Toufema Village

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 Location Ecosystem Type   Conservation Type   Area(hectare) Legal status 
 Kohima, Nagaland Forest Community Based Tourism 1600 Community Owned

Case Study (2009)

Background

Toufema is one of the larger villages in Kohima District, with a population of about 5000 (2001 census), and is well-known for being one of the two ‘tourist villages’ in Nagaland, the other being Khonoma. The village has received much attention in the past few years because it is the home of the current (2005) chief minister of the state, Neiphiu Rio. Located at an altitude of 1800 ft, the village provides a panoramic view of the surrounding area.

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. 

Villagers report that whereas most wildlife had disappeared earlier, the conservation initiative has resulted in its reappearance. Wild mammals that are increasing in number (or can once again be seen, even if only occasionally) include barking deer, Asiatic black bear, jungle bat, serow, wild pig, Himalayan crestless porcupine, slow loris and several squirrel species. Occasional leopard sighting or pugmarks are reported. There is also reportedly a marked increase in birdlife, including kalij pheasant and red jungle fowl. A checklist of over 100 bird species has been prepared by Kalpavriksh team during their field visit, based on observations by villagers. There is no independent checklist of flora and fauna, but the Tourist Village managing committee has initiated the process of making one.

The Kalpavriksh team observed that the protected forest appears to be quite diverse and very dense in patches. Some old trees seem to have survived the earlier deforestation, but most of the forest is young. Quite a lot of bird-calls (relative to other parts of Nagaland, where forests are quite silent) were heard on a very brief visit into the reserve area.

Economic benefits are being derived by the community from this initiative, though the extent is not clear. Water sources have reportedly become more reliable, but the initiative may be too recent to judge whether this is a direct cause-and-effect relationship. Villagers hope that if more people become aware about the tourist facilities and conserved forests, then ecotourism will bring in major resources to the village. 

It is not clear if there are direct or indirect economic benefits linked to the conservation initiative, though of course this has not been a motivation for the initiative in the first place. Links between the conserved forest and the ecotourism initiative are made by villagers, though there did not seem to be many comments from visitors (in the visitors’ register maintained in the Tourist Village) relating to the conservation work. The tourism committee is aware of the need to increase local capacity relating to flora-fauna identification, and of providing greater guidance on this to visitors.

Several families appear to have been adversely affected at the time the ban on hunting and resource use was imposed, as they lost out on collection of fuelwood, wild foods, medicinal plants and other resources, including some for sale. However, it is now felt that the negative impacts have lessened, as wildlife has spread to adjoining areas from where people can still collect/hunt it. In addition, many of the edible wild plants are now cultivated by villagers. This is an aspect requiring further study; in particular, the impact of the conservation initiative on poorer households needs investigation. 

There is some discussion about wanting to reintroduce Hoolock gibbons and some monkey species into the conserved area, since these species were earlier found here. Expert opinion from outside may need to be sought before such a step is taken. 

 This case study has been put together by Neema Pathak, based on information provided by Kevilhousa Kense of the Toufema Tourist Village, and Thesuohie Kense, Head Gaon Burra of Toufema village, Nagaland, during a visit to the village by Ashish Kothari, Shantha Bhushan and Neema Pathak of Kalpavriksh in October 2005.

Kevilhousa Kense
Tuofema village
Kohima District
Nagaland
Mobile: 9436005002
2270786/2100064

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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