Action Research and Policy Support on Community Forest Resource management in Central India
The Community Forest Resource (CFR) rights provisions of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (also known as the FRA) is a revolutionary tool in forest governance. It visualizes statutorily backed devolution of forest management authority to Gram Sabhas, and full transfer of rights over non-timber forest products to them. The CFR provision gives local communities the right to protect, regenerate or conserve or manage any community forest resource which the communities have been traditionally protecting and conserving for sustainable use. It further has the potential to bring about a transformative change in the economic and social conditions of the local people, and improve the management of the forests.
Besides North-east India, the highest concentration of Scheduled tribes is in Central India. Additionally, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, and Jharkhand are among the top ten states with respect to forest areas. But, barring Maharashtra the CFR implementation status is very poor in these neighboring states. To address this lack of large-scale on-ground implementation of CFR provisions, this study will try to identify the major hurdles and enabling factors in CFR implementation and CFR management in Maharashtra and other Central Indian states, develop policy recommendations and guidelines to remediate it and further suggest better CFR management practices.
The project comprises of the following components:
- CFR potential estimation
One of the biggest problems in implementation of CFR provisions is that policy makers and the public have no idea of the target—the extent of CFR claims that must be granted. Through this project we are developing and making publicly available the village-wise maps of CFR potential in Central India. Though approximate these maps will ensure that policy makers are made aware graphically of the extent of CFR potential, the gap between the potential and CFR claims actually granted, and the regions in which attention needs to be focused. This can then be used as a policy advocacy tool. The CFR potential maps for Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand are being created using a method developed by ATREE with inputs from CFR-LA. (Add link to the page later)
Support: Bharat Rural Livelihoods Foundation (BRLF)
- Identifying bottlenecks in CFR implementation
There are multiple reasons why CFR rights recognition has not reached anywhere close to its potential. While resistance from the Forest Department may be one of the reasons, it is equally true that most villagers are unaware of CFR rights, and also most District level committees are unaware of the nature of these rights and when they should be granted. To identify the major hurdles in CFR claim-making and sanctioning it would be necessary to understand the pattern of CFR claim rejection/partial recognition, the documentation provided, arguments made in rejecting/partially rejecting the claims, and the kind of claim-making that might avoid rejection.
Support: Oxfam (India)
- Study of post-CFR claims management and processes
This component of the project focuses on analyzing the present on-ground CFR processes in Central India, such as boundary demarcation and management plan preparation. It will help understand the status and the knowledge gap, if any, regarding implementation of on-ground post-CFR processes. Additionally many villages have already undertaken numerous CFR related activities and processes. In these villages we will analyze how these processes have impacted the villages, especially focusing on the ecological and socioeconomic benefits received from it.
- On-field training and support for CFR management planning
The Forest Rights Act (FRA) empowers the gram sabhas to manage and govern their community forest resource (CFR) areas. The gram sabhas have to prepare a conservation and management plan for community forest resources in order to sustainably and equitably manage such community forest resources for the benefit of the Gram Sabha members. The ATREE team is assisting on-field facilitators and gram sabhas in this process by, training them in CFR boundary demarcation using GPS or smartphone based GPS application; collecting CFR related information and drafting a CFR Management Plan using a template prepared by ATREE and Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). The template can be accessed here: https://www.maharashtra.gov.in/Site/Upload/Government%20Resolutions/Engl...
- Ensuring rigorous implementation of Critical Wildlife Habitat provisions
FRA incorporates the provision of Critical Wildlife Habitat (CWH). The Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change has issued guidelines for CWH declaration process and Maharashtra Forest Department has initiated the process of CWH declaration in the PAs of Maharashtra. However, views regarding CWH differ among the local communities, Forest Department, CFR facilitating organisations and wildlife conservation organisations. ATREE is working in collaboration with Kalpavriksh (https://kalpavriksh.org/) and other researchers and lawyers to interpret and understand the process, to evaluate the on-going CWH declaration procedure, define or explain the important terms in the context of FRA and rectify the mis-perceptions about the CWH declaration. Dr.Lele is also a member of the CWH Monitoring Committee constituted by the Tribal Development Department of Maharashtra for monitoring CWH implementation in Melghat Wildlife Sanctuary. See Government resolution here- (https://www.maharashtra.gov.in/Site/Upload/Government%20Resolutions/Engl...).
People: Anuja Date, Dr. Atul Joshi, Arushi Khare, Dr. Shruti Mokashi, Parthipan S., Venkat Ramanujam