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Management for the locals

JOINT FOREST MANAGEMENT - THE HARYANA EXPERIMENT· Madhu Sarin·Centre for Environment Education· Rs 245

By Amitabh Joshi
Published: Saturday 31 January 1998

-- the focus of the book is on the processes by which the development of a grassroot institution was attempted and the constraints faced in doing this with bureaucracy as a dominant partner. The book highlights developing effective mechanisms for resolving conflicts either between Hill Resource Management Society (hrms) and the Haryana Forest Department (hfd) or within the hrms .

Joint Forest Management (jfm) stresses on a multi-pronged strategy to rejuvenate the forests of the state. It deals with the cooperation between the local people, state forest department and other indigenous bodies. The author, Madhu Sarin, has emphasised the need for democratic decentralisation down to the grassroots level.

The concept of "social fencing" which evolved in Sukhomajri in Haryana is described to, firstly, improve livelihood security of all forest dependent villagers by facilitating a switchover to a more sustainable, higher productivity, natural resource management system including both forest and non-forest land, and secondly, assuring its institutional sustainability through transferring resource management responsibilities to an autonomous community organisation hrms founded on the principles of membership, access to all households, and equitable sharing of the costs and benefits of protection among all members.

The book also exemplifies the case of West Bengal's jfm framework, which has served as a model for most other states. A sustainable conservation strategy is only possible with active support of the local people in conserving the natural resources of the area and integrate environmental parameters in decision making for more holistic and sustainable strategies of development.

The book begins by analysing jfm , to develop partnership between local community institutions and state forest department for the sustainable management of degraded public forest lands.

Central to the jfm concept is the premise that local women and men, dependent on the forests, have the greatest stake in sustainable forest management because of their cultural, economic, and environmental dependence on the forests. It is indicated as an historic policy shift towards democratic decentralisation of forest management in India.

The hfd started extending the Sukhomajri model to other villages by building earthen dams for irrigation to enable villagers to start practising social fencing. The complexity of people-forest relationships and the nature of inter-and-intra village conflicts over allocation of forest areas for grazing leases and how these were resolved through participatory processes have been narrated in the book.

However, there is no mention of providing viable alternatives for those dependent on forest produce for their immediate needs, which would enable them to forsake unsustainable extraction to begin forest protection a factor which was critical for the success of the pilot experiment.

The author identifies certain unresolved issues, including the need to review the goal of doing away with grazing in the forests altogether, the need to address the growing problem of wildlife management, the continuing challenge of developing suitable methods for monitoring vegetative and forest productivity changes resulting from jfm, and the conflicts and contradictions inalliances between non-governmental organisations and the forest department to facilitate a shift to jfm.

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