Conservation, Livelihoods and Enterprise Development
The Adviasi, indigenous communities across the Nilgiris Biosphere in India, have always depended on forest resources. However, rapid socio-economic developments and damage to local eco-systems, is posing hardship to Adviasi people’s lives. Keystone Foundation assists Adviasi communities in livelihood generation and environmental protection since 1993. It does so by cooperating with local groups on securing forest rights, environmental protection and by setting up of sustainable non timber forest products (NTFP) chains.
In the past years, Keystone supported and mobilized at least 3850 families (approximately 12.000 people) in 89 villages in claiming forest rights, forest regeneration and ecologic monitoring. Many of these families have also been organized into production groups that collect and process NTFP’s like honey, dried fruits, coffee, tea, spices, essential oils and silk. All these products are harvested and traded through sustainable and fair practices. Therefore local groups are also assisted in attaining internationally recognized certification for bio-diversity, organic and fair trade principles
A recent impact assessment study revealed that Keystone's interventions had positive results to these families' lives, like more fair prices, steadier income and higher quality of their products. As some of the production groups evolved and got stronger, Keystone supported these groups to turn into viable enterprises. Currently, 6 of such Business Enterprises source from over 50 local production groups, to further process and refine the collected NTFP’s. The result is a wide range of authentic, pure and high-quality products, merchandised under the brand Last Forests. The brand represents one of the largest known networks of organic and fair trade product chains in India.
Last Forest products are currently sold in 4 ‘Green Shops’ in the urban centres Kotagiri, Coonor, Ooty and Mysor. These Green Shops are the independent trading units set up by Keystone. Another part of products are traded by over 40 retailers and distributors.