India is seeking to increase its green cover by planting thousands of trees outside forest areas and creating green zones in and around human habitations over the next five years with $25 million in funding from the USAID.

The Union Environment Ministry and USAID program would expand India’s forest cover to 28 lakh hectares of land in seven states – Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Haryana, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.

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This would be done by bringing together farmers, businesses and private institutions to rapidly expand tree cover outside of traditional forests.

Through agroforestry or the integration of trees into agricultural systems, the program also aims to improve the resilience of agricultural systems while increasing farmers’ incomes.

“The program would have two components – tree-based businesses outside forests and public goods in common areas where people live. We are committed to planting native species best suited to a particular agro-climatic zone,” said Milind Bunyan, a conservation advocate. specialist working at the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment, based in Bengaluru, which is associated with the programme.

Scientists would help identify the right kind of tree species, source quality planting material, and set up a system to certify products like fruit or timber that came out of those tree areas.

Public goods areas, on the other hand, will not have any commercial connection but would serve as green space in and around human localities. “Digital tools would be developed to identify potential areas. The focus would be on planting the right species, in the right places and for the right reasons,” Bunyan said. DH.

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The program, according to a USAID statement, would use innovative financing models and leverage India’s private sector to promote tree-based businesses, helping to create sustainable markets and improve rural economies and livelihoods. , with the potential to benefit more than 13 million people.

A section of environmentalists, however, raised concerns over where the trees would be planted and the role played by the private sector due to their track record in meeting the needs of rural economies or livelihoods in India. .

A consortium led by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and World Agroforestry (ICRAF) would execute the program.