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17. Forest for poverty alleviation: Chhattisgarh experience
R.C. Sharma


Poverty is a multidimensional complex phenomenon. Apart from the macro economic problems, the degradation and restricted access of the poor to the available material and environmental assets also fundamentally trap the poor in their circumstances. There is an urgent need to revisit the forest-poverty nexus because forest ecosystems are capable of offering interesting opportunities and security nets for poverty alleviation. By targeting on a broad range of goods and services in terms of physical, material, human, social and environmental assets in conjunction with appropriate entitlement regime, Chhattisgarh Forest Department has envisioned People's Protected Areas (PPA), as a proactive and people's friendly matrix for poverty alleviation, sustainable forest development and bio-cultural diversity conservation, which can work as poor people's pool of assets for meaningful poverty alleviation. In Chhattisgarh 32 PPAs, extending over nearly 500 000 ha covering more than 300 villages, have been established as models of "conservation through use" for addressing core concerns of livelihood security with integrated ecosystem approach. The New State Forest Policy and Resolutions with built-in equitable benefit sharing mechanism are motivating forests dwellers to become curator and custodian of their bio-cultural habitat.


The ever increasing anthropogenic pressure and archaic managing institution on forests, particularly in tropical countries, have led to depletion of the vegetation, land degradation, distortion of hydrological cycle and consequent decrease in productivity resulting in poverty and misery. Problem becomes acute in forest fringe areas where there is neither enough land fit for cultivation nor industries to provide employment. Due to disadvantaged geographic location (DGL) syndrome, Human Development Index (HDI) is at its lowest in these areas. People still practise primitive subsistence agriculture with very low productivity and to meet their growing food grain requirements they opted for more extensive cultivation including shifting cultivation or encroachment in forest areas. Degradation of forests as a result of exploitation for fuelwood and illicit felling of trees is yet another facet of the same problem. In this process steep slopes and areas unfit for growing of annual crops are brought under the plough, creating near ecological disaster.

The water-balance in the situation described above is totally upset by the destruction of vegetation. Distortion of the hydrological cycle and consequent decrease in productivity per unit area leads to enhanced poverty and misery. Poverty and illiteracy coupled with malnutrition are again the main causes of increased population growth, which further accentuate the natural resource degradation process. Thus poverty in these areas becomes both the cause and the effect of natural resource degradation (Sharma 1999).

It is a debatable point whether poverty with its pressure to survive or affluence with its pressure to consume leads to environmental degradation but it is more than obvious that poor people cannot be signatory to conservation if it is in conflict with their survival needs. The 21st century challenge is to facilitate a devolution of greater authority to forest-based communities while minimizing conflicts, and to support new partnership among communities, government and the private sector to ensure the meeting of community needs, forest resource conservation and sustainable use. Clarifying forest use rights and responsibilities and creating adaptive policies and programmes that allow for intensified access controls can lead to more sustainable forest management. This requires appropriate institutional arrangements (Poffenberger 1996).

The fundamental role of forests in national development, poverty alleviation and food security has again been recognized at the World Food Summit (WFS 1996) and (2002), the United Nations Millennium Summit (2000) and the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD 2002), where in following priorities for action have been identified:

For the Asia-Pacific region poverty is a serious concern. The twin problem of rural poverty and continuing degradation of forest are posing a real challenge. Therefore in this paper the role and potential of forest sector in reducing poverty will be examined in terms of identifying the opportunities and capturing and strengthening them by revisiting the fragile link and vexed issues between the ecological security and livelihood security of the dependent people. During this journey we will try to learn the ABC of forestry (where "A" stands for appropriate entitlement regime, "B" for benefit sharing arrangement and "C" for conservation) because our strong belief is that to reach "C", we have to move through "A" and "B" sequentially. Finally, a proactive and people friendly framework with actual operational modalities and lessons learned from the newly created state of Chhattisgarh, India, will be cited which is a modest attempt to reconcile the dichotomy of threat perceptions arising out of conservation-development orthodoxy by taking into account the human sensitivities in terms of the felt needs of the people, their social norms, beliefs and systems borne out of history, culture and traditions.


Poverty is a complex phenomenon. Apart from the macro economic problems, the degradation and restricted access of the poor, to the available material and environmental assets also fundamentally trap the poor in their circumstances. Poverty in turn leads to further degradation of the natural assets and circumscribes the limited access the poor have over the natural resources. This constitutes the vicious circle of poverty particularly in the resource rich but underdeveloped areas with undefined and inequitable access of the poor to the common property resources.

Chapter 3, Agenda 21 of the Earth Summit (1992), reiterated that to provide all persons urgently with the opportunity to earn a sustainable livelihood there should be an integrating factor that allows policies to address issues of development of sustainable resource management and poverty eradication simultaneously.

Livelihood security

A livelihood comprises the capabilities, assets (stores, resources, claims and access) and activities required for a means of living: a livelihood is sustainable which can cope with and recover from stress and shocks, maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets, and provide sustainable livelihood opportunities for the next generation; and which contributes nett benefits to other livelihoods at the local and global levels and in the long and short term. Accordingly, sustainable livelihood approach permeates the entire concept of People's Protected Area.

As a corollary to this, to begin with, food security, health cover and dependable wage labour become areas of prime concern. Goods and services from the forest ecosystem more importantly non wood forest products (NWFPs) originating from diverse sources ranging from large plants to micro flora consisting of heterogeneous products, constitute a critical life line for poor forest dwellers by providing family sustenance and livelihood. Due to their recurrent availability on annual/seasonal basis and immense socio-cultural, economic, environmental and industrial development potentials, NWFPs hold a promise for developing interesting mechanism for sustainable livelihood.

Food security

Food security envisages adequacy, stability as well as economic and physical access to food to all people at all times. There may be enough food but if the poor don't have access to it, the food security will not be complete.

Besides ameliorating the soil and water conservation regime, which adds substantially to the enhanced agricultural food production, forest products reinforce the food security in many ways. Human history corroborates that forests have always been a source for large number of non-wood forest produces which directly contribute to the food basket of the people in form of edible fruits, flowers, gums leaves, roots, tubers etc. During lean agricultural season, even the agricultural communities supplement their food requirement from the forests. Furthermore, income generated from sale of surplus NWFPs enables the poor to have access to food.

In the Indian rural context where mixed farming is in vogue, cattle are important component of the socio-economic set up. In the complex chain of food web, cattle are secondary food producers too. They derive their food from the forests, which they convert into animal proteins in form of milk, fat, meat and other dairy products to be used by human beings. Although excessive grazing pressure, more importantly the one beyond the carrying capacity, has been viewed as a constraint by foresters, PPA endeavours to accommodate multiple use of natural resource on sustainable basis so that food resources are available to the people as well as cattle.

Health cover

Forest have been source of invaluable medicinal plants since the time man realized the preventive and curative properties of plants and started using them for human health cover. Even when no synthetic medicines existed, our forefathers had been depending on herbs and medicinal plants and their derivatives to cure common ailments. Our age-old traditional Indian System of Medicine (ISM), one of the most ancient medicine practices known to the world, derives maximum of its formulations from plants and plant extracts that exist in the forests.

The general forest degradation process adversely affects the resources base of medicinal and herbal plants both in terms of quantity as well as quality. Rural poor, whose dependence on these products is very heavy, are the worst sufferer. The problem is compounded by market demand driven harvesting without any concern for regeneration and conservation. In this process essential regenerative component of a plant like bark, roots flowers and fruits are indiscriminately collected leading to degradation and depletion and even demise of particular species, if proper remedial measures are not taken. Many important medicinal plants like Rauvolfia serpentina, Curcuma caesia, Dioscorea spp., Chlorophytum spp., etc. are becoming rare and some of them are critically endangered. It is estimated that 10 percent of all plant species and 21 percent of mammal species are currently endangered in India.

Augmenting rural employment

Land and water are two most important natural endowments but they are finite. However, with judicious mix of interventions like development of irrigation facilities, application of improved and modern agricultural practices and creation of other income generation activities based on non-destructive use of locally available natural resources, the possibilities of creating dependable wage labour can be enhanced. The initial entry point activity would be to create awareness among the local people about their latent strength, availability of natural resources and potential of using them on sustainable basis by technological up gradation. Broadly, this may be achieved by developing the hardware of the system comprising of physical activities eg. water harvesting structures, drinking water facilities, common facility centers, village level processing units, storage units etc. On the other hand, interventions like raising awareness, bridging credibility gap, confidence building, soliciting meaningful participation of the local communities and empowering them, creating income generation opportunities through skill development etc. would constitute the software of the system.

Keeping in view that for the poor communities, economics precedes ecology and conservation and in tune with their priority, there has to be sharp focus on productivity enhancement so that they can reap better economic returns. For those who possess land, a programme is initiated to upgrade the productivity of the agriculture system by land shaping, constructing stop-dams, tube wells and making available to them other inputs for better crop, husbandry practices, so that the land under rain fed condition is transformed into double cropped or in certain cases even triple cropped land. Enhancing the productivity of the land provides good harvest as well as gainful employment round the year. All these on-farm activities can be adopted as a package for improving the socio-economic conditions of the people who otherwise practise subsistence agriculture. For landless persons off-farm activities leading to income generation can be devised by using forest biomass and other resources. In the first category, activities like NWFP collection, rope making, honey collection, nursery etc can be considered, whereas in the latter category schemes like, mushroom cultivation, shop keeping, grocery, etc. can be envisaged (Sharma 1997).

NWFPs, with their attendant instrumentalities, play a meaningful role in bringing sustainability to the system because the employment generation from these enterprises is around 20 million man days per year, which is approximately half of the forestry sector. NWFP related activities take care of both the unemployed as well as underemployed and NWFP based small scale enterprises can further strengthen the linkage of the socio-economic base on account of:

These are some of the illustrative and by no means exhaustive interventions, which can provide a conducive environment for socially acceptable and dependable wage labour.

To translate this premise, the concept of People's Protected Area (PPA) has emerged which by targeting on broad range of goods and services in terms of physical, material, human, social and environmental assets in conjunction with appropriate entitlement regime, PPA envisions a proactive and people's friendly framework so that it becomes people's pool of assets for meaningful poverty alleviation and their enhanced well being alongwith conservation.


As per provisions of the Madhya Pradesh Reorganization Act, 2000, a new state of Chhattisgarh was born on 1st November 2000. The 16 districts of erstwhile Madhya Pradesh spread over an area of 135 000 km2 constituted the new state. The state has rich endowment of natural resources in terms of minerals, forests and water bodies. Important mineral deposits are of iron, coal, bauxite, uranium and diamond. The state has a forest cover of around 44 percent, which represents diverse tropical flora and fauna. Mahanadi, Shivnath, Son, Arpa, Kharoun, Hasdeo and Indrawati are the main rivers. With an average annual rainfall of 125 cm. the state produces some of the best rice varieties and hence aptly christened as "Rice Bowl" of the country.

With the population of slightly over 20 million people, Chhattisgarh has got a high proportion of scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs). Whereas for the country as a whole the SCs and STs population is 23.6 percent, in Chhattisgarh the combined population of SCs and STs is 44.7 percent, consisting of 32.4 percent of STs and 12.3 percent of SCs.

The state has around 20 000 villages of which 9500 villages are forests adjacent, which have more than half of the population belonging to tribal groups. Gonds form the largest proportion (55 percent) of the tribal population. The tribal and other backward classes are concentrated in the hilly southern and northern districts where the hillocks are covered with forests. Most of the SCs are located in the central and north central parts of the state, particularly in the districts of Raigarh, Kawardha, and Mahasamunda.

Chhattisgarh has got 59 772 km2 of forests, which have been classified as sal, teak and miscellaneous forests including bamboo forests. Some of the best sal forests of the country are in this state. Apart from timber, these forests provide many non-wood forest produce (NWFP) like tendu leaves, sal seeds, mahua flower and seeds, amla, harra, gum, lac, tamarind and mahul leaves, etc. Besides these, several important medicinal plants are also found here. These non-wood forest produces are important source of income and also serve as food supplement during famine and scarcity, which are quite recurrent in this area. More than 50 percent of the people living in and around forest area depend for their subsistence on forests. Furthermore, forests find a place in the rich socio-bio-cultural matrix of the local populace. It is against this background that Chhattisgarh has enunciated a new state forest policy (CGSFP) 2001, with the following main objectives:


To reconcile the conservation-development orthodoxy, the concept of People's Protected Area (PPA) has emerged which by targeting on a broad range of goods and services in terms of physical, material, human, social and environment assets in conjunction with appropriate entitlement regime, envisions a proactive and people's friendly framework so that it becomes people's pool of assets for meaningful poverty alleviation and their enhanced well being alongwith conservation.

The People's Protected Areas delineate sites containing predominantly unmodified natural systems, under management to ensure the long term protection and maintenance of biological diversity, whilst providing at the same time a sustainable flow of natural products and services to meet local community needs.

While JFM has been perceived as a forest department programme in which people participate, PPA involves a paradigm shift from forest management to integrated eco-system management in which socio-economic well being is the goal and forests are viewed as a means to achieve it. Moreover JFM is process oriented and does not lend itself to becoming a target and product oriented programme (Saxena 1997).

Furthermore PPA makes liberal use of social capital, which includes norms of trust, reciprocity and network that facilitate mutually beneficialy cooperation in community. The affirmative social capital acts as a catalyst to promote sustainable forest management as well as socio-economic development of the people (Anderson 1998).

To translate above premise, 32 PPAs each extending over 15 000 to 20 000 ha covering more than 300 villages, have been established as a model of "conservation through" use. Thus every forest division in the State has one People's Protected Area. It is proposed to extend the coverage gradually to other forests of the State.

Goal of MNPA

The area identified under MNPA is inhabited mostly by poor forest dwellers including tribals and other Primitive Tribe Groups (PTGs). In spite of more than 50 years of planned economic development in the country, positive aspects of the same have not percolated down to these areas. The human development index (HDI) in these areas is therefore very low. Under this scenario the primary goal of the MNPA is:

Further, the MNPA will focus the highest level of conservation efforts for protecting the pure and wild germplasm of the wild buffalo, the "state animal", besides tiger. MNPA will also focus on conservation of natural features, habitat/species management, i.e conservation through active management, protected landscapes and sustainable use of natural ecosystems.

Learning from the experience of Asian economic miracle of rapid growth with reduced inequality, mechanism will be developed for transmitting the gains throughout the economy and particularly to the poor.

Focusing on the role of water as a precious and finite resource, which has a direct relationship with the food security, livelihoods and human health, MNPA endeavours to understand the relationship between forests and freshwater and to manage the forest for sustaining the productivity of uplands without affecting the soil and water on which they depend. It has become all the more important because more than 3 billion people on earth do not have access to clean water. Of the more than 3 million deaths that are attributed to polluted water and poor sanitation annually, more than 2 million are children in developing countries.

Area and location map of MNPA

The total area of MNPA is 516 000 ha encompassing 572 villages falling in Dhamtari and Raipur districts of Chhattisgarh. The details of the forest area and number of villages in division/range is given in the following table:






Forest area in km2

Tot. revenue
area in

in km2




Tot. forest


N. Singpur

































































Sitanadi (S)








Risgaon (S)








E. Raipur



















































Udanti (S)




















Network of People's Protected Areas (PPAs) as poor people's pool of assets for sustainable livelihood by unlocking forests for people through integrated ecosystem approach.



A multidisciplinary team, headed by a senior forest officer has been constituted and it is expected that the first preliminary report will be available by the end of this year, the contents of which will be firmed up in a seminar/workshop of all concerned stakeholders and subject matter specialists.


Creating enabling environment

The National Forest Policy 1988, the State Forest Policy 2001, the JFM Resolutions and directives as well as decisions of the Supreme Court of India provide the basic policy framework of PPA.

The legal framework for the People's Protected Areas flows from the Indian Forest Act 1927 and the 73rd Amendment of the Indian Constitution, viz, Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act 1996, which inter alia provides for conferring the endowment of ownership rights of NWFPs on Panchayati Raj Institutions (village level institutions). In line with this, the state is endowing the ownership in consonance with the following principles:

Besides the remunerative wages paid to the NWFP collectors, the nett profit from the trade will be shared among the stakeholders on an equitable basis. Under the existing system of tendu patta (Diospyros melanoxylon) trade, the nett income generated by the collection and trade of tendu leaves is distributed in following proportion:

This modality aims at developing positive stakes of all concerned so that rather than working at cross-purposes, each one is motivated to contribute towards a common goal. The state has further developed an equitable benefit sharing mechanism for timber and bamboo also as evident from the salient features of various JFM resolutions given below:

As a result of these benefit sharing arrangements (BSA), the forest dwellers have received around Rs. 600 million as their share form timber, bamboo and tendu leaves, besides wage employment opportunities to the tune of Rs. 1200 million.

Establishment of "herbal state"

Chhattisgarh State Minor Forest Produce (T&D) Co-op. Federation Limited

Chhattisgarh State Minor Forest Produce (Trading and Development) Cooperative Federation Limited (CGMFP Federation), Raipur, is an apex organization of approximately 2 million forest produce gatherers comprising 913 primary cooperative societies and 32 district unions. It is also the nodal agency for all aspects relating to management, development and trade of minor forest produce/non-wood forest produce sector in the state.

Under the three-tier cooperative structure the primary cooperative societies have been constituted with the membership of actual pluckers and chairman of the society is chosen from amongst the members only. At present there are over 10 000 collection centers spread over the length and breadth of the state and the annual turnover of the trade is over Rs. 2500 million. In line with the time tested philosophy of care and share and to ensure that harvesting of NWFP has essentially to be on a non-destructive basis, serious and concerted attempts have been made to convert these poor people from gatherers to owners. With proper research focus, sustainable harvest and appropriate utilization pattern including godowning, processing and marketing, the turnover from NWFP may cross even the Rs. 10 000 million mark a substantial sum by any standard for the rural poor.

The state has initiated appropriate measures through the CGMFP Federation for sustainable utilization and long term conservation of all NWFP found within the forests of the State. Some of the measures taken are:

These interventions by the MFP Federation have led to increased assured wages to the NWFP gatherers in the interior areas where there are no employment opportunities otherwise. In this process, they got around Rs. 930 million in wages in the year 2001 alone. Series of such well-orchestrated interventions can substantially enhance the well being of the poor forest dwellers.

Integrated ecosystem approach

In order to formulate a people friendly framework for poverty alleviation, sustainable forest development and biodiversity conservation through integrated ecosystem approach, two models have been evolved namely 'Dhamtari Model' and 'Marwahi Model'.

Dhamtari model

Outcome of execution of a programme is determined not just by new policies but by institutions as well. Presently in the forest fringe the institutional framework responsible for developmental administration consisting of various line departments is not truly effective because there are no infrastructure facilities in the interior areas and programme implementers look for softer options. Under these constraints, forest fringe areas suffer from disadvantaged geographical location (DGL). That is why the poverty map of the country approximately tallies with the forest map. It is in this context that an innovative development administration system should be thought of. Forest management, on account of their physical presence in those areas could be considered as practical alternate agency for facilitating, coordinating and in some cases even executing programmes of the line departments responsible for the socio-economic development. This agency can be designated as Forest Fringe Area Development Authority (FFDA).

The rural development funds for any administrative unit can rationally be divided between the existing agency and FFDA management as per the following formula.

If X is the number of the villages within the forest or 5 km of the forest (fringe area); Y is the number of villages outside the fringe area, A being the total funds available and B and C, the funds to be spent by the FFDA and DRDA respectively, then

B/A=X/(X+Y), and A=B+C

i.e. the funds made available are in direct proportion to the ratio of the villages existing in the fringe area to the total number of villages. This apportionment must be laid down at the State headquarter level to obviate any chances of favouritism, with the Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRIs) having the option of allocating more funds than this share to the fringe areas (Chadha and Sharma 1998).

In Chhattisgarh about 50 percent of the villages with population of more than 10 million people are located within 5 km from the boundary of the forests. In a large number of these villages, poverty is rampant due to variety of reasons. The State Government is committed for overall development of these poverty stricken people and conservation of their natural resource base. Forest department has been made a nodal agency for integrated development of all the 401 villages situated within 5 km periphery of forests in Dhamtari District, the first venture of its own kind in our country. Thus, villages situated in the fringe areas of the forests have been brought under the umbrella of forest administration for implementing the integrated ecosystem approach at landscape level by convergence of all development schemes. The State Government has also made budgetary provision for these developmental activities.

Marwahi model

It has been observed especially in case of donor driven forestry projects, that during time span of the project implementation wage employment increases but immediately after the project is over, the employment falls down, adversely affecting the sustainability and credibility of the programme. This can be taken care of by evolving a carefully crafted withdrawal strategy. If the project can create durable assets, even after the project is over, the assets so generated can continue to provide regular job employment/income. This basic principle has been operationalised in the Marwahi Model.

In line with this, for rehabilitation of degraded forests of Marwahi forest division, an innovative scheme has been conceptualized. This scheme is unique in the sense that it gives enough flexibility to carry out works at many appropriate sites, which will activate many forest committees. In the working plan total degraded forests of the division has been kept in 19 treatment series. In these series, no coupes have been demarcated. Accordingly, as per provisions of working plan the rehabilitation work is to be done by the committees after taking up 30 hectares of treatment unit at one place after preparation of micro plans.

In working plan, about 60 000 ha area has been identified as the degraded forests. This year 5000 ha of degraded forest has been taken up for treatment. Considering 60 percent as workable area, 3000 ha area is being worked this year and around 100 sites have been selected for the treatment. For area wise preparation of micro plans experts and NGOs as well as Samitis are being involved. After careful scrutiny and screening, 40 NGOs, forest experts and research scholars have been selected and the job of preparation micro plans is in progress.


Ecotourism is basically low impact utilization of the forest ecosystem services, which has a great potential for socio-economic development in remote areas. Besides being a great repository of biological diversity, forests of Chhattisgarh contain various sites of archeological, cultural and religious importance. Some of these unique combinations of natural and cultural heritage can form nuclei of ecotourism Accordingly three circuits of eco tourism namely Raipur, Barnawapara, Turturia, Sirpur (Raipur District), Achanakmar (Bilaspur District) and Kanger valley (Jagdalpur District) have been started which are controlled and managed by the committee of forest dwellers. All the benefits accrued are passed over to the communities


At present, there is no systematic and reliable data regarding the availability of non-wood forest products. Local people, on the other hand have sound knowledge about the different kinds of NWFP species and their natural occurrence in the adjoining forest areas. The State aims at assessing and preparing a data bank on quantity, quality and value of various NWFPs existing in an area, by active involvement of local people, using local resources and local technology. Using the sample survey methods and based on sound statistical principles, a Comprehensive Community Based Participatory Mapping and appropriate Resource Assessment Methodology (RAM) has been developed.

The resource assessment methodology adopted includes laying of stratified systematic sampling plots, regeneration plot for knowing the regeneration status of the area and medicinal plot for getting an accurate idea about production potential and regeneration status of medicinal plants.

For estimation of the production potential and regeneration number of medicinal and NWFP plants of each species in northeast quadrant of the sample plot will be counted. Thereafter, the weight of useful part of five plants (in the case of bigger species such as baibidang, malkangni, marorfalli, safed musli, kali musli, etc.) and 50 plants (in the case of smaller species like kalmegh, bhui aanwla, bhringraj, punarnava, dudhi, etc.) will be taken in wet and dry conditions. If by any chance the number of plants in this quadrant is less than the above numbers, the available quantity will be used.

All these observations will be entered into prescribed proformas specially designed for this purpose. After collecting the various data and details mentioned above, different results like number of trees/ha, species wise volume/ha regeneration status, species-wise number and yield/ha. of medicinal plants and NWFP species etc. will be obtained. For the computation of growing stock prevailing conversion factors will be used. Details and data collected about medicinal plants and NWFP species will be used in deciding about the target species and their treatment prescriptions etc.


Global awareness towards sustainable forest management and economic implications along with market forces and consumer preferences for quality forestry products is necessitating a management paradigm that ensures the sustainability of forests. Since last decade, many international/national processes have been labouring hard to formulate Criteria and Indicators (C&I) of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM). However, in spite of extensive scientific, social, economic and political debate, no consensus has been arrived at as to what constitutes the SFM. This is further compounded because, varied objectives, value systems, temporal and spatial scales coupled with inherently long time-period to determine the efficacy of methodologies used for defining and ascertaining sustainable forest management defy clear and acceptable formulations.

On account of difficult conceptual issues, it is evident that sustainable forest management with all its attendant paraphernalia for formulating the criteria and indicators will remain an impracticable proposition, at least in developing countries, where poverty is rampant. Therefore, while maintaining health and vitality of the forest ecosystem, what is needed is to evolve a package of proactive and people's friendly minimal damage forest management practices which could contribute incrementally towards sustainable forest management or avoid those practices, that are clearly destructive and simultaneously enhance the well being of people. This indeed will be a practical approach towards attaining the desired goal rather than perusing the elaborate and illusive theoretical matrix of SFM. Unless it is so, all laudable initiatives of JFM or SFM will wilt before bloom.

Currently a wide range of actions are underway concerning certification. Although main emphasis to date has been on timber and timber products, attention has recently expanded to include pulp and paper products. There is an urgent need of developing certification system for non-wood forest products too.

The forests of Chhattisgarh state are being managed as per prescriptions of the Working Plans which are based on sound principles of forest management and have got the approval of the Government of India. Working plan provisions have been made mandatory for the working of the entire forest area, as per the directions of Supreme Court of India.

There are a total 6687 Forest Protection Committees/Village Forest Committees in the state, which are managing approximately 28 890 km2 of forest area of the state. The collection of NWFP is being done on the 'principles of ecological sustainability, economic sustainability and social sustainability'. There has not been tradition of using chemical fertilizers or insecticides in the forest areas of Chhattisgarh. Thus the NWFP of forest areas of Chhattisgarh are organically grown.

In recognition of the fact that certification of NWFPs can provide remunerative price to the collectors/ growers and side-by-side the industry will get quality raw material in conjunction with sustainable forest management, a one-day Workshop on "Certification of Non-wood Forest Produce including Medicinal, Aromatic and Dye Plants" was organised at Raipur on 9 April 2003. After general deliberations, four specific working groups were constituted to look into the entire gamut of issues such as the fair average qualities (FAQs), quality assurance through laboratory testing facilities, forest management issues pertaining to certification, and basic points of certification process in forest management (general principles). The outcome of the workshop, the Raipur Report, is available on the website:

Towards this end, we are constituting an autonomous certifying agency consisting of representatives of following stakeholders:


Chhattisgarh Forest Department has initiated many schemes to ensure active participation of local people, NGOs and industrial houses for the sustainable livelihood of the poor through integrated ecosystem approach including reclamation of degraded forests. The economic implications of tangible goods of the forest ecosystem are proposed to be enhanced through high quality inputs in form of cash as well as kind, non destructive harvesting, value addition, processing and marketing and equitable benefit sharing, in partnership with the dependent people, entrepreneurs and other interested organizations.

After formation of the state the following steps have been taken up in this direction:

Reclamation of degraded forests

Keeping in view the fact that about 80 percent of the people living in the vicinity of the forests, in one way or the other are dependent on the forests, the State is trying its best to arrest the pace of degradation and simultaneously rejuvenate the depleting forests for providing sustainable livelihood. However looking to the extent of degraded forests and existing budget allocation, this is proving to be a Herculean task. The rason d'etre for exploring other avenue is: undue long time frame to rehabilitate these areas by the Government efforts alone with limited financial resources, the quality and general performance of the previous efforts being what they are and the lessons learned from modalities of the private sector participation in various countries including China. Hence it is felt that the task of restoration of degraded forests can be accomplished faster with the active participation of private sector and accordingly arrangements are being worked out within the ambit of Government of India JFM Resolution December, 2002 and the guidelines issued relating to National Afforestation Programme (NAP). This model of Public Private Partnership (PPP); with symbiotic relationship among the various stakeholders can contribute substantially towards greening of degraded forests without actually giving private sector any access to forestlands. In fact this could be a win-win situation for the Government, the forests dependent people and the private sector.

Forward and backward linkages of NWFP and medicinal plants

Till now villagers were getting returns from nationalized NWFPs like Tendu patta, Sal Seed, Harra, Gums only. But after establishment of PPA non-nationalized NWFPs including medicinal plants are being mainstreamed for reinforcing the livelihood security of the people. Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) incorporating buy-back-guarantee agreement between village samities and traders/herbal industries are being encouraged and forward and backward linkages are being established. The overall outcome is very promising and it is expected that in next NWFP season many more such MOU's will be signed.

Mining and revegetation of rocky areas

As already described, Chhattisgarh is a storehouse of many important minerals, most of which are found in forests. The mining strategy in these areas should be based on "green technology" with built in safeguards for mitigating the negative impacts. Possibilities are being explored to plough back a part of revenue generated from mining for forest development and generation and also for the welfare activities of the local population.

Some parts of degraded forests in the State are rocky in nature. Such areas are completely devoid of any vegetation. There is no biological productivity derived from such areas and consequently, villagers living nearby do not derive any benefits. However, these areas can be brought under green cover by digging pits and or by opening up of the rocky area and then filling these gaps by enriched soil. This will not only revegetate the rocky areas but the forests committee can also use the stony byproducts for construction works or for road repairs etc. An initiative in this regard is being taken up in the State to create livelihood sustainability for the people as well as to bring such rocky patches under vegetal cover. Furthermore, such interventions will improve the hydrological cycle of the locality.

Forest development agency (FDA)

The scheme entitled National Afforestation Programme (NAP) has been formulated by merger of four centrally sponsored afforestation schemes of Ministry of Environment and Forests with common funding pattern to be implemented through Forest Development Agencies. FDAs' decentralized institutional structure would allow greater participation of the community both in planning and implementation of the appropriate afforestation programmes. This would ground the people-centered approach in afforestation programmes and provide a firm and sustainable mechanism for devolution of funds to JFMCs for afforestation and related activities. Organic unity in this structural framework will promote efficiency, effectiveness, accountability through decentralization and devolution of authority and responsibilities, both physical and financial. Village will be reckoned as a unit of planning and implementation and all the activities under the scheme will be conceptualized at the village level. The two-tier approach apart from building capabilities at the grassroots level would also empower local people to participate in the decision making process.

In Chhattisgarh, 29 FDAs have been constituted. 22 FDA proposals have been sent to Government of India out of which 12 FDA proposals have been sanctioned. Under FDA, different types of activities have been taken into account such as assisted natural regeneration, fuelwood plantation, silvipasture development, bamboo plantation, mixed plantation of trees having NWFPs including medicinal, aromatic and dye plants (MADP).


It is hoped that the proactive and people friendly matrix of poverty alleviation, sustainable forest development and bio-cultural diversity conservation conceptualized by the state will provide a roadmap for addressing the complex scenario of rural poverty and forest conservation with an effective conservation strategy to counter act the deforestation pressure that may increase as livelihood options improve. We do not claim that we have been able to find answers to all the problems but we strongly believe that as the programme will unfold, variety of issues and conflicts will crop up and the community will provide their solutions. That is why we have placed very strong emphasis on highest concern and respect for the people and their traditional knowledge along with care and share philosophy.


Anderson, J. 1998. Four considerations for decentralized forest management: Subsidiarity, empowerment, pluralism and social capital. Paper presented at the International Seminar on Decentralization and Devolution of Forest Management in Asia and the Pacific, 30 November-4 December 1998. Davao City, Philippines.

Chadha, C.S. & Sharma, R.C. 1998. Theory and practice of forest fringe area development authority (FFDA):conceptual framework submitted to Ministry of Environment and Forests. New Delhi, Govt. of India.

Fields, G.S. 1993. Quoted by V.V.B Rao in East Asian Economics, Trends in Poverty and Income Inequality: Economic and Political Weekly, 1 May 1999.

Poffenberger, M. 1996. Communities and forest management - a report of the IUCN Working Group.

Saxena, N.C. 1997. The saga of participatory forest management in India. CIFOR.

Sharma, R.C. 1998. What ails JFM? Paper presented at the International Seminar on Decentralization and Devolution of Forest Management in Asia and the Pacific, 30 November-4 December 1998. Davao City, Philippines.

Sharma, R.C. 1999. International technical consultation on protected area management and sustainable rural development - how can they be reconciled? 26-29 October, 1999. Harare, Zimbabwe.

[26] Chhattisgarh Forest Department, Medical College Road, Raipur (Chhattisgarh), India; E-mail: [email protected]

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