|Category of CCA||Defined|
|Number of households||48|
|Number of people||229|
Kotapokhari is a revenue village coming under Talabani GP of Ranpur Block in Nayagarh district. The village is located at a distance of about 14 Km from the Block headquarters and about 3 Km from the GP headquarters. The village is more than 200 years old and is well connected by road. It is bounded by the uninhabited Nirakarpur village to the north and the Talabani village to the south, to the east lies the Arakhapalli village and the Sulia B Reserve Forest and the Gramya Jungle lies to the west. Since years the villagers have been protecting, managing and utilizing the Sulia B Reserve forest for their bonafide requirements.
It is a multi-caste village which includes 14 households belonging to Khandayat community followed by 13 households coming under Milkman (Gopal) community. The Khandayats and Gopals make up the bulk population in the village. The other households include washerman community, Mali community, Mahanayak Sudra community, Teli (oil-man) community, Kumbhar (Potter) community, and Keuta (Fisher-man) community.
The primary occupation of the villagers is agriculture. Along with cultivation they have also managed small livestock units that supplements and complements their income from cultivation. Forest produces provide supplementary income for the relatively poor families in the village. The Mali, potter and the washerman community are service castes and have marginal agricultural land to sustain their annual food requirements. This makes them dependent on the forest for supporting family requirements apart from being engaged in the service based occupation.
The potter families, washerman families and mali families require reasonably more fuel wood from the forests to run their occupations. Wage earning, petty trading, service in private and government sectors are additional avenues for supplementing livelihoods for certain families. Invariably, all the families depend on NTFP and fuel wood from the forest protected by them since decades.
The total extent of agricultural land available in the village is about 100 acres. There are only two families who are landless, one belonging to Keuta caste and the other belonging to Khandayat caste. There is no homesteadless family in the village. The average land ownership in the village is 2 acres although the extent of land under household ownership ranges between 0.5 acres to more than 5 acres.
|Year of Formation||-|
It is said that the 200 years old village was settled in close proximity to the old Kotapokhari. However, the old Kotapokhari was being frequented by wild denizens that also troubled the community life and their resources. Hence, about 100 years ago the entire community shifted to the present location and by that got rid of problems caused by wildlife.
According to the villagers, in early days the dependency level was reasonably higher as compared to the current situation. Local accounts provide that during early days, the forests were the main source of dependence for many communities other than the Khandayat communities. The Khandayats owned agricultural lands and hence always had a lesser extent of dependency on the forests. During the King’s regime people were provided access to forests for their basic needs like fuel, fodder, wild edibles, construction materials and other such requirements and in turn were providing free labour to the King whenever required.
However, being a non-tribal village dependency on forests was secondary to agriculture and other caste-based occupations. In the past, villagers had fairly larger units of cattle and small ruminants. They were using the forests for grazing of cattle and collection of fuel wood as compared to various kinds of dependency the tribal people exhibit with forests. The patch of forest under protection by the villagers was given open access to the needy for food and NTFP collections.
Forests are now considered developmental and environmental resources for the village. However, the ultra poor families who have little or no land exhibit a subsistence mode of dependence on the forests. The villagers have been manipulating the Gramya jungle by raising plantations of commercial species which are occasionally harvested and the sale proceeds are maintained as village common fund. In the works pertaining to plantations, the whole village participates and contributes labour. There is no traditional belief, practice or religious notion associated with the purpose of conservation.
The motivation for conservation of forests emerged out of the crisis of forest products that was resulted out of several factors. The way the forests in the adjoining areas were getting degraded due to over exploitation, villagers felt alarmed about the projected crisis. Again, around the same time, the initiatives for forest protection had caught attention of people inside and outside. From the government side, the Joint Forest Management system was being introduced in the State, which the village communities in Nayagarh were strongly protesting.
The village communities in Nayagarh were organizing themselves in favour of the Community forest management claiming absolute ownership over the forests that they have been protecting. The campaign in favour of the community forest management turned out to be a movement in Nayagarh. Kotapokhari and its adjoining villages also joined the campaign and the network of forest protecting villages in the area. Thus, along with the crisis of forest produces, the cumulative of social, economic and political factors influenced and encouraged the villagers of Kotapokhari to strengthen their forest protection initiatives.
During the 1950s and 1960s, the forest was considerably depleted because of coupe operations. People started facing difficulty in getting essential items like firewood, timber for agricultural implements. The forest stream also dried up. The rainfall became more and more irregular and the village ponds became dry. These observations made people to think about the causes and find possible ways of mitigation. Some wise people came together and visualized the requirement of collective efforts to save the forest and the other ecological services provisioned by the forest. Initially people of five villages came together to protect the forest. Later it was realized that there remains deficiencies in coordinating with five villages. Besides some conflicts also arose between villages over a period of time and people defaulted in carrying out the assigned duties. Finally, the two villages Kotapokhari and Arakhapalli decided to provide watch and ward to this particular forest patch and since then they have been doing well in safeguarding the forest.
|Collective of CCAs||Yes|
|Decision Making Body||Others → Forest protection committee|
|Rules and Regulations||-|
|Community activities through the year||Patrolling, watch and ward|
The Forest protection committee is a member of the block level federation, Maa Maninaga Forest protection federation, Ranapur. Hence, certain rules and regulations and terms of reference with the federation are strictly adhered to maintain the network and energize continued cooperation.
On the matter of forest protection, the entire village community of Kotapokhari and the neighbouring village Arakhpalli stand as one unit irrespective of any discriminations in terms of caste, social and economic status. All adult members in the villages irrespective of gender differences are involved in the forest protection. United by the issue of forest protection, both the partnering villages shared very good trust, cooperation and relation among themselves, and so also with other neighbouring forest protecting villages.
During the interaction with the villagers, people other than the members of the FPC articulated more in the discussion. One could sense that there is a shared feeling of an achievement not only related to environmental protection but also to enhanced agricultural production arising out of improved soil fertility. The villagers of Kotapokhari and Arakhapalli have been jointly protecting the Sulia reserve forest by organizing Thengapali.
Duties have been assigned to each family in such a manner that everyday two persons take their turn in patrolling the forest. Sometimes even five persons do the night patrolling of the forest. There are two patches of village forests in both the villages which are guarded by respective villages separately. Arakhapalli has a natural village forest whereas the people of Kotapokhari have taken up plantation in the village forest and grazing land. Apart from that, there are formal committees at the village level that involves community leaders representing all sections of the committee. In other words the formal committees follow democratic processes. The women representation to the committees, however, depends on rigid guidelines in respect of different formal committees. For example, there are five women members in the Forest rights committee (FRC) of the village constituted under the provisions contained in Forest Rights Act. The FRC has been constituted as per provision of law in order to stake the claim of community rights over the forest.
The mandate is that each family shares equal responsibility to protect the forest and enjoys equal shares in the benefits irrespective of economic condition of the families. The Forest protection committee is not having any women representation. It is so because the forest protection committee is an initiative of the villagers and has been informal thus far. The Gram panchayat ofice, Block office, Forest range office, Tehsil, Police station, Financial institutions, Forest federations and networks, and NGOs like Vasundhara are other external institutions with which the villagers of Kotapokhari and Arakhapalli have direct and indirect interactions.
Traditionally the village communities’ perception about functioning of government is shaped by their experience of interaction with the Revenue officials, forest officials, police personnel, and the development functionaries mostly functioning under the Block administration. There has been little change in this equation over the decades after independence. Though school education and primary health remain matters of significant concern for the villagers, these two services are often subsumed under the block administration.
DECISION MAKING SYSTEMS
The decision making process follows democratic principles and involves formal and informal leadership in the village level institutions. In the context of forest protection activities, the forest protection committee rules supreme. Although the PRI representatives are too part of village institutions, yet they have little to say on forest protection matters. To handle the governance related matters pertaining to forest protection, there is an eight-member committee, four from each village; Kotapokhari and Arakhapalli to oversee the developments. The committee used to meet every month during the initial phase of forest protection.
These days it meets as and when required. The committee has drawn up a set of rules to be observed and enforced. The committee is represented by men only. There is another village committee at Kotapokhari to look after other affairs where there are eight members including the president and secretary. It is seen that there is only one member who is common in both the committees. Overall, the decision-making processes are by and large vested in the village forest protection committee.
During the interaction with the villagers, different participants shared about the way they take decisions and it was remarkable that each participant knew about the context, situation, parties and decisions taken in past indicating that there is common knowledge regarding the decisions taken in the past. This provides to understand that the decision-making processes are democratic, rational and based on rule system and constitutions of village level institutions. The formal FRC has been constituted as per provision of law in order to stake the claim of community rights over the forest. The decisions taken on the forest rights claims follows the process guidelines as enshrined under the FRA. The decision making on FRA is evidence based and so provides little space for gaps in decision making.
Any matter relating the forests, conflicts and collaborations on forest matters, any formal and informal issue based meetings are attended by villagers of both Kotapokhari and Arakhapalli. Over the years solidarity and trust has been well established between the two villages through mutual cooperation and collective choice arrangements. The forest protection is considered a collective activity, collective responsibility and collective accountability. Hence, in principle all the villagers irrespective of any discrimination are involved in forest protection activities.
Since the forest protection activities intensified, a system of chuli chanda was introduced. Chuli (hearth) chanda (contribution) is a nominal contribution, equal for each family, towards building a village corpus to be utilized for forest protection activities. The chuli chanda ensures involvement and participation of all in the forest protection activities. It was also enquired if there were any situation of ex-communication kind of punishment to any family for violating any socio-cultural norms. The participants in the discussion stated that no such situation had ever happened in the village.
Even if a family is ex-communicated for any reason, the family would not be deprived of collecting fuel wood from the forest because the village forest protection committee cannot be that cruel to deprive a family from living their lives. These instances provide to understand that the participation of villagers in forest protection is inclusive. The peoples’ attitude towards the rules set at the village level and at the federation level is respected and adhered religiously.
The village leaders are having working knowledge on the Joint forest management policy and how it contrasts with the philosophy of Community forest management. They have some awareness on the National Biodiversity Act. The villagers’ knowledge of Forest Rights Act is fair as it concerns entitlements over forest land. The forest laws that governs peoples’ access to Reserve Forests and offences such as tree felling or game hunting is a common knowledge. There has been no major conflict among the people for quite some time as of now. Minor conflicts between individuals or families are resolved amicably.
The people of Kotapokhari village do not have any serious conflict with any neighbouring village either. In matters of forest protection Kotapokhari and Arakhapalli villages stand solidly together if there is any problem with outsiders. There has never been any occasion during the last many years for the people to approach the police station, courts or officials for intervention. Borrowing and lending of money among the families are carried out in an informal fashion.
Any matter relating the forests, conflicts and collaborations on forest matters, any formal and informal issue based meetings are attended by villagers of both Kotapokhari and Arakhapalli. Over the years solidarity and trust has been well established between the two villages through mutual cooperation and collective choice arrangements. Regular interaction with the block level forest protection committees’ federation also has its typical impact on preventing conflicts and strengthening collaborations.
MANAGEMENT AND RESOURCE USE
The main agriculture season is Kharif season and hence monsoon dependent. The lands are unirrigated and hence are cropped once in a year. However, about one fourth of the total agriculture land gets some amount of critical irrigation from two old ponds such as Puruna Bandha and Khali Bandha lying closer to the forest. The ponds collect water from the forest catchments and hence offer good potential for irrigation.
The people who own lands closer to the ponds are able to take two crops in a year, i.e. kharif and rabi crops on such lands. The communities have been depending on the said patches of forests for years together since the village has been set up there. They extract construction materials, NTFPs, wild edibles and other day to day requirements. For cattle grazing the forest fringe areas are used. The forest today has become a treasure house of various NTFPs.
The source plants and trees include Amla, Harida, Bahada, Kendu, Kendu leaves, Mango, Mahula, Tamarind, Neem, Semul cotton, honey, resin, etc which are collected for domestic and market requirements. Adding to that seasonal fruits, berries, tubers, leafy vegetables, and others like Charkoli, Pichhuli, Chhatu, Bela, Kochila, Date, cane, bamboo, bamboo shoots, tubers are plentily available which are harvested by the poor families for subsistence requirements and sale in market. The old water tank inside the forest is used by the villagers for irrigating the fields downstream and also for pisciculture under community ownership. The water tank also serves for the drinking water needs of wildlife and the livestock. The catchment of the tank is well protected by villagers for its safety and water retention in the tank.
|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||-|
|Impact on Livelihoods and Subsistence||Non-timber forest produce|
|Social Impacts||Community empowerment, Revival or continuation of cultural/religious associations|
|Ecological Impact||Natural habitat preservation|
|Internal Threats and Challenges||-|
|External Threats and Challenges||forest department pressurising the villagers to implement JFM|
The forest today has become a treasure house of various NTFPs. The source plants and trees include Amla, Harida, Bahada, Kendu, Kendu leaves, Mango, Mahula, Tamarind, Neem, Semul cotton, honey, resin, etc which are collected for domestic and market requirements. Adding to that seasonal fruits, berries, tubers, leafy vegetables, and others like Charkoli, Pichhuli, Chhatu, Bela, Kochila, Date, cane, bamboo, bamboo shoots, tubers are plentily available which are harvested by the poor families for subsistence requirements and sale in market. The forest in its wilderness has many important endemic species.
The very well known species are Kendu, Jamu, Mohua, Asana, Dimiri, Karada, Kangada, Kalachua, Bela, Sal, Piasal, Kochila, Harida, Bahada, Amla. The medicinal plant varieties available in the forest are – Arakha, Bhuin Nimba, Harida, Bahada, Amla, Patalagaruda, Satabari, Sunaragada etc. The trees which are used for house construction are Karada, Kalachua, Acacia, Eucalyptus etc. These trees are also used for making agricultural implements. People collect a variety of fruits and berries such as Tunga, Kadaba, Panialu, Mohua, Chara, Jamun, Adanga etc. Wildlife like Deer, Hare, Bear, Wild boar, Civets, Jackals, Monkey, Percupine, Mouse deer, Otter, mongoose, monitor, snakes and avi fauna like pea fowls, jungle fowl, parrot, blue jay, woodpecker, hornbill, owl, Gunduri, Maina, etc are prominently spotted in the forest.
Whenever there is a social function in any family all the villagers take part in it irrespective of caste differences. Farmers exchange seeds with one another. Similarly bullocks and bullock-carts are shared whenever there is a need. People collectively face natural calamities like drought and manmade disasters like fire accidents. Villagers from Kotapokhari and Arakhapalli support religious and cultural activities throughout the year.
There is a Shiva temple and two shrines for goddesses, namely, Ramachandi and Mangala. One acre patch of land is specially earmarked for meeting the ritual expenses of Lord Shiva from sale proceeds of harvest from that patch. Similarly two patches of land, half an acre each, are dedicated to two goddesses. Sale proceeds from harvest of plantation crops from such lands are considered as the funds for the goddesses. Giri Gobardhan Puja is performed to invite rains. Bana Durga Puja is performed to overcome fear. The above two rituals are performed in the forest itself.
i) Relationship of villagers with Forest department: The forest department has remained more or less indifferent towards the forest protection committee of the village. It has been rather a hands-off approach. In the perception of Jungle manch or the federation of the FPCs, the village has got a good track record in protecting and managing its own forest. One NGO has been facilitating certain activities relating to forest protection and claim of community rights over the Forest Rights Act.
ii) Relationship with FPC of neighboring village: The village has a somewhat strained relationship with Kesiapalli. It is articulated by the villagers that Kesiapalli villagers used to intrude the forests under protection by Kotapokhari and indiscriminately fell trees. After several negotiations the people of Kesiapalli have limited their unauthorized access into the Kotapokhari forests. Excepting Kesiapalli, the villagers have very coherent working relations with Bayapalli, Kulasara, Talakani, Balipatna, Gobardhanpur, etc.
iii) Relationship with Gram Panchayat: Kotapokhari village enjoys the fruits of good working relation with Gram panchayat office. According to them the Panchayat is giving considerable importance to their village as the village is the Ward No.1 of the Panchayat. The Sarapanch of the panchayat is of the view that the solidarity in the village is the instrument that the panchayat uses for success of any development work in Kotapokhari. During the interaction, the Sarapanch held that Kotapokhari villagers always contribute to any development work through community monitoring, labour leveraging for maintenance works and gets involved.
iv) Relationship with NGOs: The Kotapokhari village is more linked to Vasundhara NGO as it facilitates their processes in the direction of forest protection and management. The villagers appreciate participation of Vasundhara in helping them out for filing their claims for CFR entitlement and for being with them in addressing issues over forest, redressal through forest federations.
v) Relationship with Police: Kotapokhari villagers remain indifferent about their relationship with police. They believe that relationship with police depends on how the village issues are handled at their level. According to the villagers, the village is leading a peaceful and happy life and hence they do not have direct or regular relationship with Police.
The forest department has been continuing its persuasion to implement Joint forest management covering the forest patches that are under protection by the two villages. The villagers so far have maintained their efforts without accepting any external aid. However, the younger generation is inclined towards external aid. Thus, the major challenge is to sustain the philosophy of community forest management and to abstain the younger generation to fall in the trap of external aid. The biodiversity and the values assigned to it is to be understood by the younger generation. It is observed that the younger generation considers importance of the forest on aesthetic ground and it is important that they consider the intrinsic values of the forest and biodiversity, the kinds of ecological interactions and the relevance of saving the forests to combat climate change.
The youth in the villages aspire to encourage ecotourism in the area for both revenue generation and for popularisation of their initiatives.
|Data Source||By external entity with permission of community member|
|Year of Study||-|