Emerging social entrepreneurs are helping restore forest and farmland ecosystems by supporting smallholder farmers without access and critical knowledge
Locally-led ecosystem restoration is critical for adaptation and increasing people’s climate resilience, which also emerged as a key focus area during the negotiations of the 27th Conference of Parties (COP27) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Increasing climate impacts, diminishing crop yields, biodiversity loss, inadequate food and nutrition, rising poverty and unequal access to resources and a high vulnerability to pandemics are just a few of the challenges smallholder farmers face, along with poor market linkages.
Strong agricultural and food value chains play a pivotal role for them by ensuring regularised market linkages and fair farm incomes.
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Creating agricultural value chains that support sustainable farm practices like agroforestry, food forests and regenerative farming provides better livelihood opportunities and incomes for smallholder farmers.
It also ensures efficient use of their natural resources while restoring soil health, sequestering carbon and building crop resilience against pests and diseases, making farming systems more climate resilient.
The resilience of such value chains to the environmental, economic, societal, geo-political, pandemic and climate-related shocks is crucial for food and nutrition security.
However, efficient and climate-friendly value chains are difficult to establish — especially for smallholder farmers, as they lack access to markets, essential information and resources. These constraints continue to make farming a deterring livelihood resulting in high rates of poverty and migration.
Resolving this problem demands a closer understanding of the fundamental challenges — vertical integration, knowledge sharing and increasing climate impacts.
Vertically integrating the phases, especially at the bottom of the chain, helps value-addition at the source and information exchange leading to better income output and resilient communities.
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Fortunately, emerging social entrepreneurs are being mentored and fostered by unique accelerator programmes such as Land Accelerator South Asia. The programmes support these entrepreneurs in innovating restoration-based business models and working on such sustainable value chains.
We can help build the resilience of smallholder farmers, forest-dwelling communities and other marginalised groups by restoring forest and farmland ecosystems.
Thapasu is a Manali-based supply-chain integrator of native agricultural products like sea buckthorn, led by two women entrepreneurs, Amshu CR and Meena HN.
This company partners with native tribal farmers and self-help groups to promote food sustainability and transparency for indigenous Himalayan crops and links them to potential markets.
The enterprise is improving access to native-grown nutritional produce, generating alternate livelihood opportunities and enabling them to restore their barren land by strengthening market access for smallholder farmers.
Konkuwan Herbs is another game-changer enterprise, founded in 2019 by Roopali D Mohaptra and Rajeshwar Dhavala, working to bridge the gap between smallholder farmers and the market. It also addresses climate impacts on agriculture and improves the availability of quality raw materials in the herbal industry.
The enterprise organises farming communities, particularly women and smallholder farmers of tribal communities, into clusters based on their crops and geographies. It provides seed inputs and technical guidance for cultivating native medicinal crops with high industrial use and premium market prices.
The company also helps farmers manage their croplands and buys back fresh produce, providing sustainable livelihood options for farmers and also resolving issues of over-extraction of herbs and medicinal plants, malnutrition and distress migration.
It has worked with more than 2,200 farmers on 1,100 acres of land to date in Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal.
Kimalaya Naturals, a Uttarakhand-based venture under its iAURA brand, is creating a unique category of organic health and wellness products.
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Its founders, Kavita Negi, Bhupender Singh Adhikari and Kanchan Singh Kuwarbi, work towards offering sustainable livelihood options for local farmers by producing premium Himalayan tea blends.
The venture is also generating sustainable employment opportunities by manufacturing high-quality wellness products. It also provides better income and skills to local farmers for practising chemical-free agriculture.
As a result, it prevents migration in Almora, a district infamous for its abandoned villages. Cultivating crops on barren, sloppy lands also prevents soil erosion in these hilly regions.
Reviving the forgotten, indigenous, and highly nutritious ‘millets’, Nutraceutical Rich Organic India Private Limited, is working with tribal communities in the interiors of Chhattisgarh.
Its brand GrandMaa Millets is working to form Tribal Millet Cooperatives for producing, collecting and processing local millets at source, facilitating value addition and helping marginal farmers receive better remuneration for their produce.
This is encouraging the local smallholders to grow climate-resilient indigenous millet varieties, supporting both nutritional security and land restoration.
An increase in the frequency as well as the intensity of extreme climatic events was highlighted by the United Nations body Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2022 report.
Understanding the product and market-related risks arising from external shocks such as climate change and information asymmetry is critical for improving the resilience of smallholders.
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Operationalising all three strategies of building resilience, restoration-based enterprises like Konkuwan Herbs, Thapasu, iAura, and GrandMaa Millets are reducing exposure by providing alternative, sustainable livelihood options and reducing sensitivity.
These companies offer stable and better income by formalising the work, connecting to risk transfer mechanisms and increasing adaptive capacity by promoting resilient farm practices, knowledge sharing and extension activities.
In building resilient value chains, the endeavours to reduce impacts from climate-induced risks and improve income and livelihood opportunities are enabling a transformation of businesses.
Hari Krishna DV is program associate with the Land Accelerator programme in the Sustainable Landscapes and Restoration team at World Resources Institute (WRI), India.
Kavita Sharma is senior program manager with the Land Accelerator programme in the Sustainable Landscapes and Restoration team at WRI India.
Mei Xu worked as an intern with the Land Accelerator programme in the Sustainable Landscapes and Restoration team at WRI India.
Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth
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