Fear in the minds of the indigenous societies inspired an idea. Mathew John, Pratin Roy, and Snehlata Nath came up with the initiative known as Last Forest. The settlement of modern society in the urban areas has often been a worrisome factor for the advancement of indigenous communities.
The people belonging to indigenous groups are often frightened because they might not “fit in” and so decide to stay on the sideline.
What is Last Forest?
Last forest is a profit hybrid NGO, which is incubated under the Keystone Foundation. Last Forest provides livelihood and training in sustainable harvesting and Organic agriculture, to indigenous people and tribal natives.
India comprises 8.6% – that is 104 million – of the world’s population of indigenous people. This is the largest in the world. Keystone Foundation and Last forest work in the valleys of Nilgiris, Kotagiri near Ooty, and Coonor in Tamil Nadu, towards the economic development of the indigenous communities inhabiting the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve.
Kotagiri not only has a rich variety of flora and fauna but also many tribal natives as habitants. Some examples are Todas, Irullas, Kotas, Kurumbas, etc.
The last Forest was created as a marketing platform for indigenous communities, self-help groups, social enterprises, and fair trade entities. This not only proves as a step towards the advancement of their careers but also an assurance that their product will sell and their efforts will not be coped up by private corporations.
The reassurance that people will know the names of the indigenous communities or individuals inspires endless communities to join hands with Last Forest.
Environmental Initiatives of Last Forest
In addition to being one of the leading NGOs in the development of indigenous communities, Last Forest has also achieved a significant milestone in environmental sustenance.
It is a widely known fact that Honey bees are now endangered. These yellow-winged creatures are extremely important for the planet, and without them, the planet will be one step closer to destruction.
Last Forest works as a savior of the bees and the planet with the major product being Honey and beeswax. This honey and beeswax are traditionally collected from giant rock bees. They collect beeswax to make lip balms, balms, and handmade soaps.
The products are collected and produced within the village, mostly by women. Along with honey and beeswax, they also train these women to collect NTFP – Non-Timber Forest Products – like gooseberry, pepper, soapnuts, black jamun, etc.
Handmade bags, shawls, pouches, and now masks are also made by women. These products are then marketed and sold in the nearby ‘Green Shops’ which are also operated by Last Forest. These ‘Green Shops’ are in Coonor and Kotagiri. Because of their organic nature, Last forest products have faced an increase in demand.
Apart from the Green Shops, Slow food in Ooty bring in major sales for the Last Forest. A committed team of over 100 marketing executives makes sure that these places remain up to date with orders. They also operate an e-commerce site that is slowly and steadily increasing and also put a few products up for sale on Amazon.
Over the years, Last Forest has changed over 6500 lives. All of whom include indigenous people. With changes like gender equality and employment opportunities, Last Forest has become an inspirational example for all.
Last Forest’s mission is to bring a new beginning to sustainable development and community relationships. It can be rightly said that this mission is nearly achieved by the organization with their tremendous efforts to better society.