Village tree nursery

Village forestry meeting

Panorama from roadside

Our project is situated in the Himalayas in north-west India, close to the border with Nepal. Work is at an average elevation of 5,000 feet (1,500 metres) in the lower reaches of this great mountain range.

Forest resources in the region are essential to local livelihoods ?in particular for fuel wood and the browse and forage needed for livestock on which their agriculture depends. Destruction of the forest is causing erosion, soil impoverishment and interference with natural water courses.

The increasing pace of human intervention and deforestation in the Himalayas is potentially devastating. It could lead to the gradual choking off of the life support systems of local inhabitants and of the many millions in the Ganges Plain below, who depend on the forest for the proper regulation of water flow and the containment of flash flooding. Our local partner is CHIRAG, a small but outstanding indigenous development organisation. We ourselves focus on the forestry aspect of the programme albeit CHIRAG is also involved in community health, education, agriculture and income generation initiatives.

Since 1997 we have funded the reforestation of around 4,000 acres (1600 hectares) of degraded hillside together with providing adult training and environmental programmes in schools. Success has depended on motivating and inculcating new skills and attitudes amongst the villagers, especially the women who are the main user group. Villagers participate in all aspects of forest development ?from initial project planning through to

Biogas from cow dung

Cooking with biogas

planting out the trees and their ongoing management. All tree seedlings are produced in small home nurseries to supply the 120,000 we need for outplanting each year.

All benefits from the forest, such as wood collection and grass cutting, are kept within the community and any payments are made to locals rather than to outside contractors. Biogas technology, which creates gas for cooking from cow dung, has been introduced to provide an alternative to wood fuel and so reduce pressure on the forest.

The programme has covered over 200 villages to date. New villages have become involved which are situated in particularly challenging areas surrounded by steep arid hillsides. The first step towards restoring lost forest is to focus on revegetation ?to establish ground cover by planting shrubs and grasses. Certain pioneer trees are also useful at this stage including the rugged Jacaranda tree, more generally planted as a garden or street side ornamental. Small check dams, contour pits and other measures help prevent water run-off and increase the moisture level in the soil. This prepares the soil for the subsequent planting of the more useful and important trees that will form the core of the eventual forest.

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Current projects

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Past Projects

Ecuador, India (Orissa), Kenya, Madagascar, Nepal, Niger, Sudan, Zimbabwe