Kabirdham district, Chhattisgarh state, Central India

Empowering smallholder farmers and indigenous communities in Central India

From the forested hills in the west, home to Gond and Baiga tribal communities, downstream to the plains in the southeast, where farmers grow mostly paddy and sugarcane, the Kabirdham landscape covers more than 200,000 hectares. On average, these smallholder farmers work on no more than 2 hectares per household.

Kabirdham’s ecological resilience and community prosperity are under pressure due to a rapidly growing population, overgrazing, forest degradation, soil depletion, water scarcity, and increasingly unpredictable weather patterns.

In 2019, Commonland teamed up with the local government, local communities, and a diverse group of organisations to support balancing community well-being, nature conservation and sustainable economic development using the 4 Returns framework.

“Today, we are taking this seed of knowledge, and we have to plant it in our village and wake up others. So that everyone comes together for the protection of nature.”

Village leader of Mehlighat, during a visit to a community-managed tree and bamboo plantation


The Kabirdham landscape programme envisions more empowered local communities, who use their voice, skills and knowledge to improve their livelihoods and manage land, water and forest resources sustainably.


  • Climate change and related extreme weather events
  • Decline in soil health and biodiversity due to unsustainable farming practices and forest resource extraction
  • Increasing land use pressure for agriculture and urban expansion, because of a fast-growing population


  • Localise forest resource management plans and promote community action
  • Scale community engagement in (agro)forestry and regenerative agriculture
  • Increase the reach and impact of agroforestry by using success stories and lessons from civil society organisations working actively in the region
  • Expand agribusiness opportunities for agroforestry and non-timber forest products, such as Mahua tree flowers
  • Explore setting up a Carbon project that benefits local communities

What’s next?

The insights of a 2022 scoping study suggest a high potential for scaling agroforestry, water management and carbon credit activities in the plains. Farmers in 10 new villages will test and expand these opportunities with support from partner organisations.

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involved in learning and awareness activities in 2022


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dedicated to restoration in 2022



dispersed during one seedball festival in 2022


self-help groups

involved in ongoing livelihood activities

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