Working Paper No. 62 October 2004
This paper traces the recent emergence of the new participatory forest management regime in AP Joint Forest Management (JFM) and Community Forest Management (CFM). This paper is based on the existing literature on forest policies, the historical context (pre-colonial, colonial and post independent India), and impact studies. The paper considers the contemporary developments in India in shaping the forest policies in AP. At the same time it considers the significant role played by donors and civil society. The process and quality of implementation, and the impact of the programme on local communities and resources are also examined. AP ranks fifth in India in terms of geographical area (275,068 sq km), and third in terms of forestland (63,813 sq km or 6.38 mha (Million Hectares), which constitutes 23% of APs total land area. Some 65% of APs forest area is spread over 8 predominantly tribal districts in the northern part of the state. These tribal populations are particularly dependent on the forest for their livelihoods for forest product collection and cultivation on forestland. Historically the relationship between these tribals and the government agencies, particularly the Forest Department (FD), has been very poor, with numerous uprisings, including the Naxalite movement. Many of these lands are disputed due to inadequacies in the legal processes by which largely tribal lands were declared state forests. Legally podu has de jure status prior to 1980 Act. Post 1980 podu cultivation is illegal and considered as encroachment. De facto podu is considered as encroachment (prior to 1980) as there is no proper settlement, conceptually typical podu practice is seen only in a few pockets in the state, especially in Vishakhapatnam. In 1956, on the formation of AP from Telangana and parts of the Madras Presidency, the pre-existing forest management regimes from the two distinct areas were harmonised by the Law Commission, leading to the AP Forest Act, 1967. Initially the states FD continued with a policy of commercialisation and revenue generation. However, with a growing crisis of forest degradation participatory approaches were introduced. The Government Order (GO) for JFM in AP was issued in 1992, although implementation didnt start until 1994. JFM has built on the roles played by both local forest *Centre for Economic and Social Studies, Hyderabad, India. +Overseas Development Group, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK. users and the FD staff. Funding to the FD to promote JFM has come from both the World Bank (WB) and from centrally funded schemes, such as the Employment Assurance Scheme (EAS). Formation of Vana Samrakshana Samithies (VSS) began slowly after the GO, although by 2004 the official number stands at 7,245 VSS, managing 1,886,764 ha, (or over 29% of state forest land) and involving 611,095 families. The largest numbers of VSS are concentrated in the tribal areas of Adilabad, Visakhapatnam, and Khammam. The pattern of implementation and the outcomes is extremely complex, partly because of the wide variety of local conditions, ethnic and caste composition and local livelihood uses of forestland. The limited devolution of power which has occurred through VSS formation have however certainly been popular in many areas, because they have given local people endorsement to protect their local forest resources, upon which they depend for their livelihoods. Some employment opportunities have also been provided and some shares of revenues from forest product marketing are promised. Evidence suggests that the VSS have been successful in many areas in terms of regenerating degraded forests between 1993 and 1999. However there have been many criticisms of the JFM programme so far, most fundamentally focussing on the issues of power and land tenure. Because the FD has held almost complete discretionary power over the scheme and its implementation, the JFM process has inevitably reflected their objectives. Whilst many foresters have espoused very progressive ideas and concepts, in practice the implementation of the scheme has often furthered forest management strategy according to silvicultural norms, rather than local livelihood-oriented practices. In the context of a fundamental power asymmetry between the FD and the VSS., there has been little empowerment of local communities to take their own decisions with respect to forest management. This is most obviously seen in forest management plans. Whilst local people would like to see livelihood oriented forest management regime (ie. regular product flows, shorter term rotations, multiple product mixes) the FD has tended to prioritise its conventional forest management practices, often involving long rotation timber stands. The micro-plans commonly fit within wider divisional working plans. Livelihoods security could be increased if the forest resource were under a management plan, which actually prioritised local needs and opportunities. Institutional sustainability is a major problem in AP with many VSS becoming defunct due to conflict, lack of interest, or lack of funds. Where participation has been based on substantial funding flows, when the funds stop the motivation to participate reduces drastically. The institutional linkage between the VSS and the panchayat raj institutions has not been developed, which could ensure not only long-term sustainability, but also empowerment and legal independence of the local institutions. Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) have been largely excluded from the implementation of JFM, despite the fact they have played a major role in formulating the PFM policies at the state level.