Meghalaya state, in Northeast India, is called ‘the wettest place on earth’. Here, in the Khasi Hills, our partner WeForest collaborates with a federation of 11 indigenous governments and 75 Khasi villages to restore several areas of the forest. These forest-dependent communities have set up nurseries to provide the seedlings and formed groups of community volunteers who are planting the seedlings and tending the forests.
Since we started SAYE we have been planting two trees for each pair of sneakers sold, helping to plant 30,326 trees in India. The project tackles the drivers of deforestation directly, including charcoal production, grazing and forest fires. Through self-help groups and farmers clubs, villagers are empowered in sustainable entrepreneurship and economic development.
The project focuses on alternative livelihood activities to bring the communities away from forest harming activities such as mining, excessive grazing and vegetation clearance for agriculture.
To avoid further deforestation, the project is installing fuel-efficient cooking stoves and rice cookers for 3,500 households in the project area. The advantages of switching from fuel-wood cooking to LP Gas are countless. It eliminates the need of spending time collecting and preparing traditional biomass, it reduces cooking time, protects the forests and produces better indoor air. This LP Gas set has reduced their use of fuel-wood from 10 kgs per day to almost zero during summer. During winter they still need 1 kg to warm up and cook smoked meat.
East & North Khasi Hills, Meghalaya state.
Alnus nepalensis, Castanopsis indica, Exbucklandia populnea, Myrica esculenta, Pinus kesiya, Prunus nepalensis, Schima khasiana.
Charcoal, stone quarrying, grazing.
Assisted natural regeneration &
THE KHASI COMMUNITY
The Khasi are traditionally forest-dependent people, relying on the native cloud forest for shelter, firewood, medicine and food. The Khasi also value their forest for its role in protecting springs and stream beds, and in conserving wildlife. In addition, they attach spiritual significance to areas of forest identified as sacred groves.
These communities are now at risk as their valuable forest is being cleared away for charcoal production, stone quarrying and grazing. The Meghalaya state, or ‘the above of clouds’ in Sanskrit, is of international importance, recognized as a biodiversity hotspot and as one of the wettest places on earth.
WeForest partners with a federation of 11 indigenous governments and 75 Khasi villages with traditional forest conservation values and management structures. The intervention areas are restored through assisted natural regeneration, which involves enrichment planting, thinning, weeding and the creation of fire lines by the community members themselves. When enrichment planting is necessary, the seedlings are sourced from local community-based nurseries.
To allow the forest to regenerate in isolation from animal grazing and human interference, the project employs ‘social fencing’. In other words, the agreement of ‘no-go’ areas. Since their forest is rich in plant and animal species, the reforestation efforts have implications for biodiversity as well. Indeed, the project reconnects habitat patches via forest corridors. It counts on a number of biodiversity, water and soil conservation measures as well.
The project delivers strategies for the Khasi to tackle poverty and unsustainable forest exploitation engaging them directly in the forest restoration process. WeForest supports members of self-help groups and farmers’ clubs through training and financial support to pursue ecotourism initiatives, animal husbandry, food establishments and tree nurseries.
To promote wider community changes, grants are provided to invest in pig and poultry farms to promote a shift in diet away from beef, a source of protein which is environmental-damaging. WeForest also subsidizes fuel-efficient cooking stoves to encourage a reduction in fuel-wood consumption.
Individuals engaged directly in forest restoration and awareness raising are empowered through training and financial support. Local working committees are tasked with local scale project management, as well as other community members and youth volunteers are in charge of the forestry activities and awareness raising.
WeForest also provides direct employment opportunities for Khasi members such as regional community facilitators, forestry managers, accountants, assistants, etc. The Khasi are one of the world’s few matrilineal societies so women are especially involved in the project.