Government of Assam and USAID Launch a New Initiative to Increase Tree

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Imphal: The Government of Assam’s department of Environment and Forests and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced the launch of the “Trees Outside Forests in India (TOFI)” program in Assam, which will bring together farmers, companies, and private institutions to rapidly expand tree coverage outside of traditional forests in the state.

The new program will enhance carbon sequestration, support local communities, and strengthen the climate resilience of agriculture, thereby supporting global climate change mitigation and adaptation goals, a press release from the U.S. Consulate General Kolkata said on Tuesday.

Assam has placed a high priority on expanding tree cover outside forest areas, as demonstrated in its State Action Plan on Climate Change and recent establishment of the Assam Agroforestry Development Board. Through agroforestry, or integrating trees into farming systems, TOFI will improve the resilience of farming systems, while increasing the income of farmers in Assam, in partnership with Assam’s Environment and Forest Department and Assam Agroforestry Development Board.

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TOFI will leverage India’s private sector to promote and scale tree-based enterprises and the sale of carbon credits, helping to create jobs, boost incomes, and help families in Assam overcome the economic impacts of the pandemic, the release said.

Announcing the launch, the Assam minister for Environment and Forest, Chandra Mohan Patowary, said, “Agroforestry is intimately associated with Assamese civilization and we are very delighted to launch the TOFI program in Assam. The program will help the people of Assam to take up the traditional practice of agroforestry in a modern scientific manner to integrate productivity and profitability with environmental stewardship.”

Highlighting the importance of the program, USAID’s Deputy Mission Director in India, Karen Klimowski said, “As the climate crisis intensifies, it is ever more important that we protect India’s forests and the communities who depend on them. The United States is proud to support the Trees Outside Forests in India program, which builds upon decades of U.S.-India cooperation on forestry and climate-smart agriculture. India’s progress on these issues can provide models for the world.”

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Highlighting the importance of the program, additional chief secretary to the Government of Assam, Environment and Forest department, Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “We look forward to the TOFI Program to scale up trees outside forests in Assam and bring forward livelihood and economic opportunities with improved access to actionable information. The program will also help in fulfilling several national goals and international commitments and add momentum to the “Lifestyle for Environment” movement launched by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India at COP26.”

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The Trees Outside Forests in India program was launched in September 2022 by Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change Secretary Leena Nandan and U.S. Chargé d’Affaires

Patricia Lacina. The program will allocate up to $25 million U.S. dollars in seven states, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh, to rapidly expand tree coverage outside of traditional forests by 2.8 million hectares, contributing to India’s Nationally Determined Contribution target of creating an additional “carbon sink” of 2.5 to 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030.

This new program builds on the enduring U.S.-India partnership to tackle the climate crisis and bolster resilience in the face of climate threats and extreme weather events, the U.S. Consulate General Kolkata release said.

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