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7. JFM and poverty alleviation: an analysis
Mudit Kumar Singh
[10]


ABSTRACT

The knowledge about interdependence between natural and social systems enforces the need to implement the Joint Forest Management Programme (JFM) in a more holistic, integrated and flexible development framework. The JFM Programme in India has great relevance for developing nations which have predominantly agrarian economy and the population is dependent upon forests for subsistence. The JFM in India has given a new thrust and direction through the 62 890 JFM committees covering 14.25 million ha of forest land in 27 states. This has resulted not only in rejuvenating the forest cover but also brought socio-economic changes in the life of the communities living in and around the approximately 175 000 forest predominant villages in the country. There has been a paradigm shift but the need is to have a holistic approach to forest and natural resource management with development of concept of livelihood initiatives through people's participation for forest enrichment. Poverty alleviation is linked not only to hunger satiation but for fulfilling the basic human needs of providing shelter, clothing, clean water, education and health care. It is a paradox that where more forests exist, there is higher degree of poverty and to mitigate this problem several policy initiatives have been tried but still much is required to be done. How productivity in the forest can be increased to meet the challenge of growing fuelwood, fodder and timber demands is the biggest challenge. The second challenge is to provide gainful employment and generate produce which can be harvested sustainably. The right approach is to manage JFM Programme by setting national objectives which should include multi-tier plantation, NTFP propagation and technological inputs which are low-cost and locally adaptive based on the principle of care and share. The enabling environment for sustainable livelihood option is participation of the forest communities with scope for local ingenuity, innovation and capacity building of the stakeholders for poverty alleviation through Joint Forest Management.

INTRODUCTION

Over the years, more than half of India's 76.53 million ha of forests have become degraded resulting in ecological crisis and immense hardships for the forest-dependent people in and around the forest areas. The dependence on forests is so much that over two-thirds of the rural population and half the urban population use fuelwood for cooking purposes. About a quarter of India's livestock population is almost totally dependent on forest lands. Nearly 70 percent of India's population uses traditional medicine which comes from the forests. Forest based activities are often an important source of cash income for the poor especially during lean season (MoEF 2002). The JFM Programme in India has given a new thrust and is of great relevance for developing nations who have predominantly agrarian economy and the population is dependent upon forests for subsistence.

PRIORITIES AND PARADIGM

That forests and poverty alleviation have a direct relationship is proven beyond doubt. But it is also true that poverty is higher in vicinity of higher forest cover. Among the priorities that have become prominent in development policy planning worldwide since 1980, the followings have particularly influenced the JFM policy:

IMPACTS OF JFM

The JFM Programme has led to several positive impacts like:

The overall strategy of JFM is as described in Figure 1.

Source: Singh (2003).

Figure 1. Joint Forest Management (JFM) Programme

PRESENT SCENARIO

The JFM Programme covers 14.25 million ha of forest land in 27 states through 62 890 committees. Among the many independent and isolated attempts that were made by forest departments in different states for eliciting community participation during the 1980s and 1990s, the Jhabua experiment in the State of Madhya Pradesh was unique. The Jhabua District was reeling under frequent droughts, poor productivity of natural resources - forests and agricultural lands, mass out-migration in search of livelihoods, and illegal and illicit withdrawal of forest products, when the forest department undertook the Joint Forest Management Programme. This programme not only attempted to tackle problems of forest destruction, but was also aimed at generating options for poverty eradication and employment as a crucial step for reducing pressure on natural resources (TERI 2000).

Some states have shown a spurt of initial growth and subsequent stagnation while others who were dormant for years have shown remarkable progress in later years. Yet many others, with enormous forest wealth, despite facing extreme difficulties in managing them, have not made significant strides. In some cases, the JFM movement gathered steam with the thrust coming from externally assisted projects, but lost the momentum when the projects came to an end.

The enhancement of the quality of life of forest dependent communities, through efficient, participatory, multiple-use management, equitable distribution of returns and establishing long lasting demand-spurred systems of environmental governance and justice, is possible by:

Forests have been identified and recognized as one of the natural resources on which the local people are dependent and extract fodder for their cattle, fuel for energy, non-timber forest produce (bamboos, cane, medicines, fruits, fibre and flosses, etc.) for their domestic needs and timber for house construction and furniture.

Ecological security is the foundation of equitable and sustainable development. Forest conservation through community participation ensures ecological security and sustainable development (Roy 2003). However, mere subsistence is not enough to ensure long term sustainability. Therefore, while ensuring sustainable forest management over a period, JFM should contribute more than subsistence needs and in the 'JFM Plus' phase it should help in raising the living standard of the community through value addition of forest produce (ICFRE 2001).

The need is to have a holistic approach to forest and related natural resource management. The Dr C.H. Hanumanth Rao Committee, which looked into the working of the Drought Prone Area and Watershed Development Programme in the country during the last 30 years found that it had not worked primarily because people were not involved in the planning, implementation and management and the programmes made no provision for capacity building.

LIVELIHOOD SYSTEM

The 'Livelihood System' means developing the forests in a manner that the outputs from the forest provide the community with substantial economic benefit in perpetuity to attain a satisfactory level of life. The schematic representation in Figure 2 explains the concept of Livelihood Initiatives through Forest Enrichment (LIFE).

Figure 2. Livelihood Initiatives through Forest Enrichment (LIFE)

The following criteria for success of such initiative are envisaged based on the performance indicators:

Criteria

Parameters for success

Performance indicators

Technical

Improved ecological conditions

i. Better availability of fodder, fuelwood and other NTFPs, etc.
ii. Status of regeneration by Regeneration Survey
iii. Increased availability of fodder, fuelwood and timber from non-forest land

Institutional

Effectiveness of training and operationalising of principles of shared responsibility

i. Behavioural change in Forest Department staff
ii. Relationship between Forest Department and community

Institutional

Performance of villages and
District level initiatives

i. In terms of meeting, activities, participation, and responsibilities

Sustainability

Cost-effective eco-development activities

i. Employment generation and diversification
ii. Value addition of goods

Equity

Empowerment of marginalized groups and women

i. Economic empowerment
ii. Social empowerment

Participatory

Voluntary contribution

i. Increased development fund

Participatory

Better forest management

i. Rotational grazing
ii. Rotational patrolling
iii. Decrease in forest offences
iv. Control of forest fires
v. Removal of encroachment from forest land

Financial

Expected returns on investment

i. Intermediate returns
ii. Expected final return

It has been found in the programme that, until an analysis of the socio-economic conditions and forest dependency for various goods and services is done, it is not possible for the Forest Department to involve local communities. Therefore a sound knowledge of their culture, tradition, social and economic conditions is a must. To take these measures, an exercise of priority setting by communities is essential. The priorities should be clear and their solution should come from the stakeholders mainly.

THE RIGHT APPROACH

The JFM Programme has to be managed in future with the following objectives:

Once the JFM Programme provides the local people with alternative solutions as per the above objectives, the local communities' response to the programme will be positive and they will be convinced not to overexploit the available forest resources in the vicinity of the villages. The keenness to work in collaboration with the Forest Department shall also be more and all activities that are detrimental to forests will be reduced.

The technological inputs should stress on strengthening the existing forests by enrichment planting, soil and moisture conservation works, multiple shoot cutting in coppice species for clean boles and availability of fuelwood and fodder production linked to increased milk production. The stress should be on the principle of care and share through socio-silviculture planning process.

The heart of enabling environment for sustainable livelihood option is participation by the forest based communities living close to forest land. It is not sufficient that forest community is 'involved'. In planning process promoted through JFM Committee, forest communities should be motivated and organized into an institution which should undertake micro-planning of public and private lands for afforestation. The planning process has to be democratic and well informed.

The PRA exercises separately with men and women groups and then jointly with all are extremely useful and should cover:

For participatory management to be genuine, there should be enough scope for local ingenuity and innovations to contribute to management practices that would be owned by the JFM Committee. Capacity building by way of practical and theoretical training, and dissemination of success stories in vernacular language have to be the inbuilt components in all programmes (Katwal and Singh 2002).

HOW TO SUSTAIN JFM GAINS?

The approach of JFM has created a positive environment to improve livelihood systems of forest dependent communities and address the root cause of rural poverty in remote areas. Forestry alone, however, cannot provide the necessary linkages and mechanisms affecting the multifaceted problem of rural poverty. Therefore, a multi-pronged approach is needed to develop sustainable livelihood support systems under JFM.

The key areas which need attention are:

NGOs can have a major supportive role in initiating and operationalising Income Generating Activities (IGAs) on collective basis. They can work as catalyst in solving marketing issues, value addition and raw material availability.

FUTURE PROSPECTS AND CONCLUSIONS

Several questions arise concerning implementation of JFM on a sustained basis. Studies have to be undertaken to find out whether the impoverished women and men, who are compelled to resort to unsustainable forest use for survival are able to switch to sustainable resource use through JFM programme.

There is a growing trend to increase the number of JFM Committees. The increase would need to be guided by the capacity of the field level forest staff and their ability to effectively coordinate and monitor the progress. Otherwise these committees remain only on paper with not much of attitudinal change. The other issues which need attention are resolving intra committee and boundary conflicts. The entire JFM mechanism has to be process-based rather than individual-based.

Given the broader concept of poverty and the broader framework for understanding poverty, as well as the global context for poverty alleviation, the framework of actions to attack poverty should be built on three pillars, empowerment, security and opportunity. These are well engraved in the JFM mandate.

Poverty alleviation is linked not only to hunger satiation but for fulfilling the basic human needs of providing shelter, clothing, clean water, education and health care. It is a paradox that where more forests exist, there is higher degree of poverty and to mitigate this problem several policy initiatives have been tried but still much is required to be done. To achieve higher progress, land has to be made productive and cattle have to be healthy. A combination of short and medium rotations and coppice system needs to be evolved for a variety of tree species being planted under JFM for faster economic gains. How productivity in the forest can be increased to meet the challenge of growing fuelwood, fodder and timber demand is the biggest challenge. The second challenge is to provide gainful employment and generate produce which can be harvested sustainably. The right approach is to manage JFM Programme by setting national objectives which should include multi-tier plantation, NTFP propagation and technological inputs which are low cost and locally adaptive. The emphasis has to be on participatory process through community based economic development, sustainable management of local resources and policy feedback.

JFM has to be taken as a means of forest development and not an end in itself. There is no short cut. Each area has specific requirements and no two JFM Committee areas can be similar in problems and solutions. Though basic approach may be the same, still implementation techniques differ. But such an integrated approach shall benefit the people, government and civil society in general. Agriculture, water harvesting and land conservation practices have to be meticulously adapted to local conditions.

Participatory forestry programmes must develop mechanisms to distribute benefits down to individuals, households and targeted groups within committees to play a meaningful role in poverty alleviation. In addition we have to put governance in 'mission mode' for a more pragmatic approach to JFM.

Every technology should have an ideology behind it to give it direction and meaning and every technology to be socially relevant should have a strategy to give it realism and experience. For achieving this in renewed perspective, the theme of any technology package under JFM programme should be to give maximum production in the shortest period; conserve forests and utilization of all that grows in the forests to meet people's needs.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bahuguna, V.K. 1993. Forestry in eco-development - an experience in Jhabua Forest Division, RCWD. Bhopal, Indian Institute of Forest Management. 57 pp.

Ford Foundation. 2002. Forests and wastelands: participation and management. New Delhi. 10 pp.

FSI (Forest Survey of India). 2000. Survey of forest report - 1999. New Delhi, Ministry of Environment and Forests. 113 pp.

GoI Report. 2000. JFM guidelines. New Delhi, Ministry of Environment and Forests.

Guhathakurta, P. & Roy, S. 2000. Joint Forest Management in West Bengal - a critique. New Delhi, World Wide Fund for Nature - India. 172 pp.

ICFRE. 2001. Proposed JFM scheme for the 10th Five-year Plan. Dehradun, India. 33 pp.

Katwal, R.P.S. & Singh, M.K. 2002. Enabling environment for sustainability of Joint Forest Management. Paper presented in Workshop on Joint Forest Management and Watershed Development, Chennai, India. 12 pp.

Kurup, V.S.P. 1996. New voices in Indian forestry. New Delhi, Society for Promotion of Wastelands Development. 292 pp.

MoEF (Ministry of Environment and Forests). 2002. Joint Forest Management - a decade of partnership. New Delhi, JFM Cell, RUPFOR. 15 pp.

Mukherji, S.D. & Rangachari, C.S. 2000. Old roots new shoots - contemporary issues in Indian forestry. New Delhi, Winrock International/The Ford Foundation. 189 pp.

Planning Commission. 2001. Report of the Task Force on Greening India for Livelihood Security and Sustainable Development, New Delhi. 231 pp.

Roy, S.B. (Ed.) 2003. Contemporary studies in natural resource management in India. Kolkata, Indian Institute of Bio-Social Research and Development. 339 pp.

Singh, M.K. 1999. Managing non-timber forest products for sustainability of Joint Forest Management. Technische Universitat Dresden, Germany. 114 pp.

Singh, M.K. (Ed.) 2003. Proceedings of the International Workshop on JFM: a decade of Joint Forest Management - retrospection and introspection. Dehradun, Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education. 400 pp.

Sundar, N., Jeffery, R. & Thin, N. 2001. Branching out - Joint Forest Management in India. New Delhi, Oxford University Press. 289 pp.

TERI. 2000. Green beginnings - Joint Forest Management in Jhabua. New Delhi, Sida. 186 pp.


[10] Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education, Dehradun, Uttaranchal, India; E-mail: mudit@icfre.org

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