Ghusuria Village

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 Location  Ecosystem Type    Conservation Type    Area(hectare)  Legal status 
 Mayurbhanj, Odisha  Forest  Ecosystem Conservation  NA  Reserved Forest

Case Study (2009)


Ghusuria village is located at a distance of 37 km from the headquarters of Mayurbhanj district at Baripada in the Barasahi block of Orissa. The gram panchayat of this village is at Kochilakhunta, about 3 km away here. Legally the forests around the village are reserved forests under the jurisdiction of the forest department. The village hastribal communities like the Bhumija, Bhuyan and Jogi Majhi, and non-tribals like Bindhani, graziers and peasants.

Before 1971 the forest near the village, known as Jagannathpur Reserved Forest, was very dense. Eventually, deforestation started and the green cover was reduced. The whole forest was turned into bushes and the villagers of Ghusuria and its neighbouring villagers started encroaching on the land for cultivation. The villagers of Ghusuria realized the situation. They were concerned about the encroachments in the area for agricultural purposes.

The conservation initiative began in 1973. Initially, the village formed an informal group, which included one member from all households in the village, to discuss about and conserve the forests. This group started meeting regularly, at least once a month or more, depending on the need of the community.

Through these discussions the villagers realized that one of the major causes of forest degradation was gradual encroachment of these forests. In 1975, the entire community decided to protect the forest from encroachments and consciously try and keep a check on deforestation. Two respected people in the village, Sunaram Singh and Gour Mohan Singh, initiated this process and took a lead in implementing the decision of the village. The villagers decided to patrol the forest on a rotation basis. Each day 10 persons patrolled the forest from morning till evening.

Gradually, the forest began to regenerate and encroachment stopped. Unauthorised felling of trees, however, could not be stopped completely. The leaders in this process received support from the FD in their conservation efforts. However, consistent negative interference of neighbouring villages demoralized the villagers. After 12 years of strict protection, the conservation effort slowed down. The people felt helpless as they could not check illicit felling. This slow phase continued for another three years.

In 1992, Sunaram Singh took the lead again and boosted the morale of the villagers. This time he tried to do it an organised manner, and the village constituted a village forest protection committee, with a president and a secretary as office-bearers. The office-bearers were selected unanimously by the entire village. This sincere effort has continued since then. The decisions related to conservation and management of the forests are taken by the entire village. In 1997, with the intervention of the NGO Mayurbhanj Swechhasevi Samukhya (MASS), a woman’s committee was formed in the village.

In the year 1998, the Orissa Forest Department proposed this area for joint forest management. The local range officer of Betnoti Range formed a committee called van samrakshyan samiti (VSS) with representatives from the FD and the community. The rules and regulations formed by the committee are applicable to all members and forest users. Any violations get documented in a register and punishments are given to the offenders. The FD’s role is mainly supportive and involves administrative and policing work. The villagers hand over offenders to the FD if conflicts cannot be resolved among themselves.

The conservation initiative has helped in the regeneration of many species in the ecosystem which were endangered. Whether and how this initiative has affected the wild animals in the area in not known.

One clear economic benefit to the local communities from this forest is the availability of nontimber forest produce (NTFP). Sale of NTFP such as sal leaves, different kinds of mushrooms, resins, etc. brings substantial income to the villagers.  

Out of the 185 households of Ghursaria, only 145 households are involved in the initiative. The villagers who are not involved are of a comparatively higher income group, educated and well established in society. They use resources from the forest through their labourers, but don’t normally contribute to the process either in cash or through labour. Hence the village is clearly divided into two groups: the poor are conservationists and the rich are the non-contributing users.

Inhabitants from surrounding villages like Punasia, Junda, Belpal and Jalpada also collect subsistence materials from these forests, but do not contribute towards forest protection activities. The neighbouring villagers often encourage unauthorized felling and are the main buyers of smuggled logs and poles.

According to the villagers, the Lodha community living in Punasia village contribute to the illegal activities the most. Lodhas are entirely dependent on forests for their livelihood, and sale of logs, poles and timber is their mainstay.1 Conservation activities directly impinge upon their livelihood and hence they have consistently refused to take part in the conservation initiative.

  This case study was contributed by Deepak Pani in the year 2000, when he was working with the organization MASS (Mayurbhanj Swechhasevi Samukhya). He now works with Gram Swaraj.

Deepak Pani
Gram Swaraj, Govt. Girl’s High School Road,
P.O. Baripada,
Dist. Mayurbhanj 757001
Tel: 06792- 259565, 9437039565
Email: [email protected]

1 Editors’ notes: It is not very clear from available information how this effort has impacted the lodhas, as they are the forest-dependent community and any kind of restriction would have a negative impact on their livelihood. It is also not very clear whether any kind of compensation was offered in exchange for loss of livelihoods as a result of conservation activities.

This case study was part of the Directory on Community Conserved Areas (2009), published by Kalpavriksh. The directory can be downloaded here.

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