Land use in Kerala : changing scenarios and shifting paradigms

  • Kumar B
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Agricultural land-use changes in Kerala during the past half-century were marked by an initial increase in total cropped area (26% between 1960 and 1969), followed by dramatic shifts in the coverage of individual crops. For example, rice area dropped by 60% between 1975 and 2003, while the cultivation of coconut, rubber, arecanut and banana+plantains increased spectacularly (106, 627, 41 and 96% respectively between 1955 and 2000). Agricultural expansion coupled with over-exploitation of forests has affected the state’s forest ecosystems, however. Primary forests dropped substantially between 1940 and 1970—average loss of publicly managed forests being 5000 ha per year. Satellite imageries show a further drop thereafter, with a concomitant loss of biodiversity. As monospecific cultivation methods became extensive and the live fences/scattered trees on farmlands were decimated, the capacity within the agricultural sector to meet its own demands (green manure, poles, fodder, firewood and timber) also reduced, which in turn, increased the dependence on forestlands. In the light of environmental degradation and the need for climate change mitigation, a paradigm shift in the state’s land management is imperative. Agroforestry, which aims at optimizing productivity and above all, sustainability, has the potential to provide many resources for which the people have traditionally depended on forests. Yet, as a modern land management strategy, agroforestry has not received adequate attention in Kerala. Agroforests if established on degraded lands will not only reduce the anthropogenic pressure on existing forest resources but also will enhance the sink potential of CO2 .

Author-supplied keywords

  • agricultural intensification
  • agrobiodiversity
  • agroforestry
  • carbon sequestration
  • forest cover
  • land-use changes

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  • B M Kumar

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