Dr. Thomas Isaac, Finance Minister of Kerala inaugurated the tree banking scheme at Meenangadi Panchayat on 20th October 2020. Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Thomas Isaac said that the Tree banking project envisaged ensuring sustainable income to farmers in the district apart from vastly improving the socio-economic -environment scenarios in the Panchayat. The tree banking project has been launched as a part of developing the Meenangadi Panchayath as the first “carbon-neutral panchayath” in the country. The carbon-neutral project of the civic body would help to market the “Wayanadan coffee” powder even in foreign markets, Dr. Thomas Isaac said. He also called all grama panchayats to adopt steps to expand the project in the district. The details of trees ( 32 selected species of trees 3-5 years old) and the residents who are growing and preserving them in their homes eligible for financial benefits were surveyed under the scheme. Each beneficiary is given a unique registration number and each tree is geotagged and details digitally recorded. Thus the details of trees are available anytime online to the Panchayat. 7526 trees were geotagged in 157 households in Choothuppara and Appad wards with the help of trained kudumbasree workers and volunteers. Under this scheme, the beneficiaries can avail of a loan of 50 Rupees per tree. The amount to the beneficiaries who opted for the loan was distributed at the function by Sri. C.K .Saseendran MLA. Panchayat President Smt.Beena Vijayan welcomed the guests. District Vice President Smt. Omana, Panchayat Vice President Sri. Assanar, Panchayat Secretary, Sri. Arun John and Thanal trust Executive Director Sri. Jayakumar spoke on the occasion. The other wards will be surveyed and trees will be geo-tagged and loan released after completing the procedures.
Carbon Neutral Meenangadi- Tree Banking Scheme
Carbon Neutral Meenangadi was conceptualized to improve the agricultural economy of Wayanad which was suffering due to climate change and market fluctuations. The objectives were to double the income of people in Meenangadi, to find permanent markets for their products, to enhance brand value, and fetch a good price for the cash crops and forest products of Wayanad while protecting the environment.
Trees help to control carbon emissions and help sequestrate excess carbon. Usually, a person does not get any financial benefit during his lifetime when they grow trees. But this is a scheme where we give them a loan of Rs.50 per year annually on the basis of its future market value. This loan is given by Meenangadi Cooperative Bank on the guarantee of Meenangadi panchayat. After 20 or 25 years when they sell the trees, they can repay the loan. Those who are growing 100 trees in their household get 5000 Rs per year and thus Rs.50 000 in 10 years. Through this scheme, the residents are able to enjoy a part of the future market value even when the trees are small. As a part of Meenangadi Panchayath’s MG National Employment Guarantee Scheme activities, a nursery of saplings was formed and they helped plant the saplings which the beneficiary wished to grow. Apart from this, the saplings grown by the beneficiary on his own are also taken into account. The saplings between 3-5 years of age are considered for this scheme. The volunteers under the Panchayath surveyed the houses of the beneficiaries and identified and tagged the saplings and submitted the details to Meenangadi panchayat. The beneficiary has to start an account in the cooperative bank. Based on the survey report, the panchayat recommends a loan. Then the banks transfer the loan to the beneficiary’s account. The amount and the interest for the loan for all beneficiaries are given from the total deposit of Rs.10 crores made by the State Government to the Panchayath for the scheme. Anyone owning land at Meenangadiis eligible to become a beneficiary. Each tree included in the scheme is geotagged with plant and location details digitally recorded. It has to be monitored annually. Whenever the tree is cut, the beneficiary should pay back the loan. If during any natural disaster, the plant gets destroyed, Panchayath can decide the further proceedings.
Objectives of the scheme
• To provide interest-free loans to farmers for planting and protecting trees and thus create interest among them.
• To increase the buying power of the residents by creating new avenues for financial transactions.
• To establish a standard to improve goodwill and brand value to the new products like carbon-neutral coffee/ Wayanad coffee, cash crops, and forest produce of Wayanad that will appear in the market as a result of the carbon-neutral project.
• To enhance the carbon sequestration in homesteads of Wayanad and protecting biodiversity.