We wanted to accurately present the current situation in our last blog so things may have seemed bleak. However, that definitely does not mean that nothing can be done! We are taking action in partnership with our communities and we know that every little bit can make a difference for the people here.
The focus: Helping our local communities to maintain food security through becoming as self-sustaining as possible.
In the short term, particularly the next 3-4 months, food shortages are predicted to worsen and we are unlikely to see more food coming in from outside, therefore focusing on what people can grow themselves is vital.
Progress so far:
With the support of a generous donation, Nihal and Remon Ellegala have been working with farmers and community leaders to design and roll out a food planting initiative.
In the last two weeks, an incredible 450 local farmers have been provided with compost, seeds and plants to a grow a range of vegetables, including yams, sweet potato and tapioca, as well as seed paddy for rice. Advisors were available when they collected the seeds to answer questions on growing them and the vegetables are to be grown in existing home gardens or on neglected lands.
A lady from a nearby farming school has been employed to visit local farmers weekly to provide support and monitoring throughout the project. The Forest Healing Foundation is also working to source organic liquid fertilisers to help improve paddy field productivity.
Once the vegetables become ready to harvest, there will be a weekly market set up in Wepathana village for farmers to trade their produce, as well as help to sell any additional produce online.
We are now starting to invest and fundraise for projects to sustain this initiative over the longer-term. We are researching options such as:
Building organic fertilizer production facilities so that the local villages can supply their own needs and potentially sell any excess;
Increasing nitrogen testing capability to ensure the fertilisers are applied efficiently and effectively, reducing run-off into nearby water bodies;
Subsidising or creating favourable loan models for equipment required;
Supporting farmers in climate resilience projects;
Involving more farmers in our community spice initiative, Eko Land Produce, to provide additional income.
But aren’t we a forest initiative?
As human beings we want to support those around us who are struggling and could never simply stand by. However, there is also a clear conservation case for this work. These communities are the key owners and users of the local forests, therefore supporting them in hard times is just as important for building partnerships and trust as working on forest projects together is during good times.
We have also seen repeatedly how poverty leads to land degradation and forest loss. During the pandemic, local smallholders were forced to sell trees for timber or put their forest land up for sale as they struggled to make ends meet. Similarly, food shortages can put increased pressure on forests through over-harvesting or conversion to agriculture and fuel shortages can cause forest degradation as people turn to wood fuels. Our goal is to address the environmental and social challenges together to help both forests and communities thrive.
How you can help:
Donate! Your kind donations make our work possible and we are incredibly grateful for all donations of any size. Visit the Forest Healing Foundation’s GlobalGiving page here or the food project JustGiving page here.
Send your ideas/expertise! If you are a specialist in organic farming, aid work or other relevant areas and have some ideas on how to help, we would love to hear them. Please get in touch at email@example.com.