V. Ratna Reddy, M. Gopinath Reddy, Velayutham Saravanan, Madhuusudana Bandhii, Oliver Springate-Baginski
JEL codes: 
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
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
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.