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19. Participatory forestry and poverty alleviation: the Himachal Pradesh experience
S.S. Negi


Himachal Pradesh (HP) has rich and varied experiences in participatory forest management (PFM) right from the first half of the last century when forest cooperatives were started in Kangra. PFM in HP has had strong direct or indirect linkages with poverty reduction, mainly by facilitating additional sources of livelihood and employment generation, thus increasing the income levels of the rural communities. This paper is based on the experiences of poverty reduction through participatory forest management. It deals with various PFM projects that have led directly or indirectly to increased income levels for the local communities. The lessons learned from these projects are presented. Different approaches and issues concerning poverty reduction through PFM in HP have also been analyzed. It is expected that these will help planners, researchers and practising foresters to move forward.


Since earliest times, forests have played a dominant role in the lives of the people living in the Himalayan mountain bed. The primary needs of fuel, fodder, small timber and timber for construction were met from forests. Without proper management, the natural resources in general and forests in particular underwent severe degradation.

The forest department has remained the custodian of the rich forest wealth for more than 150 years when as in the nineteenth century many rulers established forest departments to manage the forests of their territories. When these areas were occupied by the British, regular forest departments were established and continue until this day.

Himachal Pradesh is rich in forest resources, with about 23 percent of the total geographical area being under forest cover. In recent decades, much stress has been laid on the need for conserving and protecting the valuable forests of the state for the following reasons (Negi 2000):

Participatory or Joint Forest Management is a term used to describe a process in which the local communities are involved in planning, establishing, protecting, managing and using the forest resources through collective action, with the role of the forest department being that of a facilitator.

PFM has vital linkages with poverty reduction. These include:


The setting up of forest cooperative societies (FCS) in Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh to manage the forests was a unique experiment. Though the recommendations of the Corbett Commission were to set up local level forest Panchayats, the forest department advocated the setting up of forest cooperative societies. As a result the Kangra Forest Cooperative Scheme was finalized in 1938. The forest department also created a Kangra Village Forest Division for actual implementation of this scheme.

The numbers of forest cooperative societies set up in Kangra as part of this scheme are as given in Table 1 below.

Table 1. Cooperative societies in Kangra



Forest area
(in acres)
















The salient features of forest management through forest cooperative societies in the Kangra area of Himachal Pradesh are:

The forest cooperative scheme was a novel experience in participatory management of natural resources with the following advantages:

However, there were a number of limitations to this scheme:


An integrated project was conceived to treat selected areas of the upper Binwa catchment in Kangra district. Known as the Indo-German Dhauladhar Project (IGDP), it was launched in 1980 as a joint project of the Indian and the German governments. This project was very successful and developed a model that was later replicated elsewhere.


The main objectives of this project were:

1. to rehabilitate the ecosystem of the project area along with a sustained improvement of the living conditions of the people living there;

2. to evolve a replicable approach to mountain region development in the western Himalaya.

The main problems of the project area were:


The approaches adopted by the project were:

Reduction of demand for natural resources

Increase in the supply of natural resources


This project adopted the TRUCO approach meaning trust and confidence. It means gaining the trust and confidence of the local population before the start of operations in a village.

Village Development Committees

Towards the middle of the project period Village Development Committees were organized to facilitate project implementation and also for serving as a link between the project and the local people. Some of these VDC's have performed well and became sustainable in the post-project period


Following the success of the Dhauladhar project, the Indo-German Changer Eco-development Project (IGCEP), was launched as bilateral integrated multi-sectoral project of the Indian and German governments (IGCEP 1996).

The project area forms part of the lower Binwa catchment and Changer area of Palampur sub-division of Kangra district. The Palam valley in the north, Mandi district in the east, the River Beas in the south, and Dehra and Kangra sub-divisions in the west, form the boundary of the project area.


The main objectives of this project were:


The major problems affecting the project area were:


This activity is being taken up with the help of non-governmental organizations. It is based on sustainable use of local resources and products. The project supports women's groups for fruit, and in future also bamboo, processing and marketing, mainly in the form of training and technical support. This is being facilitated through a non-governmental organization.

A saving scheme encouraged by the project is enabling groups to start their own enterprises. Marketing of the products is also supported by the project


The Integrated Watershed Management Project or IWDP is a World Bank supported project whose first phase was implemented in selected catchments and watershed of the Shiwalik hills of the states of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana and Punjab from 1990 to March 1999. Following the success of the first phase, the follow-up phase, known as IWDP-II, was launched in mid 1999 in selected catchments of these states and also in parts of Uttaranchal (Negi 1998).

This project follows a multi-disciplinary approach that includes PFM.


The HP Forestry Project supported by the Overseas Development Agency (later Department for International Development) of the UK Government was launched in October 1994 with a 3-year pilot phase till September 1997, in Kullu and Mandi districts.

The milestones to be achieved by the pilot phase were:


The HPFSRP has been recently launched as the second phase of the HP Forestry Project. Towards the end of the first phase a detailed impact evaluation was done and recommendations outlined. A core team formulated the project proposals for the HPFSRP. The project period is from 2002 to 2006 with the project being funded by the DFID. The main aim of the project was to establish and implement an integrated and cost effective strategy for sustainable forest management and enhanced livelihoods of the poorest forest dependent women and men in Himachal Pradesh.

Components and outputs

The following five project components and outputs have been laid down:

Output 1:

Developing a multi-stakeholder forest sector policy and strategy for Himachal Pradesh.

Output 2:

Strengthening government, especially HPFD to enable them to provide integrated livelihood support mechanisms.

Output 3:

Strengthening non-government institutions to enable them to provide integrated livelihood support mechanisms.

Output 4:

Developing a cost effective model for empowering and supporting the poorest forest dependent women and men to strengthen their own livelihoods.

Output 5:

The dissemination of project experience and lessons through reports, process documentation, workshops and networks.


Involvement of communities in PFM - It is important to involve the local communities in such programmes right from the beginning.

Direct or indirect short term benefits essential for success - Success depends on how quickly and sustainably the local communities are able to derive tangible direct or indirect benefits like additional income, employment. etc.

Role of women and marginal groups - Women and marginal groups also play an important role in poverty reduction through PFM as they often are the immediate beneficiaries of such approaches.

Broad base - Another important factor is the broad-base representation of the institution involved in PFM.


Gupta, R.K. & Pruess, S. 1994. Indo-German Changer Eco-development Project. Palampur.

IGCEP. 1996. Indo-German Changer Eco-development Project. Palampur.

Negi, S.S. 1998. Experiences of the integrated watershed development project in HP. Workshop on watershed approach to rainfed farming, New Delhi.

Negi, S.S. 2000. Joint Forest Management. Dehradun, IBD.

Negi, S.S. 2003. Natural resource management in the Himalaya, Vol. 1 to 5. New Delhi, APH Publishing Co.

[28] Environmental Protection and Pollution Control Board, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh State, India; E-mail:

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