Indigenous communities in our country and around the world continue to be threatened by rapid urbanization and assimilation into a homogenized society with no understanding of the environment. They constitute 8.6% of the Indian population – 104 million, which is the largest in the world. They are the last stewards of complex systems of biodiversity which hold the heritage of our planet. Last Forest is committed to ensuring that these traditional customs and activities continue to thrive. Last Forest is committed to finding them markets which will value and provide them the worth of their produce. This will be through innovation of products that will hold the cutting edge of design and functionality. It will continue to engage with the community at the grassroot level. With expansion of these aware and sensitized markets, the communities will be able to continue their practices and the value chain will be fair and equitable.

The most important impact that Last Forest makes is that it works in mountain eco-systems with indigenous communities where few dare to venture. This landscape is unique and meagrely understood. Being located in a Biosphere Reserve (declared by UNESCO), there is a constant challenge of working with the Forest Department which allocates to itself the rights as the sole protector and arbiter of all issues relating to forests and indigenous communities, even with new legal promulgations like the Forest Rights Act. This Act, for the first time, in our country, acknowledges the injustice done to them and their inalienable right to live and use the forest landscape as part of their livelihood strategy. This is a continuing and evolving challenge in changing socio-political equations at both local and national levels.

The impact objectives are tracked in both qualitative and quantitative manners. Some of them are enumerated below.

    1. A key component is the increase of 57% in the purchase from the producer company in the last 3 years.

    2. Sharing in the profits – 49% of the profits shared with producers, employees and sister organizations.

    3. Employee engagement time on value based networks – Slow Food (27 days), Fair Trade (60 days) and Organic (77 days)

    4. The senior management has 2 non-financial targets that they track through the year.

    5. It generates 28,000 hrs of employment with its lead supplier and impacts over 6,500 indigenous persons in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.

    6. The honey is collected from cliffs and tall trees in forest areas. The bee, Apis dorsata or commonly called the Indian Rock Bee is unique to this ecosystem ranging from Afghanistan to South East Asia. Bees are indicators of the health of the ecosystem. Data is recorded of each batch of honey brought – area, flowering, forest, moisture (ecological data collection template available). This is also mapped using various tools.

We support indigenous communities sustain themselves by empowering their skill sets and bringing economic growth for all families. By reinvesting over 30% of our profits in community development, we ensure improvement of health and education and generate pride, dignity, and sustainable income for producers.

The producer company, who are our primary suppliers, has a total membership of 1609 producers, all of whom are adivasis – each man and woman in a family is made a member of the company so that the women are empowered to be part of the decision making. The producer is processed and value added at village level production centres. These centres are completely run and operated by women who, now, do not have to go out of their villages to work in nearby estates. They now are able to earn an income in the village itself while also taking care of their houses and children. Last Forest is the marketing channel for all these value added produce.

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