Why is intervention needed?
Forests cover 31% of the land area on our planet. They produce vital oxygen and provide homes for people and wildlife. Unfortunately, we’re losing 18.7 million acres of forests annually, equivalent to 27 soccer fields every minute. To fight against this global issue, Wado plants two trees for every pair of shoes you get in collaboration with the NGO We Forest.
Northeast India is home to Meghalaya state, “the wettest place on earth”. Here, in the East Khasi Hills, WeForest partners with a federation of 10 indigenous governments and 62 Khasi villages to restore areas of forest through assisted natural regeneration and enrichment planting. Communities are empowered to take ownership of their natural capital and restore the degraded forest areas. Nurseries run by villagers provide the trees for enrichment planting and link community development directly to forest restoration.
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. To avoid further deforestation, the project is installing fuel-efficient cooking stoves and rice cookers for 3,500 households in the project area. As a result of this activity, pollution and fuelwood consumption can be controlled and therefore the forest can be protected.
“In Wado we believe that everyone can be what we call a “Gamechanger”. Someone who carries out small actions that contribute to a better world. Someone who is willing to begin the transition towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Our mission is to inspire customers and other companies to empower this revolution.”
Marta Llaquet, Co-founder
The Khasi community
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 10 indigenous governments and 62 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 nancial 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.