A new approach to commercial forestry

September 13, 2013

Agroforestry is an old term used for a variety of agriculture and forestry land use systems. By definition 'agroforestry' means the integration of agriculture and/or farming, in combination with forestry.

by Jan van der Sijde, Agroforestry Manager, Burapha Agroforestry Co Ltd, Vientiane, Laos

rice
Rice planted between rows of eucalyptus.
cassava
A cassava crop growing alongside recently planted eucalyptus in Laos, providing food crops for the local community.

 

Burapha Agroforestry Co Ltd is a commercial forestry company in Laos that is using the agroforestry model in order to use land simultaneously for more than one purpose, benefitting the rural farmers as well as the company.

The company's agroforestry model is based on the concept of wide spacing between tree lines, up to 9.0 metres, which leaves ample space for inter-cropping with rice or other agriculture crops for the farmers.

Eucalyptus trees are planted 1.0 m apart in the tree line, resulting in 1 110 stems per hectare at planting.

Rotation is expected to be around 7-9 years for cellulose production. Where needed, a thinning could be carried out to produce small saw logs for the Burapha furniture factory.

Farmers from local villages are encouraged to plant crops like rice, cassava and ground beans after tree planting and the company will prepare land for agriculture in areas where terrain is suitable for mechanical site preparation.

Food security for farmers is further enhanced through the creation of cash income to farmers doing clearing of land, tree planting, weeding and other work for the company.

As land will be planted up over a number of years, farmers will have the opportunity to plant rice and have cash income over several years. Farmers can grow crops between the tree lines for two years and can then use the land for grazing of cattle until the time of harvesting.

After harvesting of eucalyptus trees, a new cycle of agroforestry starts.

Benefits for the farmers
The socio-economic development of communities in rural areas is a major focus in Laos. By applying the agroforestry model, the farmers benefit from:

  • improved agriculture production;
  • increased cash income;
  • improved grazing for cattle;
  • improved roads;
  • village development;
  • opportunities for skills development; and
  • opportunities for employment.

Benefits for the company
Burapha implemented the agroforestry model due to challenges in land tenure, increasing pressure to mitigate environmental impacts and concerns from farmers, and the need for villages and government institutions to be more accountable and sustainable. The company is now extending its agroforestry plantations in Laos and is confident that this agroforestry model will support the development of a versatile forest industry cluster.

Published in June 2013

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