Economic rationale of traditional agroforestry systems: a case-study of Ficus trees in semiarid agro-ecosystems of Karnataka, southern India
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In Mandya district of southern dry agroclimatic zone of Karnataka, trees of the genus Ficus are abundant in rainfed agro-ecosystems with field crops like millets, maize, pulses and oilseeds. Economic values of this traditional agroforestry system were compared with alternative high-input systems using data collected from farmers’ interviews, group discussions and field walks held in 18 villages in Mandya. Data on annual farming costs and returns were used for a preliminary income comparison of various agricultural systems prevalent in Mandya. For further comparison with Ficus agroforestry, alternative systems were selected based on existing cropping pattern and farmers’ preferences. Financial (including all paid up costs and benefits) and economic (including opportunity costs of land, family labour, external agricultural inputs and benefit of in situ litter nutrient input from trees) benefit-cost analyses were conducted for assessing relative profitability of farming systems. Among the different systems compared, irrigated agroforestry systems with high-value trees emerged to be the most profitable. Among rainfed systems Ficus agroforestry had higher financial net present value (NPV), while economically Eucalyptus plantation had higher NPV due to less labour requirements. The implications of these results in judging a socioeconomically optimal land use for Mandya are discussed further.