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Collective ownership and management of human-dominated forests by local communities through an innovative rights-based framework is critical for achieving synergies in several sustainable development goals. Models of sustainable forest management that combine secure tenure rights with locally operated forest enterprises, and linkages to formal markets enhance the capacity of local communities to increase their income from the sale of Seasonal Forest Products, and secure jobs and livelihoods in the formal economy.
The initiative on Forest Economy is focused on making a business case for Community Forest Resource rights recognition in India by collaborating with various stakeholders as a Technical, Implementation, and Knowledge Partner.
This section provides an overview of the progress on the initiative in each of the implementing states in India.
OUR LABORATORIES OF CHANGEChamba, Himachal Pradesh
Chamba is the northwestern district of Himachal Pradesh with its headquarters in Chamba town. The district has been identified as ‘Aspirational’ by the Government of India with an ambition to strengthen it by identifying and improving its strengths. Chamba is one of the top producers of valuable Seasonal Forest Products in the state. Some of the high value Seasonal Forest Products that are collected and locally sold by forest dependent communities like Wild Hazelnuts, are not produced in other forest landscapes in Himachal Pradesh.
There are four Forest Divsions in Chamba: Pangi, Bharmaour, Churah and Chamba. Forests in each of the four divisions are producers of one or more Wild Foods like Hazelnuts (Corylus avellana), Walnuts (Juglans regia), Pine Nuts (Pinus gerardiana), Morel Mushrooms (Morchella esculenta), and Black Cumin (Nigella sativa). Some of the high value Medicinal Plants collected by local communities in the district are Kadoo (Picrorhiza kurroa), Patish (Aconitum heterophyllum), Ban Lahsun (Fritillaria roylei), and Mushk Bala (Valeriana wallichi). The Seasonal
Forest Products found in Chamba have industrial and commercial applications and present tremendous potential to increase rural prosperity. Currently, these Seasonal Forest Products are collected by local people, particularly women, and are traded through informal channels that suffer from diseconomies of scale. Our current effort in Chamba is designed to develop a sustainable and scalable business model which builds on the framework of secure tenure rights, a technology stack to support the system in ensuring visibility, transparency, and accountability. This business will be operated by community forest enterprises owned by local women and their organizations. Bringing the trade in Seasonal Forest Products into the formal economy will increase rural wealth, empower women, and foster sustainable management of forests. We are working in collaboration with the Himachal Pradesh State Rural Livelihoods Mission, Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Department, and the Himachal Pradesh Forest Department to set up women-centric forest enterprises within the framework of community forest resource rights in the district.
OUR LABORATORIES OF CHANGEChhota Banghal, Himachal Pradesh
The Chhota Bhangal valley in Kangra district comprises the catchment areas of Uhl and Lambadag rivers meeting at the regional headquarters of Multhan. The valley includes 28 villages spread across the Himalayan landscape, ranging in altitude from 6000 feet in Multhan at the confluence of the two rivers, all the way to Bhujling at 10,000 feet. The forests and alpine pastures used by these communities lie even higher, up to an altitude of more than 17,000 feet. The Seasonal Forest Products collected from these forests provide critical incomes to local residents. Communities also rear livestock, mostly sheep and goats, and cultivate cash crops on marginal rainfed landholdings to generate additional income.
Residents of Chhota Bhangal have been excluded from using their forests repeatedly over the last 100 years. During the 1920s, the colonial government prohibited grazing in the nutrient-rich alpine pastures under the pretext of prevention of erosion. A new dam had just been built less than a kilometer downstream of Multhan and the authorities were concerned that erosion from grazing activity will lead to rapid siltation of the dam, reducing its capacity to generate electricity. This restriction was formally lifted only at the time of independence and the memory of exclusion remains strong in the collective consciousness of residents in the valley. More recently, much of the valley was included in the Dhauladhar Wildlife Sanctuary, with potential restrictions of extraction of Seasonal Forest Products. One consequence of the real or expected restrictions is that much of the trade in Seasonal Forest Products is channelized through informal market networks.
The prospect of restrictions mobilized local communities to file for Community Forest Resource rights over their traditional forests. With the support of Kisan Sabha, a Civil Society Organization active in the area, Forest Rights Committees were formed in 2014 to work towards CFR titles. In 2020, 28 Gram Sabhas received community forest resource titles, and started working towards a management plan to ensure sustainable harvesting of Seasonal Forest Products.
OUR LABORATORIES OF CHANGESimdega, Jharkhand
Simdega district in Jharkhand has a continuous stretch of forest that has Sal trees in abundance. The local communities in Simdega are primarily dependent upon agriculture but also collect Sal seeds in lean agricultural periods. These seeds are sold to the traders, locally known as mahajans, in the weekly markets that procure low but quick cash incomes to the local collectors. The ISB forest governance initiative in Simdega is working towards formalizing the value chain of the Sal seeds, generating wealth for the poor seasonal forest product collectors, particularly the women collectors, contributing to the overall development of Jharkhand in sustainable ways. The enthusiasm of the local communities, interest shown by the local state authorities, and connectivity with the capital town of Ranchi were some of the key reasons for selecting Simdega as our pilot. Our interventions in Simdega are based on a three-pronged approach of working with the community, government, and industries, and facilitating their engagement, using appropriate technology and its targeted application. At the community level, we are engaged in ensuring community forest rights titles under
the Forest Rights Act, 2006, facilitating and training the local communities for participatory forest inventory mapping, and enabling aggregation of the local communities, operating through nested institutions.We are also working towards introducing locally customized technological intervention for pre-processing the Sal seeds before their sale in the market. Currently, separation of seeds is locally done by using the traditional methods of burning and grinding that affect the quality of the seeds for industrial use. Our technological intervention is intended to reduce the local efforts and ensure that the quality is maintained, which will help in attracting potential industrial buyers. Our current engagement with the Chief Minister’s Office in Jharkhand has enabled convergence between the Welfare Department, and the Department of Forest and Climate Change, necessary to advance our initiative by fostering a supportive and sustainable institutional environment. Further, we have initiated a dialogue on responsible business with CFR communities with the industry partners like Manorama industries, Ballarpur Industries Limited, and Hindustan Unilever Limited.
OUR LABORATORIES OF CHANGEGadchiroli, Maharashtra
Gadchiroli in Maharashtra is the first district in India that received Community Forest Rights under The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, popularly known as Forest Rights Act (FRA). Despite this, there remains a significant gap in the realization of the potential benefits of the CFR rights due to the lack of interventions to create jobs, livelihoods, and market linkages in the forest economy sector. In 2018-19, our yearlong project of participatory inventory mapping in the villages of Gadchiroli highlighted twenty-three SFPs which have high economic potential for enhancing rural livelihoods. Our work is in collaboration with the local NGO Aamhi Amchya Arogya Sathi and the Korchi Mahagram Sabha. Our efforts are now directed towards strengthening the institutional structures and establishing sustained market linkages to promote increased livelihood opportunities and sustainable forest use in the
district. Our current focus is on the Korchi and Kurkheda blocks in the district where Korchi Mahagram Sabha, a federation of eighty-seven gram sabhas in Korchi, and Farmer Producer Organization in Kurkheda are functional. At this stage, we are working towards establishing market linkages for SFPs like Bamboo, Mahua, Harada, and Beheda, having high industrial demands. In this direction, we are building a sustainable and scalable business model in the district which rests upon secure community forest tenure rights, transparent and accountable institutions, financial literacy and inclusion of the local communities, and targeted use of technology to increase overall productivity. Our collaboration with the State Rural Livelihood Mission, and Van Dhan Yojana, enables us to involve the collectors of these SFPs, particularly the women, in setting up the forest-based enterprise.
OUR LABORATORIES OF CHANGEMalkangiri, Odisha
Seasonal Forest Products are an important source of livelihoods for the forest dependent communities in Odisha. These products are collected for sale in the local markets as well as stored for subsistence use. Odisha has 9 percent of India’s Bamboo cover, primarily concentrated in the KBK region (Koraput, Bolangir, and Kalahandi). This region was later divided into eight districts, including Malkangiri. Malkangiri is an ‘Aspirational district’ and has tremendous scope for economic development through an inclusive forest-based economy.
Malkangiri is a top producer of Seasonal Forest Products like Bamboo, Turmeric, Tamarind, Tendu, and Mahua among others. At present, bamboo is harvested by forest dependent communities and sold as raw material to the paper-and-pulp industry though a long and informal trade network. Our effort in Malkangiri is to build formal linkages between forest dependent communities with secure tenure and corporate partners from the paper-and-pulp industry.
In Malkangiri, village communities will use novel technology to estimate the production and distribution of bamboo in the district, demarcate traditional forest boundaries for community forest resource rights recognition, and set up women-centric forest enterprises for aggregation and value addition. This season, the communities are focused on setting up this system for Bamboo with an ambition to include other high-value Seasonal Forest Products. In Odisha, we are collaborating with the Department of Scheduled Tribe, Scheduled Caste, Minority, and Backward Class Welfare, Integrated Tribal Development Agency, and the Forest Department to set up an inclusive forest economy in Malkangiri.