Specialist guidelines to achieve the targeted forest cover of 25% within 2 to 3 years.

By Dr. Rashid A. Khan and **Dr. Fahad Rasheed ***Dr. Farrakh Nawaz


According to the international recommendations, 10 to 25% geographical area (or at least 1.00 ha. per person whereas we have only 0.021 ha. per person) of any country should be kept under forests for its socioeconomic and environmental stability. Unfortunately, we have only 3% area under productive forest and 2.1% area under unproductive/protective forests making the total of 5.1% or 4.478 million ha. ( This shortage of forest cover is an ever-lasting problem of Pakistan. Previous 75 years experience shows that in spite of availing all facilities (highly trained manpower, nice offices, well equipped labs., mobility vehicles, research grants, ideal land, lavish budget and availability of canal water for irrigated forest plantations) the Forest Department could not address this issue and I think they neither have the ability to do any positive improvement in the near future. The slogan of “Billion Tree Tsunami” has created a hope and the nation prays for its success to be effective for enhancing tree cover in the country.  

   This is very interesting fact to note that under the present situation, 90% fire wood and 65% furniture wood is coming from Agro-Forestry Sector (Forest and Forestry in Pakistan by M.I. Sheikh 2020), without any kind of support at government level whereas, share of the state owned forests in total wood production is very low. The above quoted figures certify the potentials of agro-forestry practices for wood production/enhancing tree cover in the country which can very much be exploited further, by extending different facilities for farmers/farming sector through the Government of Pakistan. Through already doing well but attention of every farmer can be diverted toward growing trees along field boundaries or as tree groves by incentivizing them at national level. The principle “division of labor” will work well here and involve every farmer in tree planting exercises to uplift forest cover of Pakistan up to the international standard within 2-3 years.

   This is very old, hazy and a poorly investigated concept that tree planting along field boundaries cast shade and results in reducing crop yield. As an agro-forestry expert, I have the vision to state that proper selection of tree species, their targeted orientation in the field areas and adoption of post planting cares can minimize negative effect of trees or tree shade on field crops.

   This is very important for every farmer to practically visualize and understand the concept of “Edge Effect” to be highly convincing to adopt and familiarize agro-forestry practices in the country. Actually, all environmental, biological and edaphic factors primarily affect field boundaries and result in reducing crop yield of few rows growing along field margins is called “EDGE EFFECT” (Hand Book of Agro-Forestry by Masood A.A. Qureshi 2002). Normally insect attack starts from boundary rows, hot/cold winds directly affect boundary crop, field margins also suffer due to weak irrigation/fertilizer applications and even the grazing animals damage the boundary crop rows. Ultimately, all farmers have to bear the losses of Edge Effect whether they plant trees along field boundaries or not. But the farmers who plant trees (agro-forestry) on field boundaries, become capable of recovering the losses of edge affect by selling their trees at maturity. So the expert opinion is that in an agricultural country like Pakistan (with harsh environmental conditions and meager forest resources), improved agro-forestry practices are very important for profitable agriculture and can prove to be very effective for uplifting forest cover of the country within years (The Urdu proverb is:  Jetinaa Hath Utina Kam). 


  1. Trillion Tree Tsunami: Prospects of launching incentivized agro-forestry practices to uplift tree cover in the country.

       In Pakistan, the Forest Department is solely responsible for the improvement, management and conservation of forests. As stated above, we have meager forest resources (5.1%) which are much blow the international standards. In spite of availing all facilities (as stated above), the Forest Department is unable to increase 1% forest cover of the country during the last 75 years. On the other hand, our farming communities are highly supportive for wood production on their own. As referred above, the agro-forestry practices provide 90% fuel wood and 65% high quality furniture wood for local use without any incentive or support from the government side. At present, our area under cultivation is more than 25% of the total landmass. And according to recent survey, on average 5.5 trees are being maintained per acre along filed boundaries through agro-forestry practices in Punjab (findings of a Ph.D. study UAF, 2020). Just by incentivizing the farming community, this average tree cover per acre can easily be increased up to 30-50 trees (in cotton and rice growing areas under shade non-tolerant crops) and 60-90 trees (in mix cropping areas) throughout the country.

              Under this recommendation, it is suggested that instead of maintaining 5.5 trees per acre, each farmer should be given the target of growing 30-50 trees per acre on field boundaries throughout the country. The Forest Department should be instructed to provide all kinds of panting material for such agro-forestry practices (farmers can also use and shift thousands of tree saplings wildly growing under trees in their crop fields). Now by incentivizing at government level, every farmer of the Punjab/country can be involved in tree planting exercises. As an incentive, government should relax the payment of land revenue and canal water charges (for the planted acres only) from the framers who will complete the given assignment within specified time period (2 to 3 years). Additional incentive in the form of fertilizer bags, certified seeds or subsidized electricity rates can also be announced/given in special cases (e.g. for a farmer who complete the given assignment on total owned land within three year) to timely boost up the tree planting exercises. The Agriculture Extension Department should be deputed to crosscheck the progress on plantation work and decide incentive for the successful farmers. This is the most viable option and can positively sensitize farming community at large to involve them in the tree planting exercises in croplands.

            Many European countries, America and China grow trees as “Compact block Plantation” in farmlands but this concept has hardly been introduced in our country. Sometimes, heavy rains and flood situation badly damage crops as we have experienced in 2010 and 2022 but tree receive positive impacts of such calamities. We are currently facing drastic floods causing unbearable losses to agriculture throughout the country. Ultimately, this is proper time for convincing the farmer communities to plant maximum trees in croplands preferably as compact block plantations in order to remain relatively safe or re-establish themselves by selling their trees if their crops are damaged due to such odd climatic conditions. Under the current scenario of climate changes, uncontrolled environmental pollution, erratic rains, heavy floods, increasing population pressure and meager/declining forest resources, the incentivized agro-forestry practices are only the fastest and practicable option which can timely improve forest covers in Pakistan.

               Another practically viable option could be the allocation/distribution of government owned problem lands to forestry graduates and retired forestry personnel for establishing forests on definite terms and conditions. At successful completion of assignment, the given lands should be permanently allotted to successful individuals on final recommendation of the Agri-Extension Department or the Forest Department. During the previous years, such a scheme was introduced (by Mian Shahbaz Shrif) in the Punjab but it was for the jobless agriculture and forestry/agro-forestry graduate to enhance general agriculture/forestry practices in the province. This was good scheme for providing self-created job opportunities and harvesting the capabilities of forestry/agriculture graduates in a positive manner but, it was stopped later on without assessing its prospective. 

            Another similar forestry sector development scheme was also introduced by previous government in the Southern Punjab through bidding the share the forest production on project maturity. Unfortunately under this scheme, instead of smaller units, thousands acre land was leased out to big landlords, industrialists, bureaucrats and politicians for establishing forests. Now the time will tell, what happen for enhancing the forest cover? But it is expected that under this project, the forestation process will be slow and the influential people will grab these lands with minimum benefits to the Forestry Sector Development in Punjab.


  1. Why and how the current scenario discourages agro-forestry practices in the country?
  2. This is fact that in the present situation, the State Forester/Forest Department (the Government Sector) is competing with the Farmers/Agro-Foresters (the Private Sector) because both of them are growing almost identical tree species and sell their produce in the same wood markets. Ultimately when state foresters flood the market with matching type of woods, then the agro-foresters cannot get reasonable price for their produce. This factor is ultimately discouraging for agro-forestry practices in the country. At government level, there is no control on wood pricing. Middle men are also active in looting the farmer community (when they purchase standing trees from farmers). Therefore under the current scenario, the agro-foresters are successive looser. They get marginal profit for wood production which is unfair and continuously discourage tree planting exercises in croplands.
  3. Small farmers (Non-progressive farmers) mostly grow long rotation, large crowned and evergreen type trees (non recommended species) like Shesham, Kikar, Neem and Jaman etc. (without adopting the required post planting cares) in croplands to fulfill the demand of high quality wood which is unhealthy practice and ultimately affect their crop yield due to shade effect. Resultantly the other farmers around start avoiding agro-forestry practices.  
  • Principally the agro-foresters (Self Employees) are recommended to grow short rotation, deciduous (shed their leaves during Winter Season) and other less shade casting tree species (crop compatible trees) to save their crops against shade effect. Whereas the state foresters (Government Employees) are recommended to grow long rotation and quality wood trees (because they dam care for shade effect etc.) as their main crop is the forest trees. But unfortunately, the Forest Department mostly grows crop compatible trees in irrigated plantations, instead of highly quality wood which is absolutely against the mandate of Irrigated Forest Plantations and effect agro-forestry practices as per factor (i) as discussed above. 
  1. Accordingly, the state foresters ( Employees) cultivate government lands for forest production (i.e. irrigated forest plantations, plateau areas,  high hill forests and other lands meant for wood production) therefore can wait much longer for the final felling of their forest crop. On the other hand, the agro-foresters (Self-Employees) normally grow short rotation crops and trees in croplands to earn their living, therefore can’t afford to grow long rotation trees like Shesham, Kikar, Neem etc. Now in the present circumstances, the progressive farmers (Agro-Foresters) and the Forest Department (State Forests) grow trees in highly different situations but plant the same species like poplar, simal and eucalyptus for wood production which is a highly faulty practice and very discouraging for agro-forestry practices.
  2. The Forest Department gets four times more canal water than croplands to grow trees in the Irrigated Forest Plantations. Since these lands are principally meant for forest production therefore it should be mandatory for the Forest Department to grow high quality wood like Shesham, Kikar, Neem, Frash, Jaman, Toot, Argin etc. in these plantations. But the present situation is reverse. In spite of availing all facilities (top quality lands, many times more irrigation water, lavish planting facilities and funding) the Forest Department mainly grow Eucalyptus, Poplar and Simal (mostly crop compatible trees) in these irrigated forest plantations and compete farming community in selling wood. Regrettably, the survey reports indicate that most of the irrigated plantations in Punjab are either under Eucalyptus, Simal, Poplar or supporting natural Mesquite (forest weed) covers which is a big question mark on capabilities of this Department. 


  1. Some important recommendations to boost up agriculture and agro-forestry practices in the country.

In fact, modern and research orientated agriculture practices lead towards profitable agriculture. Unfortunately, there is hardly any working relationship between Agriculture Teaching Universities, Research Institutions and the Agriculture Extension Department which hinder acquisition of the latest knowledge and its flow towards the ultimate stakeholders. Therefore, it is recommended that conducive working relationship be created among all agriculture related institutions which could be highly useful for boosting up the production of agriculture and forestry sector. 

Another very important factor is that all agriculture related researcher are bound to write their research papers/articles in English for getting further promotion but our ordinary farmer can hardly read Urdu. This situation creates a dead lock in the flow of knowledge to adopt the latest agriculture inventions and discoveries. Likewise, our farmers are less educated thus hardly try to adopt the latest agriculture related research achievements regarding soil science, agronomy, horticulture, floriculture, arboriculture etc. It is therefore recommended that agriculture related research articles be published in Urdu and radio talks/TV programs should be organized by agri-experts to ease situation for farmers. 


  1. Defining the domains of State Foresters and Agro-foresters in selecting and planting tree species for forestation.

As a rule, crop compatible trees are recommended to be grown in farmlands to enhance wood production through agro-forestry practices but due to lack of vision, our farmers grow all kinds of tree species and face multidimensional losses. In cotton and rice (shade non-tolerant crops) growing zones, the farmers didn’t grow trees to avoid shade effect. In fact, proper selection of tree species and their rational orientation in croplands acclimatize the local environment which improve crop yield and help in recovering the losses of edge effect. Even, by adopting little pre/post planting cares, poplar, simal and frash trees can safely be planted along shade non-tolerant crop fields without any negative effect.

According to agro-forestry specialists, following species are recommended to be grown in croplands.

  1. White Poplar Populus deltoids            Deciduous tree species to be planted          

    in fertile and well drained farmlands.

  1. Simal Bombax ceiba                Good agro-forestry tree with heavy


  1. Eucalyptus Eucalyptus camaldulensis  Tree for waterlogged, saline and other

                                                                        types of problem lands.

  1. Frash Tamarix aphylla                 Trees to be planted in croplands for

                                                              high quality wood production.

  1. Argun Termenallia arjuna            Fast growing woody tree, good to grow

                                                             in all kinds farmlands.

Note: There are many other tree species which can be successfully be planted in cultivated land. (Consult the Hand Book of Agro-forestry by Dr. Masood A. A. Qureshi 2002).  

In order to avoid competition between state foresters and the agro-foresters for enhancing wood production/tree cover in the country, the above listed crop compatible tree species should be declared as “farmer trees” by law. And in future, the Forest Department should be banned to grow these species in the irrigated forest plantations. Since tree species like Simal, Poplar and Eucalyptus are hardy and fast growing species, and require minimum tending operations/manual labor for their proper growth/development therefore, the Forest Department employees willfully ignore above facts and maximally grow agro-forestry compatible trees in the irrigated forest plantations to hide their inefficiency and inability. This is another important factor which discourages agro-forestry practices in Pakistan.

  1. Management of Bala forests to confine the flow area of river beds.

Water erosion is a big problem of Pakistan, especially for the land along river banks. This menace is mainly due to irregular water flow/supply and mismanagement of watershed areas. The flanking low-lands along river beds (on both sides of the flowing area) are highly fertile and favorable for tree growth. Our ever dilating rivers erode thousands acre land every year. This wild flow of water in rivers can effectively be tamed/controlled by planting 15-20 rows of Eucalyptus, poplar or simal trees (row to row distance 10’ and plant to plant 8’) along both banks within the sides of river bed area. If properly planted and maintained, these tree rows will cut down erosion hazards and will help to stabilize the river banks. For forestry practices, the river bed sides are highly suitable and are technically called “timber mines” but due to lack of knowledge/vision of the related departments, these areas are generally laying unplanted throughout Pakistan. With the incentivized participation of adjoining farmers (the farmer cultivating their land along river banks), this forestation task along all rivers can easily be completed in Punjab as well as in other provinces of the country within years. China and many European counties have already teamed their rivers by planting tree in rows along their river banks.       


  1. Participatory and incentivized revival of linear plantations along roads, canals, drains and railway lines.

In the present situation, all flanking area along roads, canals, drains and railway lines (area reserved for tree planting for the safety of these structures) is hardly planted anywhere in the country, except along motor way M1. During the previous decades, command and control of road-side and canal-side plantations went on shifting between Forest and Canal Departments therefore these areas remain neglected and unplanted. Since tree planting on such sites directly affect the crops of adjoining farmers therefore they sometimes willfully destroy the planting efforts and keep the places barren for the grazing of their livestock or for other activities. Unless the adjoining farmers have some personal interests/incentives, these avenue belts cannot be successfully planted. This option is very important to manage these linear plantations with the participations of adjoining farmers. According to this recommendation, the farmers cultivating their lands along these roads, canals, drains and railway lines should be allowed to plant trees on their adjoining government lands along both sides of these linear structures (canals, roads, drains and railway lines). As an incentive, these farmers be given half of the wood production on harvesting and should be relaxed to pay the water charges/land revenue of their own adjoining crop fields. Local staff of the Agriculture Extension Department could be given the task to supervise these tree planting exercises, post planting cares, and final felling of trees. In case of successful plantation, each adjoining farmer be allowed to get half of the harvested wood as an incentive. This participatory forestation approach is the best option for the revival and management of these avenue plantations on self help basis. Unfortunately, such a participatory approach didn’t exist and has never been tried therefore requires reframing of the governing rules in collaboration with the concerned Departments for its successful implementation. If effectively developed, this system can be very helpful for establishing plantations and their management along these linear structures on self-help basis without any additional government funding. The tree planting exercises on these linear avenues can be boosted up further by arranging competition among the participating farmers (tractor or cash prize can be given to a farmer who develop good linear plantation along his farmland). This is worth mentioning here that the Forest Department can’t successfully complete this task due to erratic dimensions (length in miles while width in feet) of these linear avenues, even with spending a lot of resources.       

  1. Participatory approach for earthing-up of the eroded road sides and cleaning of the watercourses.

The Provincial Governments spend billions of rupees on earthing-up of the road sides, mending of canal banks and on de-silting of watercourses (khals, minors, canals). In spite of spending huge amount on all such cosmetic efforts, the road margins and canal banks remain badly eroded throughout the country, which finally lead to ware-tare of the main structures. With little more incentive (referred to part G, instead of half, by giving total wood production of the linear plantations to adjoining farmers), the adjoining farmers can be agreed to do earthing-up of the road sides, mending of canal/drain banks, keeping hock-eye on railway tracks and cleaning of watercourses. By implementing this particular suggestion the government can bring automatism in maintenance system of the above said linear structures throughout the country.

  1. Monitoring agro-forestry progress through Geo-Tag Imaging

          In the modern age, monitoring of tree planting progress has become very easy. The department (Agriculture Extension Department or Forest Department) responsible for implementing the agro-forestry project will register all interested farmers who want to grow trees on their farmlands and will sign a written agreement with each of them. The department will also record their bio-date i.e. Name of the farmer, his ID cards number, his complete address along with village, Tehsil District, province etc. in a computer file. Then the registered farmers will be invited to attend one day short course on “tree planting and after care” and get the related written material (brushers pamphlets), a month before the start of planting season (during the end of June or first week of July). With the onset of planting season each farmer will be contacted to handover the planting material according to his requirements as well as on spot planting arrangements. The farmer may complete tree planting exercise once or in installments depending upon the size of their farm. After the completion of saplings planting exercise, each farmers will be bound will to send GPS Map Camera pictures of the planted area the department by whatsAAp massage on yearly basis to maintain the record and check the progress on agro-forestry planting exercises. These pictures will automatically illustrate planting area, planted saplings, complete address of the farmer, its longitude/latitude directions, date and time of the picture taken which will be helpful to visualize the agro-forestry planting progress and death rate of the saplings on annual basis. The Department of Forestry and Range Management, University of Agriculture Faisalabad distribute thousands of tree saplings free of cost to local farmers, schools, colleges, and universities and monitor their success rate in planted areas through Geo Tag Imagining technology on yearly basis.  


Bari F. 2016.  Rangelands of Pakistan: current status, threats and potential, Pages 204 ISBN 978-92-5-109232-3, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Rome, Italy. (

Qureshi A.A. Masood and G.S. Khan  2002  Agro-Forestry in Pakistan. Department of Forestry and Range Mgt. University of Agriculture Faisalabad, Pakistan.

Sheik M.I. and Sahibzada Hafeez M. 2020. Forest and Forestry in Pakistan. A1 Publishers, Urdu Bazar Lahore, Pakistan

* Professor/Subject Expert

**Associate Professor

*** Associate Prosser

Department of Forestry and Range Mgt.,

 Faculty of Agriculture,

University of Agriculture,