Upper Ngatan Village

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 Location  Ecosystem Type    Conservation Type    Area(hectare)  Legal status 
Senapati, Manipur  Forest  Ecosystem Conservation  400  Not Available

Background

Upper Ngatan village is located in Senapati district of Manipur. The nearest town is Senapati. Since 2004, the village has been protecting about 4sq km (400ha) of dense tropical semi evergreen forest on lower altitude and sub-tropical on the higher altitude.

The protected forest was primarily a jhum (shifting cultivation) field where jhuming was heavily practiced. Because of large land holding per capita and less population the jhum cycle (returning to the same field for cultivation) was very long (20-25 years). The long jhum cycle ensured a high regeneration of the forest. The protected forests are therefore very rich in wildlife even today.

Ngatan is a very old settlement of the maram (naga) communities. The village is nearly 600 years old as per the oral history of the village. The first settlers to this village came from the Maram Khullen village in this region. Ngatan now has two localities, viz. Upper and Lower Ngatam with a total of about 90 households. The present case study is from the Upper Ngatam having about 50 households. Both the villages now have separate governance system.

Land pressure, increased population and economic upscaling of the community have resulted in the rampant extraction of forest resources in this area. The village had a traditional communityreserved forest which was seen as a common property resource reserved for people to use in emergency. But sustainable management aspects or conservation principles were not employed while extracting the resources. There were certain regulations but these were practically never enforced or implemented. Due to these social and other pressures, the local forests and community reserves were severely depleted in most of the accessible areas, except deep ravines and other difficult areas. It is in this context that NERCORMP-IFAD1 came to this village in 2004.

NERCORMP-IFAD constituted a natural resource management group (NaRMG) from within the community. Orientation and sensitization programmes were organized, which included, need for revitalization of the village reserved forest, new challenges faced by the community, need for economic development through increased conservation, among others. The NaRMG leaders also attended a natural resource management (NRM) sensitization workshop conducted by Senapati District Community Resource Management Society (SEDCORMS), the project implementing agency of NERCORMP-IFAD in Senapati district. The leaders realized the importance of natural resource management. They then initiated a dialogue with the members of the traditional village institution, looking after the village land and all natural resources. All the members of the village institution were eventually convinced of the need and importance of revitalizing the village forest reserves.

During the resource mapping and land use planning exercise the community found that it was very important to have a certain portion of the forest as protected for future use as the forest resources are on the decline while population is fast increasing. The NaRMGs in consultation with the traditional village authority declared the following forests as reserve area and designated it as community conserved area (CCA).

1. Community reserve forest at Ting Ngai Vai Pou

2. Cane or rattan germplasm reserve at Tommaina river bank

According to the villagers the reasons for conserving these areas include the following:

1. The area has a good growth of cane or rattan which are becoming extinct in other areas due to overexploitation.

2. To gain respect from the surrounding villages for their reserve forest.

3. To regulate and prohibit indiscriminate cutting of trees by individuals without permission of the village authority.

4. To frame rules and regulations applicable to all the villagers irrespective of their position and status.

5. To regulate and prohibit hunting and fishing by outsiders in their area.

6. To conserve forest for future use.

7. To conserve water which is crucial for terrace cultivation.

8. To regulate collection of non-timber forest produce (NTFP).

The NaRMG and the traditional village authority constituted from amongst their members a reserve forest management committee (RFMC), which is empowered to settle forest related disputes.

The rules and regulations were framed on the basis of the customary laws and traditional practices, which are widely accepted by the community. The rules and regulations were passed in the meeting on the 10th of September 2004 along with the penalties and fines for violations. It was decided that, if need be, the rules and regulations could be amended during the village annual meetings. The fines and penalties in this NaRMG are very low as compared to other NaRMGs because of less conflicts in this village.

The fines and penalties on the defaulters as per their resolution no. 2, dated 10/9/04 are:

a. Cutting of trees = Rs 500/-

b. Setting of fire = Rs. 500/-

c. Hunting of animal = Rs. 1000/-

However the forest management committee may increase or decrease the fines depending on the degree of violation and the intention of the defaulter. The rules and regulations are pro-poor as they do allow poor families to collect honey, dead wood, mushroom, medicinal plants and collection of cane and rattan saplings for sale during the season.

The conservation effort has strengthened the unity of the village. Despite being a small village they have managed to protect their forests and prevented hunting in the protected area. Till 2006, the forest committee had confiscated two guns from Sorbung villagers for hunting in their reserved forest. According to Hingba, a villager, “this programme is more powerful than hundred underground cadres.” Another villager adds “this project has really helped us to remain united and protect our forest for future use.” While another villager believes that, “The spirit of nature will strike on those who are too greedy.”

As the area is now conserved the trees and bamboo are likely to mature within a decade or so, provide the villagers for their domestic and economic needs. An increase in wildlife especially deer, and birds within the last few years have also been noticed. There is increasing recognition of their efforts from the neighboring villages, which is a great source of encouragement for the community.

In due course of time, the community will require to prepare a working scheme for their forests, if and when they would like to extract timber from the area. They would require the help of the government to prepare such working schemes.

The major constraint is that such efforts of the communities are yet to have due legal recognition of the government. The communities also do not get any financial incentives for such efforts. Absence of these incentives could be one of the possible future reasons for their inability to expand the areas under conservation. The NaRMGs are constrained as these are only project-induced village institutions without any legal recognition (meaning not registered under any act). However, the village authority has fully empowered the NaRMG to be the key stakeholder in the management of their village reserved forest.

Conservation can be taken forward to benefit the communities socially, economically and environmentally. The government should recognize and give legal management rights of community reserved forests to the NaRMGs with financial support.

  This case study has been contributed by Vincent Darlong, Mathias Kuba, Lokho Pfoze, and Tutumoni Lyngdoh, all with the North Eastern Region Community Resource Management Project of the International Fund for Agricultural Development 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: drvtdarlong2002@yahoo.co.in

Tutumoni Lyngdoh
(As above)

Mathias Kuba
Senapati District Community Resource Management Society [NERCORMP-IFAD],
P.O. Senapati,
Senapati District,
Manipur.
Ph: 03878-222562

Lokho Pfoze
(As above)

1 North Eastern Region Community Resource Management Project for Upland Areas (NERCORMP) is a Joint Project of International Fund for Agricultural Development (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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