How a «tree mortgage» scheme could turn an Indian town carbon neutral

Power plant belching smoke

Power plant - originally from Pixabay. Optimised and cropped. Format 385 x 320 : home page block image

It’s a simple incentive with big gains: plant a tree, and after three years residents can
mortgage each sapling for an interest-free loan that can be renewed annually for 10
years. The money need be repaid only if the tree is chopped down. Sheeja CG, a 46-
year-old farmer, has lived among coffee, coconut and pepper plantations all her life but
last month she increased her income dramatically by mortgaging 53 of her trees at the
local bank, in return for a sum of 2,650 rupees (£26.96), or 50 rupees each. She was
one of the first beneficiaries of the state-sponsored scheme.

Suicides of farmers, landslides and floods have made the headlines. Farmers have
been compelled to fell trees to supplement their income. Against such a background,
the tree banking project, facilitated by a 10 crores rupee (£1.01m) grant from the state
government, comes as a big incentive to keep them rooted to the ground.
But the tree banking scheme has an ambition to reverse the damage and turn
Meenangadi, a town of about 35,000 people into a carbon neutral region. “We have held
more than 500 meetings with farmers in every nook and corner on waste management,
recycling plastic, solar lighting and panels, manufacturing environment friendly coffee
and using high-efficiency stoves,” says Vijayan.
“Wayanad has the lowest per capita income in Kerala state, so the aim is to double the
income of the farmers without overly industrialising the region,” says Jayakumar C,
founder of Thanal, the environment agency that is implementing the project.

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