant growth.

Economically viable and bigger fruits can be harvested from the third year of planting. The cost of raising an amla plantation works out to Rs. 1.25 lakh per hectare. The returns from the third year of planting, at an average price of Rs. 10 per kg of fruits, are about Rs. 2.5 lakhs. Each plant will yield about 25 kg of fruits a year. When the trees are five years old, the yield will gradually rise to 50 kg a year. From the eighth year, the average output per tree will be about 100 kg a year.

  1. P. Veerabhadran, Mampakkam village, Chengalpattu district, Tamil Nadu (mango)

With 0.7 hectares, Veerabhadran is a marginal farmer. He says, “”A decade ago I was growing crops such as paddy and vegetables. Because of severe water shortage and successive monsoon failures, I lost a major portion of my crop. To overcome this problem, I thought of planting alternative crops, which would require less water unlike paddy and decided to plant mango in my field. At present I have about 250 Banganapalli and 400 Rumani varieties planted in my field. Both the varieties are able to fetch me a tidy income every year.”

For the first four years after planting the mango seedlings, he grew a variety of intercrops such as vegetables and groundnuts to supplement income. After harvest, the intercrops were ploughed into the soil as green manure. He also used rotten farmyard manure and neem cake. Panchagavya was sprayed to prevent pests.

He says, “”I had spent about Rs. 15,000 per hectare for growing, harvesting the intercrops, tree maintenance, and labour. I am expecting a harvest of 8-10 tonnes of Rumani fruits this year.” Rumani mangoes come to the market usually at the end of the mango season and fetch a good price when most of the other varieties lapse.”

  1. Bhagwan Singh, Bharatpur district, Rajasthan (guava)

Bhagwan Singh was cultivating mustard on his land as his ancestors had always done. Due to the lack of income, he lost hope on the mustard crop and decided to plant 300 guava saplings at a cost of just Rs. 500 in the year 2007. He used a sweet and seedless variety of the guava. There is great demand now for his fruits in Agra, Mathura and Delhi, and he earns Rs. 5 lakh a year now.

  1. Amarchintha village in Mahabubnagar district and Revalli village in Nalgonda district, Telangana (neem)

The Bio-India Biological Corporation (BIB), Hyderabad, is working with a Japanese company to develop a food ingredient from neem leaves, to be mixed with water. This will be packaged and sold in Japan, where the demand for green tea and medicated tea is quite high.

BIB purchases the neem leaves from the villagers under an agreement signed under the aegis of the Andhra Pradesh State Biodiversity Board. BIB pays Rs. 100 per kg of leaves.