The Livelihoods Araku #2 project
A landscape approach encompassing the planting systems necessary for food, biodiversity and economic growth
The ambition of the Livelihoods-Araku #2 project is to transition 18,000 unsegmented hectares in the Araku Valley to sustainable farming practices. The project will focus on tree planting but also on pulses and millets, coffee, fodder and fuelwood to enhance all the farming components of 40,000 women and men farmers.
In 2011, the Livelihoods Carbon Fund and the Naandi Foundation mobilized 25,000 women and men Adivasi farmers in the Araku Valley to plant 6 million trees to restore their forest and increase their food security with 18 varieties of fruit trees per hectare. Farmers were trained on sustainable farming practices to take good care of their trees and soil while preserving their fragile ecosystem. They also learned to produce their own compost to increase soil fertility and manage pests and diseases without chemical products. 5 years later, the Araku farmers were able to produce a premium biodynamic coffee now sold throughout the world. This first project was implemented on small plots across the valley to reach a total of 6,000 hectares. The objective of the Livelihoods Araku #2 project is to enable the farmers to implement Sustainable Agriculture and Land Management (SALM) practices throughout all their farming systems to restore the soil’s fertility, thus increasing food security, revenues and their ecosystem’s resilience. The project has been codesigned by the farmers, the Naandi Foundation and the Livelihoods Fund to make each farming system more efficient and sustainable.
Pulses, millets and agroforestry to ensure the food security of the Adivasis
Adivasis grow pulses and millets on uplands with a slope of around 5%. As high rainfall has washed away the fertile soil, they get very low yields. A threefold approach will be implemented in this system. Firstly, trees, like gliricidia, mahogany, mango, guava and custard apple, will be planted in high density on the boundaries or in wide spacing to prevent soil erosion. Secondly, compositing, green manuring (leaving uprooted or sown crop parts to wither on a field so that they serve as a mulch and soil amendment) and residue management will increase the soil’s organic content. A healthier soil will be more productive and more able to retain water. Lastly, traditional fencing will be re-established around the fields to prevent livestock from damaging the crops and the biodiversity.
Coffee as the economic backbone of the valley
Coffee cultivation is natural to Araku Valley’s ecosystem. The project will provide farmers with coffee saplings to establish a sustainable revenue stream for them. A continuity of coffee varieties, shade and boundary trees will be established throughout the landscape. Farmers will be trained on the best biodynamic practices to grow high-quality coffee.
Fodder production for healthy livestock and biodiversity
Each household in the region has an average of 2 cows and 4 goats. Very often, the animals graze freely, affecting the crops and the biodiversity. In the Livelihoods-Araku #2 project, farmers will cultivate fodder species in the lowlands. The lowlands usually remain fallow after paddy cultivation. The new fodder crops will therefore not replace any other one or consume more land. By increasing the availability of nutritious fodder for the livestock, the project will avoid free grazing and stimulate the regeneration of vegetation.
Fuel forests to improve women’s livelihood and mitigate deforestation
The Adivasis mostly use wood for fuel. In the recent years, the high dependency on forests for fuelwood has led to a decline in the forest cover. Moreover, women spent more and more time looking for wood. As a matter of fact, the wastelands available near the villages will be used to plant fast-growing species such as acacia. Firewood will be within easy reach for women who will no longer have to cut down trees elsewhere in the forest.
Afforestation to increase the resilience of the valley and the communities
Farmers already growing coffee will be encouraged to diversify their production with fruit and forest trees. High value spice trees like cinnamon, clove and nutmeg, which thrive with the Araku’s valley micro-climate, will offer new revenue streams to the Adivasis. These trees will be planted on barren hill tops, fallow wastelands and marginal lands which have little to no use today.