Forests, Governance and Livelihoods

Although the 1988 National Forest Policy tried to provide a new set of priorities and a participatory approach to forest management in India, the forest landscape continues to be a highly contested terrain. First, focused wildlife conservation led to the rapid expansion of Protected Areas (PAs), but at the cost of eviction of indigenous populations. Second, rapid industrialisation-led economic growth created enormous pressure to convert forests to mines, dams and highways. And third, state attempts to involve communities in the management of forests for local use through Joint Forest Management (JFM) programmes have floundered.
The landmark Forest Rights Act passed in 2006 attempts to address all these issues, but its implementation has been poor and highly incomplete. Meanwhile, forests have become the focus of climate change mitigation efforts because of their potential to sequester carbon.

The question then is: how can forest governance be restructured and ecological and social science knowledge be deployed to strike a balance between local livelihood needs and biodiversity in a democratic manner? This programme believes that forests and common lands benefit stakeholders at many scales – local, regional and global. We seek to engage in interdisciplinary research and policy outreach to enhance livelihoods, cultural well-being, forest sustainability, and to strengthen democratic and equitable forest governance.

Overarching themes

  • Action research and policy support on community forest resource management in Central India.
  • Co-management and sustainable use of non-timber forest products as alternative livelihoods.


  • Developing, testing and promoting strategies for co-management in conservation-priority areas or PAs.
  • Developing, testing and promoting strategies for sustainable forest-based livelihood enhancement in the wider, livelihood-priority forest landscape.
  • Exploring and promoting strategies to ensure synergy between carbon-focused restoration and decentralized forest governance and related livelihood and environmental goals.