New Kubing Village

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 Location Ecosystem Type   Conservation Type   Area(hectare) Legal status 
 North Cachar Hills, Assam Forest Ecosystem Conservation 600Village Forest, Reserved Forest

Case Study (2009)

Background

New Kubing village is located in the North Cachar Hills District of Assam. The nearest town is Haflong. The village like others in the district had a traditional practice of protecting a patch of forest as village reserves. This practice was revived under the NERCORMP-IFAD1 programme in 2001.

As per the District Council Act in North Cachar Hills, Assam, when a new village is created or established, it is mandatory to have village reserve forest of at least 20ha. The village reserve of New Kubing was first declared in 1950 when the village was established. The reserve covers an area of 6sq km or 600ha. However, over the years with an increase in the population, pressure on land began to mount and the villagers began to jhum (shifting cultivation) randomly. In many cases this even meant encroaching upon the village reserved forest. The traditional institutions, expected to manage or protect these forests also became somewhat ineffective over years due to various reasons and influences. Like most other villages, New Kubing, which is inhabited by the zeme nagas, also experienced similar problems. As a result the traditional village reserved forest was severely degraded.

Prior to the NERCORMP-IFAD project intervention, the villagers faced water scarcity and change in local climatic conditions due to encroachment in the reserve forest and degradation of water catchments areas. After the project intervention and various awareness programmes, the community felt the need to conserve and protect village reserve forest and water catchment area.

The NERCORMP-IFAD programme was initiated in 2001 by organising the local community into a natural resource management group (NaRMG). A series of orientation and training sessions on livelihoods and natural resource management were conducted. The members of the village council (VC) were brought in as members of NaRMG. They were also requested to strengthen the functioning of the VC, particularly in the areas of forest protection and management. A comprehensive forest management training was conducted in collaboration with the forest department (FD) on effective community forest management and revival of community conserved areas.

The community through the NaRMG and VC decided to maintain and protect the old traditional village reserved forest in addition to a nearby critical water catchment area. They also made rules and regulations for maintaining this reserved forest, including:

i. Illegal felling of trees will attract a penalty of Rs.500/- per tree, in addition to planting and maintenance of the equivalent numbers of trees as felled.

ii. Jhuming in the reserved area is prohibited and violation would attract a payment of fine such as a salem (a buffalo head).

iii. Illegal timbering and killing of wild animals is prohibited. Willful violation of these rules will result in the eviction of the person/family from the village.

iv. Making proper firelines while slashing and burning for jhum will be mandatory for every household. Any accidental forest fire has to be collectively attended by all the villagers as a fundamental duty.

Before drafting of rules and regulations, the NaRMGs were advised to be more sensitive to the needs of the poor and the women such that their livelihoods are not negatively affected. In the initial period the rules were more strict. With the improvement of the forest regeneration and improved governance, the communities have in recent times revisited their rules and regulations. Revised rules allow collection of wild vegetables, firewood (only dry branches), mushroom and medicinal plants to the women and the poorest households as identified by them. In case of an emergency situation, trees can also be cut for house construction and collection of firewood (such as marriage of poor households). This is not with the aim to relax prohibitions for the poor, women and underprivileged, but to improve their livelihood opportunities and income condition through improved conservation practices. The village is also encouraging every household to carry out plantations in their respective vacant plots.

NERCORMP-IFAD project interventions, such as training programmes, workshops on comprehensive forest management, biodiversity conservation and jhum, fallow management, introduction of participatory land use planning through the use of 3D models of their area, and others have enabled the communities to visualize the total village area, natural resources within and around the village, land use system, and so on. This has made the community realize the importance and values of bringing more forest areas (including fallow land) under community conservation and also the need to increase the jhum cycle.

As per the community’s views the following reflect the importance of biodiversity conservation:

i) Availability of water throughout the season, for kitchen garden, terrace development, minor irrigation and drinking water.

ii) Availability of wild vegetables and other NTFP for self-consumption and sale.

iii) Availability of firewood in time of need and requirement.

iv) A healthy environment and improvement in local climatic condition around the village area due to increased forest cover.

v) Increased income from kitchen garden and terrace development.

vi) Less dependence on jhum, thus making time available for additional off-farm activities such as piggery, petty business, and so on.

vii) Elimination of hajira (daily wage labour) outside the village, particularly for women.

viii) Gains in human, social, physical and natural assets of the individuals and the community as a whole.

The government sponsored Joint Forest Management (JFM) has been introduced by the FD in the village due to the regenerated community reserved forest. There is a promise for higher investment under JFM for forest protection and management, and also for non-forest/non-land based livelihood activities. The community is however still not too clear in what way they would benefit by being part of the JFM. Their tribe members from other villages are noticing their progress and are also very keen to replicate their success story, which the village community is sharing with pride and conviction. Within the village the NaRMG and VC members are deliberating on whether or not to increase areas under conservation and what benefit that might bring to them both economically and ecologically.

The greatest constraint is that the people are generally economically weak, but their need for cash income is growing due to increasing expenditure for education, health care and general household expenses. Many households are looking at the current conservation effort as the possible source of economic returns. However, this may not be achieved as much as expected due to various other constraints such as absence of working scheme for harvesting of timber, among others.

The community has revived village reserved forest with the assistance of NERCORMP-IFAD project. They are now also deriving benefits from such conservation efforts. However, efforts need to be strengthened in certain areas which include:

• Linkages with the FD and other concerned government departments.

• Policy sustainability i.e. the efforts of the community to promote conservation through appropriate incentives and recognition by the government.

• Institutional sustainability, i.e. the continuity of the NaRMG and strengthening of the VC particularly in governance and financial matters.

• Financial sustainability.

• Technological sustainability.

The biodiversity assessment of the area is yet to be done. The village reserved forest has many varieties of plant and wild animals. Some of the important animals seen in the forest and vicinity are wild boar, deer, monkeys, fox, squirrels, wild fowl and bear, among others. 

  This case study has been contributed by Dr. Vincent Darlong of North Eastern Region Community Resource Management Project for Upland Areas, Mary Hmar of North Cachar Hills Community Resource Management Society, and Tutumoni Lyngdoh of North Eastern Region Community Resource Management Project for Upland Areas in June 2007.

Vincent Darlong
North Eastern Region Community Resource Management Project for Upland Areas [NERCORMPIFAD],

“Sympli Building”,
Dhankheti,
Shillong 793 001,
Meghalaya
Ph: 0364-2503531, 2500495
Email: [email protected]

Mary Hmar
North Cachar Hills Community Resource Management Society [NERCORMP-IFAD],
P.O. Haflong,
N.C. Hills,
Assam.
Ph: 03673-236937
Email: [email protected]

Tutumoni Lyngdoh
North Eastern Region Community Resource Management Project for Upland Areas [NERCORMPIFAD],

“Sympli Building”,
Dhankheti,
Shillong 793 001,
Meghalaya
Ph: 0364-2503531, 2500495

1 North Eastern Region Community Resource Management Project for Upland Areas (NERCORMP) is a Joint Project of International Fund for Agriculture (IFAD) and the Government of India, Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region, North East Council, Shillong, Meghalaya. For more details on the programme, see www.necorps.org.

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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