Agroforestry in the Western Ghats of Peninsular India and the Satoyama Landscapes of Japan: A Comparison of Two Sustainable Land Use Systems

Sustainability Science, Volume 4, Number 2, 2009, 215-232

B. Mohan Kumar and K. Takeuchi

“Agroforestry in the Western Ghats (WG) of peninsular India and satoyama in rural Japan are traditional land-use systems with similar evolutionary trajectories. Some of their relevance was lost by the middle of the twentieth century, when modern agricultural technologies and urbanisation engineered shifts in emphasis towards maximising crop production. There has been, however, a resurgence of interest in traditional land-use systems recently, in view of their ability to provide ecosystem services. Both agroforestry and satoyama are thought to be harbingers of biological diversity and have the potential to serve as “carbon forests.” Carbon (C) stock estimates of the sampled homegardens in WG ranged from 16 to 36 Mg ha−1. Satoyama woodlands owing to variations in tree stocking and management conditions indicated widely varying C stocks (2–279 Mg ha−1). Agroforestry and satoyama also differ in nature, complexity, and objectives. While agroforestry involves key productive and protective functions, and adopts ‘intensive management’, the satoyama woodlands are extensively managed; understorey production is seldom a consideration. Differences in canopy architecture (multi-tiered structure of agroforestry vs. the more or less unitary canopy of satoayama) and land ownership pattern (privately owned/managed agroforestry holdings vs. community or local government or privately owned and mostly abandoned satoyamas) pose other challenges in the transfer and application of knowledge gained in one system to the other. Nonetheless, lessons learnt from satoyama conservation may be suitable for common pool resource management elsewhere in Asia, and aspects relating to understorey production in agroforestry may be relevant for satoyama under certain scenarios.”