December 7, 2023

Seeds of Hope: Farmers For Forests transforming lives and livelihoods in rural Maharashtra

In the quiet village of Yermagad, in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district, a 73-year-old farmer named Najukrao Ranu Achala leads his life in a tiny hut on his 8-acre land with 7 goats, 11 cows, 38 hens, and 2 dogs. Finding solace in simplicity, he only owns a bicycle that helps him visit the nearest market to buy essential goods.

In 2023, Najukrao’s life took a transformative turn when Farmers For Forests, an organisation that partners with local communities to protect and increase India’s biodiverse forest cover, approached him. He expressed his interest in cultivating bamboo, mahua, toddy palm, and arjun trees on his land but also articulated the lack of financial resources as an obstacle. His wife had passed away and his children had relocated to a nearby town, which compounded the challenge as he had no motivation to single handedly take up farming again.

Recognizing the potential of Najukrao’s land as a significant source of environmental preservation, Farmers For Forests offered to incentivize him to plant trees, not only as a way to enable afforestation but also to aid his livelihood. This is the mechanism with which F4F operates – their innovative payment for ecosystem services (PES) model treats farmers as stewards of the environment and financially compensates them to provide ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, groundwater recharge, nurturing biodiversity habitat, afforestation etc.

The F4F team provided Najukrao with saplings, organic fertilisers, and crucial labour support to initiate the plantation and, over the next four years, he will receive regular cash transfers to take care of the saplings. As the fourth year approaches, Najukrao will not only generate revenue from selling agroforestry produce but will also help F4F tap into the carbon credit markets – turning his efforts towards environmental stewardship into a sustainable operating model for the organisation.

Najukrao is only one example of the systemic environmental impact that F4F is creating. India’s agrarian communities remain one of the most vulnerable parts of the population bearing the disproportionate impact of climate change, despite having almost zero contribution to greenhouse emissions. Many of them are abandoning agriculture for other livelihoods due to climate change induced uncertain rainfall, land degradation and crop losses. Under these circumstances, Farmers For Forests offer local rural communities opportunities to both mitigate and adapt to climate change while significantly aiding green livelihoods.

Najukrao’s collaboration with Farmers For Forests is in its first year. “For all of my daily needs, I rely on the land. With this cash transfer, I will take care of the saplings planted, but I will also replace my old and broken transistor radio to buy a new one. It’s my regular connection to hear what is happening in the world!”

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