Kolkata/Guwahati: The Assam government and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) on Tuesday launched an initiative to rapidly expand tree coverage outside of traditional forests in the North Eastern state by bringing together farmers, companies, and private institutions.
The initiative, taken under the new programme Trees Outside Forests in India (TOFI), will enhance carbon sequestration, support local communities, and strengthen the climate resilience of agriculture, thereby supporting global climate change mitigation and adaptation goals, according to a media statement issued by the USAID.
Through agroforestry, or integrating trees into farming systems, TOFI will improve the resilience of farming systems, while increasing the income of farmers in Assam, in partnership with the state’s Environment and Forest Department and Assam Agroforestry Development Board.
TOFI will leverage India’s private sector to promote and scale tree-based enterprises and the sale of carbon credits, helping to create jobs, boost incomes, and help families in Assam overcome the economic impacts of the pandemic.
Announcing the launch, Assam Minister for Environment and Forest Chandra Mohan Patowary said, “Agroforestry is intimately associated with Assamese civilisation and we are very delighted to launch the TOFI program in Assam. The program will help the people of Assam to take up the traditional practice of agroforestry in a modern scientific manner to integrate productivity and profitability with environmental stewardship.”
Highlighting the importance of the programme, USAID’s Deputy Mission Director in India, Karen Klimowski said, “As the climate crisis intensifies, it is ever more important that we protect India’s forests and the communities who depend on them. The United States is proud to support the Trees Outside Forests in India program, which builds upon decades of U.S.-India cooperation on forestry and climate-smart agriculture. India’s progress on these issues can provide models for the world.”
The Trees Outside Forests in India program was launched in September 2022 by Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change Secretary Leena Nandan and U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Patricia Lacina.
The program will allocate up to $25 million U.S. dollars in seven states, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh, to rapidly expand tree coverage outside of traditional forests by 2.8 million hectares, contributing to India’s Nationally Determined Contribution target of creating an additional “carbon sink” of 2.5 to 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030.