|Number of households||700|
|Number of people||4000|
Sidhamula village is located in Khandapada Tehsil of Nayagarh district in Odisha, India. It is situated 42km away from sub-district headquarter Khandapada and 42km away from district headquarters at Nayagarh. The other revenue villages in the Sidhamula panchayat are Balaramprasad, Ghodamaridwar (Duargaon), Rajakiari, Kanasingh, Barapurikia, Hatiapalli and Nagajhar. The village is located on the bank of River Mahanadi that has sprawling sands. A lush green semi-evergreen well stocked riparian forest extends along the bank of the river. The place is also famous by the name Gokulananda which has transformed into a popular eco-tourism site. Altogether the village enjoys traditional access to all types of forests within the ecosystem for several purposes starting from fuel wood collection, gathering wild edibles, cattle grazing to NTFP collections. Villagers collect medicinal plants, herbs, bark, leaves, flowers and root to prepare medicine for local utilization. It is said that before the roads and other infrastructure development that happened in the area, the villagers were depending on the herbal medicines sourced from the forests and administered by traditional medicine men.
There are about 700 households in the village with a population of about 4000 inhabiting 4 hamlets and the main village. The fisherman (Keuta) community make up about 40%, the communities belonging to Other backward classes (OBC) and general castes make up about 30% and the Scheduled Tribe population constitute about 30% of the total population. Except for a few households, people in the village have marginal agricultural land holding to the extent of as less as 0.5 Acre. The villagers consider agriculture and fishing their main source of their income. Number of men and women from this village are engaged as labourer in bidi making company. From the discussion with the villagers it emerged that agriculture contributes about 60% to their livelihoods. The families having small land holdings do not benefit much from using the cooperative labour system operating in the village. So, to supplement income from agriculture, villagers engage themselves in wage earning pursuits both in organized and unorganized sectors.
|Origin||New initiative by community|
|Year of Formation||-|
Sidhamula is more than 500 years old village surrounded by hills, forests and Mahanadi River. Mahukana is the main forest which the village communities have been protecting and accessing regularly for usufructory benefits. The people of Sidhamula village observe various festivals and functions throughout the year. Some of the deities who are worshipped are installed within the forest. Main holy shrine in this village forest is Gokulananda temple where Lord Krishna is worshiped. There is a tale that people who do not have child offer wish granting worship to Lord Gokulananda. Once their wish get fulfilled they come back to the temple, offer worships and seek blessings of Lord Krishna for overall well-being of the family. The community celebrates Pausa parba, Chaiti parba, Dipawali, Ramnavami, Dola Parba and Dushera. The festivals are related to nature, agricultural activities and well-being of the community. Most of the festivals are community events. Offerings are made to the deities in Sidhamula in anticipation of good rains which are a pre-condition for good harvests, healthy forests and wellbeing of the family. ‘Bali bhata’ ritual is a special occasion that is organized on the eve of Dasahara on the sands of the river down the Mahukana forest. It is a symbolic festival in which women gather and cook bali bhata (sand rice) like children’s play. Only the women are part of the ritual. After cooking bali bhata there, all the women dance together. Because of this customary tradition continuing since ages the women solidarity is well maintained in the village. The forest was relatively more well stocked, diverse and dense with miscellaneous endemic vegetation forming continuous canopy. Economic trees like mango, tamarind, haridra, bahada, amla and bamboo are found in this forest in fairly good population as compared to the other forests. The villagers have been protecting Mahukana forest for more than the last five decades. Before 1971 it was a dense forest in the hill and people were scared to enter into the forest. People never thought of any need to organize forest protection activities. People from nearby villages and timber mafia started felling trees for their personal use and do business. The river system provided enormous scope for transportation of the logs by boat. Thus, indiscriminate felling of many endemic timber species continued. When villagers realised the scarcity of forest produces due to depletion of forest resources, a group of people started protecting the forests around. They formed a committee Utkal Mani Seva Sangha in 1971 whose primary objective was to protect their forest along with extending other sort of social services warranted under situations. In later times a Forest Protection Committee was constituted in the behest of the traditional council. The conservation initiative that started about 50 years ago is seen as a responsive action of the community towards maintaining their fuelwood requirements, construction materials, prevent soil erosion and maintain the supply of NTFPs that contributed to their subsistence and contingent requirements, through protection of the forest. According to the village communities they formed an informal forest protection committee in the name of Utkal Mani Seva Sangha at the village level involving the village youth who took a call on the community concerns over degradation of the forest. It was a time when massive tree felling was done by intruders coming from other areas who used to smuggle wood for industrial and market needs. When the forest got degraded the traditional village council and members of Utkalmani Seva Sangha took decision to protect it. In later times a Forest Protection Committee was constituted in the behest of the traditional council.
1) village found 500 years back
2) During the 1970s, lots of religious beliefs were manifested in the village
3) before 1971, degradation of forest happened where timber mafia and people from newarby villages started felling trees, thus the villagers formed Utkal Mani Seva Sangha in 1971 as an action towards conservation of their forest
The community conservation initiatives by and large address to the livelihood and socio-economic reasons and biodiversity conservation with religious notions associated with. The villagers in Sidhamula have been depending on the forests for varieties of requirements. About 50 years ago, the villagers faced hardship in getting minimum basic supplies from the forest in terms of fuel wood, construction materials, wild edibles and certain NTFPs, they felt the need for coordinating their efforts to protect the forest, sustain the primary production in forest and ensure supply of basic necessities from the forest. Forest protection activities thus became a need-based drive.
|Collective of CCAs||-|
|Decision Making Body||Others → Forest protection committee|
|Rules and Regulations||Formal|
|Community activities through the year||Patrolling, watch and ward|
All the households in the village irrespective of any discrimination are involved in the conservation initiatives. The community level organizations such as the traditional village council, youth club, and women SHGs are primarily involved in the initiative. External organizations, forest department,NGOs and other agencies are also involved directly or indirectly encouraging the community protection. Each member in the community and the community-based organizations are directly involved in the forest protection and regeneration activities. There is significant contribution of women in the whole initiative. Women usually do not participate in regular issue - based meetings. However, in certain occasions, the women groups conduct separate meetings for articulating their concerns, if any, on the matters of forest. After discussions, they share the proceedings with male members in the family which is ultimately brought to the notice of village committee and the members of village forest committee. Usually they discuss the status of supply of fuel wood, tubers, NTFPs, interference by people from neighboring villages, etc. Women SHGs create awareness among villagers about the right time for collection of forest produces. The committee extend support to the disadvantaged during times of death or marriage in the family, thereby trying to achieve equity between poor and rich. The Gram panchayat office, block office, Forest range office, Watershed department, and NGOs are other external institutions with which the villagers of Sidhamula have direct and indirect interactions. The Forest department in particular, is involving itself in provisioning for plantations and silvicultural operations. The relationship with the forest department is neutral and non-demanding. After the declaration of Eco-tourism centre, the forest department is more vigilant and engage the villagers in plantation works in the forest, eco-tourism areas and both side of approach road to Gokulananda in lieu of which they are paid wages. The Gram panchayat office being more attached to the villagers contribute to the cause indirectly. The villagers are of view that the elected representatives of the GP cooperate with them and give due priority to their village in matters of welfare programmes and projects. The Sarpanch of the GP (Sidhamula GP) appreciated the collective actions of the villagers for forest protection, intra-village solidarity and their working relationship with formal institutions. According to him, the forest department did not have any role in restoration of the forests in Sidhamula and all credit goes to the villagers. The Forest range officer corroborated the versions of the villagers and the Sarpanch regarding protection of the forest. He stated that a good patch of natural forest is being protected by the village community and he expressed his solidarity with the villagers.
DECISION MAKING SYSTEMS
One/two members from every family involved in regular watch and ward activity of the forests. The villagers thus decided to create a village fund for protection and development of the forest. Forest related meetings are held by the villagers 2-3 times in a year. In these meetings, the forest protection activities and the status of forest health are usually discussed and reviewed. On the basis of the discussions, at village level decisions are taken about restricting and/or lifting ban on certain interferences. However, in certain occasions the forest committee may sit over issues like smuggling from forest, conflicts arising out of sharing of benefits and cut and carry by people from other villages.. During the interaction, people recalled that they had to convene special meetings when the villagers of Sidhamula and adjacent village Paturia continuously extracted fuel wood and construction materials from the forests protected by Sidhamula. Apart from the traditional village council, the village forest committee and the Forest rights committee, the other actors involved are as following: i) Traditional Village Council: The villagers have a traditional village council whose supremacy in forest protection activities is maintained since 1981. Every month all the villagers participate in common assembly to discuss about the impact of forest degradation, the requirement of initiatives and practices towards restoring the forests and other common issues concerning the collective interests in the village. Elderly men and women from each family participate in the assembly and discuss the issues pertaining to forest protection. A general body is constituted for forest protection initiatives. Two persons from each family are members of general body and women participate in every decision making process. ii) Village Forest Committee: Under the supervision of the traditional village council, the villagers constituted an informal forest protection committee in the village about 40 years ago. The forest protection committee works as an extended hand of the traditional village council and takes help of the youth club for protection activities. All villagers participate in forest protection and share vigilance duties in the form of Thengapali. One member from each family on rotation basis engage in watch and ward activities. In the matters of conflict resolution, the traditional village council, the youth club and the forest protection committees act as a single unit. Thus, the forest committee is a well-coordinated one. In the forest committee all the households are members but the committee is constituted with male members only. There has been no external facilitation for functioning of the committee. The forest protection committee oversees the watch and ward activities, conflict resolution, creation of village fund for forest protection and regeneration, selection of person for watch and ward and other related matters. iii) Forest Rights Committee: This is a formal committee set up under provisions contained in the Scheduled Tribes and Other traditional Forest Dwellers (recognition of Rights) Act, 2006 at the revenue village level. The committee is responsible for preparing and validating claims for recognition of individual and community forest rights. It is a formal committee with representation of men and women. The committee is a statutory committee set to claim the Community forest rights and to lead the forest management practices in the post title recognition phase.
Over a period, a set of rules and norms have evolved for protection, management, benefit sharing and conflict resolution related to forests. For example, no large tree is cut without approval of the entire village. People of the village are allowed to collect dry branches and twigs to meet domestic firewood requirements. When silvicultural operations are made, all the households share the slashes equally. Decisions are taken on democratic process without challenging authority of traditional village institution on time for collection of firewood, imposition of fine on someone found to have stolen any forest produce without any approval, inter-village disputes, etc. As a rule, any family in the village requiring some construction materials from the forest first informs the village committee and takes approval for extraction of materials from the forest. In none of the cases the family can extract more resources than the approved quantity. On the occasions of community festivals, rituals like marriage and mortuary rites, a similar approval is taken from the village committee to extract fuel wood and other requirements from the forest. However, the following rules are in operation i) Prior permission is required for cutting of trees. Any individual who requires wood for making farm implements has to communicate village forest committee for his requirements. ii) 2-3 persons are voluntarily engaged in guarding two hills Malati Mundia and Madhukarnika. All families from the village are bound to be involved in watch and ward activity in periodic basis. iii) Any person found cutting trees without permission from the forest has to pay a fine in proportion to the damage done by him to the forest and has to return the cut tree to the village committee. iv) In case of massive damage to forest due to tree felling by outsiders, amount of fine is decided by the Village forest committee. v) Cutting of damaged trees if required is done in a systematic manner i.e. cutting the tree at an inclined angle to promote coppice generation. vi) Committee members must take rounds of the forest every day to ensure proper protection and conservation of the village forest. vii) Fuel wood collected only by head load. Other vehicles are not allowed. viii) In case of disasters due to cyclones or such other causes, the felled trees are auctioned in coordination with the forest department. The forest protection rules set by the villagers are ingrained in them. Over the years, abiding by the rule systems have become like common habits. The villagers feel that because of the rule systems, they could develop the forest as an asset for themselves. The general attitude of the villagers is very positive. There has been very rare instance so far regarding any violation of the rules of village committee. In the village meetings, decisions are taken on the gravity of violations on the basis of which penalty is decided. For example, a fine of Rs. 10/- Rs 50/-was imposed on felling trees. Penalty system is not fixed. The amount levied as penalty depends upon the type and quantity of trees felled or stolen. If a person of another village is found to be stealing timber from the forest, the people of Sidhamula arrest the person, seize stolen wood and impose hefty fine. There has been no occasion to lodge any complaint with the police as on now. However, when the CFR issue was taken up, a boundary conflict arose between this village and neighbouring village Paturia. The boundary conflict arose over delineation of traditional user access and protection activities. In matter of fact, the controversial patches are protected and safeguarded by the villagers of Sidhamula but both the villages enjoyed open access into the controversial patch. Hence, the conflict mainly centred on delineation of the resource rights not the boundary.
MANAGEMENT AND RESOURCE USE
The resource use from the forest is optimum. The traditional process of gathering NTFP continues. For collection of the fruits and seeds, the villagers wait till they fall on ground. Floral buds, leaves are collected in very sustainable manner. No patch of forest is over exploited and similarly no particular flora is over-exploited. The fuel wood collection from the forest is rationed in terms of head load but the restriction is that only dry twigs and branches are collected. Grazing in the forest is restricted. It remains limited to the forest fringes on the roadsides and guided by the herdsmen. If the cattle are found going inside the forest then the herdsman is reprimanded. The Mahanta of the Gokulananda matha initiated gap filling plantations inside the forest. Many economically useful and multi-purpose tree species have been planted inside. The trees of religious importance like amla, bel, peepal, sami, figs have been densely planted around the matha. That area is treated as kind of inviolate zone because of the religious sentiments attached to the site and the trees. The area where the eco-tourism cottages and buildings have been constructed remains as an open area where people have maximum interference. However, the forests lying to the backside of the eco-tourism complex remains inviolate and various types of common wildlife species are found there. Occasionally, especially in the summer season, villagers visit such patches to gather NTFP. In the rainy season there is apparently no interference in that patch of forests. The forests facing the river was denuded in past. Over the years through plantations the canopy has been restored. Many fruit bearing species and NTFP yielding species have been planted there and therefore such patches of forests are frequently visited for gathering the usufructs. The primary forests in the core of Mahukana – Madhukarnika hills fosters kinds of medicinal herbs that are normally not found in other forests. Many of such species of medicinal importance was conserved and propagated by the Mahanta of the matha. The vaidyas from different areas visit such sites during different seasons to gather medicinal herbs sustainably. The village forest committee monitors medicinal plant and they ensure that no overexploitation is made.
|Legal Status||Forest Area under IFA → Unclassed forest|
|Community Forest Resource Rights (CFR)||-|
|Date of filing CFR claim||-|
|Level of CFR claim||-|
|Date of recognition of CFR claim||-|
|Management plan status||-|
|Land Ownership||Government owned → Forest Department|
|Other Recognised Status||-|
Regarding the awareness on laws and policies related to forest and wildlife is relative. Through interactions with Forest department functionaries and various awareness programs, they have understood that slashing forests for agriculture, hunting wildlife are punishable under law. However, people have a better awareness of their entitlements under Forest Rights Act.
|Impact on Livelihoods and Subsistence||Firewood, Non-timber forest produce|
|Social Impacts||Revival or continuation of cultural/religious associations|
|Ecological Impact||Good diversity and population of wildlife, Improved/sustained ecological services|
|Internal Threats and Challenges||Reduced awareness about biodiversity and its value|
|External Threats and Challenges||Negative impacts of tourism|
When the protection activities were initiated in 1971 there were visibly no wildlife in the forest. However, over the years of protection, wildlife like wild boar, jackal, monkey, bear, mongoose, rabbits, snakes are spotted now. Occasionally herds of elephants come there and after a short stay go back. The wildlife spotting in the forests is considered as an indicator that the forest is growing, as per the version of local people. In the last 40 years, the status of biodiversity has improved tremendously in the forest due to the efforts of the community. The people also expect that the quality of flora and fauna will grow further in future. Many varieties of endemic vegetation that were sort of lost have been restored. It’s remarkable that the medicinal plant wealth of the forest has increased due to least interference of people, low exploitations and the habitat management. The massive plantations undertaken inside the forest and the forest fringes have reconstructed the canopy. As such there is abundant evergreen and fruit bearing species that drags various kinds of avi fauna. The forest protection activities have made the village communities behave as an endowed social capital. Culturally, keeping the forest at centre they observe various festivals and functions throughout the year that contributes to solidarity in village. Economically, the villagers are getting varieties of NTFPs for domestic consumptions and market demands, and the supplies from the forest has increased. There are range of intangible benefits realized in terms of ecological services such as nutrient provisioning to low lands, soil moisture retention, increase in population of pollinators, cultural services and aesthetic services. Moreover, the village has been acknowledged for its community level collective initiatives that have brought them recognition and hence the government departments are taking interest in investing in the village.
i) Livelihood benefits is the most important factor supporting conservation ii) Religious notions associated with the site iii) Possibility of economic and employment benefits from eco-tourism iv) Media attention on peoples’ initiatives bringing reputation to the village v) Negotiating resource rights of neighbouring villages and involving them indirectly in protection activities by giving them open access to gather forest resources and at the same time, close monitoring to prevent overexploitation vi) Trust building with the forest department and joint planning for plantations and silvicultural practices
Some of the challenges faced by the community are: i) Restricting neighbouring villages from fuel wood collection is still seen as a challenge on grounds of emotional and socio-cultural exchanges. The villagers allow exploitation of their forest by the neighboring villages for meeting domestic requirements, but feel concerned about the loads of extraction. They see it a challenge to gradually reduce the dependency by neighboring villages. ii) The present generation youth does not seem to exhibit any emotional bondage with the forests as the elder generation see it. Closing the forest from exploitation or undertaking massive plantation is what the present day youth think is ideal forest management, the elders observed. Opining that without developing an emotional bondage with the forest, the forest can not be protected holistically and the elders lamented that the youth are little interested in such philosophy. Years of protection activities has restored the forest and now is the time to shift focus from protection to management. It is seen as a challenge to involve youth in envisioning this. The younger generation is more oriented towards timber than diversity. The traditional knowledge and perceptions on forests and ecosystem services are gradually fading away. While the older generation is advocating in favour of protecting and propagating diversity, the younger generation is on the side of plantation of exotic timber species. Further, the youth take larger interest in aesthetic landscaping to promote tourism potential at the cost of the natural architecture of the forest and hills which the older generation do not think is ideal. iii) There was an agreement between the forest department and the village forest protection committee to care and share the eco-tourism complex. Based on the agreement, the villagers agreed to allow the coming up of eco-tourism complex. However, after it being set up, the forest department kept the administrative and management authority with it. The villagers believe it as a breach of trust. With the increasing tourist inflow, the villagers feel concerned over maintaining the species and ecosystem diversity in the area. iv) Sidhamula village has drawn the attention of media and other agencies for their decades long efforts in forest protection and restoration. That has earned them quite lot of reputation. The news papers wrote pages in the past in the glory of the villagers’ initiative, the leaders of the village have participated in several panel discussions in television and other visual media. The village has been visited by many academicians, environment activists and senior officers from the government departments. The biggest challenge people see today is to maintain the reputation of the village as one of the pioneers in forest protection. v) Forest protection committee being an informal body is not able to leverage development funds from relevant government departments, NGOs and external agencies.
The community is aspiring to get a massage center in Sidhamula as availability of medicinal plants are ample. As bamboo is one of the most abundant and renewable resource available in this forest, community is looking for a paper industry or cottage industry related to bamboo in Sidhamula so that youth can be engaged and migration to other places will be minimized. The communities are also planning to start fresh afforestation programmes (for areas affected by cyclone) which will not only increase the forest cover but also help in making up the eco-balance.
|Data Source||By external entity with permission of community member|
|Year of Study||-|