Our effort to project dry land horticulture as Afforestation/Re-forestation and register it as an A/R CDM Project took a little over 16 years. The technology is to plant fruit and fodder trees on the scattered rain fed holdings of Member Coolie families, and wean them away from the dangers of timely rain dependent field crops.
The region receives about 560 mm of rainfall, but this is erratic and spatial. This is okay for hardy trees, but not for Field Crops that need timely and predictable rainfall.
Activities Implemented Joinly (AIJ)
16 years back, we registered the first avatar of this project, the "Bagepalli Tamarind Project", as an Activities Implemented Jointly (AIJ) Project after it was certified by the DoE, US government. It was to plant tamarind trees on 1,000 hectares of Coolie land. The science to calculate sequestration was provided by the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.
This was perhaps one of the world's first scientifically proven sequestration models, a precursor of sorts to CDM. But unfortunately, nothing came of it by way of resource mobilisation and actual implementation.
"Own Efforts" Plantings
Nevertheless, we ploughed on. From 1996, Member Coolie families put aside small patches of their land to plant tamarind and mango saplings under what we call the "Own Efforts" project. Except for technical assistance to procure good saplings, ADATS did not have the money to help them with anything else.
In 11 years from 1996 to 2007, Member Coolie families planted a total of 74,254 saplings, but the survival rate was very poor at 26%.
We realised that saplings planted on dry lands just couldn't survive unless there was a systematic programme to support them with technical inputs, watering arrangements, et al. In April 2007 we conducted a very long and serious strategic planning workshop for ADATS Staff and Coolie Sangha functionaries, where we gleaned learning from all our ad hoc efforts up until then.
In mid 2007 we revisited the PDD, prepared our CCBA documentation and appointed TÜV SÜD, München, to validate the project.
The PDD was hosted for Global Stakeholder Process at the UNFCCC website from 12 October to 25 November 2007. Please click here to visit the UNFCCC website. The Project was also put up at the CCBA website for public comments from 17 October to 7 November 2007. Please click here to visit the CCBA website. CCBA Validation was then put on temporary hold till we completed CDM validation and registration of the project as an A/R CDM with the UNFCCC.
Though a lot of ground was covered in the desk study and first validation visit, it was nowhere near completion. We hadn't established proper tenure records for each Coolie landholding in the strict manner that the rigour of CDM demanded.
Delineating Discrete Plots & establishing Land Tenure
GIS readings had to be taken of the multiple corners that each plot comprised. Latitude/Longitude readings had to be placed on GPS maps. The shapes of each discrete plot had to be rechecked in the field. Village maps had to be overlaid on Google Earth to ensure authenticity. The exact area had to be digitally calculated. Title Deeds (Pahanis and Kathe records, Saguvali Chitis, etc.) had to be obtained, cross-checked, scanned and fed into our A/R Preparation solution.
The delineation of distinct parcels of land where the A/R CDM would be implemented involved painstaking and time consuming efforts.
Trees Module & Polygon Recorder
Immediately after the first validation, our IT personnel began working on the in house development of a software to help in the process. 3 years down the line, this software was finally debugged and close to ready. Tristle Technologies developed a high value product from all this domain knowledge, which they market to other NGOs who develop land based emission reduction projects.
We took GIS readings and fed it all into this software, but found huge errors. Plots were misshapen, they overlapped and even their orientation was warped! It took ages of field tests, trial and error to get it all right.
Missing out on even small and seemingly inconsequential steps led to disaster. Calibration settings of the handheld GIS reading devices had to be just right. Landowners had to plant stones on every corner of their plots and not just "guess" their boundaries. Machine numbers, Land ID's and Reading Numbers had to be precisely recorded. After 6 months of pure slog in village after village, over 60,000 readings had to be deleted, literally bringing tears to the eyes of Field Staff who had taken those readings. And every time the possibility of an error was detected, the software had to be recoded to digitally recognise it and prevent wrong recording.
Eventually, when we did get it right, a very detailed process map consisting 5 Activity Processes comprising 33 Tasks was finalised and we started all over again.
Every single ADATS Staff — Field Workers, Mahila Trainers, Case Workers, Extension Workers, et al, were put on the job. When it was found that more hands were needed, 5 more Staff were appointed, especially for this task. Dozens of village volunteers were recruited and paid Rs 10 for every plot that they successfully recorded. They went to each and every one of the 12,347 plots and walked on their boundaries for an average of 3.5 times!
During these visits, a whole lot of vital information on each discrete plot was also collected. This included the government allotted Survey Number, Title holder, Soil type, Gradient, Contour Bund quality, Distance from a perennial Water Source, etc.
Alongside, the carbon stock on the plots was also recorded — i.e. the number of species of existing trees, their girth, height, location, etc. On average, each discrete plot of land has a little under 5 trees, and each acre has about 3 trees.
Revised Project Design Document (PDD)
As and when the data was finalised, our A/R Consultant finalised sections of the PDD for the second validation. In the meanwhile, a new methodology was released by the UNFCCC and the revised PDD had to undergo major changes.
The 2nd Version of our PDD was for 8,933 hectares of dry land belonging to 8,107 Coolie families. Planting will be staggered over 8 years from 2011 to 2018, following 3 Planting Models:
- 256 mango spaced 20 feet apart, with 45 saplings each of 5 different species in between, and 40 trees on the borders on 76% of the 10,000 hectares
- 256 cashew spaced 20 feet apart, with 45 saplings each of 5 different species in between, and 40 trees on the borders on 18% of the lands
- 256 tamarind spaced 20 feet apart, with 40 trees on the borders on 7% of the lands
With this staggered planting and different planting models, an estimation of net anthropogenic GHG removals by sinks for a 20 year period from 2008 to 2027 is 1,842,065 tCO2-e
However, the estimated removal by sinks for 1 hectare of mango, for example, is 13.5 tCO2-e per hectare per annum or 270 CERs over 20 years.
The second Validation by TÜV SÜD took place from 5 to 13 July 2010 and the revised PDD was webhosted on 9 July 2010.
The final validation report was ready by January 2011 and submitted to the CDM Executive Board, UNFCCC, February 2011. It can be downloaded here.
This A/R CDM Project was registered with the UNFCCC on 27 May 2011. Please see https://cdm.unfccc.int/Projects/DB/TUEV-SUED1306246960.28/view
Transition to Gold Standard, Verification & Issuance
In 2015, we decided to transition the project from CDM to "Gold Standard". After re-registering, the project underwent the first verification of trees planted by 509 farmers on 692 hectares (1,710 acres). After discounting for 20% buffer for 10 years period (April 2005 to March 2015), 26,350 GS VERs have been issued. Every Rupee of Carbon Revenue realised from the sale of these tCO2-e will go to these 509 families.