Lakhapur Village

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 Location Ecosystem Type   Conservation Type   Area(hectare) Legal status 
 Brahmapuri, Chandrapur, Maharashtra Forest Ecosystem Conservation 240 Not Available

Case Study (2009)

Background

Lakhapur village is situated in Brahmapuri taluka of Chandrapur district in Maharashtra. A dryand moist-deciduous forest surrounds this village with species like khair, dhawada, sehma, saag, mahua, neem, bel, anjan, mini, babul, tamarind, mango, bahawa, rohan, shendri, tendu, sahu, etc. Some of the big mammals found here include Indian wolf, spotted deer or chital, wild boar and jungle cat.

The total human population of the village is 510, living in 100 households. The main communities include the bhois, gonds, kumbis and nalivis. Buddhism and Hinduism are the two main religions practiced in the village.

Agriculture is the main occupation of the villagers, rice being the main crop. Other crops grown here are pulses and wheat. The secondary occupations are livestock rearing and agricultural labour. The livestock population is 250 cows and 100 buffaloes.

The villagers are dependent on the forest for fuelwood, wood for agricultural implements and housing, medicinal plants and fodder. Honey and resin, and mahua, mango, tamarind, biba and charoli fruits, are extracted for livelihood.

Legally this forest is under the jurisdiction of the revenue department and nistari (customary use) rights remain with the villagers.  

In 1955, when one of the villagers of Lakhapur went into the forest to collect fuelwood, he was beaten up by some outside villagers. This angered the Lakhapur villagers. They decided to take charge of their forest so that an incident like this would not be repeated.

In 1956, a forest area of 600 acres (240 ha) was selected by common consensus of the village for protection. A forest cooperative society called Gram Swarajya Jungle Sahakari Sanstha was established to manage and protect the forest. Though the village got rights over the forest in 1956, actual work began under the guidance of Gurudev Geetacharya Tukaram Dada of Adiyal Tekdi in 1962.

The cooperative is made up of an elected 9-member team, which includes the president, vicepresident and secretary. Two villagers patrol the forest and are paid Rs 150 per month. The gram sabha and the Forest Cooperative together take all major decisions, resolve conflicts and protect the forest. Neighbouring villagers who used to hunt and steal firewood from the protected forest have been caught and punished. The villagers also take fire control measures.

Each family pays a sum of Rs 50 annually to the cooperative for forest management. Funding for activities like afforestation comes from fines. Fuelwood, fodder, timber, etc. are distributed equally among the villagers.

Protection has helped regeneration of the forest understorey. Fire control, regulated removal of dried leaves, etc. increased the humus in the forest. Villagers claim that soil fertility has increased, soil erosion has been checked and moisture levels have gone up. The increased water table level has increased the water in wells and surrounding waterbodies. The overall biodiversity of the forest is claimed to have shown a marked increase. Encroachments on village common land and forests have been brought under control.

The villagers benefited greatly from the increase in the availability of fuelwood, fodder and NTFP in the forest. Expenses that the villagers would incur to purchase this forest produce is saved. Agriculture has improved, as has the dairy production. Time that was earlier spent on searching for and gathering fuelwood is now spent in looking after their fields and other work. Overall health benefits have been seen along with increase in income. Conflicts between them and neighbouring villagers have also reduced.

The feeling of unity among the villagers and the sense of belonging to the forest has increased. The decision-making powers of the villagers have been enhanced and they now realize the importance of self-governance. 

  This case study has been contributed by Mahadeo Girlurkar of the NGO Khoj, in March 2001. We are extremely grateful to Ajay Dolke, ‘Shrujanpod’, Yavatmal District, Maharashtra, for his useful comments.

Mahadeo Girlurkar,
‘Khoj’, c/o Shri P.M. Khandelwal,
Near Govind Lodge, Gujari Bazar,
Paratwada 444805.

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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