Earthworm's campaign not only strives to tackle the effects of climate change but also helps farmers restore biodiversity in farms while earning extra income
Published on January 26, 2021 at 6:52 am
Updated on January 28, 2021 at 10:41 am
The Earthworm Foundation (formerly known as The Forest Trust) has decades of experience in finding solutions to the major social and environmental problems that our world is facing today. The non-profit works between corporates and civil society, between forests, farms, and boardrooms, between buyers and suppliers to identify challenges, process them and create impactful solutions.
Change the Climate (CTC) is Earthworm Foundation’s flagship programme that focusses on implementing the organisation’s unique ‘sustainable agroforestry model’ in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, and Gujarat. The programme has not only contributed to increasing green cover but also helped the farmers to diversify their income and promote climate mitigation by converting atmospheric carbon into organic carbon and checking soil erosion. The rationale of choosing these states is based on their sparse green-cover, perennial debt trap faced by the farmers, increasing soil erosion and desertification. After the onset of the project in 2019, CTC has benefitted more than 2,000 farmers in 200 villages of these states. The organisation is working with small, medium, and large-scale farmers.
Earthworm Foundation’s sustainable agroforestry model incorporates extensive plantation activity around the farmlands. Before initiating the plantation, the organisation performs a detailed water and soil assessment of the farm. Then, the Foundation’s experts (hailing from some of the most reputed agricultural institutes from the country) comprehend the reports and suggest the saplings that can be planted. The Foundation also facilitates a meeting between the farmers and experts giving the farmers a brief idea about their farm conditions. The organisation purchases saplings from local sources ascertaining that the saplings (plant) have great commercial and ecological value. For instance, the organisation focusses on planting fruits, flowers, or hardwood saplings.
In Rajasthan, the Foundation is working to reclaim degraded land by employing plantation and sustainable water management techniques. The work has been well received by different industries who have given the organisation their land for reclamation. In terms of the plantation, the Foundation planted a variety of saplings that have high commercial value and could withstand extreme climatic conditions. Moreover, the Foundation is using sustainable water management methods like drip irrigation to address the problem of water scarcity.
Post-plantation, the organisation harnesses its one-of-a-kind monitoring process where it monitors the sapling’s health by measuring the height and girth, biomass storage and the carbon storage (that includes calculation of carbon sequestration and carbon stock). Earthworm Foundation carries out the assessments quarterly and keep storing and sharing the data by issuing QR codes. Apart from the health and carbon storage details, the QR code incorporates the ‘Journey of Plantation’ a detailed analysis of the complete plantation activity including the pre-plantation journey, the details of the farmer(s), farmland coordinates, number of saplings planted in each farmland, scientific and common names of the saplings planted and their benefits.
In the past two years, the organisation has planted around 80,000 trees and has created individual farmer profiles to facilitate regular interaction with the farmers. The Foundation has also encouraged farmers to practice chemical and fertiliser free farming by providing them with the technical know-how and guiding them at each stage. The organisation is working with local farmers to develop nurseries that produce a variety of saplings including cash crops, exotic fruits, and vegetables. The nurseries are being developed across Punjab and Haryana. Furthermore, during COVID-19 the organisation touch-based with over 1,000 farmers enquiring and assisting farmers to bolster their farming practices and passed the details on COVID-19 prevention.
Earthworm Foundation has also collaborated with local schools and institutions to promote the culture of sustainable agroforestry management and motivate students to take up agriculture and agro-business as future careers.
Reaping the benefits of agroforestry
To increase the forest cover and enhance the agroforestry management in the region, farmers have started collaborating with different organisations. Shanker Yadav is one such farmer who hails from Waryam Khera village of Fazilka district, Punjab. A medium-scaled farmer, Shanker owns 12 acres of land and has been associated with the organisation for a decade. In the beginning, Earthworm foundation planted 10 trees at his farm, in the next few years the collaboration extended, and he obtained more than 200 saplings including plants like Sheesham, Jamun and Neem.
“I am a well-informed farmer now, agro-farming has worked well for me,” Shanker chuckled while explaining the process.
“During the last ten years, our collaboration has transformed the way I practised agriculture. The saplings they planted were commercially viable and it increased my sources of income and increased my financial independence. The process started when the team from the foundation visited me, they explained how agroforestry was beneficial for me. After I joined the initiative, they took the soil and water sample from my field. They were back with the findings and they also introduced me to experts who explained to me the complete process, right from what trees they will be planting. Post plantation they were always available to assist me whenever it was required. Moreover, I was able to switch my cropping pattern that was based on traditional agriculture to forestry management and I was able to gain additional Rs 90,000 by harvesting the trees.”
Praising the Earthworm’s agro farming model in the region Dr K.S. Bangarwa, Emeritus Professor from the department of forestry, CCS, Hisar, Haryana ICAR said, “Earthworm’s Change the Climate programme is being implemented for the benefit of the farmers and the communities as a whole. Such programs are the need of the time to address the problems of Climate Change. Their efforts are appreciable as their work ultimately benefits and protects the earth and its resources for the next generation.”
Focus in post-COVID-19 world
“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we approach our projects. During the pandemic, we were able to plant and monitor saplings. Moreover, we were able to get in touch with over 1000 farmers and helped them throughout the crisis. Post COVID-19 we have issued fresh guidelines that entail processes all in operations in our project. We are also spreading awareness on the interdependence on the outbreak of the virus and ecological imbalance. We are looking for like-minded organisations who could contribute to our initiative.”
Naresh Chaudhary, Country Head, Earthworm Foundation India