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Insights into Editorial: For a wider cover: meeting climate goals
In 2015, India made a Bonn Challenge commitment to place into restoration 13 million hectares (Mha) of degraded land by 2020 and an additional 8 Mha by 2030 which will have potential climate benefit of 2 GtCO2 sequestered.
India’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) have also pledged to sequester 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent additionally by 2030 through enhanced tree cover.
Initial government estimates suggest that to achieve this, India will need to extend tree cover on at least 28-34 million hectares, outside of the existing forest cover.
As different States work to achieve these commitments, it appears that there is an over-reliance on plantations. In July this year, Madhya Pradesh planted 66 million trees in 12 hours to enter the record books, overtaking Uttar Pradesh’s record of planting 49.3 million trees in a day, in 2016. Other States are also expected to follow suit.
The Bonn Challenge: A global effort to improve ecology
The Bonn Challenge is a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030.
- Underlying the Bonn Challenge is the forest landscape restoration (FLR) approach, which aims to restore ecological integrity at the same time as improving human well-being through multifunctional landscapes.
- It will create approximately USD 84 billion per year in net benefits that could bring direct additional income opportunities for rural communities.
- The Bonn Challenge is not a new global commitment but rather a practical means of realizing many existing international commitments, including the CBD Aichi Target 15, the UNFCCC REDD+ goal, and the Rio+20 land degradation neutrality goal.
- It is an implementation vehicle for national priorities such as water and food security and rural development while contributing to the achievement of international climate change, biodiversity and land degradation commitments.
What is FLR?
Forest landscape restoration (FLR) is the on-going process of regaining ecological functionality and enhancing human well-being across deforested or degraded forest landscapes.
- FLR is more than just planting trees – it is restoring a whole landscape to meet present and future needs
- It is long-term because it requires a multi-year vision of the ecological functions.
- The majority of restoration opportunities are found on or adjacent to agricultural or pastoral land. In these situations, restoration must complement and not displace existing land uses.
- This result in a mosaic of different land uses including: agriculture, agroforestry systems and improved ecological corridors.
- It integrates a number of guiding principles, including: Focus on landscapes, restore functionality, Involve stakeholders, Tailor to local conditions and Avoid further reduction of natural forest cover.
Improving ecology: Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs):
196 Parties came together under the Paris Agreement to transform their development trajectories so that they set the world on a course towards sustainable development, aiming at limiting warming to 1.5 to 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.
- Nationally determined contributions (NDCs)are at the heart of the Paris Agreement
- NDCs embody efforts by each country to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
- Each climate plan reflects the country’s ambition for reducing emissions, taking into account its domestic circumstances and capabilities.
- The NDC also lays emphasis on carbon sequestration through a strengthened flow of benefits to local communities that are dependent on forests and agriculture for sustenance.
- India’s policy framework on forests also lays emphasis on a landscape approach to manage forest and tree cover, so that the flow of multiple ecosystem services — including food security, climate mitigation and adaptation, conservation of biological diversity and water supplies — is secured.
Over emphasis on large-scale plantation drives
Neither the Bonn Challenge nor the NDCs are about large-scale plantations alone.
Large-scale plantation drives alone do not achieve the targets because they do not lay stress on
- species selection,
- The quality of planting materials or survival rates,
- recognise tenure and resource rights to ensure that the benefit flows to communities,
Plantations do have their space, but as one among a larger suite of interventions.
An important success factor in large-scale tree-based programmes is security of tenure and land rights.
However, to operationalize a landscape approach, we must protect healthy forest areas from deforestation, degradation and fragmentation. We must also creatively integrate trees into different land uses.
India has numerous models that are suited for different regions and farm household sizes to draw upon, and must not rely on plantation drives alone to secure environmental and developmental outcomes.
India needs to design its tree-based programmes better to meet climate goals
Traditional and current reforestation practices are inadequate to reverse the currents of increasing deforestation and desertification. Small-scale grass roots development projects are the future for development in India.
- Agroforestry: The nation practises at least 35 types of agroforestry models that combine different trees that provide timber, fruits, fodder, fuel and fertilizers with food crops.
- Agroforestry is defined as a land use system which integrates trees and shrubs on farmlands and rural landscapes to enhance productivity, profitability, diversity and ecosystem sustainability.
- Indiahas designed a comprehensive policy with the goal to
- Improve productivity,
- create employment opportunities,
- Generate income and
- Meet the ever-increasing demand for timber, food, fuel, fodder, fertiliser and fibre from a growing population.
- Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration(FMNR)
- A simple, income generating and self-promoting reforestation system called Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) has been developed at Maradi, Niger.
- It is a low-cost land restoration technique used to combat poverty and hunger amongst poor subsistence farmers by increasing food and timber production and resilience to climate extremes.
- This system is based on the natural regeneration and management of tree stems from underground stumps, roots and seeds.
- FMNR also increases resilience to climate extremes.
- In Niger, West Africa, farmers operating on 5 Mha of land added roughly 200 million on-farm trees using FMNR in the past 30 years. This has sequestered 25-30 million tonnes of carbon and increased annual agricultural production by about 500,000 tonnes.
- In India, the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development’s (NABARD’s) ‘Wadi’ model and the Foundation for Ecological Security’s re-greening of village commons project are good examples of tree-based interventions which are proving to have great value in terms of cost-effectiveness as well as the range of benefits they deliver to communities.
Significance of Performance monitoring system and scientific evidence based methodology:
As we regenerate trees through different interventions, it is critical to ensure that owners have the right to manage and use these trees.
- Performance monitoring system
- It is important to have in place a performance monitoring system to quantify tree survival rates and the benefits to communities.
- This can be achieved through a combination of remote sensing, crowd sourced, ground-level monitoring with support from communities and civil society organisations.
- Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM)
- It is critical to use scientific evidence-based methodology with a participatory approach to determine the right type of tree-based interventions most suitable to a certain land use.
- The Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM) Tool is being used in 40 countries to find the best methods for landscape restoration.
- The tool includes rigorous analysis of spatial, legal and socio-economic data and draws on consultations with key stakeholders to determine the right type of interventions.
- In India, this tool is being piloted in Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh.
India has the policy framework, the political will and financing to endorse landscape restoration. What we really need now is innovation and imagination to build replicable and scalable models with a participatory approach to achieve the country’s climate goals through landscape restoration.