Sova Village

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 Location  Ecosystem Type    Conservation Type    Area(hectare)  Legal status 
 Vishakhapattanam, Andhra Pradesh  Forest  Ecosystem Conservation  Not Available Joint Forest Management (JFM)

Case Study (2009)


The story of Sova village is a reflection of how government interventions, whether legal or administrative, are completely indifferent towards the socio-cultural ground situations. These interventions often disintegrate positive community action rather than supporting them.

Sova village is located in Visakhapattanam district close to the Orissa border. The dominant community residing here are the Malis, and many of their kin reside in Orissa. This village has been settled in the last few decades due to the influx of people displaced from various development projects who were not provided any resettlement package.

Due to constant encroachments, migration of displaced people and many years of unregulated use, the forests in this area have degraded completely. The level of degradation was so high that the locals named these hillocks borke (degraded) forests. Over a period of time the local villagers began facing the impacts of depleting resources. Some of the villagers had visited their relatives in Orissa and were inspired with the community forestry being practiced there (see case studies from Orissa state in this volume). Hence the villagers took charge of patches of adjoining reserved forests and started protecting them from unregulated use. The efforts towards conservation resulted in the regeneration of the forests.

In the late 1980s, the forest department decided to cut down these regenerating trees and started planting commercially useful fast-growing species. The department also imposed restrictions on the access of villagers to these resources. Due to these rules enforced by the FD, people terminated their series of efforts towards forest protection and were compelled to steal fuelwood from the area that they preserved. The intervention of the FD resulted in resource exploitation of the forest area. Later on the Sova villagers, along with the help of four other villages, moved on to offering protection to another patch of forest, which was beyond the legal demarcations of a reserved forest (RF).

In 1993-94 despite the opposition raised by local NGOs, the government started joint forest management (JFM) in these forests. The advent of JFM meant an introduction of a formal institution in the village and an inflow of external funds. However this adulterated the entire concept of conservation and led to several conflicts, eventually leading to the murder of one of the community leaders. However, to date the community continues to protect the forest with their traditional guards and a good part of the hills have been regenerated. People now have increased access to firewood, fodder and resources for domestic use. The JFM programme has managed to sustain village conflicts amid a politicised atmosphere. In the second phase of the World Bank project—the community forest management (CFM) programme—these villages were denied extension of the benefits under the second phase for being critical of the project and highlighting the violations to the World Bank. Villagers consider this a very vindictive reaction of the department.

  This case study has been contributed by Bhanumathi from Samatha, a group working on antimining and tribal rights issues, based in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh. Updated in 2006.

K. Bhanumathi
Director, Samatha
Plot 154, Sector - V, Visalakshi Nagar,
Visakhapatnam - 530043
Email: [email protected]
Ph: 0891 2737662

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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