Competing visions: Domestic forests, politics and forest policy in the Central Western Ghats of South India.
Rural people in developing countries including India continue to accessa number of types of �forests� to meet specific needs such as fuelwood, fodder, food,non-timber forest produce and timber for both subsistence and income generation.While a plethora of terms exist to describe the types of forests that rural peopleuse�such as farm forests, social forests, community forests and small-scale forests�the expressiondomestic foresthas recently been proposed. Domestic forest isa term aimed at capturing the diversity of forests transformed and managed by ruralcommunities and a way to introduce a new scientific domain that recognises thatproduction and conservation can be reconciled and that local communities can beeffective managers. This paper argues in the context of the central Western Ghats ofsouth India that while the domestic forest concept is a useful umbrella term tocapture the diversity of forests used by rural people, these domestic forests are oftennot autonomous local forests but sites of contestation between local actors and thestate forest bureaucracy. Hence, a paradigm shift within the forest bureaucracy willonly occur if the scientific forestry community questions its own normative views on forest management and sees forest policy as a means to recognise local claimsand support existing practices of forest dependent communities.