Samerth Charitable Trust, The Nature Conservancy India, IKEA Foundation, United Designers, Global Business Inroads - India
Kabirdham and Durg districts, Chhattisgarh, India
Total area (ha)
444,750 ha (district) and 6,450 ha (pilot project area)
tribal communities (farmers, association members), businesses and governmental institutions
In Chhattisgarh, India, monoculture practices and unsustainable commercial activities, such as tree cutting, cause ecological degradation. Introducing agroforestry for smallholder farmers and indigenous people offers an opportunity to regenerate soil, protect the existing forest, retain water, and improve biodiversity in the area. At the same time, better yields result in higher income and food security for local communities.
Funded by the IKEA Foundation, Commonland works with The Nature Conservancy in India, Samerth Charitable Trust, and the local government. In ten villages in Kabirdham and other districts in Chhattisgarh, agroforestry is catalysed at scale. Here, natural forest regeneration and long-term sustainable commercial supply of smallholders’ and large-scale farmers’ agroforest products are addressed.
What happened in 2020?
Despite temporary lockdowns and massive migration to rural areas due to COVID-19, the Samerth team continued to travel to the landscape to build relationships with local government stakeholders and to train field staff and community mobilisers in the 4 Returns Framework. With a little creativity, working remotely and supporting partners in the field online worked out well. We resorted to detailed satellite imagery for landscape analysis, online team building and active collaboration in project team working groups. We even participated in a virtual trade mission of the Dutch Netherlands Enterprise Agency and its Indian counterpart. However, we can not deny that the pandemic in India has resulted in delays in implementation. Via continued monitoring of the situation on the ground we seek adaptive management processes while discussing next steps with TNC, Samerth and the IKEA Foundation.
After elaborate scoping, Kabirdham and Durg district in Chattisgarh state were selected to start the project in January 2020. Non-timber forest products and fruit trees were identified as potential business cases to provide additional income to the communities. Training to build local organisations of women and farmers with strong leadership has started, which will enhance sustainable enterprises and market linkages. The first interventions were implemented: distribution of 25,000 fruit trees and bamboo plants in just one month.
In India, tribal communities are entitled to manage forest resources on designated pieces of land. Samerth has helped these communities to acquire title documents, map official land boundaries, and facilitated meetings with government officials from the Forest Department and District Administration. Samerth also continued building relationships between tribal communities and local government institutes. For example, they organised an online roundtable with government officials and partners, who gave broad support and acknowledged replication potential. In the meantime, together with our local partners the consortium identified and engaged local and international stakeholders from all sectors to grow the network and support implementing the 4 Returns Framework in the India landscape.
As part of the project’s ongoing monitoring, Commonland and the IKEA Foundation agreed to create a documentary series for monitoring and learning purposes. The first episode was produced in 2020, and will be ready early 2021. The IKEA catalogue 2021 also showcases the project. The journey in the forested hills of Kabirdham, home to the tribal communities, can be followed virtually.
Stories of change
Funding cattle-proof trenches in Newrolata in COVID-19 times
Stray cattle can set back years of vegetation growth. To keep grazing livestock off newly reforested areas, 60 community members in Newrolata village dug cattle-proof trenches under the national Employment Guarantee Scheme. An employment programme of the Indian government and provides minimum wage for labour in public works or projects of common interest.
Eventually, bamboo will create a living fence to protect revegetated community forests while providing material for local artisans and entrepreneurs to create an income.