Environmental governance

Forest resources management and governance

The community’s dependency on forests is based on its socio-economic conditions. It draws on services like livestock grazing, fuelwood and fodder, and collection of NTFPs like Tamarindus indica (tamarind), Phyllanthus sp. (amla) and Decalepis hamiltoni. ATREE’s study of four adjacent forest villages with different caste compositions reveals that the communities use NTFPs for sale as well as for self- consumption. However, the tender for collecting NTFPs, given by the Forest Department, is based on a bidding system, for which the local population finds itself unable to compete. Since these tenders then go to external agencies, it benefits these distant agencies more than it does the local population. The lack of ownership – of both external parties as well as of the deprived local population – on forest resources is one of the reasons for lack of interest in sustainable forest resource use and management.

Possible remedial action has been provided by the recently enacted The Schedule Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act (STOFDA) 2006/ Recognition of Forest Rights Act (RFRA) 2006 – of rights-based action through constitutionally mandated bodies like Panchayaths, through Gram Sabha’s and local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and community-based organisations (CBOs). Since ATREE believes that natural resource governance cannot be achieved without a decentralised system involving constitutionally mandated bodies and that community rights over resources play a major role in achieving better forest governance, the RFRA is a major opportunity.

ATREE has helped build awareness among four Panchayaths and 40 villages adjoining BRF on the subject of tenural issues and the process of claiming legal rights through RFRA, by providing relevant evidence.

ATREE and the BRF-adjacent community have developed a management plan for BRF, which would help the community establish village forest boundaries for better co-management and lay a plan for the better conservation, protection and collaborative management of community forest resources. Once community rights are accorded to people, the forest management committee (formed by the forest rights committee) at each Gram Sabha can implement the strategies in this management plan.

Participatory and two-way learning

The idea behind a community-based conservation centre is to learn from community experience and to keep solutions relevant to the community. Gram Sabha members have helped build awareness on collaborative management and how this management plan can become important evidence in claiming the community rights over BRF through RFRA 2006.

The community-ATREE team has had discussions on a range of subjects - on community stakes in forest resource usage, tenurial issues, Forest Department conduct on protection and management of reserve forest, present institutions and their interests in policy and governance issues and reasons for failure of government-run projects like Joint Forest Management (JFM) and community interest in constitutionally mandated bodies like Panchayaths. This interaction with community heads has resulted in information on individual and community claims, and demarcation of village traditional forest boundaries, resource rich areas and sacred sites. The community has indicated that granting of community rights will encourage a positive response to collaborative forest governance. This management plan, being developed by ATREE in collaboration with community, will be strong evidence in claiming community rights. ATREE is also developing a spatial map of these village boundaries, which would be better visual evidence.