Meghalaya state, in the 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 areas of the forest. This forest-dependant communities have set up nurseries to provide the seedlings and formed groups of community volunteers planting the seedlings and tending the forests.
The project also 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 focusses 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 fuelwood cooking to LP Gas are numerous. It eliminates the need to spend time collecting and preparing traditional biomass, it reduces cooking time, protects the forests and produces better indoor air. His LPG set has reduced their use of 10kgs of fuel-wood per day to almost zero during summer. During the winter they still need 1 kg to warm up and for the preparation of smoked meat.
East Khasi Hills, Meghalaya State
Charcoal, stone quarrying, grazing.
Forest cover loss:
Alnus nepalensis, Castanopsis indica, Exbucklandia populnea, Myrica esculenta, Pinus kesiya, Prunus nepalensis and Schima khasiana.
Assisted natural regeneration and enrichment planting.
The Khasi are traditionally a 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 conserving wildlife and attach spiritual significance to areas of forest identified as sacred groves.
These communities are now at risk as their valuable forest is cleared for charcoal making, stone quarrying and grazing. The Meghalaya state, or “the abode of clouds” in Sanskrit, is of international importance, recognized as one of the wettest places on earth and a biodiversity hotspot.
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’ zones. Since the area 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 also has a number of biodiversity, water and soil conservation measures in place.
The project delivers strategies for the Khasi to tackle poverty and unsustainable forest exploitation and engage directly in forest restoration. WeForest supports members of self-help groups and farmer’s 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 more environmentally damaging source of protein. WeForest also subsidizes fuel efficient cooking stoves to encourage a reduction in fuelwood consumption.
Individuals engaged directly in forest restoration and awareness raising are also empowered through training and financial support. These include local working committees, who are tasked with local scale project management, as well as other community members and youth volunteers, in charge of the forestry activities and awareness raising.
WeForest also provides direct employment opportunities in the form of 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.