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VASUNDHARA - Democratising Natural Resources Governance

Community Forest Management Over the Years:

Living in harmony with forest and biodiversity has been integral part of forest dwelling communities of India. The knowledge of forest and biodiversity conservation is not new to them as it has been abundantly reflected in their traditional practices, religious belief, rituals, folklores, arts and crafts and in the day to day lives from time immemorial. Many ancient cultures tell us how communities lived in harmony with nature, with a tradition of reverence for the elements that constitute ecosystems, drawing their sustenance from natural resources and at the same time protecting the environment that sustains them. 

In the race of rapid economic growth India is no exception to the global phenomenon of environmental degradation brought about by developmental activities. Rapid industrialization, growing urbanization, mining, and other developmental activities, coupled with increasing biotic pressure have had a very adverse impact on forest and biodiversity, thereby seriously affecting local livelihoods. On the other hand communities are either being evicted from Protected Areas or the restrictive policy puts a bar on people’s customary and basic rights in favor of conservation of biodiversity and wildlife.  

Over the last few decades, community-based forest management has graduated from being an experimental strategy to becoming a much more mainstream approach in different part of India in order to compensate the loss of biodiversity and livelihood. In Odisha there are large number of villages having self initiated forest management (known as Community Forest Management groups) which include a great diversity of institutions and adaptive management systems. An estimated 8,000 to 12,000 villages in the state of Odisha have been engaged in “self-initiated community-based forest management” (CBFM), protecting and managing more than a million hectares of forest on the state owned forest land in the state. The CFM initiatives have effectively dealt with forest related conflicts and external threats and have evolved into more organized forms of federations at local and regional level such as Maa Maninag Jungel Surakshya Parisada in Ranpur, Zilla Jungel Manch in Deogarh etc. Women have taken active role in the CFM initiatives by forming groups and federations which are taking up conservation and livelihoods initiatives. There is also a state level federation called Orissa jungle Mancha ( OJM) which consists many of these federations together. 

Democracy, Equity, Social Justice and Ethical Development

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