With 35 per cent of its landmass covered with forests, five national parks and 18 wildlife sanctuaries, Assam, in northeast India, is a haven for a unique variety of flora and fauna.
Over the years, however, forest lands began to shrink under demographic pressure, development projects, and overexploitation. Gradually, it started to affect the overall ecology of the region.
As a mitigation measure, the Assam government, with the support of AFD, launched the Assam Forest and Biodiversity Conservation Project in 2012, to restore forest ecosystems, protect wildlife and enhance the livelihood of the forest-dependent communities. Active participation of all stakeholders is the key element of the project.
AFD assists the state of Assam through financial and technical support.
The project aims to:
- Build the capacity for the forest administration: overhaul of the existing infrastructure and procurement of new equipment and vehicles, training and introduction of new work methods. Exchange programmes with the French National Forest Office (ONF) and an expertise partnership with the French Institute of Pondichéry have also been organised.
- Develop concerted plans for forest management and protected areas with the local village committees
- Develop alternative livelihood for forest-dependent communities through skill development programmes and lessons in marketing. There are 15 trades in which villagers get training (rearing, food processing, tailoring, etc.). Through regular consultations with the NGO Compello, the village communities decide which one would best suit their needs.
- Massive reforestation efforts have been undertaken: More than 21,000 hectares of land have been reforested with help from villagers’ committees.
- The efforts in capacity building of forest guards have contributed towards increasing the park’s one-horned rhino population, usually targeted by poachers, to an impressive 2,400.
- New nurseries have been developed and wetlands and grasslands have also been restored.
- 4,500 people have been trained in 15 different trades, helping to revive the local economy while protecting forest ressources.