The Recognition of Forest Rights Act is a people-empowering Act that provides communities a state-approved opportunity for collaborative management of local ecosystem resources; if the Act is implemented. Impediments to RFRA implementation have been in the form of delays from the FD, and uncertainty regarding the rights and settlement processes. The Forest Department has been making significant investments in the area by providing roads, promoting tourism, assisting in sanitation, house repairs and trails, drainage. As a result, villagers are reluctant to push the rights process for fear of jeopardizing this support from the Forest Department.
RFRA implementation and community empowerment first requires definition and delineation of areas over which communities have rights and tenure; and, importantly, a participatory framework for the management of biological resources. ATREE is providing the support and information that could further the process of RFRA implementation.
ATREE has held community-level workshops to discuss RFRA and its implications. ATREE provides copies of the Act, rules and processes to villages. We are now in the process of translating these documents into the vernacular and will distribute these to all target villages in the next phase of RFRA engagement. As of now, Gram Sabhas (village general assembly) have been called and Forest Rights Committees (FRC) have been constituted in ten of the eleven villages where ATREE is directly working, initiating the claims process. The FRC is taking ahead the claims process by assisting villages to compile documentation and proof of residence, farmland and resource areas.