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VASUNDHARA - Democratising Natural Resources Governance
 

 
Over the Year :
 
 

2013 onwards: Facilitating Recognition of Community Forest Rights

Facilitating community forest rights recognition process within Odisha and outside has been the principal focus of Vasundhara’s work since 2013. The core of this strategy was to support community claims in areas where Vasundhara has a direct field presence as well as to support other organisations working in Odisha and elsewhere in India (especially Chhattisgarh) through capacity building of their workers. The knowledge and technical guidance has been to capacitate other CBOs and NGOs to support Gram Sabhas in filing claims for IFR, CR, CFR and Habitat Rights, usually in collaboration with district administrations. Till now we have provided direct / indirect support to over 1500 Gram Sabhas for making CR and CFR Claims, of which more than 600 have already got approved.

Currently we are collaborating closely with 5 district administrations (i.e. Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Kandhamal, Ganjam and Gajapati), and in alliance with 23 groups of CBOs and NGOs.

Capacity Building:

After amendment of the Forest Rights Rules, 2012, Vasundhara’s major focus has been building capacity of frontline Government officers, members of SDLC & DLC, field facilitators of CSOs and other actors involved in facilitation of forest rights Act, 2006. Till date, Vasundhara has imparted training to Government officers from the State of Telengana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Kerala, Odisha and Chhattisgarh in collaboration with National Resource Centre, Government of Odisha and UNDP-India.

Training Manuals:

Vasundhara has developed training manuals for the Government Functionaries and Gram Sabha members in collaboration with National Resource Centre (NRC) supported by Ministry of Tribal Affairs. Besides this, Vasundhara also developed special training manual for Delineation and Mapping of Community Forest Rights and Community Forest Resources in collaboration with National Resource Centre (NRC) supported by Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India.

Interactive and Self-Learning Course on Provisions of Forest Rights Act-2006:

Vasundhara has devised an interactive and Self-Learning Course on Provisions of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 in collaboration with National Resource Centre supported jointly by Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India and UNDP-India.

Process Guideline for Delineation and Mapping of Community Forest Rights:

Vasundhara has developed simple process guideline for facilitators for “Delineation and Mapping of Community Forest Resource through using technology like GPS”.

Process Guideline for Delineation and Mapping of Habitat Rights:

Vasundhara has developed a draft guideline on Delineation and Mapping of Habitat Rights of PVTGs in collaboration with SCSTRTI, Government of Odisha with support from UNDP-India and Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India.

Support to Pastoralist Communities for Delineation and Mapping of Seasonal Access Area:

Vasundhara has been providing support to Maldhari Communities (a pastoralist community from Gujarat) in collaboration with Sahjeevan, Kutch, Gujarat for Delineation and Mapping of Seasonal Access Area.

Potential Mapping of CFR Villages and Extent of Area:

Vasundhara had carried out a pilot study in the district of Mayurbhanj, Odisha for devising a methodology for identification of potential villages for recognition of right over Community Forest Resources in collaboration with SCSTRTI, Government of Odisha and District Administration of Mayurbhanj. The preliminary findings of the study was shared with Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India, resulted in issuance of guideline by the Ministry (No. 23011/18/2015, Dated 27.7.2015) to all other States and UTs for adoption of same methodology for identification of potential villages for their respective States. Till date, Vasundhara in collaboration with CFR-LA has produced a directory of villages for of all major States and UTs.

The Minimum Support Price for Minor Forest Produce:

Mechanism for Marketing of Minor Forest Produce (MFP) through Minimum Support Price (MSP) and Development of Value Chain for MFP - has been a major area of work. From it’s early days, Vasundhara contributed to the idea of a Minimum Support Price mechanism for Non Timber Forest Produce. So when the scheme for MSP for MFP was launched, Vasundhara worked at the grassroots level as well as in collaboration with the Tribal Development Cooperative Corporation (TDCC) to facilitate better implementation of the scheme on the ground. This helped the Women’s Collectives facilitated by Vasundhara and other women’s organisations enhance their income from NTFPs by up to 100%. For example the price of Chironjee Seed which attracted a market price of only about 40 rupees per kilogram could now fetch Rs 100/- per kilogram from the TDCC and about Rs 70/- per kilogram in the open market.

2007-2012:

The passage of the Scheduled Tribes and Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 acknowledged, for the first time, traditional rights of forest dwellers to conserve and nurture their forest resource. Vasundhara worked with State and Central Government departments to build awareness, capacities and sensitivities for the implementation of the Act. We also worked with other stakeholders such as NGOs, People’s Organisations, PRI Members and Academic Institutions to build their capacities. Vasundhara contributed to the rule making process for the Forest Rights Act by engaging with the committee appointed for the purpose.

During the initial implementation of the Forest Rights Act, the rules made in January 2008 were found to be inadequate in addressing many critical issues such as: definition of claimants for forest rights; lack of differentiation between Access Rights and Ownership & Management Rights (Community Rights vs Community Forest Resource Rights); right to transport Forest Produce; definition of forest land occupation; interpretation of evidence; and recognition and conversion of forest villages. Vasundhara along with other like-minded organisations worked to support the amendment in the principal rules and formulation of guidelines for addressing such inadequacies. The Guidelines were notified in July 2012 and the new Rules were notified in September 2012. The new rules and guidelines have been the principal basis of our work on facilitating claim and recognition of Forest Rights


2005-2006: With an aim to increase our sharpness and effectiveness, we reorganised ourselves into thematic groups and ventured into the newer arena of biodiversity and environment conservation. Land rights is another area where we intensified our research intervention. Subsequently, owing to our intensive and seminal research work on land rights, in 2006 the state government involved us as a resource organisation in its ongoing Orissa Tribal Empowerment and Livelihood Programme. Apart from our regular work along thematic lines, we are in the process of establishing a legal defense cell, particularly to look into cases of incarceration of marginalised sections of the community, and we would undertake legal research and support. 

2001-2004: The year 2001 was marked by intense mobilisation on kendu leaf issues.The year 2002 saw diversification of research covering areas like Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act, feasibility studies on NTFP enterprises, market studies, etc. The kendu leaf mobilisation process got a boost with people strongly putting forth their demands though a state-level workshop and subsequent massive public hearing programme on the issue. During this period, our research focus expanded, covering conservation and livelihood issues in Protected Areas. We also contributed significantly to the national-level forest rights campaign against the eviction of tribal and forest dwellers from forest land. This led us to venture into new areas of land rights issues. This period saw the beginning unique process of NTFP cooperativisation. In research we also ventured into the new area of land rights, only to end up with startling and remarkable findings. The year 2004 saw the NTFP cooperative process gaining momentum. We also explored remarkable organic clues to the detoxification of contaminated water, which could lead to the development of low-cost and local resource-based water treatment systems. We began the process of getting this knowledge disseminated to the larger public, and continued to further our research in this area. In order to sustain and strengthen the community enterprises process, several support initiatives focused on marketing and working capital support were begun. The Centre for Cooperative Business (CCB) was conceptualised during this period and was put into action.

1995-2000: In 1995, we attempted to practice what we learned from our past research work. During this period, we initiated the process of working with communities involved in forest protection – specifically the Tangi-Ranpur blocks of Khurda and Nayagarh, two neighbouring districts – with an aim towards strengthening the capacities of local communities for resource management and facilitating interaction and linkages amongst them. The period 1997-2000 was exciting and eventful. Vasundhara spearheaded a state-wide consultative process on evolving a pro-poor forest policy framework involving large number of community groups and civil society actors across the state. We also ventured into some new areas of research such as community-based fire management and sustainable NTFP harvesting. The end of the period also witnessed initiation of the process of community-based NTFP enterprises.

1991-1994:Vasundhara was formed in 1991 to work for institutional and policy changes in community forest management. It was registered under the Societies Registration Act in 1992. Work in our first two years was focused on research, and soon after our efforts expanded to networking. The Implementation of Joint Forest Management guidelines in Orissa saw diversification of our research with a focus on understanding JFM-related institutional, economic and ecological aspects, non-timber forest products (NTFPs), and policy issues. In 1994, Vasundhara received its first funding support from the Ford Foundation. From 1994-96, Vasundhara designed and facilitated participatory trainings for the frontline officials of territorial and social departments in 13 forest divisions of the Orissa Forest Department on the JFM concept and PRA (Participatory Rural Appraisal) tools for micro-planning. To facilitate proper implementation of JFM guidelines in the state, a state-level JFM steering committee and working group were constituted, and Vasundhara was a member. We were also a part of JFM national support groups including: Ecological and Economic Research Network, the National Network on JFM’s gender and equity subgroup, and the institutional and training subgroup. Further we undertook collaborative research and contributed in methodology development in different subject areas. Afterwards, we advocated and campaigned for Community Forest Management (CFM), which gives ownership, control, and benefits to local initiatives and organisations.


 

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