Kantamma and Bajaroo. (Photo: Jasvinder Sehgal)

Kantamma and Bajaroo. (Photo: Jasvinder Sehgal)

India is among several countries that have decided to significantly cut its CO2 emissions. 

After the Paris Climate agreement last December, India pledged a voluntarily 12 percent reduction.

One way the country plans to achieve the target is through responsible forestry.

Jasvinder Sehgal visited a forest in Telangana province, where farmers have planted millions of new trees.

The tribal women of Rajeev Nagar village, 19 miles from the Bhadrachalam are singing folk songs to bring good luck.

Their songs are a prayer to the local goddess, which is an indigenous tree.

While they sing the men play drums made of eucalyptus wood.

Everyone is in high spirits the night before the eucalyptus harvest, the third harvest in the last nine years. 

Kesar Kantamma aged 60 is one among them. 

“We have earned more than $70,000 from the harvests. From the first harvest we built a new house, while the money from the second harvest was used to pay for our son’s medical care,” says Kantamma, “We have also been able to send our four sons to school. My two sons are now teachers while the other two are serving in the air force.”

64 year old Kesari Bajaroo is Kantamma’s husband. 

He tells me about his trees.

“I have 4,000 trees on my two hectares of land. Out of this, 2,400 are eucalyptus trees along with many indigenous plants on my four acres of land,” he explains, “I also have many medicinal plants. The other trees I have are mango, tamarind, casuarina and subabul. I also have madhuka latiforia, which is the local goddess.”

Kesari has adopted the agro forestry model on his farmland where he grows vegetables under his eucalyptus trees.

He says the model is proving to be a great moneymaker.

“Before I was living in a small hut close to my new house,” he says, “In spite of having land, my wife and I worked on agriculture farms owned by others. The new eucalyptus plantation and the agro forestry model has made me a good amount of money. Today, I own a jungle.”

But the trees do much more than make money.

The social and farm forestry initiative program that Keasri is part has seen 4896 kilotons of CO2 sequestered this year. 

The sequestration ultimately utilizes the atmospheric CO2 and coverts in into oxygen.

A major win for India’s emissions reductions commitment.

Under the program, started by local paperboard factory ITC, Bajaroo along with other farmers have planted a breed of eucalyptus tree that is more resilient and productive, and has a shorter harvesting time.

Sanjay K Singh from ITC explains.

“We give them the best clones that we develop in our research and development,” explains Singh, “So the productivity is higher that fetches them a higher price. Along with this we also give them the good practices of fertilization, ploughing, all these good practices help them to improve the productivity of the farm land.”

The special farm forestry plantation program is in strict adherence to standards set by the Forest Stewardship Council, or FSC.

The council is an international NGO that ensures that forests and plantations are managed in a responsible manner, and in accordance with internationally recognized standards. 

FSC representative T. Manoharan explains how India is pioneering responsible forestry.

“Responsible forestry is happening and it continues to happen because India is very much [a] pioneer in terms of social forestry programs, agro forestry, farm forestry programs,” he says, “With the support of the farmers promoting trees outside the forests we can very well achieve the objectives of the responsible forestry. 

Manoharan says there are several thousand small farmers in a cooperative framework. 

And together they can make a difference.

“Individual farmers may be having half a hectare or two hectare; they all formed a group and supporting to the FSC mission and standards through a coordinated way and are contributing to the global benefits,” notes Manoharan.

Back at the forest, a group of small marginal farmers has called a meeting to discuss harvesting techniques and future plantations. 

Bajaroo is the team leader of the group known as ‘Sangha”.

He says that members of his group adhere to the local laws and contribute to change the social, environmental and economic status of the village.

It’s now morning in the jungle and birds are freely chirping in the dark, dense woods. 

The farmers have started harvesting their trees, but with climate smart techniques, their work is helping India achieve its emissions goals.


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