Of the total area, 1600 ha is under community forest. In the 1990s, the Toufema Village Council (TVC) had orally pronounced a ban on hunting and felling in this forest reserve located on a hillside above the village. However, this ban was not very effective. In 2001 the TVC therefore passed a formal resolution re-affirming the ban, and stopping all kinds of resource uses (including firewood collection, grazing, wild food gathering, and hunting) inside the reserve.
This resolution came simultaneous to, and apparently motivated by, the declaration of this village as a ‘tourist village’, with investment from the state government into developing tourism cottages, a museum and other facilities for visitors. The village donated part of the land being used for shifting cultivation to be used for the development of a tourist complex in the village. The tourist complex has been designed based on the local architecture and construction style. Each hut for the tourists has been constructed by one khel (hamlet) in the village, based on their traditional style of construction.
In recognition of their efforts towards conservation of forests and wildlife, the state government has since 2003 also extended some financial assistance (through the Forest Department) for bamboo/ wood fencing, patrolling, construction of a tourist reception centre, and other related works.
The motivations for declaring the reserve appear to be multiple. Foremost was an increasing concern over the rapid decline of wildlife and forest cover, as rampant hunting and tree-felling had taken their toll. Elders of the village were concerned that the younger generation would never know what it was to live with wildlife. The village intends this area to be a breeding centre from where animals can increase and spread outside too. Another motive was protection of water sources, as villagers had heard from ‘learned people’ that these would dry up if forests disappeared.
The land in the reserve is mostly community-owned, but there are also small patches of land owned by individual families, which have been donated by them to the village. Initially, they were allowed to continue using the area for some cultivation if they wanted, but over time they have been encouraged to give this up for forest regeneration and conservation. In return, they have been promised a share of benefits that may be generated from the conservation initiative, such as from ecotourism. It is not clear if they will get an extra share to compensate for their loss.
Since the forest is shared between Toufema and its offshoot settlement Botsa, a joint Forest Survey Committee has been constituted for monitoring observance of rules, looking after the forest and catching violators. Patrolling is done frequently in the non-rainy seasons.
Fines for violations range from Rs 1000 to Rs 5000, depending on the nature of violation. Since 2001, two cases have been dealt with. One (in 2002) involved the trapping of a squirrel and a wild cat, in which two persons were fined Rs 2000 each. The other (in 2005) was for cutting two trees, in which the violator was fined Rs 5000 and the timber was confiscated. The violators were all from Toufema itself; so far no violation by outsiders has been recorded. Village rules require that if offenders do not pay the fine, no benefits from the village would be extended to them, and, if they persist in committing offences, they would be chased away from the village.