Uttarakhand’s Van Panchayats or Community Forests are an important part of its social fabric. From the days of the Chipko movement, rural communities have protected these commons as an essential part of their rural lives.
Over the past 5 decades due to lack of investment and over extraction, these commons have become heavily degraded, turning barren in many cases. After speaking with members of local communities in many villages, the idea of reviving community forests emerged.
Hasten Ventures started out as Alaap in 2017 with its roots in village Satoli, Uttarakhand. While degrading van panchayats offered the opportunity for reforestation, execution was not straightforward because of issues of land ownership, lower incentives for collective action, and limited wherewithal of the forest department.
Hasten is taking on these challenges and is doing some extraordinary work in Satoli village, led by Sheeba, one of the co-founders, who spent 5 years working with the rural communities. Since 2019, they’ve planted close to 10,000 trees. By showcasing the revival of one forest, the vision is to prove the potential of these community forests in addressing climate change, and significantly improving the quality of life of local communities.
Hasten Ventures is building a viable case for large scale native reforestation in the Himalayas.