Bonda Tribes in Malkangiri, Odisha Initiate CFRR Recognition Process: First Step towards legally securing their right on the Forest Landscapes

Jayanti Buruda, Cluster coordinator is outlining the plan with the ground team.

BIPP-ISB’s flagship initiative, the “Initiative on Forest Economy (IoFE),” has a vision of building long-term sustainable forest enterprises by connecting forest-dwelling communities to industries for large-scale sales of regionally abundant seasonal forest products. Community Forest Resource Rights (CFRR) recognition has become a revolutionary tool for forest communities to become owners of the forests and legally participate in the trade of SFPs for their livelihoods. Recently, the operations of the IoFE team were initiated in Bonda Ghati, situated in the Malkangiri district of Odisha, where the Bonda tribe, one of India’s Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG), resides. 

The IoFE team initiated the operation for filling claims for the recognition of CFRR in February 2023, with the lead from our Cluster Coordinator, Jayanti Buruda, to set up a pilot for forest economy with PVTG as an entire chain. The first operation was set up essentially to work on three dimensions: 

(a) Obtain data on the number of villages, households, seasonal forest products (SFP), households involved in SFP collection, sales of SFP, previous year collected volume and price, and a list of potential young PVTG girls for the formation of a Forest Producer Company (FPC) and Self-Help Groups (SHGs). 

(b) Conduct multiple meetings with the FRC (Forest Rights Committee) cell and Project Administrator of the Integrated Tribal Development Authority to understand the gaps and processes necessary to convert filled CFRR claims to titles. 

(c) Review the previous year’s Habitat rights claim filed by the Gram Sabhas (Bonda and Dadai), submit it to the Sub-district Level Committee (SDLC) as per FRA, 2006, and fill the gaps in the claim filing process in collaboration with the FRC. 

The team has drafted specific guidelines for habitat rights and sent them to the SC&ST department in Odisha to issue them separately or include them in the Standard Procedure. These guidelines will significantly help the department work with any PVTG in Odisha. The IoFE team has prepared the list for 32 villages out of 36, and once the CFRR filling process is complete, the management plan and collective sale under Rules 2(1)(d) and 4(1)(e) will start. 

The CFRR claim filing faces two major challenges: lack of awareness about rights among the Bonda tribes and unavailability of necessary documents, which slows down the process. To address these issues, the IoFE team has prepared an immediate action plan with inputs from the Gram Sabha and the government. The plan includes the following steps: 

– Determining the nature of mapping the forest for the CFRR recognition process through a meeting with the Gram Sabha and the government. 

– Selecting five volunteers from each village to expedite the CFRR claim filing process. 

– Organizing workshops to spread awareness about CFRR, explain the legal procedures, and highlight the benefits of CFRR titles to communities. 

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