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India

Webi Village

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Conservation benefit: Protection of a 1,433-acre mangrove forest and estuarine land for 10 years

Community benefit: Crafts and women’s center

Date Approved: 06.2014

Mangroves

This project protects mangroves, which trap more CO2 than any other kind of forest and as a result, slow global warming.

Middle Andaman Island, in the Bay of Bengal between India and Myanmar, is remote and beautiful. Unfortunately, unsustainable use of natural resources there threatens the environment.

Seacology is working with the Karen community, who are known for their rich traditional knowledge of the forests and seas. But they have limited job opportunities on the island. The Andaman and Nicobar Environment Team (ANET) has helped the Karen community by forming a women’s self-help group called Andaman Karen Crafts (AKC). ANET has arranged for alternative livelihood skills training in carpentry, tailoring, embroidery, mushroom cultivation, and raising forest nurseries. The women’s group has begun producing tailoring and needlecraft products for the tourism industry. It will sell these products through handicraft stores, hotels, and resorts in the Andaman Islands.

The AKC is located in Webi Village, near a protected mangrove forest. The forest supports a large number of mangrove and animal species, including more than 20 species of endemic birds, threatened saltwater crocodiles, and water monitor lizards. Seacology is funding the construction of a building where women can make and sell handicrafts. In return, the AKC will protect and conserve 1,433 acres of mangrove and estuarine habitat. It will also host environmental education programs for the Karen villages.

Project Updates

May 2019

The restaurant is in operation, and is being run as a cooperative. In addition to building business skills and generating income, this venture is connecting people to traditional cuisine. It offers Karen (Burmese) cuisine, with ingredients come from local organic farms and forest gardens; some foods that had nearly disappeared from the local diet are being made again.

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December 2018

A storeroom and office have been built, and significant progress has been made on restaurant construction. Village women have already provided meals for a group of 70 people passing through the village. Creating the restaurant is building business skills and connecting people to traditional cuisine; some foods that had nearly disappeared from the local diet and being made again. Skilled craftspeople are teaching more young people traditional weaving and bamboo basket making in the crafts center. Our nonprofit partner, ANET, continues to promote mangrove conservation with outings and education.

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May 2018

With some extra funds, the community has bought a LCD projector and screen, to make presentations that promote environmental awareness. Fixtures for a restaurant have been ordered, and the community has gotten price quotes on rainwater harvesting and storage equipment. Construction is expected to start soon. Staff from our nonprofit partner, ANET, led community members on an educational excursion through the nearby mangrove protected area and plan to take schoolchildren soon. Meanwhile, the crafts center is being well-used for community education, craft-making, and presentations—for example, recently two field biologists spoke to community members there on sea turtle conservation and snake-bite mitigation.

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May 2017

The building has been finished, and the community’s women are delighted to have a place of their own to meet, work, and hold programs. They have conducted training in how to use a traditional loom to weave bags and other objects with distinctive Karen designs. Community members continue to cooperate with the forest guards to protect their estuarine lands. They have also held a marine environmental awareness program with local schoolchildren.

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January 2017

Construction of the building is almost finished.

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May 2016

Construction of the building was held up for a few months due to monsoon rains, delay in getting Revenue Department approval to change the land’s designation from agricultural to commercial, and the unavailability of sufficient timber from the government sawmill. Work began again in January, and substantial progress has been made: The frame is up, work has started on the foundation of the cement staircase, and a tin roof has been installed. Now that the roof is on, work can continue even in the rain. Community members met and discussed their ideas and plans for the building, including using it as a library, a place for elders to teach traditional arts and crafts to youth, a place to display and sell traditional crafts and food, and for livelihood training.

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October 2015

The foundation for the structure is complete, and wood has been ordered, but construction couldn’t be finished before the monsoons began, and should start again in November. It is expected to be finished in January 2016.

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May 2015

India Field Representative Vineeta Hoon visited the project site in March 2015 and met with members of the Andaman Karen Crafts group and carpenters, who showed her the land on which the building will be built and a model of the design. After the construction supervisor, who was a U.S. national, had to leave because of a visa issue, the project was taken over by a Webi Village representative and a senior researcher from the Andaman and Nicobar Environmental Team. They, along with community members, have decided to build a concrete and wooden structure, keeping in mind traditional Karen design. The design plan is complete, and a team of experienced artisans and carpenters has been chosen to execute the plan. Estimates of the cost of all building materials were procured, and initial purchasing has begun. A shed to store the materials has been constructed. Construction began in May, and workers hope to finish all the concrete work before the monsoon rains start.

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January 2015

After a community meeting, a team of local artisan carpenters and builders was formed. They explored design and ecological building techniques, and are now in the process of acquiring all the required registrations and legal formalities and getting estimates for construction materials. Construction will begin after harvest season, in January 2015.

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