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Tree Banking Project in Kerala’s Wayanad Prime Example of Community Effort Reaping Results

When the pandemic struck, there was a fear in Meenangadi, in Kerala’s Wayanad district, that their pioneering “tree banking” initiative would hit a roadblock. On the opposite, the venture launched by NGO Thanal and the Meenangadi panchayat in 2016 gathered much more momentum.

As part of its collection on ‘The Promise of Commons’, 101Reporters had earlier reported on how Thanal got here up with a mannequin to evaluate Wayanad’s extra 11,412 tonnes of carbon dioxide manufacturing. Soon, as an initiative to show Meenangadi carbon impartial, the panchayat launched a venture on planting timber within the area. In return, farmers can be incentivised for not reducing the timber down.

Executive Director of Thanal Jayakumar C informed 101Reporters that although there have been preliminary challenges when the lockdown began, native help quickly helped put the venture again on observe. With colleges being shut, youngsters had been at house — this meant there have been extra volunteers to help to their imaginative and prescient. Also, with transport having come to a standstill, it grew to become strenuous for the Forest Department to ship saplings on time, however they quickly discovered an answer — a file variety of saplings had been procured by way of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), the nation’s rural livelihood scheme that gives 100 days of labor to rural households.

To calculate emissions, Executive Director of Thanal Jayakumar C follows the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) mannequin, which implies it seems on the cumulative emissions of the panchayat.

“We saw more progress than we expected, with the local community taking up ownership as well as plantation drives, especially through MGNREGA. We planted around 4 lakh saplings, of which around 2.8 lakh were through efforts under MGNREGA; local residents planted a lakh of them on their own,” mentioned Jayakumar.

The imaginative and prescient behind the venture is to attain carbon neutrality. While Thanal had determined to guage the emissions in 2020, the deadline was pushed to 2023, with the pandemic slowing down the method. To calculate emissions, Thanal follows the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) mannequin, which implies it seems on the cumulative emissions of the panchayat.

A sustainable waste management system in place and sizable coffee plantations and paddy production were other factors that helped boost the project.
A sustainable waste administration system in place and sizable espresso plantations and paddy manufacturing had been different elements that helped enhance the venture.

“Nearly 60% to 65% of the original agenda has been accomplished. In terms of work progressing, there’s been tremendous progress from when we started,” mentioned Jayakumar.

While the precise figures should not out there, journey restrictions considerably lowered emissions within the panchayat previously two years.

“In Meenangadi, one of the major contributors (of carbon emissions) is transport. So when transport came to a standstill, there was a huge emission reduction… While we may have been carbon neutral had we looked at emissions in the past few years, but with the easing of restrictions, we are not,” he added.

While the Meenangadi mannequin could also be deemed profitable in its try to preserve a test on the local weather disaster, its scalability stays a problem, particularly after we transfer away from rural communities. “In a rural area like Meenangadi, there’s the advantage of bringing in a nature-based solution model, but it’s a whole other situation while considering solutions for urban areas with higher carbon emissions. One needs to look for more technical solutions when an urban setting is involved,” Jayakumar emphasised.

The vision behind the project is to achieve carbon neutrality.
The imaginative and prescient behind the venture is to attain carbon neutrality.

“When you move from a rural to an urban area, your demands are higher because urban settings have higher emissions. Say, for example, in Meenangadi, none of the 8,000 families have a car. But in Kochi, almost every household will have one or two cars. Plus, Kochi would not have any area available to plant 4 lakh trees like Meenangadi!”

Moreover, different difficulties lie in getting influential businesspersons engaged in a dialog on the topic.

“There are not many shopping complexes in rural areas, and the energy consumption is much lower. In Meenangadi, most people survive on smaller livelihoods, and conversations are possible. The homestays promoting tourism are willing to set up solar rooftop water heaters, so their guests get hot water from solar energy. However, the situation is complex in Kochi. When we reach out to a big retailer, we can’t even get the owner to meet us because he has already invested in crores,” mentioned Jayakumar.

“But the fact that the Meenangadi panchayat is extremely progressive has helped shape the model, and that the community is a politically conscious one is a big plus,” he added. Another bonus is ladies’s participation by way of the Kerala authorities’s self-help group within the space, Kudumbashree.

Meenangadi in Kerala’s Wayanad district, is pioneering “tree banking” initiative.
Meenangadi in Kerala’s Wayanad district, is pioneering tree banking initiative.

A sustainable waste administration system in place and sizable espresso plantations and paddy manufacturing had been different elements that helped enhance the venture.

“With Meenangadi chosen as a current model, there’s a possibility of one local government collaborating with other local governments. Then the government of India will have major savings,” mentioned Jayakumar.

But this doesn’t imply there aren’t any obstacles in Thanal’s path. Limited assets within the space is a serious concern, however the panchayat has been on the lookout for help from numerous quarters to make up for the hole.

“With limited resources in rural regions, the panchayat has also been looking for support under the Corporate Social Responsibility schemes. There’s also support from Kerala’s National Institute of Rural Development as well as volunteer programmes. Thanal is also working closely with the panchayat and supports it as much as it can. There’s voluntary activism and community acceptance, which helps drive the initiative, including support from Kudumbashree. There’s support from local shopkeepers, as well, who have accepted the idea of carbon neutrality,” mentioned Jayakumar.

There are different bureaucratic and technical challenges on the subject of streamlining the funds for the venture.

“Even though the government provided the startup money to plant trees, the panchayat can only use the interest from the deposit the state made. There are bureaucratic processes even though this is an approved project. It’s not that they are purposely delaying it, but there are some genuine problems with the current rules and regulations.”

“There are technical obstacles, as well. The panchayat has not been able to get revolving money. More administrative processes need to be up to date in terms of reforms. Financial flow is crucial,” he pressured.

The different main problem that Thanal’s initiative bumped into initially was preventing unfounded beliefs and adverse campaigns.

“How do you educate people on something that they are not familiar with? Look at rural India. They are not familiar with legislation processes. How do we talk to them about the IPCC and disasters affecting humanity? This is a huge challenge.”

“At the same time, there’s also an opportunity because many coffee plantations had low productivity, so they were experiencing a crisis. When they experience such a crisis, it becomes easier to connect the issue with their experience. Like at the beginning of the project, nobody understood they could not grow two crops of paddy in a year due to climate change. Now they understand that there’s a clear climate change impact,” Jayakumar identified.

However, one of many huge thrusts behind the venture is that it was piloted by the state authorities with a grant for the tree-banking venture. This has translated into the state intently monitoring Meenangadi’s growth and taking classes from it to copy the mannequin in different elements of Kerala. When the venture began, each the state and panchayat had been led by the Left Democratic Front.

“In the last elections, the Congress-led coalition came to power at the panchayat. Fortunately, the Left state government and the Congress-led panchayat have been collaborating quite well,” he remarked.

Jayakumar is assured of the long-term advantages of Thanal’s venture. To drive extra change on the floor, Thanal has now began a local weather literacy programme, the place greater than 50 social media posters can be shared on the panchayat.

(The writer is a New Delhi-based freelance journalist and a member of 101Reporters, a pan-India community of grassroots reporters.)

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