Grasslands cover approximately twenty five percent of the Earth’s land surface and contain roughly twelve percent of the terrestrial carbon stocks. These ecosystems are mainly found in regions where there is a scarcity of water and not enough regular rainfall to support the growth of forests. There are different types of grasslands – ranging from open, vast grassland expanses to woody savannas, where small trees or other scrubs occur along with grasses. The perennial grasses that dominate grasslands are characterised by extensive fibrous root systems that often make up sixty to eighty percent of the biomass carbon in these ecosystems. This belowground biomass may extend several metres below the surface and contribute abundant carbon to soils, resulting in deep, fertile soils with high organic matter content. Grasslands and rangelands are more resilient carbon sinks than forests in the 21st century. They help prevent soil erosion and provide nutrition to the soil via their diverse plant species and root activity. Grassland plant species have better adaptive capabilities to severe conditions like heat and drought. In case of a fire, forests burn and release the carbon in the atmosphere immediately whereas grasslands continue storing their carbon underground. Therefore, they play an integral role in mitigating the adverse effects of climate change.
Despite being crucial ecosystems, grasslands do not receive the kind of support and attention that is given to forests or oceans, thus they often end up neglected and under threat, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.
Golden Era Eco Services is a sole proprietorship social enterprise that specialises in small scale regeneration projects in Gujurat, India. The founder and CEO, Priyanka Patil, a keen meditator and student of the Brahma Kumaris, started her professional journey as an alternative educator, teaching regenerative agriculture at a conventional university. Now through her social enterprise, Golden Era Eco Services, Priyanka and her team have done extensive work to regenerate the Bharapur grassland in Kachchh, Gujarat.
The regeneration project initially started on eight acres of land which had become overgrazed and barren. The project concentrated on three areas: earthworks for watershed development, soil regeneration and biodiversity support. One of the key challenges was dealing with Prosopis Juliflora, a shrub or small tree in the Fabaceae family, which is native to Mexico, South America and the Caribbean. This had grown prolifically and had taken over the grassland. In its place, Priyanka and her team planted multiple native species in a Silvo pastoral style. They created continuous trenches, border percolation pits and crescent moon structures, which are all recognised methods of soil and water conservation. Different species were introduced for cover cropping which included legumes, grasses, oil seeds, brassicas, green manure and fodder. Eighteen species of native, drought-resilient and bird attracting trees were planted to create bio-fencing, windbreakers and fodder trees.
The scheme was a great success. With the watershed development measures, a staggering 3,11,500 litres of water were captured after the first rains. The introduced and indigenous grasses were able to self-seed for the first time in years thanks to the protection given to the grasslands during the intervention. Now the lush green grassland is more than sufficient to feed the villagers’ twenty five cows. The villagers are keen to bring back the ancient practice of rotational grazing and Priyanka and her team have been invited to intervene on the remaining twelve acres of their community land. Additionally, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of bird species visiting the area, not to mention the number of butterflies and insects. This project is now receiving visitors from neighbouring villages, allowing Golden Era Eco Services to prove that their slow and small scale solutions can bring big and long lasting changes.