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Joint forest management outcomes across forest types: a study in Madhya Pradesh, India

Student Name: Mr Prasant Kumar
Guide: Prof. Arabinda Mishra
Year of completion: 2015

Abstract:

The ecosystem services, both goods and services, out of forests not only contribute to the material well being, income portfolio of individual households but also to their cultural and social life. Accordingly, it is of paramount importance that these forests are taken good care of both by the local communities and the government. Several institutions evolved over a period of time aimed at taking care of the forests by the local communities and many of them still exist.

In pre-independence and post independence periods the forest management was state-centric. With the Forest Policy of 1988 and subsequent resolution of 1990 the community’s role in forest management was operationalised through Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMC). The Joint Forest Management (JFM), despite its sound design; uniform guidelines and stated objectives throughout the country, has not shown uniform results. Various factors have been identified for this uneven performance of JFM but focus has been on socio-economic aspects and not much attention has been given to the resource characteristics.

It is important to note that the forests are not uniform and show variations in species composition due to factors like edaphic, climatic etc. This variation leads to differences in provisioning services or goods flowing out of these forests. It is pertinent to know whether the resource characteristics is one of the missing links in JFM policy which has led to its uneven performance as the literature available on the subject does not indicate adequate attention towards this aspect.

Therefore, to find answers to the above a context-specific framework is required which recognises the role of resource as well as the community, the institutions etc. Accordingly, the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) Framework was used for the study as it facilitates the analysis of complex social–ecological systems like JFM. Components of this framework incorporate both the socio-economic and resource characteristic aspects (material or biophysical conditions, community attributes and rules-in-use), their interactions in an action situation and the outcomes.

The present study was carried out in the state of Madhya Pradesh which is centrally located in India, has diversity in forests (Sal, Teak, Miscellaneous forests) and majority of which are under Joint Forest Management (JFM). With the use of multiple stratified random sampling method the three districts identified for the study were : Shahdol (Sal Forest), Sagar (Teak Forest) and Sheopur Kalan (Miscellaneous Forest) districts. In each district 8 JFMCs, i.e. a total of 24

JFMCs (villages + their forests) were studied. The data was collected for species composition of the forests, forest management outcomes, community attributes, the actors, the positions, rules on forests (both formal and informal). To get these data vegetation survey, survey on forest management outcomes, household survey, and data collection at the community level were carried out.

For forest management outcomes, variables – both ecological and anthropogenic –were used to create an index (multivariate approach) with the help of polychoric Principal Component Analysis (PCA). This index value was then compared with outcomes based on a single variable, i.e. the forest density. This comparison of results on forest management outcomes gave different clusters of good and not so good performing JFMCs. When these JFMCs were grouped as positive PCA Index and negative PCA Index value JFMCs indicating better and not so good performing JFMCs, the list of 12 good performing JFMCs (out of 24 JFMCs) included those 8 JFMCs also which had performed well on a single variable, i.e. forest density. The four additional JFMCs which were found to be doing relatively well in managing their forests were the ones which gave a contrasting picture when assessed on the basis of forest density alone. One may interpret this contrast as a reflection of the capacity of these JFMCs to contain anthropogenic influences (like containing encroachments, illicit felling etc.) while being weak on the technical management of their forests. Thus, it can be said that the multivariate approach to assess forest management outcomes gives a tool in the hands of policy makers and forest managers to make precise interventions – in technical aspects or the social or institutional aspects or both – in a JFMC. This is not possible when a single variable, i.e. the forest density is used to compute forest management outcomes.

The study came out with the diversity in species composition of the three districts as there are differences in physical conditions of the three districts and accordingly only 14 species were found to be common to all the three districts. This diversity is starker between geographically the two farthest districts or the forest types (Shahdol and Sheopur Kalan) which had only three species in common in addition to the 14 species which were common to all the three districts, while the two adjacent districts, i.e. Sheopur and Sagar and Sagar and Shahdol had 7 and 11 species in common in addition to the 14 species that were common to all the three districts. This diversity in species composition of the three forests was also confirmed when evenness, diversity indices, like Simpson’s index and Shannon diversity index were calculated.

Similar to variations in species composition of the forests, heterogeneity in community with respect to social groups, wealth, power, class, gender etc. were found.

The study indicated that the socially least diverse and least fragmented villages had scored high on PCA Index Value measure and the socially most diverse villages Bahgad of Shahdol, Bakswaha of Sagar were at the bottom of their respective districts in PCA Index Value. This result is in line with the conventional understanding and available literature on the subject.
But the results of the present research with respect to better forests vis-à-vis tribal population do not conform to the conventional understanding. Contrary to accepted logic and understanding that a higher percentage of tribal population in a village is likely to result in better forest management outcomes, the assessment, in the present study, based on the PCA Index Values did not point to any definite conclusion in this regard.

The study pointed towaards the limitations of safety net functions of forests / NTFPs. In Sheopur Kalan district, which has the highest percentage of forests (54% of its geographical area) and the highest number of NTFPs collected, also showed the highest percentage of migration. One of the explanations attributed to this phenomenon, inter alia, was drought like situation in the district for the last 3-4 years which had adversely affected the agriculture and in turn its capacity to provide rural employment.

The study also indicated towards the limitation of forest-based cottage industry, the Bidi rolling, in arresting migration. Almost 30% of households migrated from Sagar district and most of them cited lack of employment as a reason for migration. This also point out that other employment opportunities were not available in the district and the returns from forest-based occupation were not enough to retain people.

It is known that the NTFPs are collected more from the ground flora (like herbs etc.) than the trees and the results conform to this understanding. The study also indicates towards the effect of availability of alternate sources of income or employment on NTFP collection. In Sagar (Teak Forests) district, comparatively lesser number of NTFPs are collected, despite the highest species richness. This is explained by practice of a forest-based occupation, i.e. Bidi rolling, in the district that leaves the villagers with practically no time for NTFP collection.

The study also indicates that percentage income of a household from forests is higher in positive PCA Index Value villages where the forests are in a better condition than the negative PCA Index Value and this conforms to the conventional understanding and literature available.

One of the most significant findings of the study has been the capture of variation in informal rules on forests across the forest types. This is in contrast to JFM where the guidelines are uniform throughout the country and within a State. The study indicates that while differences in informal rule density across the villages are not substantial in boundary, position and aggregation rules but choice, benefit-payoff and information rules show substantial variations. Between the two clusters of JFMCs the rule density in better performing positive PCA Index Value villages is more than the PCA Index Value negative villages. This indicates towards a possible association between the rules and forest management outcomes. A further analysis of the rule density within a cluster revealed a definite pattern among positive PCA Index Value villages, but no such patterns were observed for the other cluster. Possible explanations for non-emergence of patterns could be percentage of tribal population in villages, the social heterogeneity, degree of direct dependence on forests (NTFP collection etc.), social capital etc. but the present study could not establish a causal relationship between the absence of patterns and various factors.

The study identified various actors – households, women, JFMC office bearers, village and caste leadership, graziers, plantation watchers, forest department officials, settlers, first purchasers of NTFPs, agents of Bidi industry, wood cutters or poachers and other actors – who could be internal, external or both and the position holders – forest user, village and caste leadership, graziers, plantation watchers, JFMC secretary, Beat Guard, first purchaser of NTFP, market agents of Bidi manufacturers etc. – who have a significant role to play in sustainable use of forests by the local communities.

Another important finding of the present research had been that who among the two actors–the Traditional Leadership and the Sarpanch of the Gram Panchayat – could be given the responsibility of JFMC President if the present system of selection, hypothetically, is discontinued. The study revealed that the overwhelming majority of the villages, mainly from the positive PCA Index value JFMCs, wanted the Traditional Leader to take over the charge of the JFM President and only a miniscule percentage of villages, mostly from not so well performing, wanted to see Sarpanch as the JFMC President or continue with the present arrangement.

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