Restoring India’s Cloud Forest

WeForest, Making Earth Cooler, develops and implements large-scale landscape reforestation projects as a scalable solution for mitigating climate change, preserving biodiversity and alleviating poverty.

The East-Khasi Hills in the subtropical Meghalaya Hills, North East India, is a key attraction for hikers who come to explore the David Scott Trail, the living tree root bridges of Cherrapunjee and the Sacred Forests of Mwaphlang.  The area is home to the tribal Khasi people, who depend on forest for their livelihood.  Widespread deforestation is being caused however by forest fires, unsustainable fuel wood collection, overgrazing and charcoal production.  Many endangered tree species are confined to small pockets of ‘sacred’ forest that are untouched due to religious beliefs and myths.  A biodiversity hotspot and one of the wettest places on earth, WeForest has been working with local communities on restoring this forest since 2014. The project aims to restore a total of 5000 hectares through assisted natural regeneration and planting native species, combined with sustainable livelihood development to reduce pressure on the forest. EOCA money will enable:
– restoration of 102 hectares with around 85,000 trees from regeneration and enrichment planting
– 1240 people to be directly involved and gain income from the project – through tree planting, nursery activities, forest maintenance, and self help groups.
– Outreach, training and awareness raising activities, including engaging local people via youth volunteer groups, community facilitators and forestry teams.  Meetings with local communities will cover a broad range of issues including environmental stewardship, alternative cooking methods, home based pig and poultry rearing replacing cattle ranching) and other alternative income sources.

The Update

This project is now complete and has involved the planting of some 82,865 trees, impacting almost 150ha! Over 40 tree species were planted.
– 58 self-help groups were established; 75% being led by women;
– 125 nursery units were established;
– 370 efficient stoves distributed;
– Local farmers were supported through training programmes such as pig and poultry management;
– A bamboo handicraft workshop was attended in order to explore new socio-economic activities for the local villagers;
– 600 peach tree saplings were distributed as a means of new income for local villagers;
– A knowledge register was established with information gathered on the 57 villages in the area. Information including demography, income, population distribution, economic activities, forest resources and biodiversity, etc. The register is updated bi-annually and is an essential tool for identifying, designing and implementing economic activities.
WeForest are now expanding the project’s success into new areas in the North/Northeast Khasi Hills and engaging communities there. EOCA wishes them every success in the future.

Image: Root Bridges