|Number of households||-|
|Number of people||-|
The entire region covers an area of 2400 sq km, of which 98 villages are conserving forests. These conserved stretches of forests range between 20 ha to 125 ha in area. The nearest road-head/rail-head is Vadodara, which is roughly 60 to 120 km away from the stretches of forests preserved by communities. A few of the villages of Pavi Jetpur taluka and their conserved forests are located near Ratanmahal Bear Sanctuary. A massive deforestation took place in the 1960s and 70s after which the health of the forest ecosystems began to deteriorate.
The area is inhabited by many communities, which include mainly the tribal communities belonging to Rathwa, Nayak, Bariya, Kolcha koli and Bhil. The non-tribal communities are very few, mainly a few shopkeepers.
|Origin||New initiative by community|
|Year of Formation||-|
The 1960s and 70s witnessed massive deforestation in Gujarat including Kawant, Naswadi, Pavi Jetpur and Chhota Udaipur regions. Most of it was due to clear-felling of the forest by the forest department. Slowly the pressure on forests from the people mounted, and whatever was left of the forests was finished by the 1980s. As a response to general degradation the forest department also started tree plantation programmes in the 70s. The planted forests were clear-felled on a regular basis to earn revenue for the Department. The villagers keenly observed the failing plantation drives carried out by the forest department and realized that if the natural sprouting of each year is protected from grazing and immediate consumption, then it would be possible to regenerate the forests like in the past. After a few years of simultaneous discussions within many villages, a few villages like Usela and Patadia overcame the impasse around 1983 and took a courageous initiative to protect naturally grown monsoon forests. A local social worker, Shri Harivallabh Bhai Parikh appreciated the initiative and inspired many other villages to join the movement. In 1992, the state government of Gujarat adopted the joint forest management (JFM) programme. But it failed due to faulty implementation. Arch Vahini, an NGO that is closely associated with the communities, decided to intervene after observing the decline in the momentum of forest preservation.
As the forests witnessed massive deforestation, within a short span of time, the available forests for the forest-dependent tribal communities in this region were drastically reduced. The immediate sufferers were tribal communities living in forest areas. As Shankarbhai Rathwa, an elder tribal of the Mundamor village said, “On one occasion we did not even have two long logs to carry dead bodies and had to pull out the logs from the hutments to burn dead bodies. This was a shock and we realized that if we did not do something then we will have to see unknown but dire situations. The tree plantation programs carried out by the Forest Department kept on failing due to regular clear-felling of the plantations. In the meanwhile, throughout the entire tribal belt of the region, apart from facing day-to-day hardships, tribal communities were facing a unique but serious problem of half-burnt dead bodies. This led to social upheaval, and villagers began to look for ways of solving the problem.
|Collective of CCAs||-|
|Decision Making Body||JFM committee|
|Rules and Regulations||Informal|
|Community activities through the year||Patrolling, watch and ward, Plantations and restoration activities|
Initially, as a response to general degradation the forest department started tree plantation programmes in the 70s which later failed. The communities were silent witnesses to this. After some years, it was the villagers who started conserving the forests. Some disgruntled elements within the villages often joined hands with some forest staff and made it difficult for the protecting villagers. There was hardly any support from the forest department. In 1992, the state government of Gujarat adopted the joint forest management (JFM) programme. However, JFM did not succeed in this region, mainly because of faulty implementation. The NGOs involved were also working to help implement the programme more as a project rather than as a long-term process of participatory forest management. Many of these NGOs lost interest in the programme once the funds were exhausted with the department. The communities were not sure that they would ultimately get at least 50 per cent of the benefits as envisaged under JFM. Despite opposition from the villagers, the forest department undertook plantations in the forests being protected by the local villagers. This was the final straw that made villagers extremely apprehensive and distrustful of the forest department. Arch Vahini, an NGO, has been closely associated with livelihood and development issues of tribal communities in the tribal pockets of Vadodara, Narmada and Dharampur districts of Gujarat. When some members of the NGO witnessed this decline in the momentum towards forest protection, they decided to intervene.
The community as a whole came to a realisation that the natural sprouting needs to be protected. Whatever activities took place were decided by the entire community. After the introduction of JFM in the forest areas, it was the Government and JFM committee who took all the decisions regarding the CCAs, like elsewhere in the country. Although, many of the decisions and activities carried under the JFM program were being opposed by the villagers; eg.: The forest department undertook plantations in the forests being protected by the local villagers.
After realising that there was enough rootstock in the forests of their villages, they began to protect the forest areas. The natural sprouting was being protected from grazing and immediate consumption. In most villages, when some villagers initiated conversations about protecting forests for future use, the sceptics within the community would strongly oppose the idea. But this entire movement was strongly supported and encouraged by a local social worker, Shri Harivallabh Bhai Parikh. He appreciated the people’s initiative, sensed its potential and backed the community's momentum. The villagers evolved rules of use, protection and community penal provisions for breach of rules.
|Legal Status||Forest Area under IFA → Reserve 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||-|
|Impact on Livelihoods and Subsistence||Cut fodder, Firewood, Timber|
|Social Impacts||increased sense of belongingness and responsibility to the forest|
|Ecological Impact||Natural habitat preservation, Good diversity and population of wildlife|
|Internal Threats and Challenges||Internal differences and inequities|
|External Threats and Challenges||Restrictive laws and policies|
Even though the initiative hasn’t been as successful as it should have been, results are still being seen after whatever efforts were taken by the community. Villagers recount the return of many varieties of birds along with hares, jackals, macaques, hyenas and different kinds of reptiles. Peacocks, now in abundance in these forests, were according to the local people never found in this region earlier. Similarly, mammals like nilgai and reptiles like pythons have also been reportedly seen for the first time now in many villages. Arch Vahini, an NGO’s experience in the last few years shows that there is an increasing shift in the attitude of tribal people in this area. There have been many demands for vantalavdis from the villages, particularly for wildlife in regenerating forests. There seems to be a sense of belonging and concern and responsibility towards the forests that they have been protecting and the wildlife within them.
Arch Vahini, an NGO, has been closely associated with livelihood and development issues of tribal communities in the tribal pockets of Vadodara, Narmada and Dharampur districts of Gujarat. When some members of the NGO witnessed this decline in the momentum towards forest protection, they decided to intervene. Their objective was to stop further decline of the conservation initiative and to revitalise the community initiative where it had gone down. Arch Vahini started its work by studying and understanding the existing efforts of conservation. Subsequently, they began their work on community-based conservation and management of forests. After 2–3 years of sustained interactions with the villagers, the villagers are assured of critical inputs when required. Consequently the local meetings are yielding higher results. There is a new enthusiasm among some villagers towards forest protection. However, there are still many doubts and impediments because of past disappointments and frustrations. There is a lot that still needs to be achieved but Arch Vahini is hopeful.
Like in the past, Arch Vahini is also facing constraints because of the forest department. The government has initiated a well-intentioned scheme called the Forest Development Authority (FDA). Under this scheme all the funds meant for forest development within a district come directly to the FDA. The FDA has the authority to disburse the funds directly to the village institutions for management and development of forests. Although the intention is good, here again the implementation is faulty. The FDA is mandated to establish new local institutions rather than accepting the ones that the village communities have established and that have been working towards forest conservation. This is unfortunate as people’s enterprises/efforts carried out on a massive scale are not only not recognised but are systematically undermined. The forest department, instead of recognising and authorising the local people’s endeavour, is bypassing and creating parallel trusts and legal arrangements. This would dampen local inhabitants’ motivation and initiative.
In 1992, the state government of Gujarat adopted the joint forest management (JFM) programme. The programme, as elsewhere in the country, was aimed at regeneration of degraded forests with the help of local people, while sharing any benefits from these forests with the local people. People of the area, with the help of NGOs, started to institutionalise their forest protection efforts under JFM. However, JFM did not succeed in this region, mainly because of faulty implementation. Many villages were stuck with the process of registration of their cooperatives, as the forest department did not help them in the process. At state level or at local level there was no pressure to force the forest department to implement the JFM policy in its true letter and spirit. Overall, the rights envisaged under the JFM program over the conserved forests were not visible to the villagers. The communities were not sure that they would ultimately get at least 50 per cent of the benefits that would accrue once the regenerated timber was harvested as envisaged under JFM. In many villages where people seized wood from the smugglers, the department refused to grant 50 per cent partnership over such material. At many places, when the regular pruning of the forests was done, the products were not shared with the villagers. Even the wood fallen in rain and storm was not allowed to be shared with communities. Getting nearly nothing from the forests, not even to meet their daily requirements, after years of protection was again frustrating and discouraging for the villagers.
The JFM plan failed mainly because of faulty implementation. If the government takes care of the management of the CCA, conservation activities could be carried out smoothly.
|Data Source||From publicly available sources|
|Year of Study||-|