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12 Things One Must Know About Cauvery Calling

Field Stories
18 December, 2021
4:37 PM

The main idea underpinning the Cauvery Calling movement is to enable farmers to adopt tree-based agriculture – a simple, scalable, replicable and a powerful farming practice. Its impact on restoring soil, water and economic conditions of impoverished farmers is nothing short of miraculous.

Cauvery Calling is a game changer for the following key reasons:

#1. Large-Scale And Sustainable Eco-Transformation

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The immense scale of this on-the-ground effort involves helping 5.2 million farmers to bring 1.61 million hectare (ha) under green cover by planting 2.42 billion trees in the massive Cauvery basin, covering 83,000 square kilometers, over 12 years. 

#2. Addresses Nine SDGs

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The initiative addresses no fewer than nine sustainable development goals of the United Nations, i.e., goal numbers 1, 2, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15 and 17. The key project impact can be summarized as below: 

  • 40% augmentation of Cauvery water flow
  • 300 – 800% increase in farmers’ income
  • 8 - 12% contribution to India’s carbon sink target.
  • Enhanced fertility of 1.2 - 1.6 million ha of land.
  • The perennial river flow will ensure the protection of the Western Ghats - a global biodiversity hotspot
  • Potential to infuse Rs 24 trillion into the rural economy
  • Ensure soil, water and food security for 84 million people
  • Establish a blueprint for the entire tropical world 

#3. The movement’s ability to achieve its ambitious, long-term goals is supported by two game-changing components:

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  • In heavily populated tropical countries like India, large tracts of additional land for afforestation simply don’t exist. Therefore, the solution is to bring a tree cover onto the vast tracts of private farmlands via an in-part adoption of tree-based agriculture by farmers.
  • The long-term sustainability of the initiative will be market-driven. It is already propelled by significant increases in the incomes of otherwise impoverished farmers. As a result, this movement will not be constrained by the lack of charitable contributions.

#4. Two decades of proven ground-work

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The Cauvery Calling approach has been painstakingly developed and refined on the ground for more than two decades starting from 1998. The initial decade was spent iterating the model, developing the capabilities, creating the people linkages, and generating favorable word of mouth through widespread, on-the-ground farmer success stories. With that in place, the last three years have been devoted to scaling up the program to its full potential.

Latest project update:

  • Farmers Adopted Tree-based Agriculture:  125,000
  • Saplings Uptake:  62 Million
  • Capacity to Grow Organic Saplings:  32 Nurseries

In recognition of this ground-breaking movement, the organization was awarded India’s highest environmental award, the Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar, instituted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India in 2010.

Cauvery Calling is a large-scale implementation of Project GreenHands, which was conceived by Sadhguru in 1998 in Tamil Nadu. Project GreenHands was re-launched as Cauvery Calling in 2019 to expand its scope multifold. 

#5. All-inclusive people’s movement with unprecedented support of the masses 

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This comprehensive and all-inclusive people’s movement was shaped in 2017, on the back of a national-level, public campaign that elicited the support of an unprecedented 162 million people. It was followed by another rally in 2019 to mobilize farmers and urban supporters.

This movement encompasses farmers, civil societies, unions, relevant state governments and NGOs. All of this is underpinned by 23 years of concerted on-the-ground work. The project has a 2-million-strong volunteer base of dedicated individuals, who are inspired to participate in Sadhguru’s vision and contribute to something far bigger than themselves. 

#6. Strong Governance

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Given the large scale and long-term nature of the project, as well as the related techno-commercial complexities, the project has a clear framework for monitoring and evaluation across all levels of implementation. The entire project is guided by an eminent Advisory Board, which includes illustrious members and specialists from India’s administrative, judicial, business and ecological spheres. The board provides strategic oversight and governance on all key aspects of the Cauvery Calling project. The board members are:

  • Justice Arijit Pasayat, Retired Supreme Court Judge
  • Ms. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairperson & Managing Director of Biocon
  • Mr. Ravi Singh, Secretary General & CEO of World Wide Fund for Nature, India
  • Mr. Shashi Shekhar, IAS (retired) Former Secretary of the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Government of India
  • Mr. Pravesh Sharma, IAS (retired), who last served as MD of Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium in the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India
  • Mr. B Muthuraman, Former Vice Chairman, Tata Steel;
  • Dr. AS Kiran Kumar, Former Chairperson of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)

The board is assisted by a Cauvery Calling Panel of highly influential people who are involved in enabling function and execution of the project.

#7. Rural Community Participation

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In 2021, 890 rural youth known as “Mara Mitras” (Friends of Trees) were engaged to take the movement to every village in Karnataka’s Cauvery basin covering 1,785 Gram Panchayats (Village Council). Their role is to record on-the-ground sapling demand to guide government’s on sapling production and subsequent support to farmers at every step, from government program enrollment, sapling uptake, plantation and post-plantation care, and survival surveys for incentive disbursement by the government.

In addition, the Cauvery Calling nurseries employ over 300 rural women who take care of various aspects of its operations. 

#8. Leveraging existing Government Programs and Schemes

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Cauvery Calling is bridging the gap between the policy makers’ desks and actual life transformation for those who need it most. The movement makes sure to create necessary awareness and handholding support at the grassroots level as well as catalyze government efforts to enable existing funding and machinery to impact and transform lives. In two years, volunteers mobilized nearly 25,000 farmers to plant 11 million saplings under the Krishi Aranya Protsaye Yojne (KAPY) scheme run by the Karnataka government to promote agroforestry. The government raised those saplings and provided financial incentives to the farmers. 

#9. Technology adoption for large-scale implementation of Government schemes

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Cauvery Calling launched a state-of-the-art mobile app to educate farmers about government schemes with the help of the Mara Mitras and register their demand at their door steps. This app also includes a monitoring system to generate geotagged photos of trees planted. Mara Mitras, using this app, registered a demand of 20 million saplings under government schemes alone for 2022. 

#10. The Largest Network of Organically Produced Saplings in the Country

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Cauvery Calling has a large network of 32 active nurseries with a capacity to produce over 10 million organically grown tree saplings in a year.

#11. World’s Largest Farmer Driven Eco-Movement 

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The program also aims to train farmers to produce high quality, organic saplings. This along with increased farmers’ income, farmer-to-farmer peer-training and support mean that many aspects of the project will be self-sustainable and driven by the participants in the long term. 

To ensure this, Cauvery Calling is focused on working with the existing model farmers, promoting them in their regions, as well as recruiting new model farmers to form the basis of this on-the-ground movement. Essentially, the long-term viability is ensured by shifting from a centralized project mode to a decentralized farmer movement mode. Currently, the project is engaging over 400,000 farmers on a monthly basis through social media. 

#12. Global Partnerships to Establish a Blueprint for the Entire Tropical World

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The entire Cauvery Calling project is based on a key premise that only an all-inclusive peoples’ movement will shape and sustain a long-term change. The initiative has forged partnerships in order to broaden the scope of its efforts to include the entire tropical world. Accordingly, the following international partnerships have also been shaped:

  • UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) accreditation (2019);
  • Isha Foundation was granted observer status with UNCCD at COP14 in 2019. As one of the leading NGOs globally engaged in soil and water restoration, an active collaboration is being planned;
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) membership (2020);
  • IUCN has formally extended support for the work of Isha Outreach and offered to provide technical assistance for the Cauvery Calling project. Isha Outreach was accepted as a Member of IUCN in February 2020;
  • United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) accreditation (2020);
  • Isha Foundation was granted observer status to the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) of UNEP in July 2020.

Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), in his September 2020 public telecast declared: “I sincerely hope that countries around the world see the potential of this solution - as land restoration and revitalization are solutions to support our planet.”


Editor's Note: Save Soil - learn more here.  Join the Cauvery Calling movement to restore the lost green cover of the Cauvery basin, save Cauvery River and bring prosperity to millions of farmers in the region.

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