Ideally one unit of agricultural land requires 6-7 units of forest land to support it. Without it the eco-system is out of balance resulting in water insecurity, reduced soil fertility and reduced crop output impacting local livelihoods. In some areas of the Himalaya, this ratio is 1-1. The poor are often forced to over-exploit limited local natural resources in order to satisfy immediate household needs. In a way they are actually both victims and agents of environmental destruction.
We are working to reverse this negative trend by engaging local people to actively participate in the restoration of their community forests. Villagers have established nurseries to raise mature seedlings of broad leaved native tree species, shrubs and grasses which they then plant on wasted hillsides. Bio-diversity conservation in this way not only sustains mountain farming but ultimately protects fragile mountain springs.
We provide funding to cover 80% of cost of the nurseries, and technical support, while the villages themselves invest 20% and manage the cultivation of the saplings. This approach not only provides much needed local employment but gives villagers a vested interest in the success of the nursery, as they are paid for every mature sapling planted. Community Forestry plays a vital role in our River Basin Restoration initiative.