In Kerala village, farmers can mortgage their bushes for interest-free financial institution loans

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Written by Vishnu Varma
| Kochi |

Updated: October 22, 2020 3:02:02 pm

Local MLA CK Saseendran presenting a cheque of Rs 5000 to a farmer underneath the tree banking scheme on Tuesday.In a bid to encourage planting and preserving bushes and thereby cut back carbon footprint, a village in Kerala has kickstarted a undertaking that can enable farmers to mortgage the bushes on their land in return for interest-free financial institution loans.
The ingenious plan, a brainchild of state Finance Minister TM Thomas Isaac, was formally rolled out earlier this week in Meenangadi, a panchayat of 33,000 individuals curled up within the Western Ghats hills in Wayanad district.
The quiet village was the topic of an Indian Express report in February 2018 for its efforts to attempt to turn into the nation’s first ‘carbon-neutral’ panchayat by slashing greenhouse fuel emissions and rising inexperienced cowl. The exhaustive government-backed undertaking was launched with a lot fanfare in Meenangadi by Isaac in 2016, a number of months after his return from the local weather change convention in Paris.
Addressing the individuals within the village again then, Isaac had mentioned, “If our climactic ecosystem is gone, what do we do? When does the monsoon begin? Is there any set pattern to it anymore? If monsoons are gone, will we have tropical rainforests or the Western Ghats? Will Wayanad survive?.”
An cardio compost unit put in as a part of the carbon-neutral undertaking in Meenangadi.
As an answer to these considerations, Isaac had mooted the concept of financially incentivising individuals, particularly farmers, to develop and protect bushes by way of the ‘tree banking’ scheme. After a yr of planting, the tree saplings could be pledged by farmers for interest-free loans from a neighborhood cooperative financial institution that can assist them handle the bushes in addition to attend to different wants on his/her farm. This manner, farmers can be discouraged from slashing bushes, a observe that has been widespread in recent times and thought of deadly to the biodiversity well being of Wayanad.
Beena Vijayan, who heads the native panchayat, mentioned, “Each sapling can be pledged for Rs 50 per year for a period of 10 years. So if a farmer pledges 100 trees on her land, the bank will pay her Rs 5000 per year for 10 years in the form of a loan. While the interest on the loan is paid by the panchayat, the farmer has to pay only the principal amount, that is, if she decides to cut the tree. If she chooses not to cut down the tree, the loan doesn’t have to be repaid.”
“The state government had deposited a corpus fund of Rs 10 crores for the project at the Meenangadi service co-operative bank which is used to disburse the loans. The interest from the deposit is used to pay the interest off the loans given to farmers. So far, we have sanctioned loans for 184 farmers in two wards of the panchayat,” she added.
Over the final two years, Vijayan claimed the panchayat has planted nearly 1.57 lakh saplings on non-public plantations freed from value by way of its MGNREGA nursery. These saplings are within the technique of being geo-tagged by way of a software program. The geo-tagging helps panchayat officers monitor the expansion of the sapling at six-month and one-year intervals. If the sapling goes on to be mortgaged by the farmer, its geo-tagging will guarantee if the tree will get lower in future. As per the tree banking scheme, the panchayat will assist nurture the sapling for the primary three years, following which the farmer can be chargeable for it.
The panchayat has listed 34 species of bushes that farmers can plant on their land which embrace mango, jackfruit and pine. Those like teak and Indian rosewood are barred from the undertaking. Through large-scale planting of fruit bushes, the panchayat additionally hopes to be self-sustainable and even turn into home to a fruit-processing business in future.
“The collapse of the farming sector especially in Wayanad has meant that farmers are ready to cut down and sell even small trees. Through this project, at least temporarily, farmers will have a financial boost to protect their trees. More importantly, it works to our central long-term objective of cutting down carbon emissions in the area,” mentioned TV Surendran, secretary of the native co-operative financial institution.
Meanwhile, the carbon-neutral undertaking in Meenangadi is progressing effectively, mentioned the panchayat head.
“This year, we were hoping to complete another round of carbon audit to find out the amount of excess carbon in the atmosphere that we would have to sequester through other methods. But the pandemic delayed our plans,” she mentioned.
“But our action plan is ready. We have taken a lot of steps like planting trees, changing all the streetlights to LED and implementing a zero-waste model. Through another carbon audit, we would be able to know how much we have minimized our emissions. If we are found to have achieved a state of carbon-neutral, we can officially declare the panchayat as one.”
Once that occurs, the espresso, pepper and natural greens grown within the village could be branded as ‘carbon-neutral’ and assist fetch increased costs. The state authorities has already mentioned that the methodology carried out in Meenangadi can be mirrored in different panchayats in Wayanad district.
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