More than 700 million people in India currently depend on forests and agriculture for sustenance, mostly comprised of highly vulnerable groups such as tribals, women, smallholders and marginal farmers. Any threat to these forests and farmlands poses a risk to the dignified survival of these populations. To protect and conserve these forests and farmlands and ensure a continued flow of ecosystem services, nature-based solutions such as landscape restoration can prove effective. Land restoration can both secure livelihoods and fulfill food and nutrition needs, for marginal farmers and forest-dwelling communities.
A few emerging entrepreneurs are building unconventional business solutions for restoring the health of damaged farms and forest landscapes. They are offering innovative solutions which can restore mine spoils, enhance soil quality, sustainably manage crop residue and improve vegetation cover. These solutions have a positive cascading effect on not just the entire land ecosystem but also primary land users such as farmers since issues such as leaching and soil erosion are addressed and healthier, sustainable and cost-effective farm inputs are provided yielding better crops. Such entrepreneurs are supported under WRI India’s Land Accelerator South Asia program which seeks to strengthen their capacities and business models while tracking the impact of their work. This restoration-business-based approach is beneficial for the people as it generates better income opportunities and for the planet as it restores the health of natural land ecosystems.
Replenishing Land by Growing Trees
A leading cause of land degradation is mining, which damages the air, water and soil quality and affects the natural drainage, vegetation and forests in the region. Left untreated post-mining, these mine spoils can take decades to develop any vegetation cover.
To speed up the recovery of such lands, Greenfield Eco Solutions Pvt Ltd, based in the Jodhpur district of Rajasthan, is working on reclaiming, rehabilitating, and restoring drastically degraded lands, especially mines and mine-spoils by using active land restoration practices like reforestation, silvopasture, agroforestry and soil conservation. This helps in mine reclamation and makes the land ecologically functional and usable for local people.
Making Soil Amendments
Organic soil amendments benefit plant growth through better soil-root association, enhanced water and nutrient use efficiency, and improved soil structure. Extending this solution to farmers, BomLife Pvt. Ltd. has developed innovative IP-protected bio-organic solutions for fulfilling the nutritional needs of plants while efficiently managing common pests and diseases without affecting crop yield.
These solutions are particularly useful to farmers who are transitioning from conventional to organic agriculture. These bio-inputs also reduce the need for irrigation by 30% as it improves soil water retention capacity.
Tea plantations in the Brahmaputra valley are a live example demonstrating the impactful results of BomLife agri inputs. Situated around the Kaziranga Reserve Forest, conventionally these plantations are cultivated using chemical inputs which pose a threat to the local ecology and wildlife in the area. Switching to BomLife inputs demonstrated better plant health without affecting the yields, thus benefiting both, the tea farmers and the environment.
Green Cross Agritech Pvt. Ltd. manufactures Trinetra - the next-gen organic waste decomposer, which is especially helpful for small and marginal farmers who face problems with post-harvest land preparation and resort to burning the crop residual waste.
Trinetra converts all farm and animal waste into manure, enriching the soil with carbon and nutrition. With its low cost, it has the potential to reach a large number of small and marginal farmers and has served 9,000 farmers already.
‘Business as Usual’ – No More!
As identified in WRI India’s Restoration Opportunities Atlas for India, more than 100 million hectares of land has the potential for landscape restoration and forest protection. Implementing locally relevant solutions is the key to harnessing this potential. Restoration entrepreneurs are innovating local solutions that focus on ‘People, Planet and Profit’ and helping restore land while addressing the needs of the local population and building their resilience. Programs like the Land Accelerator South Asia play a key role in fostering these unique, sustainable entrepreneurship solutions that benefit local economies and communities while accelerating restoration action on the ground.
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