Sheeba Sen, a London School of Economics alumnus, left her high-end corporate job in London and joined Aarohi, an NGO which works towards developing Himalayan communities. With Aarohi, she learnt the nitty-gritty of lives in Himalayas which propelled her to start her own venture, Alaap, in 2016. Alaap, works in Himalayas to restore the forest, creates livelihoods for the rural communities, builds eco-leaders and does forest advocacy. Impactpreneurs talked to Sheeba to know more about Alaap and its journey to fight climate change.
Alaap follows Miyawaki Method, invented by a Japanese scientist named Dr. Akira Miyawaki. Via this method, forests grow 10 times faster, 30 times denser, 100 times more biodiverse and 100% organic than the conventional plantation. In simpler terms, Miyawaki means dense random planting of diverse species. This method is followed successfully in Amazonian and Indonesian Rainforests.
Brief introduction of Alaap
“We work in collaboration with the corporates and help them in offsetting their carbon footprint,” said Sheeba while talking about Alaap’s collaborations. As part of the collaboration, Alaap intakes a few hectares of degraded wasteland land after taking permission from the Government and the local communities. They later restore the degraded land via Miyawaki method, hence, offsetting carbon footprint. The amount received for the service is used to pay the local farmers working with Alaap, hence, creating livelihood.
Alaap also creates eco-leaders by organizing workshops on ‘Inner and Outer Ecology’. A 4-day workshop attended by youth aims to make them aware about the ecological issues being faced in the Himalayan region.
Currently, Alaap has signed MoU with the District Government in Champawat and also with Uttarakhand Government in order to bring restoration in the urban community of Dehradun. Alaap is aiming to make 600 villages in Champawat carbon negative in the next ten years. They have planted 18,711+ saplings, added INR 7million+ to the economy, engaged with 132+ villages, conducted 14+ workshops and trained 283+ leaders.
To create pressure on the legal authorities for urgent realization of the crisis prevailing in the Himalayas, Alaap indulges in research and advocacy by supporting community-based organisations like Van Panchayats.
While starting Alaap, Sheeba faced a few challenges, one of them was the cynical attitude towards forest restoration because of the gestation period to see the impact. To which Sheeba said, “It takes time to work with nature, it is complex but it is my space and I will stick to it.”
When asked to give advice to budding entrepreneurs, Sheeba said, “Be authentic. Be rooted in your community. It is very important to know the lives of people you are planning to impact.” She also urged people to invest in social entrepreneurs.
Images’ credit: Alaap