A new collaborative model for scaling locally-led restoration

Dr. Ajita Tiwari Padhi, Senior Specialist-NbS and Resilience, India Climate Collaborative, reflects on key takeaways from the launch of a land restoration fund in India in September 2023.


Launched virtually on 4 September, 2023, the Harit Bharat Fund is a first-of-its-kind ambitious and collaborative effort to scale restoration efforts in India. By bringing together funders like philanthropists, venture capitalists, and others in the private sector, with civil society organisations (CSOs), science and technology institutions, and a government-based technical platform, the fund aims to create and strengthen a restoration economy.


It aims to support local restoration champions, including CSO-led initiatives and not-for-profit enterprises, while also engaging with policy stakeholders.


With six partners currently bringing in diverse expertise, including WRI India, India Climate Collaborative, Pune Knowledge Cluster, Sangam Ventures, Spectrum Impact, and Transforming Rural India Foundation, we hope to strengthen the fund by contributing capital, and enabling customised one-to-one mentorship and capacity-building opportunities for local restoration champions, while digitally tracking, monitoring and measuring shared progress.

‘The fund is about people and their livelihoods’

A snapshot from the HBF launch webinar

The launch webinar drew 450 participants from across organisations and project proponents working on varied and multifaceted aspects of restoration in the country, demonstrating the opportunity in this space, the need for different forms of capital to converge, and the imperative to support initiatives that can shape a nature-positive India. With funding ranging from INR 20 lakhs to 2.5 crores per intervention, this inclusive fund engages people living closest to the ground to decide and co-create restoration pathways they would like to build. The combination of grants for NGOs and loans for startups and enterprises will also explore innovative financial instruments that respond to the needs of local enterprises, highlighting the sustainable bottom-up nature of the fund.


The role of philanthropy in scaling restoration


During the launch, the India Climate Collaborative reflected on how philanthropic funding has played a catalytic role in enabling the Andhra Pradesh Community Managed Natural Farming (APCNF) and the growing interest in restoration from both domestic and international funders. We pointed out challenges related to a lack of long-term commitment for restoration from donors along with a lack of adequate capacities for undertaking scientific restoration — that is place- and context-based; that responds to the socio-economic needs of local communities and meets their aspirations while also addressing maladaptation. We believe the fund will play a vital role in plugging these critical capacity gaps.


Mirik Gogri, Sustainability Investor, Spectrum Impact and Harit Bharat Fund partner, emphasised on the need for a right mix of philanthropic grant, debt capital and equity capital to support restoration, as debt is an important enabler for the fund. He also recognised the enormous work done by CSOs in building capacities on the ground that eventually smoothens and paves the way for enterprises to come in. Hoping that the effort will go beyond the initial three states of Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh, he said that the fund will create a model for scaling restoration across the country.


Reflecting on scaling, Anirban Ghose, Co-lead, Transforming Rural India Foundation underscored the need for a deep community connect and building local level leadership, along with a strong tracking mechanism to monitor CSOs’ on-ground efforts and converging with plethora of government schemes. Collaboration with the

government is critical to the fund’s success; notably, the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor under the Government of India has already extended its support to this initiative by making the ‘Expression of Interest’ available and accessible through the Government’s platform for research and innovation, ‘Manthan’.


The fund is modelled after the successful TerraFund for AFR100 in Africa, and tailored to appropriately respond to the Indian context, needs and challenges of local restoration champions, in a collaborative manner. Highlighting challenges faced by early-stage enterprises, Namrata Diwaker, Founder, Rayush Natural Fiber Private Limited called the Harit Bharat Fund a ‘revolutionary fund for start-ups’ that could meet scarcity funding in situations when the product is ready for the market but enterprises are unable to secure institutional finance to grow any further, due to several considerations like demand for collaterals, high interest rates, short re-payment duration and exhaustive paperwork. By providing support to overcome such challenges, the fund aims to fill the ‘missing middle’ that is too large for microfinance, but too small and costly to serve for commercial banking.


Furthermore, the partnership with Sangam Ventures aims to address real challenges beyond the use of traditional financial instruments — to respond to entrepreneurs’ needs in a way and time that benefits them, said Karthik Chandrasekar, Managing Partner, Sangam Ventures. This sentiment resonated with Dr. Priya Nagaraj, CEO, Pune Knowledge Cluster, who emphasised this will play an important role in mentorship together with tracking and monitoring of the funds’ restoration efforts. She said that “the fund needs to structure the money into frameworks, forms and ways that organisations can accept and implement.”


We hope this fund triggers the launch of multiple such initiatives, with larger private sector involvement. These can offer great hope for a restoration-based economy in India; funds that work in collaboration and synergy with each other to enable landscape-level shifts can help put India on a path to exceed its Nationally Determined Contributions by 2030.

If you are a funder, CSO or startup interested in learning more about the Harit Bharat Fund, please reach out to srishti.kochhar@wri.org.



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