What if we could restore degraded land and build thriving rural communities at the same time?
In India, environmental degradation is one of the root causes of poverty, especially for children and families living in rural communities. According to the World Bank, 42% of people living in extreme poverty live on land that is classified as degraded. Each year 24 billion tons of fertile soil are eroded. On top of this, drought threatens to turn 12 million hectares of land into desert.
In India farmers face ecological and economical degradation mainly due to commercial activities like logging, monoculture agriculture (growing only one type of crop at a time), and the inappropriate use of fertilisers and pesticides. Globally, conventional agricultural practices mainly rely on planting large volumes of single crops. This exhausts soils and leaves farmers more vulnerable to changes in weather and pests. The problem will only get worse if we don’t act now.
The IKEA Foundation has joined forces with Commonland to restore a 2,000-hectare degraded landscape in Central India through agroforestry. The project will restore biodiversity to the area while enabling 1,000 smallholder farmers to earn a sustainable income.
What is agroforestry?
Agroforestry combines trees, crops and livestock farming to make land more productive and profitable. It can improve incomes and the quality of the environment – and help farmers become more resilient to the effects of climate change.
Agroforestry helps landowners diversify their income, improve soil and water quality, and reduce erosion. It also creates more habitats for wildlife and reduces the risk of losing crops to pests or disease.
This project will bring together local communities, farmers and local partners to design landscapes and agroforestry systems around native species.
The 4 returns
The project aims to provide employment and increased incomes for smallholder farmers, positive environmental impacts, inspired and empowered communities, and sustainable business cases. Commonland calls these the 4 Returns.
We will use these four returns to scale up agroforestry by providing smallholder farmers with finance and technical help, developing sustainable farmers’ institutions, and building links to markets for their forest products.
It is estimated that there are 2 billion hectares of degraded land around the world that should be restored. This takes time and collaboration. To have a real impact we must do more than just prove this approach works.
Sharing what we learn
We need to ensure that governments, forestry departments, smallholder farmers and agribusinesses have the right knowledge, tools and networks to help restore landscapes and local communities. That’s why this project will create a knowledge and innovation platform to give like-minded farmers, entrepreneurs and decision makers access to the support they need.
There’s much to learn, and we want to see that learning is shared. We believe landscape restoration has the potential to help rural communities and the land they depend on, revive and thrive. We’ll be documenting this journey with stories from the local community: farmers, tribes, local partners and nongovernmental organisations. Look out for our updates in social media.