An innovative, community-based initiative to support farmers plant over 2 billion trees, and restore one of India’s largest river basins.
Cauvery River Basin, India
This project, which TreeSisters concluded in 2022, was in collaboration with planting partner Isha’s social outreach initiative Cauvery Calling. The project operated at the river basin level and spans two Southern Indian states. The wider initiative aimed to assist struggling farmers and plant an incredible 2.42 billion trees over 12 years through an innovative model of voluntary participation and demonstrating the multiple benefits of tree planting on private farmlands.
While TreeSisters no longer contribute to this project, it sought to improve soil health, revive the river and groundwater by increasing water retention by an estimated 40% and increase income through tree-based farming. The organisation's Rally for Rivers campaign has reached over 162 million people and has had an overwhelmingly positive response from farmers who live within the region.
Hectares of forest
Overall goal to plant 2.42 billion trees
83% of the farmers in Tamil Nadu and 77% of the farmers in Karnataka are in debt due to failed crops caused by insufficient rainfall, deforestation and subsequent soil erosion. Nearly 70,000 farmers participated in a similar scheme and found their income increased 3 to 8 times utilising this agroforestry model. Because of this, the government is now collaborating with Cauvery Calling to employ and train tree ambassadors called Kayaka Bandhu (friends of farmers) to promote the initiative in their communities. Cauvery Calling has also appointed over 1000 young adults living in rural areas as Mara Mitra (friends of trees). These Mara Mitras provide free, on-the-ground support to farmers helping them to enrol in government schemes and benefit from incentives for planting trees. Not only does this educate the local communities about the benefits of tree planting, but these programmes provide an alternative source of living for women and young adults in these areas.
IMPACT ON NATURE.
The water level in the Cauvery River has drastically reduced over the last few decades due to reduced rainfall and deforestation. This has led to a huge reduction in the river's water levels, and agricultural soils have become increasingly degraded, making the land less fertile and further exacerbating deforestation. The overall goal of this project is to plant 2.42 billion trees over 12 years covering approximately 8.3 million hectares. This project is unique as it engages local farmers to make a partial shift from crop cultivation to perennial tree-based farming.
TreeSisters concluded funding this project in 2022 as it no longer aligned with our emerging new Green Cover Strategy. However, the energy and commitment from those within this project continue to inspire. As many farmers live in the Cauvery River Basin, this method of involving local communities provides the opportunity to convert one-third of the geographical area into tree coverage. This will include areas of river catchments, so the restoration will also benefit the entire water system. This model is about scalability and promoting voluntary engagement in tree planting. Cauvery Calling is training farmers to create their own tree nurseries with the vision to gradually reduce the reliance on Cauvery Calling and empower the local farmers. This approach will directly benefit the farmers, their families, the land, trees and water.