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Farmers take up eco-stewardship in Rajasthan's Baran district

Already 25,000 trees have been planted as part of the project, which was started last year and is an ongoing project.
Last Updated : 08 July 2024, 13:14 IST

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Jaipur: Nandlal Jatav has been growing wheat, mustard, soyabean and gram all his life. A farmer in Shahbad in Rajasthan’s Baran district, his area of expertise was restricted to a few crops grown in the region. Until he came to know of drought-resistant trees that could be grown around his field that would restore the degraded land and also help him earn some extra bucks.

Nandlal is part of a farmer-led plantation project that is encouraging eco-stewardship in states like Rajasthan and Telangana.  

Nandlal now has trees like Acacia (Babool), Teak (Sagwan), Shisham and Indian gooseberry (Amla) and also fruit trees like guava and jujube surrounding his field, which would not only improve the quality of his soil, remove carbon and harmful substances from the soil, recharge ground water, purify air, provide oxygen, reduce global warming but overall would have a positive impact on environment. 

Baran, primarily a dry area, also witnessed excessively high temperatures this summer season as was prevalent all over Rajasthan. According to globalforestwatch.org, in 2010, Baran had three hectares of tree cover, extending over more than 0.1 per cent of its land area. By 2012, it had lost more one hectare of tree cover, equivalent to 25.5 t of carbon-dioxide emissions.

A study by the Central Ground Water Board on ground water scenario in Baran district says rainfall in the district is the main source of ground water recharge. Due to less rainfall and increased groundwater withdrawals, the groundwater levels are declining in some parts of the district.  

Nandlal is part of a group of 50 farmers, who have come forward under the ‘Trees for Farmers’ project initiated by the social enterprise, grow-trees.com, which aims to plant at least 7,50,000 indigenous tree species that are well-suited to local climate and soil conditions, ensuring their adaptability and long-term survival in the area.

Already 25,000 trees have been planted as part of the project, which was started last year and is an ongoing project. The project was first started in Mewar by planting 25,000 trees on community lands in several small villages like Achla Ji Ka Kheda, Mukanagarh, Gatuna Ka Jhopda, Barodiya, Bhilwara and Mewar region. 

"In Mewar, the project executed last year was a community-led project as tree saplings were first nurtured in nurseries and handed over to gram panchayats. Later the gram panchayats decided to plant the trees at places they thought appropriate,” Raju Jatav, project manager, grow-trees.com, in Rajasthan told DH. 

In Baran, the project is farmer-led, where farmers and labourers are involved in every step of the exercise from pit-digging to upkeep and nurturing the saplings themselves and planting them on the fringes of their fields.

“Their involvement instils a sense of ownership over the trees. They realise they can use the forest produce such as fodder, fruits, fuelwood, etc. and other non-timber forest products for personal consumption and for market sale to generate additional income. Tree plantation activities also provide employment for women,” says Raju Jatav. 

The farmers were consulted on the type of trees they wanted to grow. The saplings are nurtured in the nursery for five to six months and then shifted to the fields.  

“Labourers and farmers earn additional income by digging the soil and caring for the saplings. They are earning some extra money to take care of the saplings. Once the saplings are ready they are planted, but the project incharge continues to monitor the growth of the trees and do not abandon them. After a year, an audit is conducted to check any mortality amongst the saplings. If some saplings do not grow, they are replanted and taken care of. “This year due to extreme heat conditions, we had 35% mortality, which is usually 20% every other year. Most trees take at least five to six years to mature and give fruits,” informs Raju.  

Raju says tree plantation drives are common throughout the world but what makes their project unique is that proper care is taken of the tree saplings after they are planted.  And since it is a farmer-led project, farmers are involved in the day-to-day upkeep of trees, which is really the USP of the project. “The farmers realise the importance of reforestation, replenishing the lost forest cover, improved air and water quality, and restoration of the habitats for countless species.”

Many of the farmers have realised why it is important to prevent land degradation. Devkishan, a labourer, while talking about planting acacia, amla around the fields, says,  “We have now understood that tree roots bind the soil together, preventing its erosion by wind and water. This helps to maintain the soil fertility, promote sustainable agriculture and preserve biodiversity.”     

According to the UNCCD, every second, an equivalent of four football fields of healthy land becomes degraded globally.  This is an untenable situation considering healthy land not only provides us with almost 95% of our food but also sustains large populations with livelihoods. 

Pradip Shah, co-founder of grow-trees.com,  “In such a scenario, grow-trees.com is picking up one project at a time and exemplifying how to achieve ecosystem and economic resilience by initiating soil conservation, introducing contextual land management practices and generating income for grassroots stakeholders.”  

Grow-Trees.com's Trees for Villagers project has planted over 50,000 trees in Khammam, Telangana. This initiative has not only increased vegetation and controlled soil erosion but also enhanced the water table in the region, contributing to the prevention of severe droughts and floods.

Shah adds, ''In  Khammam and Mewar, we had to consider socio-economic as well as environmental issues. We wanted to ensure that the local communities were on board with our initiatives. With their participation, we planted drought-resistant trees, reintroduced traditional conservation measures like 'Thavala' and also agroforestry practices specific to farming land. Additionally, we integrated trees with crops or livestock to boost soil fertility and to promote biodiversity."

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Published 08 July 2024, 13:14 IST

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