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ITC's social farm forestry projects improve yields
The Hindu Business Line - 10 Mar 2010

State now produces a quarter of the country's pulp yield.

This initiative has helped create green cover for carbon sequestration, ground water recharge, regeneration of biomass and in nurturing of depleted soils.

What started as a small initiative by the diversified ITC Ltd.several years ago, to change the way farmers cultivate and improve yields, has now spread to about eight districts in Andhra Pradesh, virtually converting the State into a pulp bowl.

Andhra Pradesh's contribution of about 25 lakh tonnes, works out to about a fourth of the country's total pulp output of 100 lakh tonnes per annum.

Pulp is a key raw material in the paper manufacturing industry.

Significantly, the yield from Eucalyptus, Subabul and Casuarina is now working out to nearly Rs 5,000 to Rs 8,000 more per hectare than paddy crop cultivation in rain-fed parts of the State, Mr Pradeep Dhoble, Chief Executive of Paperboards & Speciality Papers Division, ITC Ltd, told Business Line.

Benefits

These humble beginnings, supported by research and development teams at ITC, have resulted in carving out a major social farm forestry programme for sustainable livelihoods.

By encouraging farmers to take up cultivation of fallow lands, ITC has played a catalytic role in covering over one lakh hectares, he said.

This initiative has helped create green cover for carbon sequestration, ground water recharge, regeneration of biomass and in nurturing of depleted soils.

The green cover created has enabled ITC to achieve a unique distinction of being a carbon positive company for four consecutive years, Mr. Dhoble said.

The company has helped plant 358 million plants and has also played a role in transforming over one lakh hectares of land, where 70,000 farmers are engaged. The green cover will also help in generating carbon credits. This will be first such project to be approved for consideration.

Significantly, such recognition will also add to the farmer's income, he said.

Research

The R&D centre was established to carry out study on pulpwood trees improvement programme for production of quality planting stock.

This resulted in clonal saplings of Eucalyptus and Casuarina, which were distributed to farmers.

Several families, faced with resource constraints, were encouraged to take up cultivation. The wastelands were converted into viable forests and this also helped meet ITC's requirements, he said.

Value

According to Mr Dhoble, the plantations have created an asset value of Rs 1,827 crore in the form of wood. The average net income from clonal plantations is Rs 25,000 per hectare per year under the rain-fed condition and Rs 40,000 a year per hectare with irrigation at four years rotation.

In addition, intercropping with other crops has created additional source of income sustainability. Apart from wood,alternate use of biomass residue through the Green boiler has also resulted in additional income to farmers.

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