Increasing tree coverage outside forests - GulfToday

Increasing tree coverage outside forests

Meena Janardhan

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.

Illustrative image.

Representational image.

A new initiative to increase tree coverage outside of forest lands in India in a bid to support global climate change mitigation and adaptation goals has been announced by the US and India.

The ‘Trees Outside Forests in India’ (TOFI) initiative is a new USD 25 million programme will bring together farmers, companies, and private institutions in India to rapidly expand tree coverage outside of traditional forests by 2.8 million hectares.

As the TOFI website explains, trees not only grow in forests but also beyond: in farms, pastures, meadows, parks, cities, along roads, rivers and across other non-forested landscapes. These trees outside of designated ‘forest’ areas are categorized as ‘Trees Outside Forests’. These trees help people thrive and survive. They provide food, materials, income, employment and livelihoods for millions of people and vital ecosystem services like clean air and water, habitat for animals, and help in climate regulation. They can also can help save our forests. Vast swathes of the world’s forests are being destroyed every day: mainly for agriculture, forest products (like food, paper, wood) and infrastructure development. TOF-based timber and medicinal products are emerging as major alternatives to products sourced from forests and can significantly reduce the pressure on forests.

“The Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, the Government of India and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), on September 8, 2022, announced the launch of a new program, “Trees Outside Forests in India,” US Embassy in India said in a press statement, adding that the move will enhance carbon sequestration, support local communities, and strengthen the climate resilience of agriculture.

The programme will bring together farmers, companies, and private institutions in India to rapidly expand tree coverage outside of traditional forests by 28 lakh hectares. Through agroforestry, or integrating trees into farming systems, the program will improve the resilience of farming systems while increasing the income of farmers. The initiative will also use innovative financing models and leverage India’s private sector to promote tree-based enterprises, helping to create sustainable markets and improve rural economies and livelihoods, with the potential to benefit more than 13 million people.

The purpose of the activity is to expand the planting of trees outside of forests in India for enhanced provision of ecosystem services, especially carbon sequestration, and increased inclusive economic opportunities. Through the TOFI activity, USAID/India will support the Government of India and other stakeholders to increase the uptake of trees outside of forests in India by: strengthening an enabling environment that promotes and incentivizes planting of trees; increasing economic opportunities from trees outside of forests; and improving access to information to help scale planting trees outside forests in the country.

Implemented by a consortium led by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and World Agroforestry (ICRAF), the program will be implemented in seven states including Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Haryana, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh.

Announcing the launch, the Secretary for Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, Leena Nandan, said, “India and the U.S. are firmly committed to working closely in many areas including the forestry sector. At the global level, India is playing a prominent role in forming and shaping affirmative responses to the challenges faced by the forest and environment sector. India has undertaken rapid economic growth while successfully conserving and enhancing its forest resources and would continue to do so through strategic planning and focused implementation”.

Highlighting the US-India cooperation on climate change and forestry, the US Charge d’Affaires Patricia A Lacina, said, “As one of the world’s largest economies and a global leader in science and innovation, India plays a critical role in helping solve the climate crisis. This new program builds on the enduring US-India partnership to tackle the climate crisis by enhancing carbon sequestration and bolstering resilience in the face of climate threats. India’s achievements on these issues can provide models for the world.

As reported by the PTI, growing trees in agroforestry systems — a landscape restoration technique where farmers add trees to their land — and in and near cities can offer many environmental and socioeconomic benefits, according to a study by the World Resources Institute (WRI) India.

The study by the global research non-profit organization also identified 10 types of incentives — seven monetary and three non-monetary — that policymakers use to encourage farmers to grow trees. Subsidies for planting material like saplings and infrastructure — greenhouses and irrigation — emerged as the most commonly available and utilized incentives, followed by direct technical assistance to farmers from government agencies.

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