Three decades ago, when Mira Mahanty arrived in her husband’s West Bengal village of Jharbagda, the surrounding bare, stony hills reflected harsh heat waves all summer and sent rainwater tumbling into the gully below during monsoons. Now, after a collective effort by more than 100 villages that started in the 1990s, the hills are now forested with native trees that provide fruit, mitigate heat waves, contribute to water retention and have increased household income by 15 to 20%. Today’s restored forests around the village hold nearly half a million trees, and the neighboring 125 villages have been covered with an additional seven million trees. Now over $7 million in projects are now being implemented across 450 villages to re-green fallow lands, conserve water and promote local job creation, benefiting 12,000 households.  Senior government officials from the neighboring states of Jharkhand and Chattisgarh visited the sites in 2022 to learn how to replicate the practices.

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