Forest Co-Management as if History Mattered: The Case of Western Himalayan Forests in India

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Date
2000
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Abstract
"Kangra district in the western Himalayas has been witness to a succession of institutional arrangements between the people and the state for the management of forests in the last 150 years. This history has serious implications for the sustainability of the current efforts at creating village-level institutions for the co- management of forests. "In the mid-19th century, in exchange for proprietary rights over trees and timber, co-parcenary bodies of cultivators at the village level were formed and ceded the proprietary rights over the soil of the forests along with ownership of all non-timber forest products. Additionally, a one-fourth share in the proceeds from the sale of trees was also granted to this body, in order to secure its interest in timber conservancy. Over the next few decades, as the demand for timber and the need felt for securing control over timber yielding areas grew within the state, the co- parcenary bodies negotiated with the state and successfully extracted large concessions in exchange for ceding their proprietary rights over the soil. "Again, in the 1930s, responding to calls of impending doom due to forest degradation and erosion, the state negotiated with communities for enclosure of forest areas it was finding it impossible to manage. The resultant forest co-operative societies were given the full income from the forests, provided they managed the forests according to simple working plans prepared by forest officers and accepted the enclosure of forest lands. "Till date, in spite of offering varying degrees of incentives to local communities while at the same time trying to restrict local use, the forest department has failed to enforce its agenda of enclosure. The two cases discussed illustrate an ability of the communities to negotiate with the state, something which has been completely ignored, and sometimes negated, in the current efforts at co-management of forests. The cases also point to the futility of offering short term incentives and demonstrate the need to reconstitute the commons, with local institutions as equal partners."
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IASC, co-management, ecology, governance and politics, institutional analysis, community forestry--history, local participatory management, village organization, forest products
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