Encouraged by this experience, the villagers of Botha decided to protect the forest in their area. They were also convinced of the commitment of Dr. Jha to the cause of forest protection.
The Joint Forest Management programme of the Maharastra Forest Department was taking shape during this period. On seeing the willingness of the villagers to protect their forest, Dr. Jha visited Botha and informed the villagers of this programme. The villagers felt that the programme would help them to protect the forest. The gram sabha (village council) and the gram panchayat (village executive) passed a resolution to participate in the JFM programme and a forest protection committee (FPC) was constituted in August 1996. As per the JFM Resolution, the local forester became the member-secretary of the committee and one individual from each household became a member of the FPC. With the active participation of the villagers, a micro-plan was prepared by the FD. A participatory rural appraisal was conducted to know more about the village and to understand the needs of the people.
The DFO Buldhana signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the FPC and allocated 1486 ha of forest land to it for protection. The responsibilities of the FPC included:
1. Protection of forests,
2. Regulated use of forest products that were obtained from forest cleaning, etc.,
3. Maintenance duties,
4. Ensuring equitable sharing of any benefits to the entire village from the forest produce, and
5. Protection against fire.
In the first year of JFM (1997), a community hall was built and a leaf plate-making machine was purchased. However this machine did not prove to be useful, as there was no assured market in the vicinity. A check-dam was also constructed to increase the availability of water in the village and bamboo plantation was carried out on 20 ha. In the next year, mixed plantation was undertaken on 25 ha.
A separate bank account for the FPC was opened, which was jointly operated by the secretary and the president of FPC. Fodder grown on the protected forest land was harvested and distributed in the village by this body. Surplus was sold in the market and the money was deposited in the FPC account.