Homestead Agroforestry A Pathway for Plant Biodiversity Conservation

Plant biodiversity is the plant genetic wealth of a country or an area. Bangladesh once was endowed with thousands of diverse species, but its rich biodiversity is on the verge of rapid decline, because the current rate of extinction of different species is many times faster than what it would have been through the natural process because of rapid depletion of natural forest coverage and mono-cropping with high yielding and hybrid varieties. Presently, loss of plant biodiversity has been considered as one of the most pressing ecological and development issues in Bangladesh. Khan et al. (2001) made a comprehensive work on threaten plant species of Bangladesh and listed 106 vascular plant species that are facing threats in various degrees.

Bangladesh has given top priority for conservation of biodiversity; but the way of implementing it is very complex and difficult, because the forest resource which is the best home of plant biodiversity has reduced to 7% areas due to increase human population and associated development activities. Recent information stated that much of the state forest remained unproductive and only 0.84 million ha (about 5.8% of the state forest land) has acceptable forest vegetation (Forestry Department 2004). Under this current situation, homestead agroforestry offer the best option to conserve the diverse range of biodiversity. It is the in situ conservation site of a wide range of plant biodiversity, which is characterized by the measures of species richness, relative prevalence, and inter- and intra-species diversity (Heyhood and Watson 1995). Homestead agro-forestry practice, being a multi-strata production system where diverse plant species are grown in intimate association with or without animals could be a potential option for conservation of biodiversity. A large number of higher plants have been recorded in homesteads and rural areas of Bangladesh. Latif et al. (2001) identified 148 species of natives and exotics in village forest. Similarly, Basak (2002) identified 105 tree species and 27 herbaceous species (vegetables and spices) in four ecological regions of Bangladesh. Atikullah (2008) identified 189 different plant species in the homesteads of the southwestern coastal zone of Bangladesh. Uddin et al. (2002) recorded 62 useful plant species in the homesteads of saline area of southeastern Bangladesh, and among them, 30.9% fruits, 29.09% timber, 34.54% vegetables, and 5.45% were spices species. The number and size of homestead have been increasing though areas for field crops have been declining. Mandal (2003) reported that average homestead area per farm has increased from 0.08 to 0.09 acre. This indicates increased opportunities created to some extent for home-based farm and non-farm production system. However, in designing homestead agroforestry system, emphasis should be given to include indigenous species since these are ecologically best suited and economically viable.

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