The Harit Bharat Fund: Revitalizing India’s landscapes for people, nature and climate

By Climate Champions | November 15, 2023

In the heart of India, where climate impacts are already felt by millions of people, an innovative fund is setting a new standard in landscape restoration by financially empowering local people and organizations to revive the country’s  diverse and vital ecosystems.

India’s agricultural and forest landscapes are the lifeblood of over 700 million people – a significant majority of which are small and marginal landowners. Fortunately, over 100 million hectares of land in India offers a potential restoration. More than half of this potential – which could sequester 3-4.3 billion tonnes above-ground carbon by 2040 – is for restoration techniques like agroforestry that can boost crop yields by adding trees to productive farmland.

Recognizing both the economic and pragmatic urgency of this transformation, the Harit Bharat Fund, Hindi for Green India Fund, has stepped in with initiatives, it claims, which will put India on a path to exceed its national climate commitment (NDC) by sequestering an additional 825 million tonnes above-ground carbon by 2030 through landscape restoration.

To achieve this, and scale up landscape restoration, it supports local ‘Restoration Champions’ with capital and capacity-building assistance. These locally led start-ups, farmer-producer companies, and non-governmental organizations are working on innovative land restoration solutions that can help India mitigate its climate risks, improve livelihoods and boost food and nutrition security for its people. By strengthening ecosystem services like biodiversity, soil health and water, the Fund is helping build a sustainable economy for people, nature and climate that is centred on sustainable landscapes.

To accelerate investment, Harit Bharat Fund is launching its first call for proposals in the three Central Indian states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Grant amounts vary from ₹20 lakhs to ₹2.5 crores (USD $20,000 to $300,000), ensuring a wide range of projects get off the ground. But financial assistance is just the start. The Fund places strong emphasis on empowering women, first-generation entrepreneurs, and other marginalized groups, recognizing their crucial role in driving sustainable change. Participants in the Fund’s programs also benefit from customized, one-on-one mentorship and capacity building opportunities, tailored to address the unique challenges and maximize the impact of each project. 

In these states, where millions depend on agriculture for their sustenance, Harit Bharat Fund could become lifeline. The Fund understands that resilience is about creating a world where communities not only survive but thrive amidst climate challenges. Initiatives like this could have profound benefits in regions like Chhattisgarh, where almost 30 percent  of the population is categorized as multidimensionally poor, and 43 percent face nutritional deprivation.

As half the world already grapples with direct climate impacts, the clarion call for immediate action on adaptation and resilience (A&R) has never been louder. Forests in particular, are not thriving. The stress from climate change means forests in the tropics are all experiencing increased and larger tree mortality.

It is no longer a case of simply reducing emisisons. A&R must also take centre stage alongside mitigation efforts. The Harit Bharat Fund aligns with global initiatives like the Race to Resilience and the Sharm El-Sheikh Adaptation Agenda – working hard to put A&R in the climate action spotlight alongside mitigation. 

Nature based Solutions will be a core part of discussions at Asia and the Pacific Climate Week, hosted in Malaysia’s Johor between the 13 and 17 November. Discussions will set the stage for COP28 which, for the first time ever, will operate within the context of the Global Biodiverstiy Framework – and increasing recognition that the climate crisis cannot be tackled without the protection and restoration of nature.

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