In 1979, there was a severe cyclone in Orissa. Powerful wind uprooted thousands of trees in the Sunaposi Reserved Forest. The forest department gathered these trees and sold them in the market. Taking the cue, the villagers illegally started cutting down living trees and soon the entire forest was reduced to nothing.
During that time, NTFP still did not have a big market. Collection of sal seeds was not introduced yet. The local tribals did collect some NTFP for self-consumption and sale in the local market. Income from this sale sustained them for about 3-4 months a year. In the lean period, the forest was an important source of food for them. These people were therefore severely hit by deforestation in the area.
Two villagers, Makardhaj Marndi and Ranjan Murmu, took the lead for conservation of one portion of Sunaposi forest adjacent to Kalikasole village. Six persons were selected to patrol the forest on a rotation basis.
The villagers soon realised the difficulties of protecting one patch of the forest without the cooperation of the neighbouring villages. They then initiated discussions with the neighbouring villages. Over a period of time five other villages started conservation activities.
Subsequently, in 1983, joint forest management (JFM) was introduced in these villages and a forest protection committee was officially constituted with the help of forest department for the management and protection of the forest. The committee in its general body meeting decides all rules and regulations, which every member is bound to follow.
The main community involved in protection are the Santhals, although the benefits are now being shared by all. The forest department largely plays a supportive role.