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Empowering forest dependent communities to govern their own natural resources in India- case study from Sarguja district, Chattisgarh Sharmistha Bose,

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Presentation on theme: "Empowering forest dependent communities to govern their own natural resources in India- case study from Sarguja district, Chattisgarh Sharmistha Bose,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Empowering forest dependent communities to govern their own natural resources in India- case study from Sarguja district, Chattisgarh Sharmistha Bose, Vijendra Aznabi Oxfam India, India Paper prepared for presentation at the “2015 WORLD BANK CONFERENCE ON LAND AND POVERTY” The World Bank - Washington DC, March 23-27, 2015

2  In India about 350-400 million people are dependent on forests for their life and livelihood and NTFP contributes to about 20-40 per cent of the annual income of forest dwellers- mostly marginalised tribals  Out of 84 million Scheduled Tribes (STs) in India (Census 2001), about one third Central Indian states- Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha. Also the states richest in natural resources/minerals and among India’s poorest.  low levels of literacy, poor health status, food insecurity and low economic development. Tribal population lags 20 years behind the average population on most social indicators. Reasons- displacement due to developmental activities, forest land diverted for mining and industrial projects  The enactment of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 that undid the historical injustice meted out to Schedule Tribes (ST) and other forest dwellers by granting individuals and communities their legal ownership over the forest—came as a silver lining

3  Most important provision- right to protect, regenerate, or conserve community forest resources  relatively new state of Chhattisgarh (November 2000)- 44% forest cover, 80% rural population and 32% tribal population- among the poorest and most marginalized in the country  The state faces conflicts over access to rich mineral resources by industry and government, and intensified struggles by the poor to hold on to scarce natural resources  million households living on forest land and cultivating it, till 2006 were treated as encroachers and offenders – lack of tenurial rights  Forests critical to tribals life and livelihoods- forest produce, income, wage labor, food, fodder, medicines yet use of forest land always a source of conflict

4  FRA recognised their legal rights over forest land and produce, rights of community institutions (gram sabha) to withhold/give consent over forest land use change  Despite the progressive Act, the implementation has been dismal all over the country- monitoring committees set up by government recognise this  Individual forest titles still recognised but recognition of community forest rights is a struggle- situation similar for Chhattisgarh  Almost 60% of the claims have been rejected, till September, 2014 (MOTA) out of a total 7.56 lakh claims only 3.12 lakh titles have been distributed and most of these are individual titles.

5  Oxfam India started working with a grass root NGO partner Chaupal in 2012 to facilitate the implementation of the FRA and spread awareness and information to the community mostly tribal on their rights and the provisions of this Act  multiple awareness trainings and meetings and participatory appraisal exercises held, Forest Rights Committees (FRCs) were reconstituted, FRC members and Gram Panchayat members were taken to Maharashtra for exposure visits, with Oxfam India’s support, a series of meetings were held and a Public Hearing on FRA was conducted on March 2012- in collaboration with the State Tribal Department  In January 2013, Chaupal started the process of filing the state’s first ever claims for community forest rights  Prepared village and forest/commons resource maps  NTFP maps prepared and endorsed by community

6  In Sept 2012- collection of evidence and mapping completed and CFR claim forms filed with FRC from Jan 2013  The FRC then got the area mapped, checked and sanctioned by the Forest Department, then presented to the (SDLC) on March 2013 for final approval.  In particular, Chaupal also built a good relationship with the government administration at local and district levels. Due to this it has received tremendous support in filing the CFR claims  Parallely Chaupal also advocated with the district level government officials by making them aware of the provisions of the act and convince them of the importance of implementing the same. Series of meetings with the collector and field officers were held. The sarpanch of Mendalekha ( Gadchiroli, Maharashtra) was also brought to explain the advantages of implementing the Act. Boards listing down the processes were put up in government meetings.  Due to these measures, both the collector and DFO of Sarguja stepped forward to support the process. One of the key reasons for them to extend their support was the fact that Sarguja would become the first district in Chhattisgarh to approve CFR claims.

7  By March 2013, Chaupal with support from Oxfam India, PACS and CASA was successful in filing CFR claims for 40 villages in Ambikapur and Sarguja districts over 16963 hectares of forest land and submitting it to the Sub Divisional office for approval  Out of this, 10 villages from three districts are in the project areas of Oxfam India and a total of 7740 hectares of forest area was filed under CFR from these 10 villages  On 7 th September, 2013, 40 villages got their NFTP and grazing rights as part of the CFR claims. Distributed by the Chief Minister of the state, Mr. Raman Singh himself  Yet the success is less than complete- thte titles were conditional and recognised only 3 rights- rights over fuel wood, rights to collect minor forest produce and grazing rights for cattle. Critical rights over management and conservation and right to sell forest resources left out.

8  Chaupal and Oxfam India along with the state CFR network and national CFR advocacy platform (CFR-LA) appealed to the DLC, Minister, MoTA on behalf of the Gram Sabhas to reverse the claims and grant full and unconditional titles. The matter has reached the SLMC, the final appellate body in the state on the FRA and the communities are still awaiting the complete CFR titles despite several reassurances by the officials  The process of resource mapping and filing the claims have had several benfits for the community- regulate forest fires, stop illegal felling, building storehouse for NTFPs

9  Stakeholder analysis: Recognising that CSOs, NGOs, tribal communities, activists and even progressive collectors, DFOs and tribal departments of the states and MoTA are supportive of implementing the act. In most states forest departments, revenue department, other state officials, powerful mining and corporate lobbies and the ministry of environment and forests usually oppose recognition of these rights.  In Chhattisgarh esp, the powerful Forest Department, which has historically exercised their authority over forests, sees the FRA as undermining its control and tries to avoid cooperating with those, even state officials, charged with implementing the Act.

10  local media and individual journalists are sympathetic, most other potential stakeholders such as the middle class, urban class are largely uninterested in the community forest struggle. The private sector: mostly private traders, seen by tribals and CSOs as highly exploitative and often linked to the ruling political party. Large mining companies - strong interest in not recognising CFR over forests and the mineral resources therein  Oxfam supported Chaupal’s work- at state level through a combination of coalition-building, brokering links with local and national officials, and information dissemination. through formation of the CFR Manch (Platform) of like- minded organisations, including Oxfam partners, creating a direct link with the state tribal department for follow-up and coordination; dissemination of information, like government orders, presentations, circulars etc; national level through Oxfam supported national knowledge and advocacy networks such as the CFR-LA and forest rights e-groups.

11  In CG- few CFRs realised since 2012, mostly fared badly in recognising CFRs  lack of definite political will, continued dominance of the forest department, continued expansion of industries and other developmental activities over forest rich areas of the state on the other, lack of understanding of the role and objective of SDLC and participation of NGOs in decision making is abysmal  Need for: urgent facilitation of claims pending at the SDLC level, review of gross violations of forest rights, illegal diversion of forest land in the state, all faulty CFR titles issued should be corrected, review the process of CFR recognition

12  Recognising the full extent of community forest rights- 31 million ha of forests over which CFR needs to be recognised, only 2.5 million ha. of land has been recogised  Creating awareness about the Act- MoTAs role in implementation of the Act needs to be made clear to the different levels of implementing agencies.  Facilitating the process of filing claims- concerned departments officials to urgently and pro-actively provide all necessary records and evidence to Gram Sabhas, to facilitate CFR claims.  Minimising rejections of claims- Clear reasons of why a claim has been rejected needs to be provided to the gram sabha, for appeal  Facilitating community forest governance-. Gram Sabhas should be facilitated in setting up committees to manage and protect forests  Recognising and Strengthening the Gram Sabha as relevant institutions of management- definition of Gram Sabha should be streamlined in all contradictory laws and state rules  Supporting mechanisms for management of NTFP by Gram Sabhas- devise mechanism to support the gram sabhas in collection and sale of NTFP  Attention to compliance of FRA in forest land diversion- all attempts to dilute, violate, provide exemptions or in other ways weaken the FRA should be revoked

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