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Forces of Nature: These Top Innovative Groups Are Helping Save India’s Forest Lands

Despite India’s high population density, the subcontinent is home to at least 7-8% of all documented species, and maintaining the balance between nature and human activities is the core of sustainability.

The World Economic Forum and its arm 1t.org are launching the 1t.org India Platform to facilitate public-private collaboration, spur multi-stakeholder action, and ignite a thriving ecopreneurship ecosystem to conserve and restore India’s forest landscapes while benefiting people.

However, an initiative called the “Trillion Trees: India Challenge” was announced in September 2021 by 1t.org and digital crowd-engagement platform UpLink to appeal for new solutions for forest conservation and landscape restoration that offer livelihoods and boost the economy.

The challenge focused on themes that support India’s commitment to restore 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 and create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes CO2 equivalent through additional forests: successful ecopreneurship, supporting local livelihoods and agriculture, deploying tree-related technology and mobilising city dwellers.

The community of experts from 1t.org carefully analysed and assessed all ideas submitted on UpLink to choose an UpLink cohort of 13 innovators.

The Top Innovators will have the opportunity to share and learn from each other over the coming months, and 1t.org and UpLink will work closely with them to scale their impact by promoting their work on our social media platforms, presenting them at our events, and connecting them with experts and potential funders who can help them accelerate their solutions.

On the list

Avani Bio Energy: This social work and research centre was founded in 1997 as the Kumaon chapter of the Barefoot College, to create conservation-based employment options that would help to sustain rural lifestyles. In the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, Avani Bio Energy uses a community-centric business model to transform the increased risk of wildfires caused by pine-needle litter into power and charcoal.

Acacia Eco Plantation Services: Situated in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, this organisation executes greening solutions across India to expand urban forests and mass plantation programmes. They specialise in Miyawaki forests, which can range from plantations connecting useful communal spaces to dense pockets of trees near high emission zones like traffic areas, as well as large-scale initiatives like the Sabarmati Riverfront.

Centre for Wildlife Studies: This is a large wildlife research, conservation, policy, and education organisation with extensive knowledge of the landscape and communities. It attempts to eliminate human-animal conflict and establish livelihoods by motivating farmers to migrate from agro-crops to agroforestry-based livelihoods in Bandipur, as well as Nagarhole wildlife reserves in Karnataka.

Farmers for Forests: It is a vibrant group of young ecopreneurs who use an innovative method for deforestation prevention and reforestation/afforestation initiatives called Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES). They propose to connect projects to carbon credit markets by tracking forest cover through satellite and drone monitoring. Maharashtra, Jharkhand, and Madhya Pradesh are their current focus areas.

Isha Outreach (Cauvery Calling): This is a large-scale campaign aimed at meeting a tenth of India’s carbon sequestration targets by 2030. The initiative, which will be supported by significant government collaborations and innovative monitoring techniques, aims to mobilise 5.2 million farmers and plant 2.42 billion trees in the 83,000 square kilometre Cauvery river basin in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka over 12 years, resulting in a shift to tree-based agriculture.

Gratitude Farms: It has created a value chain for food forests. Infertile fields in Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu are transformed into microbially rich organic soil, creating jobs for army veterans and rural women. Farmland company, solar drying business, B2C sales—including via a mobile app—consulting, and training are among their services.

Good Food Village: It excels at creating community-centric natural food forests with diversified and dense plantings of short- and long-term fruit trees. To enhance the rural economy and produce employment, urban areas are encouraged to own/support underutilised rural acreage in the ‘village.’ The Tamil Nadu-based venture takes it a step further by giving transparency to farmers using blockchain-based traceability systems.

Orgro Fibre: It is a Gujrat-based innovation restoration enabler that minimises the amount of single-use plastic trash generated during large-scale plantation operations. Wool, banana fibre, sugarcane, and jute agro-waste are used to make these biodegradable seedling bags.

SAI-Sustainable Agro & Rural Development Products: Farmers in Odisha cooperate with this organisation to intercrop traditional crops with high-value tree plantations. This one-acre agroforestry approach provides farmers with high-quality inputs and growing techniques, as well as direct market access and stable incomes for young and landless people.

Saytrees Environmental Trust: Working in many states across India, Saytrees has developed large-scale reforestation and afforestation project management. They help reforest 20,000 hectares of degraded croplands in Andhra Pradesh by multilayer farming a variety of fruit and timber trees on farms with low inputs.

Sustainable Green Initiative: Through size and practice, the SGI has developed its planting management system. They assist farmers in the planting of fruit trees; so assisting in the creation of sustainable livelihoods and combating hunger, poverty, and climate change. Low-cost seedlings and the placement of nurseries nearby are examples of supply-chain innovations that assist lower prices and create jobs.

St Jude Herbals: It has created a low-cost, effective and long-lasting pesticide alternative. It’s a herbal agri-biostimulant with a long track record of defending crops from a wide range of plant diseases. Farmers obtain the solutions they offer through both traditional and e-commerce channels.

The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI): The unique Mycorrhizal technique developed by TERI serves as a biofertilizer as well as a biofertilizer for abandoned fly ash ponds, chlor-alkali ash dumps, and land contaminated with distillery effluents. It allows for greater water and nutrient uptake by plants while also assisting roots in soil aggregation. This technology has already been used to reclaim barren land and increase production in Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Gujrat, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

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