ISB collaborates with Himachal Pradesh to develop forest economy

Prof. Ashwini Chhatre proposes an institutional design to facilitate sustainable extraction, value addition, and industrial procurement of forest products.  

Prof. Ashwini ChhatreExecutive Director; Dr. Aarushi Jain, Associate Director and Apurva DudduGovernance Specialist from the Indian School of Business (ISB) met the PCCF (Principal Chief Conservator of Forests), Mr. Ajay Srivastava at the Forest Department headquarters to discuss their findings on the current scale and future potential of the forest economy in Himachal Pradesh. In January 2021, the Himachal Pradesh Forest Department had requested the ISB team to propose a cluster-based strategy for the development of medicinal plants industry in the state. Based on ongoing research, Prof. Chhatre proposed an institutional design to facilitate sustainable extraction, value addition, and industrial procurement of forest products.  

Mr. Srivastava talked about the tremendous opportunity of forests to create jobs and livelihoods in Himachal Pradesh. He also emphasised that it is important that the jobs and incomes created from forest products must be done sustainably.  

Based on the data and knowledge from the forest department, the ISB team has proposed a three-pronged approach: First, build and optimise linkages between major corporate buyers for industrial raw material and local communities for direct procurement. Second, facilitate institutional and technological capacity building of communities for visibility, traceability, and accountability. Third, design incentives and institutions for forest conservation sustainable extraction. The success of this vision depends on partnerships with government agencies, businesses, and communities. 

The ISB team plans to pilot this approach in two clusters – in Pangi valley of Chamba district and in Chhota Banghal in Kangra district. The ISB team presented an action plan to the PCCF. This includes creating incentives for local communities by establishing Community Forest Resource Rights under the Forest Rights Act. Additionally, the ISB team has also received a very positive response from the Rural Development Department and the State Rural Livelihoods Mission for supporting this vision through women’s self-help groups.  

Members of the ISB team will spend the next two weeks in Pangi valley, with a focus on collaborating with Mahila Mandals and village communities and estimating the size of trade in guchhihazelnuts, and walnuts. The team would also initiate the process of mapping village boundaries for filing community forest resource rights claims and inventory mapping to estimate the yield of these three forest products. The team will closely work with the office of the Resident Commissioner in Pangi, who has been very supportive of the initiative.  

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