People's participation in resource management

Published: Friday 31 July 1992

People's participation in resource management

-- (Credit: Rustam Vania)WHATEVER their area of work, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have made the most headway in involving people in managing their natural resources. Says one NGO activist, "Local people are very smart. They know that if an NGO is merely doing something for them, it will leave them in the lurch after the project is completed. Only if they work with the people can projects be sustained."

The Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi, recently organised a six-day training programme on People's Participation in Natural Resource Management to learn from the attempts that have been made in the participatory management of natural resources. The training programme covered different strategies used for involving people in the management of forests, water systems, urban problems and credit mechanisms. Some case studies also focussed on how to legislate or institutionalise people's participation. One day was also devoted to discuss the involvement of women in the management of natural resources. CSE plans to hold more workshops of this kind on related themes.
Caring for the Commons THREE approaches involving people's participation in forest management were discussed. The Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (India) -- AKRSP (I) -- has been involved in afforestation of both village common lands and government forest lands in Bharuch district through people's institutions such as village and hamlet-level Gram Vikas Mandals.

Beginning with employment-generation activities and afforestation with the technical support of the Gujarat Forest Department in 1985, the AKRSP(I) soon decided to form villagers' organisations to run decentralised nurseries, choose species for afforestation through participatory processes (involving the use of the villagers' own knowledge), and organise patrols to prevent encroachment by cattle or humans. The aim is to develop adequate sources of fodder, fuel and timber for the tribals of Bharuch district as well as to enhance their incomes.

AKRSP (I)'s approach is based on the principle that villagers are aware of how the forests meet their needs, and will readily manage and protect them if they can be assured of present and future benefits.
Pooling common land ANOTHER approach to people's involvement in forest management is that of the Chakriya Vikas Pranali (cyclical reinvestment system), at present in operation in a group of villages in Palamau district. In this system, private wastelands, belonging to different individuals, have been pooled together and is being developed and afforested using innovative yet simple technologies to prevent any run-off of rain water.

The brainchild of the maverick forester-turned-soil conservationist-turned-community mobiliser, P R Mishra, the CVP is based on the principle that "human psychology will itself motivate all hands to protect a pranali (system), if that pranali has an in-built mechanism to protect all hands", which was conceived and developed by Mishra on top of a hill in Sukhomajri village near Chandigarh.
Partnership with the people A THIRD approach to people's participation in the management of forests, which was discussed at the training programme, is the joint forest management approach arising out of the famous Arabari experiment initiated way back in the early 1970s in Midnapore district. This was an attempt by the forest bureaucracy to form a partnership with the people in managing forest lands.

Informal Forest Protection Committees (FPCs), which consist of representatives of all village families in a demarcated area, were formed. These committees helped both in the regeneration of the forest as well as in meeting people's biomass and subsistence needs through income from non-timber forest products. To encourage joint forest management, the government of West Bengal has issued orders permitting village communities a share in forest products. Today, there are 1,998 FPCs in five southwestern districts of West Bengal.

To get in touch....

Anil Shah
Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (India)
Choice Premises
Swastik Cross Road
Ahmedabad 380 009

P R Mishra
Society for Hill Resources Management School
Dak Bungalow Road
Daltonganj 822 101

Subimal Roy
Conservator of Forests
Western Circle, West Bengal
Survey Building
35, Gopal Nagar Road, Alipore
Calcutta 700 027

Rakesh Kapoor
Centre for Science and Environment
F-6, Kailash Colony
New Delhi 110 048

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