Malekpur Village

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 Location  Ecosystem Type    Conservation Type    Area(hectare)  Legal status 
 Bhiloda, Vadodara, Gujarat  Forest  Ecosystem Conservation  163  Joint Forest Management (JFM)

Case Study (2009)


Malekpur in Bhiloda taluka of Gujarat is one of the oldest joint forest management (JFM) villages in the area. This case study focuses on the ecological, economic, sustainability, equity and efficiency impacts of community participation in forest resource management (officially recognised as JFM) in the village, and also the institutional changes facilitated in the area towards community-based forest management and its scaling-up.

The Jhanjharmata Vruksh Utpadan Sahkari Mandli Ltd (JVUSM) was set up by the people of Malekpur village of Bhiloda taluka. Established in the year in 1984–5. Today it has a total membership of 205, of which 170 are males and 35 females. The Dungri Garasia community of the village have been protecting a total forest area of 163 hectares.

Until the early 1960s, the forest was under the direct supervision of the Vijaynagar jagirdar and the villagers had little to do with the forest. They had no rights over it. Dry wood, leaves, fruits and flowers in the forest were free for them, even though permission of the jagirdar was a must. The threat of severe punishment for culprits resulted in the preservation of greenery in the region. After 1960, the degradation of the forest began with the abolition of the jagirdari system. Most of the trees were illegally cut by the jagirdars. For the tribal people, especially those in the lower income group, the forest became a quick money-making source. It also led to large-scale timber smuggling and sale of forest products, and soon the forests of the village were completely wiped out. This had an impact on the overall economy of the area.

The Jhanjharmata mandli of Malekpur was one among the first few cooperatives to get registered in 1986 (Registration no. Agri./2715 dated 12.8.1986) with the initiative of Shri. Siddhrajbhai Solanki, a professor at Gujarat Vidyapith, and VIKSAT (a NGO working in the villages of Bhiloda Taluka on issues related to enhancing people’s participation in natural resource management). Initially 60 households (of the total 110 households) came forward to become members of the cooperative. After the registration, the cooperative applied to the forest department (FD) for the lease of the forest land. However, after two years, in 1988, the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India rejected this application under Forest Conservation Act, 1980.

During this period, the focus was on development of private land within the village through various programmes like Vikas Bagh—small plots of horticultural and forestry species (in 800 sq m) to meet the primary needs of the tribal families for fuel, fodder and fruits. A fodder plan was drawn out to get green fodder of pioneer jowar during the summer. 50% of the programme cost was met by financial assistance from the Tribal Area Sub-Plan (TASP), Khedbrahma, and the remainder was met by the people in the form of labour. A bio-gas programme was initiated with financial assistance from the Himmatnagar centre of the Gujarat Agro-Industries Cooperation Limited.

The protection efforts and rules for punishment were refined from time to time. As per one of the provisions of Gujarat JFM order, the cooperative which undertakes afforestation work on its own or with the financial assistance from non-state government agencies would be entitled to 80% of the share of the final harvest. The JVUSM has resolved to avail of this provision and are not keen to get any assistance from the forest department. While the pros and cons of this provision are being debated, the FD has shown less enthusiasm towards JVUSM. Now the provision has been changed and in all cases the cooperative is still in dilemma as the final agreement between the JVUSM and the FD remains unsigned.

Activities carried out by JVUSM: Out of 167 ha forest area , 45 ha was totally barren, on which the FD carried out plantation. The remaining 122 ha of land had the potential for regeneration due the presence of root stock. The cooperative initiated protection of forest in 1986; the area was closed for open grazing and free cutting to facilitate regeneration. Today, the forests of Malekpur have regenerated.

Due to protection activities the people have also started getting benefits in terms of increased fuel-wood supply, timru-leaf collection, and fodder-grass collection. Malekpur village has helped in promoting JFM concept in other villages. 

Ecological and Economic Impacts

A study on vegetation dynamics carried out in the village forests showed growth of 35 species, the most dominant being teak, a valuable timber species. The six other major species were khakhra, neem, timru, dhaman, garmala and umbiya.

The ecological changes could be perceived from the increase in production of timru and collection of other gums from the forest. Collection of timru leaves has also seen a major increase in the past several years.

The other ecological changes were a check on soil erosion, increase in ground water recharge, increase in humus and soil fertility and standing biomass. Further, these ecological processes have also improved habitat conditions, which now attract a variety of small mammals, birds, and insects. The changing status of ecological conditions has shown an indirect positive influence on agricultural productivity and animal husbandry, which is a significant source of livelihood for the local tribals.

The protecting individuals have a deep concern for biodiversity, more so because they use a range of forest produce from a large number of species. Edible flowers, fruits, leaves, roots etc. form a part of their diet. Some edible items are also sold in the market to meet cash needs. Leaves of forest species (Butea monosperma) are used to make leaf plates. Medicinal plants such as safed musli are also used by the local people. Timru leaves and mahua are important sources of income. To these tribal people, the NTFPs are a lifeline; they are usually collected for consumption, home use and for sale. This vital link is reflected in the traditions and customs of tribal groups. In Malekpur, turnover from mahua and timru leaves grew six- and eightfold respectively. Similarly, the production of fodder grass and fuelwood has been on the increase. This success can be attributed to efficient protection by people, resulting in vigorous forest regeneration.

  Box 1

Annual fuelwood collection mechanisms

In the initial years only dry and fallen twigs were permitted to be collected, but the problems faced by the villagers in the availability of fuelwood forced the members to rethink this issue and they evolved a plan to address it. The villagers made a general survey of the village forest and, according to the density of the trees, they demarcated the forests into five different zones. It was decided that the villagers will carry out cut-back and pruning activities in these patches. One patch is selected every year and the materials harvested are distributed among the members. Thus, as per the plan, the cutback and pruning activities were carried out in the respective patches once in every five years. This has helped the villagers to gather more fuelwood from the forest area. Members of the executive committee helped to supervise the whole process and saw to it that the bigger trees were not cut in the process and only the branches and other smaller twigs were harvested. Again the villagers formed themselves into different groups and only one or two members from each group are allowed to carry the axe into the forest area and carry out the actual harvesting, while the other members of the group help in gathering and transporting the material out of the forest area. This process is carried out every year and it is thus assured that all households of the village get equal access to fuelwood. In the past two years the villagers have been able to harvest 4000 manns (1 mann = 20 kg) of fuelwood from the JFM forest area. One portion of the fuelwood collected by each of the groups is deposited with the cooperative, which then auctions the share to the highest bidder (usually within the village). This helps the cooperative to earn some income and cover some of their administrative costs.

Equity in participation and resource allocation

Equity became one of the major concerns after the initial few years of taking up protection. As open grazing and entry into the forests for grass and firewood collection were stopped, women started facing problems in meeting their firewood and fodder demands. To address this, the co-operative society allotted a portion of the forest patch for collection of firewood and fodder. Further, as the benefits from the forests started flowing in, the issue was to distribute them equitably among the members. The panchyati raj institution ensures that all the members participate in grass collection and cut-back operations on the dates specified for them and the product is shared on the basis of the shareholding. It was ensured that the poor and landless families and especially women have a voice not only in protection and management but also in decision making and benefit sharing.

  Box 2

Fodder grass sharing mechanisms

The village committee evolved a unique system to regulate the harvest of fodder grass from the JFM areas. Open grazing is banned and the grass is allowed to grow till the month of January /February. Once the grass is ready for harvest, a meeting of the executive committee is called and a date for the harvest of the grass is decided. The information is passed around in the village. Subsequently the villagers form themselves into different groups (mostly comprising close relatives). Generally 12 different groups are formed, each group having 10 members. The executive committee members then conduct a general survey of the forest of the village to get a measure of the potential harvest possible and the growth of the grass across the various patches of the forest. Then the total forest area is divided into 12 different patches. The denser the growth of the grass, the smaller the area demarcated. Once the patches are identified, a lottery system is adopted to allocate the 12 patches to the 12 groups. Each group appoints its own leader, who helps to monitor the grass-harvesting procedure. Only one member from each household can participate in the actual cutting of the grass. Thus during the harvesting process, each member cuts the grass according to the time allotted (generally 2–3 hours) and once the grass is harvested, other members from the household can come to help to gather and prepare bundles of the grass harvested. Thus care is taken that the fodder harvested from the forest is distributed equitably among the different households. The whole fodder harvesting process lasts for 10–12 days depending upon the amount of grass. Every evening when the 12 groups collect the grass, one portion of the share is deposited in the account of the cooperative. Thus everyday the cooperative gets a share of 40–50 bundles of grass. This grass is then sold to the highest bidder (generally to farmers within the village). In this way the cooperative also earns almost Rs 2000–3000 every year.

Certain changes in rights and privileges over forests, policies and laws pertaining to NTFPs, working plans, silvicultural arrangements, etc. are desirable in JFM. The field officials are willing to entrust protection to the communities, but hesitate in involving them in management and control of government forests, thus reducing JFM to ‘I manage, you participate’, an attitude that needs to be changed.

  This case study has been provided by VIKSAT, in 2001

Srininvas Mudrakartha,
VIKSAT, Nehru Foundation for Development,
Thaltej Tekka,, Ahmedabad-380054,
Tel: 079-6856220,079-6858007,079-6858009
Fax 079-6852360
Email: [email protected]

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

Recent Updates

Partnership for Land Use Science (Forest-PLUS) Program

This 2016 paper collates and analyzes cases of sustainable forest management by communities.


Related Information

Economics of Protected Areas and Its Effect on Biodiversity

A chapter in the book talks about Malekpur village under "Addressing Equity issues in JFM-the Bhiloda way".

Sustainable Solutions Building Assets for Empowerment and Sustainable Development

A 2002 report by Ford Foundation which talks about community's participation in protecting forests taking the case of Malekpur Village in Gujarat among other things.

Leaving the women in the woods

A 1994 article on relationship of women with forest and issues they face therein.

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