The Foundation for Environment and Economic Development Services (FEEDS) was established in 1988 to promote alternatives to jhuming (shifting cultivation), a subsistence farming system that the local tribal communities adopt that destroys the forests and produces meagre yield. All farming practices are undertaken by hand and a jhumia is engaged in jhuming from February to December. To meet the growing expenses, the jhumias and the youth have resorted large-scale felling of trees for timber, firewood and charcoal making. These have led to soil erosion, flash floods, landslides, hills becoming denuded, water scarcity and loss of bioresources and biodiversity including orchids and life-saving medicinal herbs.
As an AFPRO-EZE package and IFAD programme partner under the integrated watershed development programme, a number of land and non-land-based interventions were introduced. Kiwifruit, large cardamom, tea and low-chill apple were a great success. Home-processed organic ‘Hengbung Tea’ became popular.
A major break-through came when ICAR sanctioned a Krishi Vigyan Kendra in 2002. The Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) became a gateway for FEEDS to sources funds from state and central governments. A number of field crops were demonstrated both in the KVK campus and in farmers’ fields. Broccoli and floriculture became a great sucesss.
The northeast is a natural habitat of orchids. So a Centre for Orchid Gene Conservation of the Eastern Himalayan Region was established at Hengbung in 2010 with support from the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. In-situ, ex-situ and in-vitro conservation of orchids are being undertaken.
We have established a women technology park, a lead botanical garden and a mushroom research and development centre with central government funds. We are grateful to the AMITY University and itst Founder for initiating collaborative programmes with the FEEDS.
Our future efforts will focus on establishing centres of excellence to promote technology, innovations and skill through scientific research and training for conservation, development and sustainable use of natural resources and their management.