A successful government-supported pilot implementation of CFR in Simdega, Jharkhand

The Initiative on Forest Economy by BIPP-ISB has a vision to create women-led forest enterprises. The first step to fulfilling this vision is the mandatory recognition of community forest rights (CFR). 

The IoFE team developed a participatory model to upscale the process of filling claims and securing CFR, incorporating input and guidelines from the state government. This model will be replicated across the state after it is successfully implemented in pilot clusters (at the block level) of villages. We were able to fill and deliver six CFR claims to the Bano Block office for verification, owing to the tremendous efforts of our team’s project specialist, Mr. Sandip Choudhary. 

Timeline of events for successful filling and delivery of the CFR claims in Bano, Jharkhand 

Our team began working with multiple stakeholders in Simdega in September 2022 to initiate the scaling up of the Community Forest Resource (CFR) rights claim filing process across clusters of 175 villages in the blocks of Jaldega, Kolebira, and Bano chosen as pilots for our initiative. We conducted three multistakeholder block-level meetings at each of the three pilot blocks. The operational plan included each stakeholder’s detailed role and their responsibilities in this process to upscale CFR and acted as a baseline for monitoring and learning indicators across the project’s implementation timeline. 

On October 26, 2022, IoFE Project Specialist Mr. Sandip Choudhury met with Mr. K Srinivasan, the State Welfare Secretary of Jharkhand, to discuss the Initiative on the Forest Economy, the adoption of the mobile app RatiFi, and the status of the claim filing process for Community Forest Resource Rights within the state. 

Mr. K Srinivasan was enthusiastic to include RatiFi, the Android-built mobile application, in the Forest Economy business model. RatiFi will facilitate uniformity, easy and efficient access to evidentiary documents, and rapid scalability. The Android version of the app is currently accessible on the Google Play Store. He proposed multiple applications of RatiFi in the Forestry Service. 

We discussed the progress and potential of implementing the forest economy initiative with Mr. Deepak Lakra and the State Welfare Secretary in Ranchi. The geographic focus of this meeting was primarily Simdega, with later stage inclusion of all potential CFR areas in Jharkhand.This covered, inter alia, the SHG architecture supported by the Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society (JSLPS), the credit system, the June sale of sal seeds, and mechanisation possibilities. The generation of CFR claims in Simdega was a major point of discussion. Mr. Lakra and the Welfare Secretary advised us to complete the CFR claim process for 10–20 of our pilot villages in Simdega in a focused manner and then think of scaling our efforts. We have, therefore, selected 15 villages in the Bano block to fast-track the claim generation process in three panchayats. We also agreed on holding regular online meetings to discuss and update respective officials on the progress in Simdega. 

Mr. Sandip Choudhury, IoFE Project Specialist, regrouped with the team of interns to prioritise work according to the new plan of action. We started form-filling for the selected villages and analysed the uploading process of filled-up forms on RatiFi. The IoFE team began with the form-filling in these villages in Simdega. Form-filling for six villages in Bano under the Bintuka panchayat commenced on Friday, January 20th. The form-filling process was then expedited in 15 villages in three panchayats: Semhatu, Bera Erge, and Bintuka. The digital versions of the Khatian (Record of Rights) for a few villages in Semhatu and Bera Erge were missing. We tried to get them from the Bano Block office. CFR maps of a few villages were missing, so our technology team immediately started on creating these maps. The progress in six villages of Bintuka was better as compared to others, and our team submitted the documents for physical verification to the Circle Inspector (CI) at the Revenue Department of the Bano block. 

In mid-February of 2023, the feedback on the efficacy and experience of the app was shared with Prof. Ashwini Chhatre, Executive Director of BIPP-ISB, for his remarks. We tested the theory with the JSLPS ground mobilisation cadre after incorporating his suggestions. Meanwhile, field-level processes such as FRC formation, map creation, evidence document collection, and work allocation to new FRC members are continued. The interns have been trained to use the updated forms, and a strategy has been devised to speed up all of the processes. 

Finally, on February 27, 2023, we successfully submitted CFR claims for six out of the 15 selected villages to Cl, Bano for verification. His office has asked us to make some changes and resubmit. They proactively shared copies of “Gairmajurwa Jungle Jhadi Vivran Prapatr III,” which can support the claim filling process for nearly every village in the Bano block. This will help us prepare better claims for the entire block, including the nine claims that are in progress. 

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