Forests and  governance

Primary faculty:Siddappa Setty (Programme leader), Sharachchandra Lele
Secondary affiliations: Ravikanth G



The Forests and Governance programme will analyse existing forest governance in India, including policy on joint forest management (JFM), non-timber forest products (NTFPs), the forest land 'encroachment' question, net present value, and protected area policy, and collaborate with various groups to offer alternative approaches. The effort will be to bring back into the forest policy debate the changing socio-economic context of local communities, the importance of historically-situated and locally nuanced forest rights arrangements, and the need for institutional arrangements that link local and global stakeholders in a fair manner.

Background

Forests and common lands generate products and services that benefit stakeholders at many scales – local, regional and global. What is the form and nature of these stakes? How do the stakes change depending upon the socio-ecological and economic context, history and framing of the problem? How may they be compared and prioritized? How are current attempts to define stakes, decentralize institutional arrangements and regulate forest loss actually playing out? And how could forest governance better reconcile competing claims and multiple stakes? The Forests and Governance programme at ATREE focuses on these questions in the context of the forests of south Asia.

Specifically, the programme will carry out research on the ecology of sustainable forest use and extraction by local communities, the ethnography of traditional ecological knowledge, the economics of forest dependence and impacts of different forest governance regimes and economic contexts, and the institutional and legal analysis of different existing and proposed changes in forest management in the region. Our effort will be to bring back into the forest policy debate the changing socio-economic context of local communities, the importance of historically situated and locally nuanced forest rights arrangements, and the need for institutional arrangements that link local and global stakeholders in a fair manner.

Issues addressed

  • Form and nature of multiholder stakes
  • How stakes change depending upon the socio-ecological and economic context, history and framing of the problem
  • Comparison and prioritization of stakes
  • Long view of historical attempts to define stakes, modify policies, decentralise institutional arrangements and regulate forest loss
  • Institutional arrangements to reconcile competing claims and multiple stakes

Research undertaken reflects engagement with the issues addressed. It combines ATREE and CISED histories and can be categorized under three main heads:

  • Analysing rights, institutions and governance mechanisms
  • Understanding and enabling ecologically sustainable use
  • Estimating economic dependence and cultural importance, changes, and trade-offs

Analysing rights, institutions and governance mechanisms

Current research
  • Mapping historical forest use patterns and sacred sites in tribal communities, to see how they influence perceptions of forest rights and claims in the context of the Tribal Forest Rights Act (TFRA)
  • Monitoring (and also building capacity for) the implementation of the TFRA in southern Karnataka
  • Mapping resource use patterns and claims stemming from them in a non-TFRA context (in Kanakapura) to see what lessons it may hold for community-based rights and forest governance in a larger (non-tribal) context
  • Anticipating and studying the impacts of payments based approaches on forest governance, including the upcoming REDD+ scheme
Completed Research
  • History of forest rights in the Western Ghats
  • Analysed conceptually and empirically the Joint Forest Management programme, and other attempts at co-management and regulated resource use such as NTFP cooperatives and community-based NRM programmes
  • Analysed the complexities of forest law and policy in India in the light of the Godavarman case, changing economic dependence on forests, increasing developmental pressures

Understanding and enabling ecologically sustainable use

Current research
  • Continuing monitoring of certain NTFP species to understand long-term trends after the sudden stoppage of NTFP collection, and also examining the possible influence of climate change on NTFP productivity and regeneration,
  • Understanding traditional ecological knowledge of the Soligas in terms of their forest classification methods vis-à-vis modern classifications, and how their knowledge can be used in forest conservation
  • Studying the impact of firewood collection on forest cover and growth in the surroundings of MM Hills temple
Completed research
  • Studied ecological impacts of harvesting of non-timber forest products (NTFPs), grazing and firewood collection, agro-forestry, and conversion to coffee
  • Mapped forest cover change and its relationship with cropping systems, property rights regimes, and historical settlements
  • Devised methods of participatory resource monitoring in collaboration with forest-dependent communities.

Estimating economic dependence and cultural importance, changes, and trade-offs

Current research
  • Studying eco-tourism activities in BRT within the politico-ecological context of multiple actors (state agencies, private entrepreneurs, NGOs, and local communities) and their power dynamics, and examining how the participation of the local Soligas in eco-tourism and the distribution of benefits across different actors is shaped by the this context and dynamic.
  • Assessing the process and impact of NREGA implementation in BRT wildlife sanctuary, looking at both perceptions and socio-economic impacts, the realignment of state-community relations, and the implications of curtailed NTFP access for this programme.
Completed research
  • Estimated the contribution of forests to local incomes and monitored their change in the presence of forest-based enterprises (Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple WLS and other Conservation and Livelihoods project sites)
  • Examined trends and conceptual issues in common lands dependence in Karnataka and across India
  • Quantified the economic implications of hydrological change induced by forest cover change on local communities in different contexts,
  • Estimated the economic benefits and costs of forest conservation and their distribution across different stakeholders

Research, policy and community interfaces

There has been intense and long-term collaboration with local communities in specific sites, organizing training programmes and research and policy workshops, building networks with various NGO and activist groups, and speaking and writing to public and policy audiences. Activities organized in the past include:

  • Workshops to build awareness about and facilitate implementation of the FRA for Soliga and other tribal communities in Karnataka with collaboration of local NGOs, Zilla Panchayat, and Karnataka Forest Department.
  • Training programmes at ECONET (Bhimanshankar Wildlife Sanctuary) and Nagaland Beekeeping and Honey Mission (Kohima) on ecological monitoring of Terminalia chebula and honey respectively.
  • A national workshop on forest policy in Delhi, in collaboration with Winrock International India.

Journal articles

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

Reports

  • Maharashtra CFR-LA, 2017. Promise and Performance: Ten Years of the Forest Rights Act in Maharashtra. Citizens’ Report on Promise and Performance of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. Produced by CFR Learning and Advocacy Group Maharashtra, as part of National Community Forest Rights-Learning and Advocacy Process (CFR-LA). March 2017.
  • CFR-LA, 2016. Promise and Performance: Ten Years of the Forest Rights Act in India. Citizens’ Report on Promise and Performance of The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, after 10 years of its Enactment. December 2016. Produced as part of Community Forest Rights-Learning and Advocacy Process (CFRLA),India, 2016.( Anuja Date, Roshni Kutty, Sharad Lele and Arpitha Kodiveri of the Forest and Governance Programme at ATREE have contributed to this report)
  • FRA manual in Kannada by Siddappa Setty et al

Faculty

Research staff

  • Arpitha Kodiveri
  • C Made Gowda

Students

  • Amit Kurien
  • Venkat Ramanujam Ramani
  • Roshini Kutty
  • Anuja Anil Date

Articles in Popular Press