In spite of industrialization and the various alternative employment options available in the twenty-first century, natural resources provide the biggest livelihood opportunities to a large population in the world and in India. In underdeveloped and developing countries, two-thirds to three-quarters of the human population is dependent on the forest and land for their livelihood. The weak point of this situation is that natural resources are not being utilized in a development-oriented manner for providing livelihood strategies. Natural resource removal is not able to foster the socio-economic progress in an effective manner.
The land available for natural resources is limited. This valuable resource has given way to scientific research and development of new techniques to enhance productivity per unit area of land. Agriculture has always been a major source of livelihood but it has reached a stage of saturation with no further scope for expansion. Forest resources therefore become the second largest source that together with agriculture and annual husbandry can provide major livelihood opportunities to the rural communities.
It is a well known fact that forests not only protect our valuable soil, provide clear air but also provide a strong basis for agriculture and industrial progress. Forest dwellers and people living near forest areas depend on natural forests for their nutritional requirements, agricultural implements, raw material for cottage industries and fodder for livestock. Forests therefore become an important life support system for employing large number of people.
It is essential to have a certain proportion of land under forests to maintain the microclimate of the area and to promote socio-economic development of the local people. National Forest Policies of India (1952, 1988) have emphasized on bringing more and more land under forest cover and increasing the canopy cover and productivity of the existing forest areas. However, the strategies required for implementing the guidelines are not available within the legal framework.
DEGRADATION OF FORESTS HAS INCREASED POVERTY, UNEMPLOYMENT AND MIGRATION TO URBAN AREAS
Analysis of poverty has highlighted the fact that forest degradation has resulted in unemployment of a large number of households, their livelihood primarily based on agriculture, animal husbandry, forest-based art, crafts and industry (including bamboo and cane products) and collection and processing of forest fruits, gums and medicinal plants.
As a result they are compelled to depend on untraditional livelihood alternatives. This has happened because unlike agriculture, forestry has not been developed like an industry with a practical work plan and not enough investment has been made in developing and disseminating technical forestry work.
It is a fact that the forest area of India is much less than desired and the existing forest land is low in canopy cover and productivity. This has adversely affected the livelihood of village communities, dependent on forests. On the other hand forest based industries are looking for substitutes to the traditional raw material. They have even started importing these raw materials from other countries.
India is rich in forest areas as well as human resources. Yet forestry has not emerged as a major industry because of lack of appropriate vision and planning. A people friendly forestry programme with sufficient technical and financial assistance can provide a basis for self-dependent and sustainable development of natural resources just like agriculture. A few ideal examples of sustainable development in the field of forestry already exist in different parts of the country. These can provide as role models and can be replicated in other parts of the country.
ABUNDANCE OF FORESTS AND ECONOMIC PROGRESS
Uttaranchal is rich in forests. With a geographical area of 53 483 km2, the forest area is 34 662 km2 (64.8 percent). Even after excluding the forest area above the tree line, rocky patches and river, we still have sufficient forest area, which can be potentially developed into high-density cover.
Uttaranchal has two-thirds of the area under forests (64.8 percent) and yet dense forest cover is only one-third (35.56 percent). It is a major task to increase forest density in the remaining forest areas. This task has not been achieved because it still continues to be a government programme and not a people's programme. A major reason for this is that 68.7 percent of the forest area (23 827 km2) is under reserve forests, 30.8 percent of the forest area (10 673 km2) is under protected forests and under the custody of the Forest and Revenue Department. About 20 percent of the protected forests are with Panchayat forests (2 368 km2). So by and large 92.5 percent of the forest area is under the control of government and only 7.5 percent of forest area is under the direct control of the village community.
Uttaranchal government started the Joint Forest Management Programme with World Bank financial assistance over a very small area of forest land under the control of Panchayats (7.5 percent of forest area). However, the need of the hour was to develop 92.5 percent of the remaining forest area in village forest with the help of local village community to further strengthen the resource base of agriculture, animal husbandry, and small scale cottage industry that would eventually provide local employment and boost the local economy.
CHIPKO MOVEMENT FOR SOUND AGRICULTURE AND FORESTRY PRACTICES
The Chipko Andolan (Movement) from the very beginning suggested that forest development and village economy are closely interlinked. It envisaged the strengthening of the village workforce, their training in forestry and to decentralize all the forestry protection and development activities. It also emphasized on including environmental awareness programmes in all levels of education and to stop the removal of forest products with the help of contractors. However lessons learnt from this success story have not been incorporated in forest management plans of India. The lessons learned from the good work done by the villages covered under the Chipko Andolan need to be extended to the other parts of Uttaranchal. Dasholi Gram Swaraj Mandal developed an ideal model of forest protection and development under the Chipko Andolan two decades ago. This can be a role model for forest development in the hilly state of Uttaranchal. Dasholi Gram Swaraj Mandal strongly feels that a plan based on local needs and future possibilities will motivate and strengthen the local workforce to strike a balance between ecological and economic development. It has done extensive participatory study on the major problems in the villages of Uttaranchal.
In some villages animals did a lot of crop damage. The villagers were not able to reap the benefits of their hard work. They also have a lot of problems regarding fodder and fuelwood. They could barely make enough to provide for one square meal. An agroforestry model was developed to find solutions.
Some villagers were motivated to construct a high stonewall along their agriculture field. The wages for making the stonewall were paid by the Dasholi Gram Swaraj Mandal. The wall was constructed in such a manner that land between agriculture field and forest could be used for planting of fodder producing and fruit bearing trees. This work in the Bemru village of Dasholi Vikas Khand has shown encouraging results.
Construction of wall has resulted in crop protection from wild and domestic animals and increased crop production by 11/2 times. The fodder production has doubled and resulted in two distinct benefits. Firstly, availability of fodder near the village has reduced the time of fodder collection by village women. Earlier they were able to collect only 1 head-load of grass in the whole day. Now they are able to finish all their household chores and get 2 head-loads of fodder and use the remaining free time looking after their children and other productive activities. Secondly availability of sufficient fodder in the area has promoted development of animal husbandry. The milk production has increased one-and-a-half to two times. People have started selling the surplus milk to a milk diary. Fruit production has also contributed to economic change. Sale of fruits in the open market now gives them the purchasing power to buy essential goods and services.
Production of forest produce traditionally used by local artisans can promote the local craftsmanship. For example Ringal (bamboo) is used for the production of local products. A large number of households traditionally dependent on Ringal for livelihood have lost their traditional way of living because of depletion of the raw material from the forest area. No efforts have been made to increase the production of Ringal in the natural forest and to introduce it in agriculture.
Collection of fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants has been a major source of livelihood for a large number of households. Scientific management of forest resources by using sustainable harvesting methods can increase the quantity and quality of forest products. We need to develop a workable strategy to promote this.
RESEARCH REACHING THE COMMON MAN?
Lack of research and technical inputs in the field of forestry has been a major draw back. There is no dearth of forestry research institutes in the country. Very useful research done by these institutes has not been transferred from laboratory to land. We have new scientific achievements, advanced people friendly technologies, development programmes and sufficient resources. In spite of all these we are not able to promote productivity of forests and bring more and more area under forest cover as per the targets laid down by the planners. There could be a shortfall, which must be identified and put right to achieve the ideal situation.
This workshop must deliberate on the priorities of the forestry sector and explore ways and means to execute them. I feel that there is a lack of coordination between the identification of people's needs, problems, their expectations and the planning process. There is a gap between the thinking process of planners and the work culture of the implementing agencies. In a similar manner there is a gap between the need of the development programmes and research priorities of research institutions.
There is a need to plug this with a coordinated effort of various agencies (local people, research institutes, forest planners and executers) involved in forest development. We need to formulate a policy that is based on the grassroots level needs and is implementable.
 Member, National Forestry
Commission, Gopeshwar, Chamoli, India.|