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OLD ROOTS, NEW SHOOTS: A STUDY OF JOINT FOREST MANAGEMENT IN ANDHRA PRADESH·C S Rangachari and S D Mukherji·Winrock International and Ford Foundation·2000·pp189·

 
By Arnab Kumar Hazra
Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

-- THEORITICAL and empirical studies of collective management of natural resources have proved the efficacy of common property as an efficient institutional arrangement.

In India, joint forest management (JFM), involving partnerships between forest-based communities and the forest departments for the protection and management of forests, was initially successful but certain core problems persist.

jfm needs to be carefully assessed by evaluating the experiences in implementing the system. In such an endeavour, this book based on the Andhra Pradesh experience will help shape future policy towards forest management.

However, it leaves the reader wishing for more on the jfm experience in Andhra Pradesh and less on the other issues that it deals with extensively.

The book is part of the series on Contemporary Issues in Indian Forestry, under the Winrock-Ford book series. There are nine chapters covering 180 pages. The first six chapters, spanning more than 100 pages, have very little to do with jfm, and out of these, the first four chapters, covering more than 80 pages, is not related to forestry per se. A couple of arguments on age-old issues are repeated. One on the traditional vision of ecologically sound practices for the management of natural resources and the second, the destruction of the country's natural resources by the British rulers. However, the latter argument is not very discernible.

The authors, surprisingly, tried to absolve the forest department of any blame for the massive depletion of forests till the mid-eighties, by appropriating the responsibility on "government policy on tribal development and the naxalite problem". The government followed a "policy of appeasing the local tribals by assuring them the regularisation of encroachment on forestland".

The last three chapters on jfm in Andhra Pradesh forms the crux of the whole book and all the previous chapters could have been condensed into one introductory chapter. Here there is a complete turnaround. There are some honest confessions on the attitude of foresters towards jfm and their failure to halt degradation. A majority of the forest officials felt that jfm "would erode their authority to manage the forest resou-rces." "It was difficult for both to forget the bitter experiences of the past and start trusting each other."

The authors also highlight the bureaucratic red tape that hinders the functioning of jfm. The Centre, for example, insists that the state forest departments get prior approval for their 'working plans' from the Union ministry, which "is a time-taking and red- tape ridden process that arguably adds nothing to efficiency".

jfm needs to refocus on people rather than trees. Timber and not non-timber forest produce is still the major objective addressed in the jfm programmes. The authors very correctly conclude: "What, however, clearly does not help here is the 'one-size-fits-all' approach".

The authors propose a system of evaluation of forest management in genera1l and the project in particular. The approach is quite detailed, unique and noble.

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