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Advancement of Farm Forestry Extension in Madhya Pradesh, India: a training and capacity building collaboration

John D. Kellas & Peter J. Shepherd

The School of Forestry, Creswick Ltd.
Water Street, Creswick, Victoria, 3363. Australia.


Social and farm forestry in Madhya Pradesh (MP), central India, have benefited from external funding to the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department (MPFD) over the past two decades. As part a World Bank Forestry Project (P010506), Research and Extension (R&E) Centres were established in 14 agro-ecological zones. The objective of each centre being the production of genetically improved tree species from newly established clonal nursery facilities, establishment seed productions stands, and the provision of extension training facilities for staff. The project was completed in 1999. In 2000, and capitalising on the newly established infrastructure, AusAID, through the India Australia Training and Capacity Building Project, sponsored Sub-Project SP30: Capacity Building for Farm Forestry through Research and Extension Centres. The objective was to expand the extension techniques used within MPFD and to design and develop an extension training manual for R&E Centres and other MPFD staff. The manual was designed to provide a revised approach to farm forestry extension using interactive extension techniques and providing a knowledge and information base for interaction with small-scale farmers and villagers.

This paper discusses the farm forestry extension techniques used in Australia and Madhya Pradesh and describes the development of the extension training manual for future application by farm forestry extension practitioners in the MPFD. The manual represents a movement away from a traditional approach where extension assumed a directional approach, to one of facilitation and collaboration. Initially the question often asked was 'How do I motivate the farmers to plant trees?' which assumed all farmers were to adopt farm forestry. Now the question has become 'How can I help you?' which assumes that the primary target will be those farmers who may already motivated toward farm forestry.


India has a significant trade deficit in forest products (approx. US$734 Million (FAO 2001)) and the Central Government has a policy to increase forest and tree cover to 33% (Anon 2001a) programs have been initiated including the introduction of farm forestry in conjunction with traditional agriculture. Realistically, farm forestry will not address the trade issue, but will increase tree cover and other issues such as reducing pressure on native forests, increasing product options for farmers and villagers, assisting poverty alleviation and assisting in moving toward environmental and economic sustainability.

The expansion of farm forestry requires a coordinated approach by government agencies, NGOs, industry and landholders and the establishment or utilisation of existing extension networks. While extension training and networks are a common feature in the agricultural industries, they tend to be less developed in forestry, farm forestry or agroforestry. The models currently used in Australia have moved from the older styles of direction and dictation by government agencies to facilitation and the active interaction and exchange between government agencies, farmers, farmer organisations, the forest industries, the community and conservation groups. These new methods have developed in response to government policies and wider community concerns for revegetation of degraded lands, desire to improve productivity and new industrial forestry developments which include farm forestry and agroforestry.

Based on our observation in the central Indian State of Madhya Pradesh1 (MP), the move toward facilitation of farm forestry and agroforestry on private lands has only just begun. Whereas Indian rural communities have already had a continuing involvement in the joint management of forested areas where the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department (MPFD) co-operates with various community groups, generally under the umbrella of Village Forest Protection or Forest Development Committees. At the same time there are well-established extension networks associated with the agencies responsible for agriculture, horticulture and water conservation. There is a clear need for collaboration between these agencies and MPFD for the successful expansion and integration of farm forestry in the agricultural environment.

This paper describes the results of an assistance program sponsored by the Australian aid agency, AusAID, to strengthen the capacity of the MPFD to meet the challenges of extending farm forestry to the wider village community to provide additional sources of wood and non-wood forest products, to increase the level of tree cover and to reduce demands on forested areas and suggests directions for ongoing expansion of farm forestry

Brief background to Forestry in Madhya Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh, located in Central India, was formerly the largest Indian State (44.3 million ha) of which 13.1 million ha, or 30%, has tree cover. Much of the remaining area is dedicated to agriculture; which is of prime importance to the nation’s food production. Being located in a tropical monsoonal environment, the bulk of annual rainfall occurs in two or three months between June and August with the heaviest totals occurring in the east and decreasing towards the west; the range is from 1,500-400 mm. The climate for the remainder of the year is hot and dry so all tree and agricultural production relies on retention of adequate soil moisture or supplementation by irrigation.

Long-term land use has resulted in a diminution of forest resources and significant land degradation. There is a need to implement strategies to meet demands for traditional forest products and to moderate land degradation with the implementation of land use systems including trees and shrubs to increase the proportion of the State under tree cover to 35%. This has been recognised in the implementation of a US$58 million World Bank forestry project in Madhya Pradesh (P010506) between 1995 and 1999. The project was intended to support natural regeneration through improved silvicultural practices and forest floor management over an area of 161,000 ha.; a Village Resource Development Programme based on Participatory Planning in about 1,143 villages covering an area of around 343,000 ha; extension, technology and research programmes for the development of R&E Centres in each ecological zone, coupled with Tree Seed Improvement Programme, Demonstration Nurseries etc.; Biodiversity conservation of 12 high priority Protected Areas (Anon 2001b). Implementation of the overall project may be considered successful few outside influences (Hill 2000).

Farm forestry Infrastructure

Knowledge of farm forestry and agroforestry in considerable in India, particularly in relation to wood and non-wood forest products and the interaction of trees on conventional agricultural productivity. This knowledge has been developed by the Indian Forest Service through its series of Forest Research Institutes, by the State Forest Research Institutes, other government agencies and education facilities. However the distribution and extension of this knowledge to field foresters, other government extension agencies, land managers and farmers may not have been optimal.

In MP, farm forestry has been given a priority with the following objectives:

  • Alleviation of poverty through increase productivity of wood and non-wood products;
  • Movement toward environmentally and economically sustainable land management;
  • Improvement of village environment through climate amelioration, dust control, aesthetics, habitat, etc;
  • Empowerment of farmers and villagers, especially women, with the technology to apply technically and environmentally sound farm forestry practices with the aim of reducing poverty and improving the quality of life;
  • Technology transfer of farm forestry knowledge and experience from the R&E Centres to the broader community, capitalising on the World Bank funded infrastructure; and
  • Introduction of whole farm and/or whole catchment planning for farm forestry.

World Bank support has been provided to assist the expansion of farm forestry in MP (Project P010506) to encourage the establishment of trees within the rural environment. A total of US$9 million was allocated for the establishment of a network of 14 Research and Extension Centres (R&E) across the State. The R&E Centres have been established in strategic agro-ecological zones to provide extension services, technical advice and demonstrations of recent advances in farm forestry research to individuals, local communities and the MPFD.

The primary foci of the R&E Centres were:

  • genetic improvement of tree and pasture species,
  • establishment of seed production stands (both for tree and pasture crops),
  • establishment of nurseries for clonal produced planting material for distribution to landholders and the community, and
  • extension training for MPFD staff and the relevant community members.

The network of R&E Centres was established between during the World Bank project, with the last group being commissioned in 2000. The funding provided each Centre with supporting civil works under all components, roads, demarcation, training, procurement of computers and equipment such as houses, offices, vehicles, information systems, and other infrastructure to provide a focus for extension programs (Anon 2001b).

Capacity Building for Farm Forestry through Research and Extension Centres

Under the auspices of the India Australia Training and Capacity Building Project, an AusAID sponsored Sub-Project, SP30: Capacity Building for Farm Forestry through Research and Extension Centres was implemented by The School of Forestry, Creswick Ltd. during 2000 and 2001. The project consisted of six components with the primary output being an Extension Training Manual for use by MPFD staff in the R&E Centres. The manual was designed for use by R&E Centre staff with direct contact with the principle client group; the small scale farmers and villagers, eligible for MPFD assistance in establishing less than 500 trees over three years.

Needs Analysis

During a three week tour of MP inspecting R&E Centres, Research Institutes, villages and farms, we determined that while the R&E Centre staff had a theoretical understanding of extension techniques, the approach in practice tended towards lecturing and direction rather than understanding the requirements and needs of the villagers and farmers. In collaboration with the Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (R&E), Mr. A.P. Dwivedi, we also identified appropriate course material and practical field requirements for a ten person training program to be based at Creswick, Australia. It was proposed to demonstrate farmer and community participation in farm forestry through active facilitation rather than the traditional 'top-down' approach. We considered this would be very beneficial to R&E Centre staff and farmers following on-farm discussions with villagers and small-scale farmers. It became apparent that often the farmer's needs may not have been addressed or farm forestry options had not been fully planned, explained or explored.

Farm Forestry Extension Manual

The Extension Training Manual was developed in Australia by ten MPFD staff associated with R&E Centres during a three-month training program in 2000. The program consisted of lectures and seminars by specialist staff from The School of Forestry, Creswick Ltd., the Forestry Department of the University of Melbourne, research and development staff from the Forest Science Centre, Creswick and private consultants. The field components provided practical experience in many aspects of farm forestry across south-eastern Australia visiting commercial plantations, private farms, community tree planting projects, landcare sites and other research and training institutions.

The thrust of the field demonstrations was to cover a wide range of conditions and requirements where farm forestry was applicable under Australian conditions. These included plantations, woodlots, shelterbelts managed for wood production and/or shelter, streamside plantings for erosion control, and other plantings designed for salinity control, habitat, aesthetics and amenity values. Emphasis was also given to the importance of integrating farm forestry within the overall agricultural enterprise using whole farm planning techniques to optimise the allocation of land resources to best use (Garrett 1993).

The R&E Centre staff collated the relevant information, and with mentoring by our staff and specialist guest lecturers, developed an Extension Training Manual suitable for implementation in MP. The manual, by necessity, was designed for flexibility and was modular in nature, so that ultimately, extension staff at each R&E Centre would be able to adapt and modify the manual for their respective agro-ecological zones. The manual was also designed for easy understanding by the Forest Guards and Forest Extension Officers; these staff are the actual contact between the R&E Centres and the public. During subsequent discussions within MP, it was apparent that there were also some larger landholders prepared to adopted the integrated agroforestry concept with involvement of the associated villagers and workers.

In summary, the objective of the Extension Training Manual was for use by R&E Centre staff to develop and expand farm forestry in MP, with a particular focus that:

  • Provided the necessary skills and information for the R&E staff, their peers and subordinates to establish/expand farm forestry for the target client group;
  • Contained the technical requirements relevant to farm forestry practices and of benefit to small scale farmers and villagers;
  • Had application to small scale plantings around villages, on wasteland, along roadsides and small (<0.5 ha) woodlots;
  • The bulk of the production would be utilised within the village community; and
  • The development of conceptual models for farm forestry extension for MPFD.

While the manual was developed in English, it was incumbent on the R&E Centre staff to translate the manual into Hindi and other appropriate languages.

Facilitation versus Direction

The interaction between R&E Centre staff and farmers, foresters and extension staff in south eastern Australia demonstrated the importance of identifying and addressing the needs of the villagers and farmers rather than supplying an outcome which may not meet their requirements. The Master TreeGrower Program (Reid and Stephen 1999) gave a valuable incite to the facilitation and interaction approach and was included as an option in the Extension Training Manual for potential future development by the R&E Centres. Thus, the R&E Centre staff had expanded their vision of extension from 'How do I motivate the farmers to plant trees?' which assumed all farmers were to adopt farm forestry to the position where they were asking 'How can I help you?' which assumes that the primary target will be those farmers who may already motivated toward farm forestry.

Implementation of the Extension Training Manual

Following the acceptance of the Extension Training Manual by the MPFD, we returned to MP to review its implementation and to assist in identifying suitable farm forestry demonstration sites within the State. During these visits we observed the first revision of the manual to accommodate specific requirements of individual R&E Centres.

Demonstration sites

While the R&E Centres have been established for less than 6 years, there has been several successful farm forestry projects established near several Centres, sometimes without reference to the R&E Centres themselves. Often the driving force behind these plantings has been the landholder's desire to maintain productivity or establish sustainable management regimes for continued agricultural production, while integrating trees into the landscape on to otherwise unproductive land. We observed several operational farming sites or communities where landholders had developed innovative enterprises incorporating trees, both for wood and non-wood production. These included one farm at Hardibundh, near the Rewa R&E Centre, where the owners had established areas integrating agriculture, horticulture and forestry over several hectares. This site contained a range of forest species growing on bunds and in water conservation areas surrounding agricultural crops. In addition, there were adjacent fields where crops were being raised under widely-spaced trees (ie. inter-cropping). This integrated approach had resulted in a significant and varied bird population and had potential for honey production based on the eucalypts that were in heavy flower. Discussions with other owners also indicated that there was potential for co-operation and the addition of other features, such as spacing and coppicing demonstrations, to add to the value of some of these sites as future demonstration sites.

Other sites with potential to be valuable extension demonstrations were also seen at Bhabel and Talchairy near the Sagar R&E Centre. Any development on these sites would require some strategic planning at the R&E Centre level and a total farm plan development for each individual site/farm.

Staff Development

A workshop of R&E Centre staff was conducted in Jabalpur, MP, in April 2001 to the review and revise the Extension Training Manual, to evaluate implementation and to develop future directions. The important aspect for the continued expansion of farm forestry was continuity of extension staff. Traditionally R&E Centre staff can expect to be within in a Centre for about three years before being transferred elsewhere to increase their forestry experience. Such regular movements have the potential to retard the implementation of the farm forestry program while newly appointed staff establish their own networks; this is also a feature of Australian farm forestry extension. Career paths within farm forestry may be new approach to be considered.


Collaboration and co-operation with other agencies and institutions will also the necessary training and observation of farm forestry. The R&E Centres provide the necessary infrastructure with classrooms, accommodation and access to the clonal nurseries and propagation facilities. Training would also include programs for farmers, women and villagers. While there are currently numerous village- based nurseries producing planting material, often of unknown genetics, the R&E Centres have the scope to assist these enterprises develop into viable entities.

Future Directions

The workshop also identified a number of policy and management issues which would be valuable for the continuation of the expansion of the MP farm forestry program. These included:

Formalisation of a State-wide farm forestry strategy incorporating collaboration with other land management agencies, and

Revision of planning rules and legislation to encourage farm forestry including harvesting and marketing mechanisms.

However the major thrust for the advancement of farm forestry would be with respect to farm forestry demonstrations; many demonstrations often only contain one regime, and normally as a plantation design, when most farmers do not have the land available for such plantings. Several following basic concepts were identified for any demonstration series, a few more urgent examples were:

  • Tree species – while there is considerable concentration on eucalypts and a very successful program for commercial production of clonal Eucalyptus hybrids, which generally show the best performance, other species comparisons would be instructive.
  • Tree spacing – many designs had trees planted at one metre intervals, which from basic silvicultural principles, will result in many tall slender trees which will take some time to reach merchantable size. Fewer trees, planted say at three metre intervals, would result in a shorter rotation period and quicker return. Also any impact on adjoining agricutural crops would be reduced.
  • Planting designs – most demonstrations were in the form of plantations; of more relevance would be plantings on bunds, wastelands, water conservation areas, village surrounds and in inter-cropping arrangements.
  • Coppicing – many plantings assume a second crop being from the stump of the harvested trees. The resultant coppice will consist of many stems which will need to be reduced to one or two per stump in the first year after harvesting. Such demonstrations have not been established and developed as yet which would show treated and non-treated coppice.
  • Mulching/fertilising – there were many instances where crop and tree litter was being burned resulting in a loss of organic matter and nutrients from the site. Demonstrations of mulching and litter retention versus removal would be valuable.
  • Irrigated/non-irrigated – most R&E demonstrations were regularly irrigated on regimes not possible when combined with normal agricultural practice. Demonstrations on actual working farms would be more appropriate.
  • Salt tolerance – while not always obvious, salinity occurs in a number of regions of MP as a result of applying saline irrigation water. Demonstrations and research is needed to determine the salt tolerance of the preferred eucalypt clones and other species advocated for farm forestry.
  • Strategic plans - each R&E Cente should be encouraged to review their objectives and their audience's needs to assist identify the most relevant demonstrations of farm forestry. There are numerous farmers with suitable plantings who indicated to us that they were prepared to co-operate with the R&E Centres and convert existing plantings or be prepared to establish new plantings on their land to serve as demonstrations.

Underlying the need for on-farm demonstrations, is the acceptance that a failed demonstration is also a success in itself since considerable knowledge can be gained explaining why the demonstrations failed. In general, we observed a reluctance to demonstrate improper techniques, inappropriate species selection or silviculture. The existing demonstrations provide the opportunity to compare and contrast.

Outcomes and Conclusions

Madhya Pradesh has a well established network of Research and Extension Centres, developed with World Bank funding, which is the nucleus for expanding farm forestry to the villagers and small scale farmers. The R&E Centres have a successful and proven process for the commercial production of clonal Eucalyptus hybrids using low level technologies and local resources. This network offers a strong base from which to influence farm forestry adoption.

To this time, there have been numerous institutions, agencies and other organisations in close geographic proximity providing extension services to the agricultural sector and while it has been uncoordinated, these individual groups have often operated with parallel programs perhaps without a basic knowledge of the others activities, resources, facilities etc. Thus by capitalising on these established extension networks and systems, these latter organisations have established, a collaborative approach, could extend farm forestry more rapidly using a coordinated and well planned series of on-farm demonstrations to show the technology transfer from the research providers through the R&E Centres.

Similarly, there are already numerous innovative and adaptive approaches to farm forestry developing in MP without recall to formal extension processes or technology transfer from the MPFD. In retrospect, these present a paradox for farm forestry development: innovation without technology transfer may result in more failure than success. The traditional extension processes may have suppressed innovation, but with new extension processes the ultimate adoption of new farm forestry may be entering a new paradigm.

Possibly the mechanism for moving to this new paradigm will be the Extension Training Manual developed by MPFD R&E Centre staff. The manual is now available and contains a wide range of farm forestry options for villagers and small-scale farmers to implement. The manual has been designed to be flexible and readily modified and updated.

In conclusion, Madhya Pradesh is well placed with resources and extension material to capitalise on the World Bank funded infrastructure in the form of R&E Centres to realise the full potential of a holistic approach to farm forestry for the villager and small scale farmer. MPFD, with co-operation with other agencies involved in the management of natural resources, and using with whole farm planning principles can oversee a significant improvement in the social, economic and environmental conditions of MP in the coming years.


The authors wish to acknowledge the contributions of A.P. Dwivedi and staff of the MPFD, especially the R&E Centre staff, for their collaboration and to the Australian staff and colleagues who assisted us in the successful completion of SP30. Special thanks are due to Robyn Price and Peter Stephen. We also acknowledge the guidance and contributions by John Lyndon, GRM International Ltd., New Delhi, the Australian Team Leader to IATCBP.


1. Anon (2001a). National Forest Policy, 1988. [Internet], available from: [Accessed September 3rd, 2001].

2. Anon (2001b). M.P. Forest Project Completion Report. [Internet], 135 pp. Available from: [Accessed February 15th, 2001].

3. FAO (2001). FAOStat Forestry Data [Internet] Available from: [Accessed September 3rd, 2001].

4. Dwivedi, A.P. (1999). Extension and Research Centres - vehicles for change. Madhya Pradesh Forest Department, Bhopal, 68pp.

5. Garrett, B. (1993). Whole Farm Planning - Principles and Options. Agmedia, Melbourne, 95 pp.

6. Hill, I. (2000). Corruption in the forest sector in India: impacts and implications for development assistance. International Forestry Review 2: 200-207.

7. Reid, R. and Stephen, P. (1999). The Farmer's Log 1999 - Australian Master TreeGrower Manual. RIRDC Publication 99/01, Canberra.

1 For this paper, Madhya Pradesh also includes that area which is now the State of Chhattisgarh.

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