19.03.2018

Forestry project wins MIT Climate CoLab public vote

Fuelwood is one of the main contributors to forest degradation and deforestation in India. Photo: GIZ India/ Kundan Burnwal

Fuelwood is one of the main contributors to forest degradation and deforestation in India. Photo: GIZ India/ Kundan Burnwal

The ‘Development and management of NAMAs in India’ project has won the Popular Choice Award in an international competition run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). MIT regularly awards prizes to outstanding projects and research findings on selected environmental issues under the auspices of its Climate CoLab knowledge platform. The project won the support of platform users with its concept, which achieves clear reductions in emissions, boosts food, water and energy security, and helps to strengthen sustainable agriculture, forestry and waste management in the Indian state of Assam.

The project is supported by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) run by the German Environment Ministry (BMU). As part of the Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) initiative, it develops concepts for reducing emissions in the waste and forestry sectors in India. The Assam Fuelwood Decision Support System (AFDSS) was also devised as part of the project. The AFDSS helps to support decision-making on regionally specific investment strategies for sustainable fuelwood management.

Widespread domestic use of fuelwood – mostly for cooking – is a major contributor to forest degradation and deforestation in India. Almost 24 million people live in the Indian state of Assam, of whom 75% are reliant on fuelwood. Wood from public forests meets around 22% of this demand, equivalent to around 2.49 million tonnes of wood. The ‘Indian State of Forest Report 2015’ concluded that such dependence is not sustainable and is leading to the degradation of natural resources. India’s first NAMA in the forestry sector therefore aims to improve forestry management through sustainable use of fuelwood in the Indian state of Assam.

The forestry NAMA is based on a holistic approach to reducing deforestation. It aims to maintain a sustainable supply of fuelwood (supply-side management) while ensuring efficient use of fuelwood (demand-side management). A sustainable supply of fuelwood and careful planning of the potential of forests for fuelwood plantations require a clear understanding of the specific renewable biomass that forests represent. Reducing the use of fuelwood plays a part in this. Depending on the local situation and needs, improved cooking stoves, driers, biogas, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and electricity, among other things, can be used to ease the demand for fuelwood.

Coordination of supply-side and demand-side management can help ensure sustainable fuelwood management that satisfies the varying needs of fuelwood consumers in the different regions and village communities in Assam. To support such a system, the project developed the AFDSS planning instrument, which analyses, assesses and prioritises supply-side and demand-side management measures at sub-regional level.

Overview of the project structure. Graphic: GIZ India

The prize

MIT’s Climate CoLab is a public platform that uses the collective intelligence of tens of thousands of people around the world to help tackle complex global problems, such as climate change. Over 100,000 people – including leading global experts – collaborate to devise specific approaches to mitigating climate change.

As part of the Climate CoLab initiative, MIT regularly awards prizes to outstanding projects and research findings on selected environmental issues. In mid-2017, the most recent round of judging was opened up for projects from around the world in seven individual contests: Energy suppy; Carbon pricing; Land use (agriculture, forestry and waste management); Adaptation; Energy efficiency in buildings; Transportation; and Shifting attitudes and behaviours. Almost 300 projects were entered, which were whittled down to 37 finalists and assessed both by a panel of expert judges and by the global CoLab community in a public vote.

In cooperation with IORA Ecological Solutions, GIZ India submitted the AFDSS instrument for the competition. The project won the Popular Choice Award in the ‘Land use: agriculture, forestry and waste management’ category. An invitation has now been extended to present the project at the MIT HubWeek in Boston in October 2018.

Women carrying fuelwood. Photo: GIZ India/ Kundan Burnwal

Further information:

Climate CoLab: Assam Fuelwood Decision Support System (AFDSS)