Empowering vulnerable women and conserving the natural forest through livelihood diversification
About the Implementing organization
Name: Debark Enchet Lekami Setoch Baltna Agro-processing Cooperative (Debark Town Wood Collectors Cooperative)
Year of establishment: 2013
Type of organization: Community-based association or organization / Cooperative business
Lack of livelihood options for vulnerable women forced them to depend on the natural resources. Vulnerable women depended on the natural forest in SMNP as sources of income to fulfill their families’ subsistence. They went to the forest to collect firewood for sale. It has been observed that because of deforestation and uncontrolled cutting, deforestation and land degradation, fertility depletion, reduction of productivity, reduction of wildlife, expansion of gullies and high runoff on down streams, and general loss of biodiversities in SMNP occurred. Therefore, it was believed that if the livelihood option of these women is changed and their income sources shifted from wood collection to other options, biodiversity of SMNP especially natural forest will be conserved. Now there is a paradigm shift of livelihood option from wood collection to new job opportunities and income sources. Currently, all the cooperative members have got new and better income sources to support their families. The major challenge the initiative faced was that most of these vulnerable women get their daily income from the sale of firewood collected from the national park. Thus, it was very much difficult to stop them from collecting firewood as the initiative needed some time to generate income. However, after the initiative started to generate income from the sale of bread and other spices, they completely stopped collecting firewood for sale. This will contribute to the rehabilitation and conservation effort.
Forests / Mountains / Wildlife
Type of Action
Protection / Restoration
Sustainable Development Element
Jobs and livelihoods / Food security / Climate action
This initiative has an important role in environmental conservation especially natural forest protection and rehabilitation. The major cause for firewood collection is to generate income from the sale of firewood and charcoal. Thus, if the number of firewood bundles collected from the forest reduced, human impact on the environment reduced.
Deforestation has a direct impact on natural habitat for wildlife in particular and biodiversity in general. If deforestation reduced, the natural habitat will be rehabilitated. This leads to better wildlife protection and biodiversity restoration. If the current consumption of firewood reduced, future generation interest will not be compromising. Thus, this initiative can contribute to sustainable forest management by reducing human impact on natural resources.
This has also high importance in improving the livelihood options of most vulnerable community groups and it can also empower women, enhance their participation and decision making in all aspects.
Sustainable Development Impacts
Women completely shift their livelihood option from wood collection to other livelihood option. Because of this, women and poor people, negative influence on the natural resources reduces from time to time. On the other hand, empowering women & marginalized community can narrow the economic inequality level of the community.
Therefore, the implementation of the initiative can contribute to more than seven sustainable development goals. The initiative can play a role in poverty reduction (SDG 1, No Poverty), able to highly reduce hunger and food insecurity problem of the local community (SDG 2, Zero Hunger), helps to conserve the environment especially wildlife and natural forest through plantation and protection (SDG 15, Life on Land), able to reduce the adverse effects of climate change as the area is protected, restored and maintained (SDG 13, Climate Action). In addition to this, gender and income inequality will be balanced, and it will contribute to economic growth in general.
Protection of large scale of forest patch in the village which has less land for cultivation was a big challenge. However, diversification of economic activities from farm-based to non-farm based activities made it possible to protect the forest. This forest being part of forest Patkai hill in Nagaland forms an animal corridor through Tingshong forest. Protecting contagious forest in the neighboring villages will protect the watershed of Iril river -one of the main rivers of Manipur which falls into the Loktak Lake which is one of the biggest freshwater lakes in India.
Neighboring villages of Somdal cultivate marijuana on the hillock after clearing the forest. The indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers and weedicides has polluted the soil and surrounding area as much as that the stream flowing from and through the hillock has been contaminated and the water has been made unfit for drinking. As such neighboring villages namely Phalee and L Phungdhar are depending on the water source from Chonnir forest and taking permission from Somdal village. Somdal village is talking to these neighboring villages to plan themselves as they cannot share the water forever. Neighboring villages have also started to feel the impact of forest depletion and unsustainable land use practices. These villages can develop community-based rules and regulation for the management of their degraded forest and plan to restore the health of the forest as has been done by Somdal. These villages have the same landscape, land use pattern and practices and culture.
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