Last Forest is a Tamil Nadu-based enterprise headquartered in Kotagiri, with a focus on providing a platform to showcase agro-ecological produce and crafts of the region’s indigenous communities.
They work to support forest-based livelihoods, primarily engaging with the Kurumba, Irula, Toda, and Badaga communities under the umbrella of Aadhimalai, a collective of tribal producers and farmers of the Nilgiris. These tribal communities have traditionally foraged for food in a way that does not burn a hole in their ecosystem. Working in close proximity with Aadhimalai, Last Forest continues to create markets for products crafted and harvested by the locals.
Besides forest farming, a major activity among the tribal communities in this region is honey hunting. The honey harvested makes for their infused and natural honey products on their website, while the beeswax, a natural byproduct of honey hunting, is repurposed into personal care products like soaps and lip balms. Under handicraft, the platform also features bags and potleys etched in the Toda embroidery style handmade by the women of the region.
Incubated under the Keystone Foundation, the journey that sculpts Last Forest has been a long one, spanning almost 30 years. Committed to taking care of the caretakers of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve Region, Last Forest has evolved into a fair marketplace for non-timber forest produce like wild honey and spices.
Why We Love Last Forest
- Championing livelihoods – Last Forest focuses on generating income for local and indigenous women of the Nilgiris by highlighting traditional agriculture and craft. These include GI tagged Toda embroidery and non-timber forest produce (NTFP), sourced from individual homes that the team from Aadhimalai visits. In providing a mode of financial independence, Last Forest and Aadhimalai envision a better livelihood and self-empowerment for the indigenous women of the region.
- Spotlighting culture – By bringing their sustainable produce and thoughtful creations—from Toda bags and potleys, to forest produce like honey and flours—under one umbrella, the enterprise helps the indigenous communities like the Irulas, Todas and Kurumbas expand their markets.
- Community support – To support traditional—and often sustainable—livelihoods, Last Forest provides community trainings in honey evaluation and beeswax byproduct development. Support and subsidies in this form help the younger generation continue working in these specialised fields, while also preserving the craft and wisdom of the people.
Note from the Producer
“Last Forest brings forest foods to the fore directly from the indigenous communities of the Nilgiris. Communities that live in and depend on the unique – and threatened – forests for their livelihoods. We believe that it is a mode of resilience in this climate-changing world to keep standing behind our local honey hunters, growers, and producers who have been working sustainably and caringly for centuries. We partner with over 150 villages and directly impact over 6500 community members. From community honey training to native seed banks—we’ve worked in a collective since the ’90s, always with the spirit of the forest in mind—meaningful, balanced, contributing growth.”
— Teny Ann Johnson, Madhu Ravishankar, Miller Ashok and Isabel Tadmiri, of Last Forest
The Locavore Bite
TL Bite offers a glimpse into how a partner producer runs their operations, and reflects their core principles and values. The idea is to provide insights into their practices and highlight their positive efforts descriptively. We have identified seven key areas of assessment – origin and source of ingredients, composition and integrity of the products, workforce policies, production practices, community-related initiatives, approach towards preserving or celebrating traditional knowledge and the materials used in packaging. While this assessment may not be entirely comprehensive, we hope it helps you make an informed decision about why you might want to support them, and the ways in which to.
The information below offers you a snapshot of where Last Forest stands on these parameters. We have put this together based on several rounds of conversation with Teny Ann Johnson (Operations), Madhu Ravishankar (Communications), Miller Ashok (Sales and Marketing) and Isabel Tadmiri (Communications), of Last Forest. Click on a piece of the pie below to find out more.
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At The Locavore, we strive to keep the practices of a producer transparent and honest across all forms of partnerships.