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Joint Forest Management: Constituting New Commons

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Ghate, Rucha
Conference: Constituting the Commons: Crafting Sustainable Commons in the New Millennium, the Eighth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Bloomington, IN
Conf. Date: May 31-June 4
Date: 2000
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/362
Sector: Forestry
Social Organization
Region: Middle East & South Asia
Subject(s): IASC
co-management
common pool resources
forest management--case studies
joint management
self-governance
village organization
customary law
Abstract: "The Indian Forest Policy of 1988 pointed towards a major shift in the State's management of forests for the first time, taking into cognizance the customary rights and privileges of the forest dwelling communities. Participatory management practices like Joint Forest Management (JFM) and Village Eco- development (VED) gradually evolved after this policy. The concept of JFM is an indication of a major change in the outlook towards the resource, although it is considered just another program supported by the World Bank by many forest officials. This shift from strict government ownership to partnership could prove to be major step leading to common property regimes. JFM program represents the need to involve people in managing the resource. It reposes trust in people, and their capacity to manage the resource in their own, as well as in the larger interest. It can result in rebuilding people's institutions at local level, which have been eroded through the state-regulated representative democracy for a long period of time. In last five years many Forest Protection Committees (FPC) have been formed under the JFM program throughout India but few have succeeded in fulfilling the purpose. The present paper is an attempt to add a link in the chain of attempts, searching for the underlying factors that make people's institutions work, by presenting a case of JFM experiment undertaken by the Forest Department. "Although JFM came to Buldhana accidentally, it spread quickly to many villages because of successful demonstration of co-operation between forest department and local communities. Five factors that played an important role in wide acceptance of JFM in Buldhana are: taking up of activities generating income in the short term; freedom given to the locals to take decisions according to their priorities; coordination between various developmental agencies working in the area; devolution of authority with the forest department; and introducing the element of flexibility and continuous learning. All these resulted in some spectacular achievements. However, certain factors were neglected while designing JFM, both at national as well as local level. This poses a potential threat to endurance of the institutions that were formed during the experiment. The JFM arrangement does not accept any legal rights of the community on the land that is co-managed. Similarly, the Forest Protection Committees set up to protect forests are not recognized by any government department except the forest department. These factors are bound to pose serious problems of participation and distribution. Assuming the local communities as homogenous, united groups of people, capable of taking over the management of forests, and neglecting the social and economic hierarchies within the community that can lead to concentration of decision making and cornering of benefits, are the two aspects that have placed Buldhana JFM on shaky grounds."

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