After the community was organised, and with the support of the government, a number of activities were taken up by the villagers. Some of these activities and associated impacts are:
Soil and moisture conservation
1. Supported by the JFM programme, the villagers constructed a number of bunds across streams and excavated percolation tanks for soil and moisture conservation. Villagers reported a marked increase in the water level in the first year itself, offering better prospects for growing vegetables for the first time in this otherwise drought-prone area.
Social and economic impacts
1. Seasonal migration to nearby towns and villages in search of employment, especially from March to May, was a common feature in the village. The forest department introduced dailywage employment opportunities to the villagers in silvicultural operations, soil and moisture conservation, and other support activities. Since the villagers could find a source of income generation in their own village, the trend of migration was eventually reversed.
2. The distribution of subsidized smokeless chullahs to half the households has cut the firewood needs of the village by 25 per cent. Some families have even started using biogas for cooking purposes.
3. Effective forest protection offered by the VSS has resulted in the re-emergence of non-timber forest produce (NTFP)1 like mahua and bamboo in the forest. It has been estimated that after this commencement of regeneration the villagers have been extracting NTFP worth Rs 1,45,000 per annum for personal consumption.
4. Silvicultural operations in the forest have resulted in adequate timber to meet the needs of all the villagers. There is a surplus of timber that is eventually put up for sale in the market after all the local needs are met.2
5. In June 1998, the total cost of protecting and managing the Behroonguda forest worked out to Rs 2,48,290. However the total benefit received by the local community was about Rs 6,36,432. This indicated a benefit-cost ratio of 2.5:1. Out of this amount, Rs 3, 59,500 was directed to the usufruct benefits of the villagers. Even after deduction of this amount from the total benefit, the profit exceeds the cost of protection. It is interesting to note that 31 per cent of the cost of protection is contributed by the community, mainly through voluntary patrolling of forests.
1. The forest protection has resulted in a marked increase in the biological diversity of the forest, including improved production of NTFP.
2. For a good growth of teak in the natural forest, silviculturists had recommended a 20 per cent removal after the first six years of protection and 15 per cent of the remainder after 15 years. This would mean extraction of 173 trees after 6 years. However, the VSS decided to extract only 30 trees. While less than optimum extraction might reduce the commercial value of teak, it will not do any ecological damage to the forest.
3. The Jannaram Forest Division has undertaken participatory research in the Behroonguda forests. The forest staff and the local people have created research plots in the forests to monitor the impacts of silvicultural interventions and the local harvests on the growth of forest. The results show a good regeneration and a good quality of forest.
Behroonguda has now become a source of inspiration for the surrounding villages. In 1998, one of the neighbouring villages, Chintapally, inspired by Behroonguda, came together to form a VSS and petitioned the forest department for recognition. The committee members invited the president of the Behroonguda FPC to conduct meetings and maintain accounts for them in the initial stages.