The Umiam Watershed in the East Khasi Hills District of Meghalaya is India’s first community-based REDD + project.
Meghalaya is an extra-ordinary place, a high mountain plateau, cut off from the rest of India, and made up of Khasi Indigenous Kingdoms where people still live close to the forests. There are long established Khasi traditions of community forest management, sacred groves and communal forests, and a unique flora and fauna. Rapid deforestation is occurring at a rate of over 5% per year throughout the East Khasi Hills, threatening upland watersheds, household livelihoods, while also releasing substantial quantities of carbon. The Project is reversing deforestation in the Khasi Hills.
The project is a model that could be widely replicated throughout other areas in Northeast India.
- Protection of sacred groves and montane cloud forests – the project is halting the erosion and loss of community forests by providing financial incentives to conserve existing sacred forests and expand and restore degraded forests.
- Regeneration & Reforestation – the Federation (Synjuk) has closed 500 hectares of degraded forests to allow natural regeneration of native species, including Khasi pine and broadleaved oaks, chestnuts, and other trees. Villages have increased reforestation and enrichment planting in the open forest zone adding a further 500 hectares of degraded land. Women’s groups have established dozens of home nurseries generating tree seedlings planted out under the guidance of local experts. Their goal is to plant 100,000 trees each year.
- Forest Fire Control – re-vitalization of the Khasi tradition of the community clearing fire lines. 27 kilometers of fire lines were cleared during 2015 alone. Little forest is now damaged by fire, while prior to the project, 50-100 hectares would burn each year. This strategy is working and is proving to be an important adaptive strategy to climate change in the region.
- Reducing Fuel Wood Consumption – households are heavily dependent on fuel wood, with families using about 20 kg per day. Fuel wood consumption has outstripped forest growth. The project has focussed on fuel efficient stoves and is now promoting a model that can be constructed on site with locally available cement, rebar, and metal pipe. 85 stoves and 54 lpg cylinders where installed in 2016.
- Closing Forest Areas to Grazing – the project continues to increase small grants to participating communities to transition from grazing animals to stall-fed. Grants focussed on the establishment of new stalls for pigs, goats and poultry raising.
- Medicinal Plants – GPS coordinates have been taken in the sites where the medicinal plants are growing in their habitat and nurseries are being set up in the backyard of herbal practitioners.
- Livelihood Support – the project represents a long term strategy to address the extreme poverty facing rural families while supporting sustainable resource management, new livelihoods and capitalizing women-run micro finance institutions. Currently benefits some 4000 families and has established, 8 community micro finance groups, 48 self help groups and 5 farmers clubs, benefitting over 500 farmers with training in sustainable agriculture.
- Moratorium on surface mines & quarries – stone quarries and open-pit coal mines pollute streams and rivers and contaminate water supplies and fisheries. The ten indigenous kingdoms, working cooperatively through the Federation, have halted any further establishment of quarries and mines in the watershed. They are working with local government, mine owners, and workers to close existing mines and find alternative income activities for the workers.
- Proposed Project Expansion – the Synjuk continues to respond to requests by neighbouring indigenous government (Hima) to expand the area of the Plan Vivo project.
This project is certified under Plan Vivo Standard and has been operational since 2014.