What carbon could do for rural India


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Most of you probably never heard of a place called Harda in central India. It’s half million or so people get by mostly by growing soybeans, maize, rice, and millet in the spring, and wheat and gram in the fall. The landless families collect and sell wild tendu leaves. Most of the district’s villages have schools, but many still lack healthcare and electricity. Almost everyone still walks or uses ox-cart or bicycle to get around.

At first glance, nothing could seem farther away from daily life in Harda than developing carbon markets to help avoid global warming. But according to a recent report, carbon markets could do a lot for Harda.

"Communities and Climate Change: The Clean Development Mechanism and Village-Based Forest Restoration in Central India", a new report by M. Poffenberger, N.H. Ravindranath, D.N. Pandey, I.K. Murthy, R. Bist, and D. Jain, looks at the economics of carbon forestry in Harda and concludes carbon could be an attractive alternative.

Some villages have already begun to restore their forests by preventing fires, controlling cattle grazing, and patrolling for illegal loggers as part of the state’s Joint Forest Management (JFM) program. However, the JFM program has not been able to fund all of the villages that want to participate and no one knows what will happen once the project funding ends. Carbon markets could be one way to get more villages involved and provide them with permanent funding.

The authors estimate that each hectare of dry mixed deciduous forest that the villagers in Harda allow to regenerate can annually sequester 3.4 tons of carbon and that the district has 11,000 hectares of additional land that villagers might want to use for that. If the villagers could sell their carbon for $10 per ton they could earn $375,000 for the whole area. About 30% of that would be needed to provide technical assistance, help organize the participants, and monitor what goes on in the field. That money would go to local Forest Protection Committees and Village Forestry Committees, the Forestry Department and researchers. The remaining 70% could go to fund activities that directly benefit the villagers themselves.

The report explains exactly how all of this might work and how it could meet the main requirements for carbon forestry projects under the UN climate change conventions’ Clean Development Mechanism. This has the potential to be a very rewarding alternative for both the 100 million or so people that live in and around India’s public forest land, and for the country’s 67 million hectares of degraded land. But unfortunately, not enough people sitting around the table at the international climate change negotiations have been thinking about the needs of places like Harda.

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Further reading

If you would like a free electronic copy of this report in word or pdf format you can write Kate Smith-Hannsen at mailto:k8smith@aol.com

To send comments or queries to the author you can write Mark Poffenberger at: mailto:MPoffen@aol.com