Luzophuhu Village

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 Location  Ecosystem Type    Conservation Type    Area(hectare)  Legal status 
 Phek, Nagaland  Mixed  Ecosystem Conservation & Species Protection  750 Community Owned

Background

Nagaland is occupied by about 15 different tribal communities. Each of these communities is culturally distinct from the other and occupies different parts of the state. Nearly 90 per cent of land is under community ownership. About 85 per cent of the state is still under forest cover. Originally hunter-gatherers, these communities have an intricate land-use system, with land distributed between shifting cultivation (communal ownership of land), settled agriculture (private land ownership), and forest reserves (family-, clan- or community-owned) to meet food, fruit, fuel, timber and other needs. Wild meat is an integral part of tribal culture here. Most families own guns and go hunting regularly. Increasing population and heavy dependence on timber and forest produce for livelihood is also impacting the quality of forests. The combined effect of degrading forests and a high rate of hunting have led to a quick decline in wildlife populations, particularly of wild animals. Towards the late 1980s and early 1990s, some realisation about the degraded state of forests began to hit people. Drying up of water resources, declining availability of wild vegetables and declining population of wild animals were among some of the reasons that created debates among many tribal communities.

Phek District was one of the districts where such debates resulted in many decisions and their successful implementation. The district is occupied largely by the Chakhesang tribe, occupying 80 villages. All 80 villages have an umbrella organization called Chakhesang Public Organisation (CPO).1 The idea about preservation of wildlife was continuously being discussed in annual CPO meetings. It was reinforced during the annual meeting in 1999 when Mr. Pusazo Luruo was the chairperson. After much discussion on the issue, the CPO general session adopted the following resolutions for all 80 villages to implement:

1. Ban on buying pork (staple food along with rice) from outside the district. This was done with the intention of saving money and promoting local economy.

2. Seasonal ban on hunting all across the district between 1 February and 31 June (mating season).

3. Ban on fishing with explosives.

4. Ban on indiscriminate burning of forests.

5. Declaration of complete no-hunting zones wherever possible.

By 2005, 23 villages had adopted the resolution for declaring inviolate wildlife reserves. In addition, all 80 villages in the district have accepted the seasonal restriction on hunting and prevention of indiscriminate forest fires. The village councils (VC)2 were held responsible for penalising the offenders in case of violations. Fines are imposed on those found responsible for spreading fires and hunting. Of the total fine amount collected, 50 per cent goes to the informant and 50 per cent to the village body. If the VC fails to check these incidents within their jurisdiction after adopting the resolution, then the CPO penalises the VC for violations. The penalty could include reduction in the village development funds, as the CPO has a say in how the districtlevel funds should be distributed to respective villages.

The resolutions of the CPO about seasonal hunting and declaration of wildlife reserves inspired about 23 villages to declare inviolate zones for wildlife.

Luzophuhu village, along with Chizami, Runguzu, and Kikruma were some such villages. Luzophuhu village is located about 16 km from Phek district headquarters. The village council of Luzophuhu decided to declare an area of about 500 ha as a Village Forest Reserve. The main objective of protecting this forest area, located at the highest point of the village, was to preserve the water source of the village. Villagers felt that clear-felling for jhum was gradually reducing the availability of water in the source and hence decided to forbid jhum in this area. To avoid serious economic impact of forgoing jhum, they decided to instead use this area for raising commercial plantations. Raising plantations, they believe, would ensure water security as well as provide economic benefits to the people. In the forest reserve all other kinds of uses are allowed. Hunting is also allowed except between January and June.

Inspired by the CPO resolution, the youth group in Luzophuhu discussed the possibility of declaring an area as an inviolate wildlife reserve. The VC decided to declare 250 ha as a wildlife reserve in 1990. A wildlife reserve is a much stricter category than the forest reserve, as no hunting or any other forest use is allowed. According to the youth club members, this patch of forests was selected because of its proximity to the village, making it easier to protect and also because they believe that this patch is a breeding ground for the deer.

The land under forest reserve as well as wildlife reserve was originally used for jhum cultivation. The forest reserve had an incentive of growing commercial plantations; however, the area under wildlife reserve came with no such incentive. According to the youth club members, some villagers strongly opposed this but had to eventually succumb to the pressure from the VC and the youth organisations. The impacts of this declaration on the people are not known. In Luzophuhu village, the protected area is directly under the supervision of the VC, while the responsibility for imposing rules and extracting fines lies with the youth organisation. 50 per cent of the fine levied goes to the informant, while the other 50 per cent goes to the student union. Depending upon the violations, the fines are in the range of Rs 100–200. Till the year 2005, 3-4 cases of violations had been recorded.

In addition, the village has also banned fishing and use of explosives in a 2-km stretch of Lanye River near the village. The primary reason for this protection is the fact that the villagers would otherwise no longer have a supply of healthy and big fish when VIPs visit the village. The fish in this stretch are now only caught when VIPs visit or for very special occasions, and never for commercial purposes. 

In the absence of any studies, exactly how the initiative has impacted the wildlife or ecology of the area is not clear at this stage. However, the area still supports a population of threatened species, such as Mrs. Hume’s pheasant and kalij pheasant, among others. Some other birds recorded from the area include ashy bulbul, orange-bellied chloropsis, grey-hooded warbler, whiskered yuhina, green-backed tit, chestnut thrush, silver-eared mesia and blue-throated barbet.

The village council and the student union members have expressed a desire to be supported in their efforts. This support could come as financial help to pay some wardens for forest protection, or as capacity building for the village youth to take on the ecological monitoring of the protected areas. The support could also be in the form of helping the village work out forest-based livelihood generation activities for the youth. So far there have been few links between the protection activities and possibilities of generating livelihoods. There is a proposal submitted by the CPO to the chief minister to declare Phek district as a tourism zone. Villagers hope that some amount of tourism will boost their economy.

  This case study has been compiled by Neema Pathak based on a trip to the village by Neema Pathak and Ashish Kothari of Kalpavriksh, Pune; Feroz Ahmed and Bibhab Talukdar of Aranyak, Guwahati; and Joy Das Gupta of ICIMOD, Kathmandu in February 2005. We are also grateful to all the villagers for making this trip possible and sharing information with the team.

Zachichu Vese (General Secretary, LSU)
Zhokusheyi (Library Secretary)
Vesusayi (VC member)
Lozaphuhu Student’s Union

BPO Lozaphuhu Village
PO Phek
Phek District
797108
Nagaland
0370-205116 (Birbal, Marwadi Merchant)

Pusazo Luruo Vice president, Nagaland People’s Front; Proprietor, Christian Home School,
Mission Compound
Phek Town
Nagaland
0370-2243760
03865-223455 (Phek)
09436005905
duzollus@yahoo.com (Veduzo s/o Pusazo)

1 Composed of the village council members, VDB members and youth association members of all Chakhesang villages in Phek district.

2 The first unit of decision-making in Nagaland. A VC is an attempt at amalgamating the traditional decision-making systems in Nagaland and the Panchayati Raj institutions of the Government of India.

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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