Bringing Prosperity by transforming the Forests Landscape of Meghalaya

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Bringing Prosperity by transforming the Forests Landscape of Meghalaya In Mawklot, community comes together to sign the Green Charter, pledging environmental stewardship. Photo credit: Project Management Unit, MCLLMP.

The impacts of climate change pose real and imminent dangers, especially to the poor and vulnerable. But how can countries advance their development objectives while prioritizing climate mitigation efforts?  The World Bank has been working to address this issue through local engagement to achieve scaling sustainable forest landscapes and ecosystem solutions to enhance development, climate, and biodiversity outcomes.

In the Indian state of Meghalaya, there is abundant rainfall and 80 percent forest cover in 80 percent of the state. Despite this, the impact of climate change is increasingly becoming evident through deforestation, biodiversity loss, and water resource depletion. The state uses a community-based land ownership system which offers support for forests and natural resources management (NRM).

Since 2018, the WBG’s Meghalaya Community-Led Landscape Management Project (MCLLMP) has brought 31,000 hectares of land under enhanced conservation and sustainable management in 400 villages. Through the Government of Meghalaya, the project has successfully gone on to facilitate community-level planning at the village level and the convergence of funding streams at the district level.   

Image Steering Community Initiatives Through Meetings in Rongpetchi. Photo credit: Project Management Unit, MCLLMP.


The project outlines the following approaches to supporting green, resilient, and inclusive development:

  1. Enhancing climate risk resilience: Over 3,000 spring sheds have been revitalized, with plans for another 50,000+ statewide. Successful interventions under the project include the reclaiming of mine-damaged land using aromatic and medicinal plants/grasses; utilizing sloping-land agriculture techniques and technologies and building sustainable water resources.
  2. Improvement in farming conditions - Villages have effectively utilized their NRM grants to assess water requirements and improve overall water quality. Water security was enhanced by constructing spring chambers, protective walls and installing more efficient filtration systems. “Before the farming households of our village faced numerous challenges that grew increasingly difficult over time,” said Laibodsing Kharpuli, a farmer from the village Phudmyrtong B. “But now the working conditions of our farmers have undergone a remarkable transformation.”
  3. Developing tech-enabled human capital: A robust base of tech-savvy human capital was created across 6,000 villages, with the training of over 14,000 youth in AI and GIS technology. Initially trained as paid village-level facilitators, they now support government programmes related to forest management, Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES), digital platform support for agriculture value chains and helping to upscale farming production and market linkages etc., across the state.
  4. Promoting gender equality and women’s leadership: Institutional changes within the forestry sector have strengthened village-level NRM committees under traditional tribal village institutions with the help of the Dorbars, Nokma, and Doloi tribe communities. Notably, this approach has seen women taking the lead, a groundbreaking development within the state's traditional setup, where women’s representation in governance has been very low. Presently, there are 400 women secretaries and 1600 female members in the Village Natural Resources Management Committees with the majority of them assuming leadership positions for the first time in their lives. Sarti Shanpru, a secretary in Mawteibah village, notes, "I have witnessed a significant improvement in women's participation within the community. MCLLMP has opened doors for us in unimaginable ways." The state continues to support gender equality, by opening economic opportunities for women as leaders, farmers and traders.
  5. Building institutional synergies: The project mainstreamed landscape management by forging key linkages between rural development and infrastructure state departments, and government programs linked to development, livelihoods, and gender. By accessing NRM funds under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, beneficiaries are ensured long-term benefits even after the project’s closure.
  6. Fostering entrepreneurship and innovation: Through small grants at the village level, more than Rs 13+ crores have been given to 278 villages to scale-up good NRM practices. At a larger level, innovation funding continues to help community forestry and agricultural ventures – such as the development of 346 community nurseries, which have yielded over Rs 35 lakhs for participants. Jorsing Syngkli received a Rs 3 lakhs grant, which he successfully converted into a nursery and organic pesticide unit. He says, “I always wanted my own business but lacked the capital until I received this support from the government.”
  7. Supporting nature-based solutions and traditional knowledge: In Meghalaya, environmental knowledge is traditionally passed down orally through generations within local communities. Iora Dkhar, who has devoted nearly five decades to working within the Khasi tribal community, believes that "cooperation and active participation from everyone is the only solution to socio-economic challenges and poverty alleviation." Iora is part of a community-level cooperative federation. It comprises 52 villages which formed 30 Cooperative Societies dedicated to promoting sustainability by conserving 81 Living Root Bridges, building community nurseries, restoration of watersheds, sustainable construction methods using natural materials, traditional food-medicine-livelihood practices, and more.
  8. Leveraging technology for climate action: The recent introduction of geospatial technologies and UAV/Drone applications, has facilitated the development of maps, created boundary demarcation, and supported land use and land cover planning. It has also enhanced online PES verification and supported agriculture and disaster management efforts. The deployment of this digital infrastructure is also ensuring universal access to knowledge and training through a Digital Center of Excellence that brings together NRM stakeholders in scaling up forest and sustainability efforts.

The project is a pioneering example of what government interventions coupled with local engagement can do within the forestry and eco-system sector. Its inclusive and integrated approach to forest and eco-system management is poised to be replicated across the state and other operations in the region.  With a landscape and people-focused approach, climate mitigation and adaptation goals can be achieved. This can eventually drive progress through poverty reduction and ultimately creating shared prosperity on a liveable planet. 

Christophe Crepin

Practice Manager; Environment, Natural Resources and Blue Economy South Asia

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