India Khasi Hills
The Khasi Hills are located in what has been described as the wettest place on earth, the Meghalaya ecoregion. The area is rich in biodiversity, home to sacred forests, ancient stone monoliths and Khasi communities. It is also under threat from deforestation and degradation. The project seeks to combat deforestation and restore the area's forests for the benefit of people and nature. Through assisted natural regeneration and sustainable livelihood development, the area's biodiversity and Khasi communities can flourish together. Local communities are empowered through a number of livelihood initiatives to foster entrepreneurship and build livelihood resilience, reducing pressures on the forest. This, coupled with education to change lifestyles and attitudes towards the forest, decreases the extraction of timber for energy and firewood. Distributions of fuel-efficient cookers, with subsidies for the majority, target the 5,000 households in the project area to reduce fuelwood consumption and improve forest and family health. Changes in farming techniques and nutrition are also an essential part of the project activities.
Restore native forest
Promote economic development
Build livelihood resilience
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Why is intervention needed?
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.
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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 well represented in the project.