Role of Civil Society Organizations in enabling sustainable and equitable Community Forest Resource (CFR) management in Maharashtra.
Democratic decentralization is being promoted as a development approach worldwide that aims to empower communities to engage and negotiate in the creation of systems for improving their long-term well-being. In India, Community Forest Rights (CFRs) recognized under section 3 (1) (i) of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 makes provision for democratic decentralization of forest governance by giving power and autonomy to the communities for attaining the goals of sustainability, equity, and livelihood enhancement. In most cases, the task of implementation of FRA and educating communities about the rights prescribed under CFRs are carried out by the civil society organizations (CSOs). For this study, we explore the roles and activities of five different CSOs that are working on FRA implementation in central India. Preliminary results from our study shows that CSOs perform multiple roles in FRA implementation and based on their activities, these roles can be classified as: CSO-mediated, CSO-facilitated, and CSO-directed. The CSOs serve as mediators in the exchange of information between different actors at multiple governance levels, they facilitate implementation of FRA by communicating to the communities about their rights and how to operationalize their rights, and lastly, the CSOs direct the communities in developing transparent and accountable institutional mechanisms for sustaining natural resources and enhancing their livelihoods. Upon taking stock of CSO’s roles and the strategies they adopt in FRA implementation, we explain how these roles and strategies relate to the ideology and philosophy that the CSOs follow. Finally, we use our analysis to determine the nature of altered democracy produced by the CSO intervention and the ways it can influence the power and autonomy of the community in the future. This is an important contribution to the existing scholarship on CSO’s role in natural resource governance that generalizes the role of CSOs as a facilitator. Further, by unpacking the roles of CSOs and the ideologies that guide their actions, our research demonstrates the realities in which the CSOs and communities operate and the mechanisms they are developing for optimal implementation and adaptation to the democratic decentralization policies.
In collaboration with Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai: Collaborator Dr.Geetanjoy Sahu
F&G persons: Sharachchandra Lele, Divya Gupta