#BIODIVERSITY : meeting Araku’s tribal communities, Livelihoods “HHARIYALI ” project

The Livelihoods Fund is a carbon investment fund providing investors access to biodiversity friendly carbon credits that aid rural poors through large scale and social impact projects. Initiated by DANONE in June 2011, the fund was joined by 6 other contributors: Schneider Electric, CDC Climat, Credit Agricole, La Poste, Hermes International and most lately Voyageur du Monde. The fund invests in three families of projects: Ecosystem restoration, Agro-forestry with soil restoration and Rural energy development that will reduce deforestation

This innovative carbon offsetting programme designs inclusive and sustainable projects for the population, as a result of a close cooperation between the Fund, the local partner and local communities. In other words, the programmes are not only about trees planting and carbon storage (with no further challenges than offsetting western companies carbon excesses (and bad conscious!)), but it is also improves the livelihood of thousands of people, empowering them and making them the main actors of the change. Populations are owners and beneficiaries of immediate returns of projects. Their ecosystem of life is renewed and they can produce wood, fruits, crops… or other products they will decide to either keep for their own consumption or to sell by organizing themselves into small cooperatives

The “HHARIYALI ”project, was a pilot project started by Danone with one of its local partner Naandi foundation, in 2010.

It is conducted in the Araku Valley, located in Andhra Pradesh (east of India) where the disappearance of forests and the extensive cultivation of bare soil resulted in a drop in soils fertility. The local tribal communities, most marginalized and socially deprived, cultivate food crops and coffee in full sun.  The objective was to implement a large program of planting fruit trees to restore the forest and to improve farmer’s livelihood. In addition to revenues coming from coffee, (which is currently the primary cash crop grown in the valley) fruits from the Araku valley will in future bring food resources and revenue. Plantations belong to individual farmers on a secure tenure.

After less than 3 years, 2 million trees have been planted reaching the objective of 6,000 hectares of restored forest: predicting carbon storage in biomass above the ground is 1.1 million TeqCO2 for 20 years. Beside this significant environmental impact, it is more than on 65,000 people that will beneficiate of a better livelihood.

Meeting  the Turakalametta villagers

The Turakalametta villagers are beneficiaries of the project, and that make them smile! In fact, they have been very enthusiast since the beginning of the programme in 2010. They were provided with different types of seeds: mango, custard apple, papaya, drumstick, cashew, orange, lime etc…trees that are now growing and will soon give some fruits. As a long-term investment, they also planted bamboo and teak wood, which will be able to provide important amount of money in 10 or 20 years. “ Planting these types of trees is long term investment; it is like a money deposit on a bank account! When they will need money, they will just cut a teak tree and sell the wood “, explained to me David Hogg, Chief Sustainability Officer Naandi Foundation.

Nature is the bank, their savings reside in their trees (and they don’t need to pay interest on that!).

Besides the seeds, Naandi provided relevant horticulture trainings. They were able to learn about mix cultures, composting, but also nutrition. Naandi introduced to them new types of vegetables and fruits in order to improve their feeding habits and health. The village planted a total of 42 acres of trees and crops.

Every members of the families participated. Development committee’s meeting every month with a VHC (Village Horticulture Coordinator) enables to share information, follow the project, provide trainings etc…

Thanks to this programme, they will be able to grow fruits and vegetable the whole year, for their consumption but also to sell and soon increase their income.

Korra Bodama was the most talkative of the crowd. She is a very enthusiastic and dynamic woman.

All her family planted the trees and got involved in the project. She is very happy and grateful. Thanks to this programme they will increase their income and knowledge on horticulture and nutrition. “ We have learn about new type of cultures; and we now eat lemons, oranges...other good fruits for our health. With the increase of our income, I will be able to give a better education to our children and improve our lives.

Maybe I will be even able to purchase a TV, or gold!” she tells me laughing showing me her jewelleries.

The communities also understand the benefits of the programme on the environment, on a larger scale, even if it is not the first answer they will spontaneously mention (global warming and pollution is something less concrete for them than being able to eat and live!). They mentioned the importance of reforestation for the global environment: “ It reduces pollution and improves soil quality” tells me one of the peasants. “ We need to protect our lands and nature”.

 

 Meeting Jagannadham and his wife Mutyalamma : Kodeli village

Jagannadham and Mutyalamma entered the “HHARIYALI” programme in 2011 (one year after the beginning) after they heard about it from another village. In fact, as soon as Jagannadham heard about Naandi’s initiative, he went to see them to ask for their support. He didn’t even wait to have the crops to dig the pits: he was so eager to plant that the whole family spend the summer digging even if hey had no seeds yet! Thanks to the initiative, he was able to plant 96 mango trees and 11 other varieties of trees and crops, which will start to give fruits next year.

He was trained, and learned about the importance of mix cultures, but also everything about organic horticulture and biodynamics. His enthusiasm made him the perfect VHC (Village Horticulture Coordinator) and he takes his role of technical advisor of the village very seriously. So when I asked him about what has brought to him this initiative, not only does he mentioned the increase of income that it will bring, but he insists on more social and psychological benefits: the knowledge and is new role in he village. Being a VHC enables him to have a role in his community, to feel important and respected. “Before, not a lot of people came to my house and talked to us. Now, as an advisor, I meet a lot of people, visitors come to see me all the time, from outside but of course from my village. I can give them technical advises, encourage them. I feel more important. I am proud.”

He seems very happy and grateful. His energy is great to see (he was so enthusiast we couldn’t make him stop talking!).  “ I really like to learn new things! I have always learned from others (a friend taught me to do bricks and carpentry...I could then build my house. Another friend taught me some things about Ayurveda medicine so now I can use plants to heal my family….Thanks to Naandi I could learn about horticulture technics. I can now provide food for my family and have a better income! “.

Jagannadham is very active. In fact, he is also registered in the SMAT (small and marginal tribal farmers mutually-aided cooperative society) initiated by Naandi for coffee farmers. He knows that the cooperative will also help him to sell the fruits and vegetables he grows with this new horticulture programme.

His dream ? To build a new house and have more lands to farm, to continue helping and advising his community. But mostly: to be able to give a better education for his 3 children.

Jagannadham is a beautiful example of empowerment, and shows the great social impact of this project. The local people are completely involved: they are trained, supported and made responsible, individually and as a community.

Not only is the forest being restored little by little, but also does these tribal communities’ confidence and strength. They have the power to improve their livelihood and dream for a better future for their children.

 

Read more about Livelihoods fund and its projects:

 Araku, September 2012  - Text and Photos ©Alice Vivian