Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

Implications for joint forest management programs

Implications for joint forest management programs

Since NWFPs are essential for tribal households' well-being, it follows that any program or policy to encourage community involvement in forest management will have to consider the role of women. A gender sensitive co-management strategy accounts for gender differentiated activities, property rights, negotiation and forest resource claims, and places them within the context of a web of social relations. In a compelling case for gender analysis, Leach (1994, p. 28) argued that "women's access to and control over natural resources is often treated in terms of static and predetermined 'female domains'. The impression is that women operate within a fixed framework, their resource-management activities isolated from their relations with men and each other. But questions of rights and control, above all others, implicate the social relationships within which resources are managed and used. Furthermore, focusing exclusively on women obscures their relations with men, implying that women's and men's resource-management activities proceed along isolated, parallel tracks."

Thinking of JFM purely at the household level also neglects the gender disparities. Such a perspective assumes that households constitute a set of congruent interests and preferences and that control of resources is equitable irrespective of gender (Agarwal, 1994b). A gender perspective3 can uncover patterns of resource control with implications for refining JFM policy. For example, in a study of women and forests in Jharkhand, Kelkar and Nathan (1991, p. 118) observed that women play an important role in gathering forest produce. They concluded that "within the family the income from sale of forest produce tends to be counted as the income of the individual who gathers and sells the produce. Increasing the income from forestry will thus also help strengthen the position of women within the family." Here is an instance where women have the same rights as men vis-à-vis control of income from the sale of forest products. JFM policy initiatives, to begin with, should capitalize on such gender equal opportunities, wherever they are present, to improve the social, and economic standing of women.

3 Throughout this publication, gender analysis is contrasted with analysis of women that is conducted in isolation without relating it to the roles and responsibilities of men or in isolation of household and community context.

When JFM centers on eventual provision of timber for house construction or agriculture implements, the differential impact of such a strategy on men and women comes into sharper focus. According to Sarin (1995a, p. 35), the amount of time spent by women in collecting firewood increased dramatically as they are forced to go to more distant and unprotected forests, and "...there is an invisible transfer of unsustainable pressure to more distant areas in order to permit regeneration of those that are nearer. With little short- or long-term planning of alternatives for household cooking fuel needs owing to the focus on timber in both Joint Forest Management and community forestry protection, the policing role of the forest department has shifted to the men in the community, thus further undermining women's rights because of the social unacceptability of challenging male authority within the home."

This phenomenon of women going farther to protect forests adjacent to their village is widely observed in Sovva Panchayat. Here women travel to neighboring Orissa to collect firewood and NWFPs. Focusing just on protection and not on management places additional burdens on women and is detrimental to the sustainability of forests adjacent to a protected forest. Sarin (1995b) observed that "in the traditional forest-centered tribal economies, women's important role as gatherers of forest foods and subsistence goods made them economically strong and valued members of the community. This is also reflected in the tradition of bride price instead of dowry prevalent among most tribal communities."

Women returning from a day's collection of fuelwood in Sovva Panchayat.

A forest protection committee, without the input of women, in completely closing the commons will invariably push women into becoming trespassers on their own commons and worse, trespassers in adjacent forests used by other communities. Very quickly, women are transformed from being economically valued and respected members of a tribal community to transgressors. Besides, emphasis on protection alone without any management component eventually reduces a community and the forest protection committee into an extension of the forest department.

For JFM programs to be effective in the tribal areas of Andhra Pradesh, they must empower all members of a community. Forest protection committees must pay close attention to the needs of tribal women who use the forest for collection of NWFPs. Usufruct rights, however, to NWFPs under the current JFM orders are severely curtailed. Many of the NWFPs are classified as reserved items. JFM orders of Andhra Pradesh state that reserved items cannot be appropriated by forest management committees as the right to them would have been vested in third parties (SPWD, 1993). As women are the primary collectors of NWFPs, an effective measure of empowerment is to give them rights to collect, sell and retain the revenues from the sale. In tandem with giving rights to collection of NWFPs from a community managed forest, the government should allow women to sell them in the open market instead of restricting sale to government agencies such as the Girijan Cooperative Corporation. The state of Madhya Pradesh has moved in this direction by recently granting ownership rights of NWFPs to tribals. In addition, species that yield locally preferred NWFPs should be promoted instead of fast-growing varieties. In the long-term this will ease &e burden on women to meet both the subsistence and income needs of their households. Women's multiple use of forests is sustainable only with species that yield NWFPs. Fast-growing species that yield timber and construction poles might generate revenues for a forest management group but will not alleviate the burdens of women

Andhra Pradesh already requires that one of the two adult members who represent a household in the forest protection committee must be a woman. In giving rights to NWFP collection, and in promoting tree species that yield NWFPs, the JFM program will ensure that women are empowered and greatly contribute to the proper protection and management of community forests. Women will greatly benefit if existing leases to NWFPs are incorporated into the ownership rights of any newly formed forest management committees. At present, JFM programs do not even envision a phasing in of existing leases for NWFPs under the control of tribal communities engaged in forest protection.

Tribals in Kavurai village identifying traditional patterns of forest use and boundaries of their village forest to provide information to a joint forest protection committee.

For community and state partnerships in forest management to be successful, it is imperative that tribal women are involved in decision making in the forest protection committees. In addition, JFM cannot be viewed as another new scheme or project. Co-management strategies, such as JFM, constitute a paradigmatic shift in state, people and forest relations. JFM should truly devolve authority to forest dwellers and make them empowered stakeholders in protection, management, and use of forests. JFM should strengthen community-based institutions, and that requires innovative ways of making women and other vulnerable segments of a community heard in the process of crafting rules and regulations for community forest management. In this regard, rigid guidelines and policies which impose uniform structures and management prescriptions seldom motivate and energize local communities. It is also important not to impose numerical targets as they lead to hastily formed forest committees by forest department officials, without any consideration for local traditions and forest use patterns (Poffenberger, 1995). Such targets shift the focus of JFM away from their real intent: to form representative community institutions that are capable of protecting and managing forests for the long-term benefit of its members. As mentioned before, JFM is about ensuring the long-term viability of forests through a set of community-based institutions that regulate the behavior of its members vis-à-vis forests.

Previous PageTop Of PageTable Of ContentsNext Page