Integrating poplar based agroforestry and dairy farming

Our 3 year old poplar block intercropped with wheat

Our 3 year old poplar block intercropped with wheat

Aha!!! The day’s work at farm has ended. It’s time for me to sit back and enjoy a glass of mango shake made from mango plucked from our orchard and farm fresh milk produced in our dairy.

It’s 7 p.m here in India and as I sit down to pen my blog to share my experience in agriculture, I feel amazed at how passionate I have grown about farming in just four years of my stay at our farm based in rural part of North Indian State Uttar Pradesh.

In 2010, after completing MSc Business Economics and Finance from London, I returned to India and got married to Gaurav Chaudhary who has similar education background and settled with him at his 65 acre farm in village Tanda Vijaysi , Uttar Pradesh. Gaurav’s passion for farming and enthusiasm to grow agribusiness providing agro inputs and agriculture services to farmers impressed me and I also decided to involve myself completely in agriculture which I now feel is “unexplored treasure”.

At our dairy unit

At our dairy unit

At our farm we practice Poplar based Agroforestry and Dairy Farming.

We have about 12000 Poplar trees and 1000 Eucalyptus trees on our farm. We follow best practices to raise Poplar plantations of high genetic potential and fetch very good price for every tree.

Large scale poplar plantations on farm land has the potential not only to improve tree cover and hence environment but also farmers’ financial health.

Poplar trees get ready for final harvest in 6 years which is one of the fastest timber growing systems on earth! Poplar is intercropped with Sugarcane for first two years and from third year onwards until its final harvest farmers intercrop it with wheat crop. Intercropping gives annual returns to farmers. These trees were promoted among farmers in North West India in 1980s by WIMCO Seedlings to meet its timber requirements.

Poplar based Agroforestry: Way out to meet Environmental challenges and improving the financial status of farmers in North West India.

In Nov 2011, I went to WIMCO Seedlings to buy Poplar saplings to plant at our farm. Interestingly General Manager of WIMCO Seedlings asked me to utilise my Economics background to compare profitability farmer gets from dominant crops in the region which are Sugarcane, Paddy – Wheat vis-a-vis Poplar based Agro forestry.

I did an economic analysis of Poplar based Agro forestry vis-a-vis crops from our farm maintained data on costs and sales and found much higher returns from agro forestry system of land use. The paper was also presented by me to farmers, researchers and scientists gathering at International Poplar Commission held in 2012 in India.

Though Poplar Plantation is widely adopted by farmers in North West India which has improved tree cover but there are problems which I observed and working upon to benefit environment and farmers’ economic status.

  • Poplar Plantations are not raised properly and hence returns realised by farmers from low timber yields per tree are low. They are therefore not able to take high returns from trees
  • Many a times farmers buy poplar saplings from unauthentic sellers as a result of which trees take poor growth or die in some time and hence farmers’ time and money are lost. This not only brings down their confidence in trees but they altogether stop planting trees.
  • Clear cut policies to be framed by policy makers and government to ensure Poplar prices remain profitable for farmers. Poplar price fluctuations in some years have also withdrawn many farmers from planting trees.
  • For many farmers waiting period of 6 years is too long and hence tree plantations have not reached their maximum coverage levels.

I have been awaring farmers in my village and nearby ten villages on right practices to raise good poplar plantations starting from land preparation, sapling plantation to yearly management of poplar trees so that farmers fetch best returns from upon tree harvest and therefore continue to plant trees on their farms. This I do by distributing pamphlets through our agro inputs counters at three places, regular interaction with farmers at our Progressive Farmers’ Association Meetings and at various other Farmers Meetings and Conferences.

As an educated youth pursuing farming, I also make efforts to reach out to Government, Policy makers, Agriculturalists to present challenges and opportunities that are there for farmers.

Dairy Farming: very compatible with agroforestry model

Again in my interaction with several farmers in my state for a survey that I presented at World Congress on Agroforestry 2014, I realised that in order to improve tree cover further and make farming more remunerative we need to find an avenue that will ensure farmers regular earnings and to that Dairy farming was an answer.

Interestingly, being involved in dairy, I realised that my fodder oats grew very well underneath Poplar trees. That was win win situation for me as now I don’t need to spare much open land to grow fodder for cows. This integration is tremendously beneficial. What an innovation!!!

I, along with my husband, formed Progressive Dairy Farmers’ Association Uttar Pradesh in 2012 and started working to encourage farmers to take up Dairy farming. Since then we have been conducting meetings every two months and call Dairy experts so that all farmers run dairy efficiently and take best possible returns from their milk sale.

The regular meetings have resulted in dairy expansion in the region and dairy is run not in traditional way but commercially wherein farmers are adopting modern dairy practices. Their engagement in dairy and daily returns from milk sale has tremendously improved tree cover on farms as waiting period of 6 years for tree harvest is not difficult now and yes farmers’ fodder requirement also comes from intercropping done in trees. Large quantity of cow manure is adding to soil fertility and producing needed electricity at farms.

Today we sell 500 litres of milk per day with monthly net earnings of USD 2500 from our Dairy Enterprise of 40 cows which we are expanding to in-house 100 cows by 2016. Cow Manure is utilised at our farm which has improved our soil health tremendously and lowered our agro inputs costs.

Poplar trees are harvested in cycles every alternate year and we generate USD 25,000 from 500 trees planted per hectare of land. The huge returns give us requisite capital for further investment in our Dairy Enterprise. The combination of Agro forestry and Dairy is not only very viable for farmers but very beneficial for our environment too.

Our farm has now become a demonstration farm which attracts stream of farmers, youth on regular basis who takes deep interest in our farm management practices. Through our efforts at farm not only have we gained tremendously but have been able to inspire lot of people to work in most neglected yet most important sector of our country.

Agriculture image among young people is changing who are now turning to farming as a viable career path. Agriculture is an enterprise, all we need to do is to identify right model for right region.

Blogpost and photos submitted by Nikki Chaudhary (India) – chaudharyfarms(at)gmail.com

The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.


This post is published as entry #5 of our #Forests2015 blog competition. It is submitted in the “Youth” category.

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45 thoughts on “Integrating poplar based agroforestry and dairy farming

  1. Trees, crops and animals, what more to ask for. An ideal agroforestry system. I can surely say that this is an excellent example of an economically viable and sustainable agroforestry system. Great effort.

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  2. Hello Readers,
    It’s just my fresh opinion about this young entrepreneur who have given me a vision for my future. Last month I visited the diary at Chaudhary farms. A very well systematically organized work culture with a dedicated person behind it, it’s indeed my pleasure to jot down my thoughts about this visit.
    It was a half day stay there, firstly I found out that the work was done on the regular time, giving cows and all the cattles proper time for their better development in health and in economic terms for the owner. Secondly, the effective way of milk secretion from cows leads to time saving. Then, the Cross farming of main crop with farming of poplar trees gives a better long term financial support to the farmer.
    This young personality, Respected Nikki Chaudhary Mam is a great inspiration for thousands of other farmers staying nearby and far away from this farm. I hope with your support we too will excel in our lives. Last but not the least to end my thoughts that a woman will always be more successful than a man, because back of her hard work also lies her caring nature, which I found in Nikki mam, never ever give it up mam.
    Stay blessed and keep smiling.
    Happy reading.

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  3. Nikki, I am happy to know that you have become an entrepreneur jointly owning and managing what I think has already become a farming success. Your blog captures brilliantly the progress you have made so far. It is equally interesting to know that you are helping other farmers to get more awareness. My advise for you is that you should increase the population of your cattle because it looks like the dairy income is really encouraging. Best wishes from Abuja-Nigeria

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    • Thanks a lot Audu for taking time off to read my blog and many thanks for very encouraging words.

      Yes we will expand our Dairy and increase cattle population. We are doing it all step by step.

      Will keep you updated with our progress.

      Many Thanks
      Nikki

      Like

  4. The effort your putting up is truly a one to inspire us. We surely appreciate what has been done by you till now,highly tough job,yet your doing it so effortlessly.Applauds!!!

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  5. Hello Nikki ji
    It’s great to see you doing an awesome work in such a different field. You have given us a new outlook towards agroforestry and dairy farming. You are my role model. Thanks for all your support and cooperation.

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  6. Dear Nikki ji
    You are an inspiration for the youth of our country…. It really needs courage to enter in a field like this and on top of that educating the masses about the scientific approach to agrofarming and dairy. I personally feel privileged to have people like you around me. Always looking forward for your support. Thanks for everything.
    Akanksha

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  7. Dear Nikki, Agro-Forestry focuses on the wide range of working trees grown on farms and in rural landscapes. Among these are fertilizer trees for land regeneration, soil health and food security; fruit trees for nutrition; fodder trees that improve smallholder livestock production; timber and fuel wood trees for shelter and energy; medicinal trees to combat disease; and trees that produce gums, resins or latex products.

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  8. Dear nikki di thankyou. aap logo ka plan aur us plan pe mehnat des me abhi ke youth ke liye kranti ka prerna de rhe hai . Is plan ko apna kar hmare jaise youth khud se aamdani ka rasta nikal sakta hai. Mai 2015 me 12 i.sc complit kar chuka hu. Aage mai is field ke bare me sikhna chahta hu. Kha se sikha ja skta hai ya aap log help kar sakte hai.mera economic candition bahut week hai. Kya mai iski prai(study) me money pay kar sakta hu. Mere email pe jarur sujhaw de aur apna pta mobile no. Jarur de . I’m very intrested this filed .because son of farmer.

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  9. Hi Nikki.. Great to see you both putting in lot of efforts and rightly so. True amazing and Inspirational. Way to go..!!
    Cheers

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  10. Agriculture has always been really the backbone of any economy, and perhaps even more for a country like India where the emotional quotient around the same is even higher. Despite the need and importance what really hurts you at times is the state of farmer’s and the level of exploitation they go through. The only way to change all this is through education and awareness around agriculture and it’s best practices. So this is clearly one step in the right direction and I hope they are many more to follow. Kudos to you and your family!!!

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    • Thanks very much Luv for your best wishes. Yes situation of farmers in India is not good and change can come by young educated people coming up with green thumb. They will not only bring modern technology in agriculture but will also disseminate information to farmers nearby.

      Like

  11. Dear Nikki,

    I read your blog while sitting in my London office and debating with many other colleagues of mine over the future of farming in India specially with new generation of Indians. Your story is really inspirational for the Indian youths. Indian farmers have always struggled with the financial rationale of the agriculture and your analysis gives a good insight as well as way forward for others as how to look at farming as a business venture which is sustainable as well as good for environment. I have shared your story with few of my friends in Orissa & Bihar and they seem excited to know more as well on the topic. Keep up the good work.

    All the best!

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    • Thanks Sidharth for your comment. Yes Agriculture in India is under stress. Lot of people are dependent on agriculture incomes but because of lack of skilled people in it, lack of modernisation is making it backward.
      There is huge potential for agriculture subsectors to grow such as dairy farming which is an enterprise and can be grown to large scale with hrd work and determination.
      However to improve agriculture scenario we need investment and educated youth to put in their innovative ideas and skills to improve its future.

      Like

  12. Dear Gaurav & Nikki,

    Kudos to you both. You guys have not only made a great, unparalleled argi- eco system for yourself but have been very generous in educating others as well, to make the most of it. This resonates a strong social message & motivates educated youth to take up this highly rewarding career.

    Keep up the good work. My best wishes.

    Rgds
    Yogendra shah

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  13. Hi Nikki, Commendable and a very inspiring effort. Your Dad and I are work colleagues. Do you mind if i share this article on my facebook to reach a wider audience? Thanks Mandeep

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    • Thanks Mandeep Ji for your encouraging comment. Yes you can share the blog with as many people as u like.
      Nikki

      Like

  14. Nikki has proven that white collar job is not the only option for the educated youth. From the comfort and convenience of London she took the challenge to take up farming and agroforestry in a rural village in Uttar Pradesh. And she proved that she was not wrong to select this career. Great work. Only a person with determination and more over the will to achieve can do such a great work. Well done Nikki, you have shown an example to the youth in India who shy away from Agriculture. I can see how proud is your father 🙂

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    • Thanks a lot for your appreciation. Yes I m sure Papa must be happy about our work and learning this from you has made my day.

      Best Regards,
      Nikki

      Like

  15. Its good to know about agroforestry. Above it is inspiration for our young generation that farming is a very intresting and advantageous.

    Like

  16. Very useful information ..being a youth farmer I can easily relate to all the information which is very educative. Spreading and sharing information is the only medium in which we can improve our agricultural standards . Unfortunately,youth these days do not want to have a career in agriculture which is really heartbreaking . We need more and more educated people in agriculture or dairy farming in order to boost agriculture profitability.
    Cheers

    Like

  17. Its great that agroforestry has not only have the potential to conserve and enrich our forest cover, but also enhance farmer’s life. Keep up the good work as other’s will also be inspired.

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    • Thanks Anshu. Yes agroforestry in North West India has played an important role in saving our forests from being cut for timber requirements and at the same time also responsible for improving livelihoods of many farmers through increased incomes.

      Like

  18. First time I heard about Poplar tree methodology for agriculture…. and to know that its really advantageous for farmers as well as for society…

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  19. Its heartening to find the educated Indians are making a strive to uplift the productivity of agriculture and related sector of India by directly involving into it as a agri-practitioner.

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    • Thanks a lot for your encouraging comment. Yes it is very essential that educated young people play their part in agriculture. By their skills, knowledge , innovative ideas they can bring revolution in agriculture.

      Like

  20. I’m very proud of this young person. I had the honour to be her teacher briefly (for French). Agriculture is that which will ultimately sustain us all and this planet. Unfortunately, very few youngsters consider a career in it. Japan is doing a fine thing by having many films and dramas with agriculture as theme.
    Bravo, cherie!

    Like

    • Merci Madame, (Thankyou so much Madame)

      Ma’am It gives me immense happiness to read your very encouraging comments.
      That’s true agriculture is the most important sector of any economy. It is a food sector which cannot be underestimated.

      Agriculture is not about tilling a land with plough, it is about taking best possible yields of crops, producing food, milk, eggs, wood for the nation. It is an enterprise which needs upgradation, innovation which is possible if educated youth pursue this activity.

      Liked by 1 person

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