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14. Forest and poverty: a survey study
K.D. Singh
[21]


ABSTRACT

The paper aims to develop a methodology for a survey and study of relationship between forests and forest dwellers using the Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh, India, as an example. The first part describes the research on establishing an integrated information system for such studies by geo-referencing forest cover, forest reserve and census village data. This is followed by a detailed analysis of spatial correlations in the distribution of tribal and non-tribal populations and their occupational patterns as a function of distance from the forest. Dynamic changes in the population during 1961-1991 and the resulting process of deforestation are presented with a view to illustrate the need for livelihoods in the face of increasing population in a subsistence economy. Finally, implications of findings for tribal development are discussed and conclusions drawn with a view to promote a location-specific (bottom up) approach to planning in the tribal regions.

INTRODUCTION

The highest concentration of the biological diversity occurs in the remaining natural forest and geographically inaccessible parts of the country. These are also the areas with highest concentration of the tribal population, who live in social and geographic isolation and partly survive on subsistence agriculture (both shifting and permanent) and partly on a range of products gathered from forests with very little processing and manufacturing activities. Thus, these people are among the poorest of the poor and most vulnerable of the vulnerable to natural calamities.

It is generally believed that the tribal people have lived in harmony with nature and customarily protect forests for their well being and to a vast number of them, forests are their well loved home, their livelihood, their very existence (Dhebar Commission Report 1961, p.125). The symbiotic relationship between forest and tribal people is well known and reported. They regard various species of forest as their kith and kin (Totems). Stephen Fuchs mentioned about the prevalence of 150 varieties of animals and 87 species of plants as totems by Mundas of Chota Nagpur in Bihar (Fuchs 1973). A recent study by the Forest Survey of India using multi-date satellite data shows (1997), however, a high rate of on-going deforestation in most of the tribal districts numbering about 150. The two observations viz. deforestation and tribal attachment to forest's, are difficult to reconcile. There must be some fundamental change in the region, which is giving rise to such improbable developments.

OBJECTIVES

With the above background in mind, I tested the following hypotheses:

MATERIAL AND METHODS

Adilabad Revenue Division, containing 325 villages of the Adilabad district, was chosen for the study. The division forms a part of the Tribal Sub-plan Districts and is reported to have poverty head count ratio of 50 percent unchanged since 1980. The area was intensively surveyed during 1970s by Pre-investment Survey of Forest resources, GOI, and again in 1996 by World Bank assisted Andhra Pradesh Forestry Development Project. The variables included in the research are:

Spatial (i.e. Map) data

Attribute data (viz. Statistical tables: single date or time series) mostly from Census of India 1961-1991 at village level, which provide comprehensive information on ethnic composition, literacy, vocation and many other variables.

Data sources: The village level map was taken from National Census Report 1991; the control points from topographic map of the Survey of India, Dehradun and digital data like roads and cities taken from FAO Global Forest Resources Assessment 1990 GIS Archive. The Forest Cover Map was derived from Forest Survey of India.

GIS Procedure: The layers for reserve forests, blocks and villages were transformed from hard copy into digital format and geo-referenced. The following procedure was used:

Statistical analysis: A correlation analysis was performed using "proportion of tribal to total population in a village" (termed p) as the dependent variable and "other village characteristics (like altitude, distance from road, etc.)" as independent variables. In addition, a time series of demography and socio-economic data was compiled for tracing the increase of demand for more agriculture land on a per capita basis. To study the land use and forest changes, a special technique was used called interdependent image interpretation (FAO 1995).

MAJOR FINDINGS

Methodology of data integration

The study found that census maps in themselves do not provide an adequate basis for geo-referencing village maps. However, it is feasible to create a reliable village level GIS by supplementing Census village maps with control points extracted from Survey of India Maps. Other existing GIS data could also be integrated, as listed earlier, which enhance the value of village level GIS. It is hoped that the methodology of establishing village level GIS would be of wider interest in India and that National Census would consider using the approach to prepare a nationwide village level GIS database for the whole country. This will support planning of a bottom up strategy for tribal and rural development.

Correlation among village parameters

"Proportion of tribal to total population in a village" (termed p) was correlated with other village variables (see Table 2). Correlation analysis identifies key determinants of spatial distribution of tribal population: altitude, distance from road and city centers. The location on a higher altitude implies greater risks of land degradation and increased needs for soil and water conservation measures. These handicaps are over and above poor health and literacy cited earlier in Table 1. Progressive increase of distance from the market as well the nearest road means that tribal people have to spend systematically more of their energy and time than others in both selling their produce to and obtaining inputs from the market. Tribal cultivators, especially on the forest fringe, are among the poorest section of marginal farmers living under poverty line as shown in Table 1.

Table 1 shows that p is negatively correlated with distance from forest, in other words, tribal population tends to be located in forest proximity; a higher p is also associated with increasing altitude and distance from roads and city centers. Finally, the tribal population has negative correlation with total population meaning that the proportion of tribal declines as total population increases.

Table 1. Correlation among village characteristics

Village variables

Correlation with proportion
of tribal population in a village

Distance from forest

-0.55

Village altitude

+0.47

Distance from road

+0.21

Distance from city

+0.46

Total population

-0.36

Vocation as cultivators

-0.39

Manufacturing vocation

-0.23

Non-workers

-0.57

Note: Villages with no population have been excluded to avoid division by zero.

Social stratification

Among the geographic variables, distance from forest was most significant. Therefore, data was tabulated by distance of villages from forest in three classes as given in the first column of Table 2.

Table 2. Characteristics of villages at varying distances from forest reserve

Forest distance class

Number of villages

Population density
No/km2

Ratio of tribal to total population
(p)

Altitude
(m)

Distance from road
(km)

Distance from city
(km)

< 1 km

122

74

78

418

3.3

8.3

1 - 5 km

145

135

56

372

2.6

5.7

5 km +

98

195

30

249

2.1

4.9

Source: Census of India, 1991.

Occupational pattern in village groups

To study land use and occupational pattern of tribal and non-tribal population, villages were reclassified in two ethnic categories: 1) dominantly tribal, if the proportion of tribal to total population (p) was more than 0.5; and 2) non-tribal if the proportion was less than 0.5, both with reference to census in 1961. Statistics on the occupational pattern in the two categories of villages by forest distance class is given in Table 3.

Table 3. Occupational pattern in villages by forest distance and ethnic classes

Type of village

Forest distance class

Number of villages

Village size (ha)

Population

Occupational pattern

Total

Tribal

Cultivators

Manufacturing

Non-workers

Non-tribal









p < 0.5

1

33

1006

911

359

386

21

444


2

91

752

1328

235

504

58

674


3

79

614

1058

71

413

26

554


All

203

740

1155

192

450

40

590

Tribal









p > 0.5

1

89

776

396

328

192

3

185


2

54

542

363

282

175

3

172


3

5

512

420

284

201

4

202


All

148

682

385

310

186

3

181

Source: Census of India, 1991 and 1961.

The following conclusions are drawn:

Forest dependence

Hours spent to various livelihood activities are a good indication of their livelihood means. The following data were taken from an intensive survey done in a development block of Orissa with dominantly tribal population. It may be noted that forests are the sole supplier of subsistence during January to March every year extending occasionally till May.

Table 4. Time spent on various livelihood activities by Kutia Kandha Tribes in Orissa

Activities/year

Total hours

% share

Days spent

Survey particulars

Wet Cultivation

374

12.8

47

Total HH:1025 (1990)

Shifting cultivation

590

20.2

74

Population: 4090

Wage earning

144

4.9

18

Size: 3.89 persons/HH

Forest Collection

928

31.8

116

Literacy

: 2.9% in 1980

Others

544

18.6

68


: 7.92% in 1990

No work

340

11.7

42

Schedule tribes: 87.97%

Total

2920

100.0

365


Source: Kutia Kandha Tribes of Tumudibandh Block Phulbani District of Orissa, 1998.

Dynamic changes in village population

A comparison of population in 1991 with 1961 shows that during the 30 years total population in non-tribal villages multiplied by 1.7, but in tribal villages by 2.3. However, tribal population in non-tribal villages grew by 2.2 times and in the tribal villages by 2.1 times. This finding is strange, but could be explained by the fact that some of the growth in tribal population is due to reclassification of non-tribal into tribal to get privileges intended for the latter and partly due to their migration into tribal villages to own land by illegal means.

Table 5. Population growth in villages, non-tribal and tribal, during 1961-91

Type
of
village

Forest
distance
class

Demographic development of village by decade and forest distance class

1961

1971

1981

1991

Tribal

Total

Tribal

Total

Tribal

Total

Tribal

Total

Non-Tribal

1

114

444

134

591

254

744

353

911


2

105

802

117

985

178

1091

231

1328


3

40

608

48

737

50

853

68

1058


All

81

668

93

825

141

942

188

1155

Tribal

1

132

160

172

251

213

314

324

396


2

156

183

174

236

240

301

276

363


3

189

256

216

332

284

431

278

420


All

142

172

174

248

225

313

305

385

Source: Census of India from years 1961, 1971, 1981 and 1991.

Deforestation trends and path of land use changes

Using the method described earlier, the following change matrix was obtained for the district.

Table 6. Land and forest cover change assessment in Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh

Forest cover classes in 1988 image

Forest cover classes in 1994 image

Total historical image


Open forest

Long fallow

Fragmented forest

Shrubs

Short fallow

Other land cover

Water

Plantation

‘000 ha

%

Closed forest


7.0



0.5


5.1



12.6

30.6

Open forest

0.1




3.3

0.2

6.9



10.5

25.5

Long fallow












Fragmented forest












Shrubs

0.1

0.1





15.7


0.1

16.0

38.8

Short fallow












Other land cover

0.1








0.1

0.2


Water





0.8


0.5



1.3

3.2

Plantation

0.3





0.4




0.7

1.7

TOTAL ’000 ha

0.6

7.1



4.6

0.2

28.6


0.1

41.2


recent image %

1.5

17.2



11.2

0.5

69.4


0.2


100.0

According to this study, the forest area of Adilabad district in 1994 was 649 600 ha and had declined by 29 400 ha during 1988-94 viz. by 7350 hay-1 (at the annual rate of -1.13 percent). As forests constitute major source of livelihood of the tribal people, progressive deforestation means their progressive impoverishment.

The last row in Table 6 shows that 69.7 percent of changes involve a transfer of land to other land cover (viz. agriculture). The other changes involve transformations like transfer of closed forests into open forests to shrubs, which could be termed as land degradation. The deforested and degraded lands, especially in hilly terrain, are prone to soil erosion unless proper control measures are taken to arrest it. Continuing subsistence and shifting agriculture result in reduction of yield per unit area and eventual loss of land for cultivation purposes.

If it is so happening, then what is the incentive for deforestation and whom does it serve and whom does it hurt? Continued overuse of forests also results in deforestation when all trees have been used up. The two result in less and less availability of forest produce to the local population, in absolute terms and much less in per capita terms. Worst hit are the non-workers (i.e. landless) within the tribal community.

DISCUSSION

The demographic expansion in villages in all forest distance classes, with increase of non-working population combined with decrease of forest area and land degradation must be adding to economic hardships of the forest dependent population in general. Forest Survey of India (1997) reports that deforestation is on-going in most of tribal districts of the country. This, in particular, is disturbing because the same report states: "Forests have played a key role in the tribal economy and have been a source of subsistence and livelihood to them. It is a common belief that tribals have lived in harmony with nature and customarily protected forests for their well being". Has some thing basic changed in the life and belief of the tribal people and why?

Agriculture, as practised today, contributes mainly to subsistence without securing a sustainable growth in economy to absorb the need of rising population. Investments in agriculture are not paying because the terrain is inhospitable and soils not suitable for getting high yielding crops without irrigation and fertilizer inputs. Even if they mange to produce enough, they do not have competitive advantage in marketing due to cost of transport off- and on-road. Agriculture will thus remain a source of auto-consumption only. On the other hand, financial incentive to agriculture motivates tribal people to cut down forest and engage in agriculture, even if it is not sustainable.

The agriculture production in the study area is also subject to uncertainty because of droughts, which occur every 2-3 years, when water becomes scarce even for drinking. There is urgent need to adopt water conservation and appropriate cropping practices to regulate the water supply. The impact of subsistence farming including shifting cultivation on the down stream water supply is not well known.

The productivity of agriculture outside the study area is continuously rising because of commercialization, use of relatively high level of inputs and better cropping practices. To give an example, during 1964-95 on an All-India basis, the area under wheat rose 1.6 times, total production 4.8 times and yield per ha 14 times. The increase of production is creating marketing problems and government has to intervene to support minimum prices to farmers through a procurement drive.

Instead of subsistence agriculture, the people could be provided food under the "food for work programme" of the government of India. This will take away the need for subsistence agriculture in the area and replace the same by a land use, which has competitive advantage and enables value addition and enhances the income and employment opportunities. This would, however, require techno-economic studies and land evaluation which will identify and promote ecologically as well as economically sustainable land use, keeping in view developments in side as well as out side the area. Such a change may be difficult to achieve in the existing administrative system run on departmental lines; but they have important bearing on the long-term economic development of the people in the area and need to be implemented to break the vicious cycle of incorrect land use and poverty.

The tribal people of Andhra Pradesh live in areas, which are geographically inaccessible and ecologically very fragile. Any strategy for their sustainable development must take into account these two constraints. In these areas, focus should be on building of forest assets owned by community and promotion of harvesting, processing and marketing of wood and non-wood products by the community. The greening of the deforested and degraded landscapes will result not only in sustainable development of the tribal people, but also result in direct benefits down-stream people through improvement in agricultural production due to improved soil and water conservation up-streams.

The Working Group of Tribal Development (1978-1983) recommended that tribal development and forestry development should become two integrated goals and meet the basic needs of tribal economy should be provided on priority basis in all forest schemes.

Forest products in the country have easy market outlet and are selling at relatively high prices. Many of the non-timber products have even an international market. India is exporting presently about 100 million dollars worth of non-timber forest products. A strategic question is: can the production, collection, processing and marketing of timber and non-timber products be organized which provides the tribal and non-tribal people, living in relatively inaccessible regions, a major source of income and employment, pride and power?

In the whole chain of processing and value addition, the share of primary production, which tribal people get, is a very small fraction. The idea should be to engineer a development alternative, which has comparative advantage and is sustainable in view of the local geography, ecology and social realities of the site in relation to the outside world.

CONCLUSIONS

With special reference to the area studied, the following facts have been observed which may help to solve the above puzzles:

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

The Author wishes to acknowledge and thank Dr. Ashbindu Singh, Director, UNEP GRID North America in Sioux Falls for the funding and technical review of the study; and Mr. Alessandro Baccini, Italy, for valuable support in the development of GIS and statistical analysis.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Census of India. 1961, 1971, 1981 & 1991. New Delhi, Registrar General of census, Government of India.

Dhebar U.N. 1961. Report of the scheduled areas and scheduled tribes commission. New Delhi, GOI.

FAO. 1995. Forest resources assessment 1990. Global Synthesis. Forestry paper 124, Rome.

FAO-UNESCO. 1977. Soil map of the world, Volume VII: South Asia. Paris, UNESCO.

FSI. 1997. State of forests report 1997. Forest Survey of India, Dehradun, India.

FSI. 1999. State of forests report 1999. Forest Survey of India, Dehradun, India.

Fuchs, S. 1973. Aboriginal tribes of India. Delhi, Macmillan.

Gallup, J.L., Sachs J.D., & Mellinger, A.D. 1999. Geography and Economic Development, CID Working Paper 1, www.cid.harvard.edu.

GOI. 1998. Schedule tribes, schedule areas and tribal area in India. New Delhi, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Tribal Development Division.

Hausmann, R. 2001. Prisoners of geography. Foreign policy. January/February 2001, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC, USA.

Mohan Rao, K. 1999. Tribal development in Andhra Pradesh: Problems, performance and prospects. Hyderabad, India, Booklinks Corporation.

Nillson, Nils-Erik. 1986. Indian forestry and its integration with social and rural development. A report written for GCP/RAS/106/JPN, FAO, Rome.

Poffenberger, M. & McGean, B. 1996. Village voices, forest choices. Delhi, India. Oxford University Press.

UN. 2000. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly. 18 Sept 2000, A/Res/55/2. New York.

Verma, R.C. 1990. Tribes of India through the ages. New Delhi, Delhi Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

ANNEX 1

SOME STATISTICS ON KUTIA KANDHA TRIBES OF TUMUDIBANDH BLOCK PHULBANI DISTRICT OF ORISSA

Activities/year

Total hours

% Share

Days spent


Wet Cultivation

374

12.8

47

Total HH

:1025 (1990)

Shifting cultivation

590

20.2

74

Population

: 4090

Wage earning

144

4.9

18

Size

: 3.89 person/HH

Forest Collection

928

31.8

116

Literacy

: 2.9% in 1980

Others

544

18.6

68


: 7.92% in 1990

No work

340

11.7

42

Scheduled tribes: 87.97%

Total

2920

100.0

365

Distribution of holdings

House hold observed

108

Villages

70

No land

23 (21%)

Land types (ha)

Area cultivated/HH

< 1 ha

54 (51%)

Total

2.011

1 - 2 ha

26 (24%)

Lowland

0.411

2 ha

+5 (5%)

Mid/highland

0.474

All

108 (100%)

Hill slopes

1.126

Forests sole supplier if
subsistence during Jan to
March every year extending
till May

Source

Income per HH (Rs/year)

Agriculture

3024

Other (Non-forest)

821

Total

3845


Total expenditure/HH

Rs. 4367

Imbalance =

Consumption including

3884

3845-4367= -522

food, clothing, wine

(2277,467,566,269)


tobacco, festivities, etc.



Cost of Cultivation

452


Crops

Area /HH

Yield(Q)/HH

Value /HH

Cost /HH

Paddy

0.411

5.6

784

121

Ragi

0.333

2.9

580

74

Maize

0.141

1.5

300

32

Vegetable

0.141

0.5

100


Pulses

1.126

0.7

420

225

Oilseed

1.126

1.2

840

225

Total

2.011


3024

452

Crop (foothills)

Yield (Quintals/ha)

Cost per ha

Paddy

13.6 (Range 13.4 - 15.5)

294

Ragi

10.0 (Range 6.7 - 12.4)

222

Maize

10.3 (Range 7.5 - 11.1)

227

Crops on hill slopes

12.1

200

(HH = household)


[21] B-114 NITI Bagh, New Delhi, India; E-mail: karndeosingh@hotmail.com

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