The 1000 Tree Project was started in response to the drought of 2016 when we saw large scale cattle deaths in our area. Deforestation and failed monsoons combined with chemical farming, soil erosion, overgrazing and plummeting groundwater supplies created a downward spiral for the community living here. Climate change, erratic weather patterns, changes in rainfall volumes and frequencies have all made livelihoods and fodder availability uncertain. The 1000 Tree Project is a holistic design strategy that supports small groups of marginal farmers with a minimum of 4 farmers including at least 1 woman farmer on 10 or more connected acres in a cooperative endeavour to reduce the risks of farming in these erratic climatic conditions.

Each project begins with support to acquire fencing, water harvesting earthworks, drought tolerant native crop seeds, and high-quality tree saplings. The program stipulates that the farmers must engage in holistic and sustainable practices such as water harvesting, alley cropping, mixed cropping, seed sharing and the planting of a minimum 100 trees per acre. This will help change the agricultural practices from monoculture cash-crops, which produces a maximum of 2 crops per year, to a variety of foods and fodder produced year round. These polyculture systems will better provide for the needs of the farmers giving them surpluses to sell and trade while guaranteeing a yield even if some crops fail.

With the 1000 Tree Project we co-create productive landscapes helping them farm again, protect their crops from wildlife and overgrazing, and plant local, drought tolerant trees which build soil and restore biodiversity. The practices of agroecology, agroforestry, mixed cropping, alley cropping and water harvesting heal the soil and nurture the ecosystem while providing food, fodder, fuelwood, medicine, timber, income, and seed security for marginal farmers.

Along with sparse rainfall, man-animal conflict, a history of chemical farming, eroded and exposed soils, the farmers here are small farmers holding 2-3 acres of rain-fed land. These fragmented land holdings are a result of the breakdown of the extended family, the lure of  “greener pastures” in the city and the harshness of the conditions here. The cooperation among families for sharing resources such as food, seed and labor has also been lost. Farmer debts are increasing as the inefficiency of monoculture, chemical farming continues to produce less while inputs continue to rise. Making village life attractive to villagers must include viable economic opportunities if we are to keep the youth and families from moving away. Recurring droughts and changing weather patterns force villagers who depend on the land for their livelihood to migrate to cities to find menial jobs to meet their needs.

The aim of the 1000 Tree Project is to prevent these farmers from becoming landless by reviving the traditional polyculture systems and reducing stress on the already fragile forest ecosystem through a program of afforestation and ecological conservation. By further helping to nurture and protect the trees until they are established, as well as supporting farmers with access to native seeds, exposure visits and trainings, we are facilitating a method that can provide nutritious food, consistent fodder, a diversity of produce for trade, and livelihood security where farmers are empowered, self reliant and live a life of dignity.

The brown patches of lands below the open shell regenerative farm (you can see the contrast) is the project on hand. The land has been fenced and green manure rabi crop of horsegram has been sown. Earthworks will follow to conserve water and prevent erosion losses. Tree pits will be dug and prepared to plan the coming mosoons. Saplings will be bought, raised and stocked up. WE’re preparing a list of species that are drought tolerant, fast growing pioneers, multi use providing food, fodder, timber, fibre, medicine, fuelwood. The crops will primarily be crops that provide for the sustenance of the farmers/ food and fodder needs.