"Green-Ag : Transforming Indian Agriculture for Global Environmental Benefits and the Conservation of Critical Biodiversity and Forest Landscapes"
The Agriculture sector has made immense progress in contributing to the country’s food security. India is one of the largest exporters of agricultural produce. Over the years, the contribution of agriculture to the GDP has diminished considerably. However, it continues to be the largest source of livelihood in India. The Government of India (GoI) invests significantly to boost agricultural production by promoting modern intensive agricultural practices, which has facilitated the country to make great strides in production and productivity, thus emerging as a net exporter of food grains. However, the current farming practices are proving to be increasingly unsustainable due to resource intensive practices mostly dependent on external inputs. Consequently, there is a growing pressure on the ecology, especially, critical habitats and Protected Areas of high biodiversity importance along with pronounced negative impacts on natural resources like land, soil, and water, particularly groundwater aquifers. On the other hand, the GoI and other partners invest significantly in Protected Area management to support and conserve a host of globally significant species. Thus, these different streams of Government’s investments are often misaligned and incompatible with each other leading to agricultural and environmental activities acting at cross-purposes, resulting in net economic loss to the country and wasted financing. The agriculture sector in the country is critically poised to address issues of its long-term sustainability. This requires the sector to fully integrate environmental concerns in its policies, plans and programmes, so as to ensure that the sector’s negative environmental impacts are mitigated and positive contributions are enhanced. Therefore, environmental mainstreaming is of key importance, especially in the context of the changing climate. The Green-Ag Project aims to catalyze the sustainable transformation of India’s agriculture, without compromising the country’s food security and farmers’ income. The project seeks to mainstream biodiversity conservation, climate change, and sustainable land management objectives and practices into Indian agriculture to enhance multiple global environment benefits. The project supports harmonization between India’s agricultural and environmental sector priorities and investments so that the achievement of National and GEBs can be fully realized without compromising India’s ability to strengthen rural livelihoods and meet its food and nutrition security requirements. The project also aims to bring greater coherence between the Government’s policies, investments and institutions concerned with conservation and agricultural production at landscape level, so that they become mutually compatible. The Green-Ag Project is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through its sixth funding cycle. The Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare (DA&FW) is the National Executing Agency and FAO is the Implementing Agency. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) is the GEF Operational Focal Point and coordinates all GEF Projects in the country. The Project adopts a landscape approach by incorporating participatory governance and community based natural resource management at grassroots levels, for sustainable management of natural resources, land-use systems, and improved livelihood options. More specifically, it is being implemented in five high-conservation-value landscapes, wherein each landscape includes a mix of conservation and production areas. The Project States include Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand. The Project is being implemented with a total budget of USD 33 558 716. The Green-Ag Project is designed to be highly innovative in terms of a multi-sectoral approach to mainstreaming environmental concerns into the agriculture sector’s policies, plans and actions with necessary technical support and continuous cross-sectoral advocacy. The Project builds on / mobilizes both agriculture and environment sector’s institutional arrangements for enhanced delivery of GEBs at five agroecologically distinct landscapes by synergizing investments in both the sectors. The Project will use innovative tools and approaches from FAO and around the world such as EX-Ante Carbon balance Tool (EX-ACT), Rural Invest, Collect Earth, Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model (GLEAM) etc.
The Project is designed to achieve multiple GEBs in at least 1.8 million ha. of land across five landscapes with mixed land use systems, and includes the following key targets : • Institutionalization of intersectoral mechanisms (agricultural and allied sectors, forestry and natural resources management, and economic development) at the National and five States to facilitate continued mainstreaming of environmental concerns and priorities related to resilience into the agriculture sector beyond the project's life. • Inclusion of quantitative indicators in the State/National programmes & schemes to conserve critical biodiversity & forest landscapes. • Reduction in the threat index from baseline at critical sites of high biodiversity importance. • Bring at least 104 070 ha. of farms under sustainable land and water management (including organic farming and agrobiodiversity conservation). • Sequester or reduce 49 million tCO2eq Greenhouse gas emissions through sustainable land use and agricultural practices and improved agroecosystems management.
To catalyse transformative change of India’s agricultural sector to support achievement of National and Global Environmental Benefits (GEBs) and conservation of critical biodiversity and forest landscapes.
Alignment with FAO's Strategic Objectives:
The Project aligns with FAO’s key strategic priorities and fits most directly with FAO’s Strategic Objective 2 : Make agriculture, forestry and fisheries more productive and sustainable. Under this objective, FAO will focus on building a stronger dialogue and integration within and across sectors and stakeholders to sustainably increase production and productivity, address climate change, biodiversity and environmental degradation in agriculture, forestry and fisheries in the context of nutrition and gender-sensitive food systems. .
Summary of Landscape in Uttarakhand
|1||Landscape||Corbett - Rajaji Landscape|
|2||Protected Areas / Biosphere reserves within landscapes||Corbett Tiger Reserve and Rajaji Tiger Reserve.|
|3||Global environmental values||
|4.1||Districts included in the landscape||The Project landscape spans across Almora, Dehradun, Haridwar, Nainital & Pauri Garhwal. However, the project is being implemented in Pauri Garhwal district.|
|4.2||Number of villages in the target landscape||1146|
|4.3||Population in the target landscape||235 528|
|4.4||Key ethnic groups||Hindu castes like Brahmins, Kshatriya/Rajputs and Tribal groups like Jaunsaris, Jadhs, Marchas of Chamoli and Van Gujars|
|4.5||Dominant agricultural produce||Wheat, mustard, barley, paddy, maize, Mandua (finger millet), Jhangora (coarse millets), pepper, ginger, turmeric and sugar cane|
|4.6||Livelihoods||In the upper Ramganga watershed, the main local occupation is terrace farming and cattle rearing. Agriculture is mainly dominated by female members of the families, as there is high male migration in search for better incomes to big cities across the country. There is significant tourism around Protected Areas – especially around Corbett National Park. Many people are employed in the tourism industry.|
Project alignment with Uttarakhand State policy and priorities
|5||Uttarakhand Vision 2022 - Towards Robust Growth & Inclusive Development||Promote a green economy by focusing on sectors where the State has a competitive advantage - namely agriculture and tourism. The Vision has also emphasised the need to promote mixed forestry in the State and to position itself as a national leader in organic farming. The Vision also notes the need to foster agriculture research suited to local conditions and to upscale watershed development programme in the State.|
Uttarakhand is one of the five States where the “Green-Ag: Transforming Indian agriculture for global environmental benefits and the conservation of critical biodiversity and forest landscapes Project” will support activities at State, District and local levels. The primary landscape “Target Green Landscape” where the project will work has been selected based on extensive stakeholder consultations. The information below highlights the global environmental values and socioeconomic context – primarily for the target “Green Landscapes”. The project will target two productive agricultural and forest landscapes associated with Corbett Tiger Reserve and Rajaji Tiger Reserve. The first is the upland area of the Ramganga river watershed. This is the foothills of the Himalaya and an area dominated by terraced agriculture interspersed with forested and grazing lands. The Ramganga is the major river feeding into Corbett. The second area will be the corridor between Corbett and Rajaji protected areas. This is primarily forested agricultural lands interspersed with forest. This is a major corridor for wildlife between the two protected areas, particularly elephants and tigers. Figure 1 below presents the area of the landscape with the locations of the two protected areas. The landscape is mostly forested, and has a diversity of forest types Corbett National Park was the first Tiger Reserve in India established in 1936 and is one of the largest national parks in India. Corbett is one of best-preserved parks with 164 tigers and over 600 elephants.
The recent survey reveals that Corbett has the highest density of tiger population in the country at 20 tigers per hundred sq. km. More than 600 species of trees, shrubs, herbs, bamboos, grasses, climbers and ferns have been identified in the Park. Rajaji National Park was established in 1986. Together these two protected areas and the Himalayan foothill landscape surrounding them provide habitat for some of India’s finest forests and biodiversity. Simultaneously, Corbett can also be categorized as one of the India’s most crucial Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) breeding sites. It has approximately 20 percent of the wild adult Gharial population of the world which is stable and breeding successfully. The Corbett and Rajaji National Parks between them hold most of India’s northwestern population of tigers (Panthera tigris tigris), and one of the world’s most significant populations of Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus). With approximately 550 recorded species of birds, this landscape is one of the Important Bird Areas (IBAs). The forest types are essentially Northern Tropical Moist Deciduous and Northern Tropical Dry Deciduous. Corbett Tiger Reserve is covered predominantly with sal (Shora robusta) forests. Rajaji is home to avian species that are found in forested foothills and in open grassland. It's location in a transition zone between temperate western Himalaya and central Himalaya enhances the species diversity and consequently the viewing prospects. Rajaji's checklist has about 400 birds species. Corbett and Rajaji National Parks are part of the on going Terai Arc Landscape initiative led by WWF India since 2000. 11. The area also has high agrobiodiversity – including diversity of wheat (Triticum aestivum) (Naphal, Tank, Lakha, Dhavati, Hansy- Awnless), rice (Oryza sativa) (Dehradun Basmati, Hansraj,Basmati, Bindli-Thapachini & Jolia ), soybean (Glycine soja) and Rajmash (Phaseolus vulgaris). Uttarakhand's indigenous cow - Badri- has become the state's first ever cattle breed to get certified by the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR) in Karnal as indigenous breed. The petite Badri cow is found only in the hill districts and was earlier known as the pahadi cow. Barah Anaja (literally meaning twelve grains) is a traditional system of mixed farming practiced in Uttarakhand. This involves the intercropping of twelve or even more crops that include cereals, lentils, vegetables, creepers and root vegetables. Cropping is planned so that the crops grow in harmony with each other. The leguminous creepers use the stems of cereals while grain roots bind the soil and prevent erosion. The nitrogen fixing ability of legumes help return nutrients to the soil. No chemical inputs are used and pest control is biological through walnut/ neem leaves and cow urine. Diversity in crops also helps in maintaining soil fertility and replenishing nitrogen. This diversity also provides for nutritional security. Millets are rich in calcium, iron, phosphorus and vitamins, while legumes are a rich source of proteins