Satara Tukum Village

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 Location Ecosystem Type   Conservation Type   Area(hectare) Legal status 
 Chandrapur, Maharashtra Forest Ecosystem Conservation NAReserved Forest 

Case Study (2009)

Background

Satara Tukum is a small tribal hamlet in Pombhurna taluka about 25 km from Chandrapur District Headquarters. It falls under the Mul Forest Range of Chandrapur Forest Division. Legally the forest under conservation are Reserve Forest. Forest department initiated the Joint Forest Management (JFM) Programme here in November 1997. The forests of Satara Tukum once housed local species like dhaoda, ain, kalam, chinchawa, tendu, etc. However, unrestricted grazing and illicit felling in the past few decades left these forests largely degraded, although they still supported mammals such as tigers and panthers. Under JFM the forests are now recovering their past glory. These forests represent the last stretch of forests extending all the way to Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve.

The villagers of Satara Tukum have been watching the degradation of their surrounding forests and to some extent contributing to it. The general feeling among the villagers was that the forests belonged to the government and the government had the responsibility to protect them. Much of the protected forest around the village had already been encroached upon. Satara Tukum was brought under the World Banksponsored forestry programme in 1997. Mr. Chaphekar (Divisional Forest Officer) and Ms. Imtienla Ao (Assistant Conservator of Forests) persuaded the villagers to join the Joint Forest Management (JFM) scheme under this programme. An agreement to this effect was made in the gram sabha (village assembly) on 14 November 1997. About 285 ha were allotted to the village community for protection. A samiti (committee) was appointed, which had 96 members—i.e., one member each from all the 96 households. These 96 members included 84 men and 12 women. Since the government resolution prior to 1998 required only one person per household in the JFM committee, the Samiti is even today dominated by men, and women’s representation comes only from the women headed households. The executive committee consists of 12 members, three of which are women (as per the requirement under JFM resolution). The participation of women members in the decision-making process is nonexistent. The executive committee is elected every two years. After the appointment of the samiti, Imtienla Ao prepared the micro-plan for the area which was approved by the samiti. As per the micro-plan the FPC undertook the following activities to protect and manage the forests:

  1. Forming groups of seven persons each, which would patrol the forests daily on a rotational basis. The patrolling teams tried to convince hunters and others to stop their activities rather than forcibly stopping them.
  2. Prohibition on free grazing. Cattle grazing illegally in the plantation and regeneration areas were impounded by the FPC.
  3. Controlling illicit feeling, a serious problem facing these forests.
  4. Appointment of a forest guard to look after the plantation area as well as the protected area.
  5. Generation of employment through forestry works such as plantations, soil and moisture conservation, and so on.
  6. Those coming to the forests for headloads of fuelwood for sale were strictly warned or punished (particularly those from other villages).
  7. Soil erosion was effectively checked by building check-dams on various nallahs and big gullies.
  8. Raising plantations of bamboo, shiwan or gambhari, khair and teak or saag on 60 ha of degraded area.
  9. Giving loans to needy villagers to establish small cottage enterprises, such as vermicompost plants, swing machines, dairy development, etc.
  10. Various other schemes taken up to create alternative livelihoods for the villagers, such as beekeeping, sewing-machine training for young village girls, dairy development activities, development of medicinal plants in the village, etc.
  11. Health and education were given importance with the introduction of toilets, bio-gas plants and better educational facilities, all with FPC funds.
  12. The women of FPC formed a mahila bachat gat (self-help group) in which they got 57 quintals of rice in subsidy, which was distributed to each family in the village. The rice recovered from each family was stored in a seed bank for use in the next year.
  13. Youth in the village were organised to protect environment and study fauna and flora of the village. A ‘Young Environmentalist’ movement was organised by a Nagpur-based NGO, the Vidarbha Nature Conservation Society.

The FPC has an account jointly managed by the FPC and the forest department. This account receives money from the forest department for various developmental activities. The profits from catching and selling fish from a community fish-tank established under JFM also go to this account. Sometimes various forestry works are carried out through voluntary work (shramadaan) by the villagers and the amount meant for their payment is deposited in the FPC account. As of September 2004, the samiti had Rs. 1.26 lakh in its account. The Sarpanch (president) of the samiti and the forest guard (member secretary of the samiti) are the joint signatories. Before making an expense the samiti has to pass a resolution and the accounts are regularly announced at the meetings of the samiti but not at the gram sabha. The funds in the account are used to give loans to farmers. In the lean period, each member of the samiti gets a loan of Rs 1000. This loan is returned on 14 January (Makar Sankranti, the harvest festival) with 2 per cent interest. If the loan is not returned on time, some property of the concerned person is mortgaged. These funds are also used for some community activities, such as buying vessels for village functions, etc.

The effort was very successful till funding was available from the WB. However, after the forestry scheme ended the government was not any longer as interested in the initiative. This has demoralised the villagers; they are also not sure what kind of benefits they would eventually get, because till 2004 no Memorandum of Understanding had been signed between the village and the government. Lack of funding and lack of information at the village level of tapping various government schemes has made it difficult for people to continue to patrol the forests at the expense of daily wages that they would earn.

Bamboo harvesting from the protected forests was taken up in 2004 by the FD. Villagers, however, were only paid daily wage labour. No royalty or share of the harvesting was paid. Initially, the villagers refused to offer labour for bamboo harvesting because the paper mill was only paying Rs 2.60 per bundle of bamboo. When villagers raised the point that for similar work the rate elsewhere was Rs 8 per bundle, the company decided to get labourers from other villages. The village put an embargo on the outside labourers. They gave them food for 15 days but did not allow them to work. Eventually, the company agreed to pay Rs 3 per bundle. Considering that there are few opportunities available for employment, such incidents are extremely discouraging for the village, more so because they have protected the forests for nearly a decade now.

The samiti is demanding that the adjoining forest compartment should also be handed over to the village for protection. According to them, this will bring a larger area under protection and villagers would also benefit more when any harvesting eventually takes place. In discussion in 2004, the local RFO and ACF agreed that this could be done as there were no villages around. If the village would pass a resolution, this area could be handed over to the samiti.

  1. Due to effective patrolling and protection, natural regeneration took place rapidly and within a period of two years the forest has regenerated to its past glory with the return of wildlife such as tiger and panther. This is shown clearly in the satellite imageries (see left) taken in years 1994 and 2004.
  2. Hunting was prevalent earlier as the inhabitants of the village are largely tribals. According to the villagers there is very little hunting in these forests now.
  3. Villagers also claim that wild animal population has increased considerably. Animals like wild dogs or dhole (seen in packs coming to drink water at the community tank), panthers, sloth bears, chital or spotted deer and barking deer are sighted regularly by the villagers. 4-5 incidents of attacks by wild animals on human beings are reported every year. According to the villagers these incidents have increased in last few years.
  4. Before JFM was initiated in the village, forest encroachments were a major issue. No encroachments have been recorded in the reserved forests by either the residents of Satara Tukum or from other villages.
  5. Due to protection, abundant grass was available in 1998 itself. The grass was enough to meet the village requirement and also to supply to the victims from a flood-hit Orissa in 1999. Similarly, in 2000, 3 tons of grass were supplied to Gorakshan Kendra at Nagpur and two tons were used to thatch their own houses and to feed their own cattle.
  6. Prior to JFM, crop loans were taken from moneylenders who would in turn exploit the farmers. Considering this the FPC started giving loans to the needy. The interest collected would again be pooled back into the FPC account.
  7. Vermicompost, developed by one of the villagers, increased paddy yield by about 25 per cent. So did the production of vegetables. Villagers noticed that this also considerably decreased insect and pest attacks. These observations made the villagers use vermicompost during the next crop season.
  8. Encouraged by the success of JFM in the village, the Zilla Parishad of Chandrapur allocated fisheries work in one of the tanks to the FPC for a period of 5 years. The profits from this also go back to the FPC account.
  9. Availability of daily wage labour, even though irregular, construction of a community hall to conduct community functions, vessels, sound system, etc. for the village are also seen as a benefit of being part of the programme by the villagers.
  10. Adoption of JFM by the village seems to have made the villagers more aware of the virtues of forest conservation. There has been a sea-change in the relationship between the forest department and the villagers. The fear and antagonism that the villagers felt against the department earlier is not felt anymore.
  11. Funds available for fire extinguishing come to the village fund in Satara Tukum. This is a unique experiment being tried at the behest of the local staff. During a personal communication in 2004, the local RFO revealed that this experiment has not been tried anywhere else in Maharashtra so far: ‘Since the villagers are protecting the forests against fire, this saves the Department resources meant for fire extinguishing activities. This money has therefore been allocated to the village fund.’
  1. World Bank funding and JFM: This JFM initiative was started as part of the WB-sponsored Maharashtra Forestry Project. The project came to an end in 2000. During a trip to the village in 2004, it appeared that the project, while initiating JFM programme in various villages, had not worked out an exit strategy. Once the funds came to an end the enthusiasm of the department also diminished. Lack of funds made it difficult to carry on with employment generating schemes. For a village where land holdings are very small and daily wage is not very easily accessible, it has become very difficult for villagers to forego a day’s wage to go for forest patrolling. Villagers are right now continuing in the hope that some day income will be generated from the forests for those who have helped protect it. However, villagers feel let down by the Department. Satara Tukum which was once being portrayed as one of the best examples of JFM is not a priority for the department since WB funds have exhausted.
  2. Lack of tenure security: Often villagers feel concerned that after all these years they may not get the benefits from the forests. This fear emanates from the fact that after all these years a Memorandum of Understanding has still not been signed between the villagers and the Department. No records are being maintained about the harvest levels at the village level. In addition to that, while the JFM Resolution of the state government earlier talked about an understanding with the villagers for 30 years, an amendment in 2004 says that the agreement will be for ten years only. Such changing policies make villagers insecure about their efforts.
  3. Lack of information: Villagers indicate that they could do with information about various government schemes for villages. They felt they needed support from the forest officials at the divisional level to help them get such information, which will in turn help them generate employment at the local level.
  4. Institution building: In 1997 when the JFM committee was formed, only one member per household was included in the committee. This immediately excluded women from the decisionmaking process. Over the years the constitution of the committee has remained the same. However, by the year 2004 a group of young people had started taking interest in the activities of the committee. They also participate in forest patrolling. Since the young boys have been to school, some of them also play an important role in the administration of the committee. Pravin Chichdhare has in fact been included in the executive committee, even though he is not a member of the general body of the Forest Protection Committee (FPC). The youth, therefore, also wishes to be included in the FPC; however, the older members are reluctant to do this. Their concern is that they have invested almost a decade in protecting the forests and now if new members are included then the share of benefits from the forest harvest per member would further reduce.

During a village meeting in 2004 many villagers expressed concern that the accounts are not being announced to the entire village. The FPC members clarified that many people do not come for the meeting when these announcements are being made. In addition, alcoholism is still quite prevalent in the village. It therefore becomes difficult to elicit effective participation, particularly if the meetings are being organised in the evenings.

This brought home the reality that although forest protection by the village was very effective, much more attention should have been paid to building institutional capacity and systems of conflict resolution to ensure its long-term sustainability. Much of this could be done by facilitating regular dialogues among the villagers and between the villagers and government and nongovernment individuals from out side. A constant flow of information and regular dialogues could help strengthen the village initiative.

 

  This case study has been compiled from ‘Joint Forest Management. Satara Tukum’; A report on the progress of JFM of the village on its 3rd anniversary (Chandrapur Forest Division, 2000). The information was further updated after a field visit to the site by Neema Pathak and Ashish Kothari of Kalpavriksh, Suryabhan Khobragade of Saigata village and Dilip Gode of Vidarbha Nature Conservation Society in October 2004. Information in the box is based on personal communication from Range Forest Officer of Mul Range, Shri A.N.Tikhe, and others, during a field visit by Kalpavriksh members Ashish Kothari and Neema Pathak in October 2004.

Pravin Chichdhare
Village Satara-Tukum
Post Dabgaon
Tahsil Pombhurna
District Chandrapur
Maharashtra
India 441224
Ph: 07174 - 569626

Forest Guard
At and Post Chandrapur
Near Ram Nagar Thakkar Colony
Chandrapur

Range Forest Officer
Mul Forest Range
Chandrapur Forest Department
Chandrapur
Maharashtra
Ph: 07174 - 220404

Dilip Gode
Vidarbha Nature Conservation Society (VNCS)
Tidke Ashram, Ganeshpeth
Nagpur 440018
Maharashtra
Ph: 0712-22728942
Mob: 9822472660

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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Related Information

A Report on Satara Tukum

A report on Joint Forest Management (JFM) practice in the village of Satara Tukum village in Vidarbha, Maharashtra

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