Forests

Joint Forest Management

Institutional arrangements

Legal and Policy support and formal institutionalisation of JFM in Gujarat

 National Forest Policy 1988 had laid emphasis on the involvement of people for forest protection and development. The guidelines called for the rejuvenation of barren forest areas through people co-operation. This was initiated in Gujarat as early as 1991. A state-level working group was established under the chairmanship of Principal Chief Conservator of Forests in Gujarat to set the guidelines and procedures and look after the overall implementation of JFM. The members of this working committee include forest officers, NGOs and academic institutions.

At village levels, at least 60% families need to form a society and register it to be able to avail the benefits of JFM. This society should consist of minimum two female members, a representative of the concerned Gram Panchayat, a representative of the voluntary organization or any financial organization attached to the work, and finally other members who are interested in forest conservation. The society then prepares an action plan or micro-plan for JFM activities in the jointly managed forest area. The role of volunteering NGOs is to motivate villagers to participate in the programme and capacity building.

JFM committees thus formed protect forest area against encroachment, cultivation, fire, illicit cutting and grazing. They also carry out afforestation activities in barren forest area and village area. NGOs or voluntary organizations train the village organization to carry out JFM activities.

What people get

JFM ensures extension of benefits in terms of various forest produce to JFMCs which are entitled to free collection of all NTFPs, dry and fallen firewood, 50% of the poles and other thinning materials obtained out of thinning, and 100% bamboos. In addition, the JFMCs get 50% of the net revenue realized from the final felling of trees from degraded forest areas and 16% from dense forest areas.


Evolution of JFM in Gujarat - the Government's role

 Over the years since the inception and initiation of JFM in Gujarat, the Government has added various amendments in the resolution based on the recommendations by the department officials or villagers.

 

1991

 

JFM initiated in Gujarat

 

 

1994

 

1. The share of JFMCs in benefits from final harvesting of trees raised from 25% to 50%

2. Timber, if produced from cutback operations, would be given to local people at 50% of scheduled rates as required

3. Small timber, poles, etc. produced out of thinning / cleaning operations carried out as and when necessary would be given free of cost to those JFMC members who actually work on these operations

 

 

2000

 

50% poles produced out of the governmental thinning operations as per approved working schemes would be given to JFMC after recovering the cost of harvesting

 

 

2005

 

1. JFM extended to good forest areas having tree density above 0.40

2. State Forest Development Agency established under PCCF

3. The share of village organization in good forest areas decided to be 16% of benefits from final harvesting of trees

 

 

2006

 

Committees to be formed at district level under Collector with representation from different concerned departments

 

 

2008

 

1. A land of 5 to 50 hectare to be provided to JFMCs for JFM work depending on their requirement. Also, the activities on this land would to be carried out under MGNREGA scheme

2. The share of JFMCs in grass produced from reserved grasslands ("Vidis") to be 20% of the harvested grass

 

 

The progress

 The total forest area brought under Joint Forest Management till March 2012 is 4.25 lac hectares (24% of the total forest area) involving 3,259 JFMCs. JFM works have also been pushed into dense forest areas so that initiatives to conserve the forests can be taken well before the forests degrade due to overuse and exploitation. The tribal groups in these areas have been made aware of the significance of forests for long-term utility and its ecological advantages.

What happened to forests

 The forest cover in the state has been increasing steadily over the last two decades of Joint Forest Management in Gujarat. Currently, the forest cover stands at 14,619 km2, which forms 77.23 % of the total forest area in the state. There has been a remarkable increase in the forest cover since 2002 and, since then, the state has been able to sustain its forest cover at around 14,500 km2. This may be attributed to many management interventions the most important of which has been the Joint Forest Management.

 Blending ecological gains with economic benefits

 JFM addresses the root cause of forest depletion. Villagers depend on forests due to their poor economic condition. By providing them due share in forest produce like timber, grass, firewood and other NTFP and thus fulfilling their economic needs, JFM ensures their support in its objective of protecting forests. Thus, through providing economic benefits to JFMCs from one hand, JFM takes their efforts and commitment for forest conservation from the other hand, thereby ensuring ecological gains along with economic benefits to JFMCs.


Economic development - a prerequisite for ecological conservation

 The basic problem of forest conservation is the poverty of local communities. The economic development of local communities reduces their dependence on natural resources within the carrying capacity and levels of sustainable use. Therefore, the economic development of villagers is a prerequisite for long-term ecological conservation of forests.

 Of tribal people and diversity of products

 Rich in culture and art, JFMCs in Gujarat also produce a range of handmade products from various forest produce collected. These include bamboo furniture, jute bags, jewellery, incense sticks, a range of Ragi products, bamboo pickle, bel fruit products and other forms of local items. In addition, from NTFP, various items of everyday use like turmeric, chironji, sitafal, bael fruit, bael leaves, mahua, white muesli, aniseed, and other medicinal plants are also available to tribal people. Mostly the tribal villagers use these products in raw form themselves and sell the extra collect in the market. Moreover, they also cultivate pulses, rice and vegetables in their farms.

The market

 Currently the JFMCs sell their products in local and nearest markets such as district headquarters. Most of the food items get sold locally. Additionally, the GFD and NGOs have facilitated value addition and marketing of some of the products on a larger scale. The major marketable products have even been branded and, in some cases, marketing collaborations have been entered into with established retail chains for the maximum benefits to the JFMCs. Also, a few women groups exhibit and market their products such as edible items, handicrafts, and artificial jewelleries at various fairs and exhibitions in the state.

The future - looking ahead

 With the proper blending of economic development and ecological conservation, the state hopes to conserve its forests till eternity with economically developed local communities joining hands with the Government.