Joint Forest Management
There are many examples of successful participation by local community in managing forests in the country. Management of forests by Van Panchayats in Uttarakhand started in 1931 and now covers a large area of 5450 km2. The participatory management regime involving the Government and local communities for regeneration of degraded forests through effective protection, sharing of produce and improving the livelihood opportunities of forest dependent communities, was however, initiated by the Forest Department as a pilot project in Arabari village of West Bengal during 1971-72. The programme covered an area of over 1,270 hectare of degraded forests involving 618 families in 11 villages, and was a great success. This joint initiative rehabilitated the forests and thus became an example to emulate. Similar successful programmes of community involvement came up from other states like Odisha, where it started in 1980s in Budhikhamari, Mayurbhanj district.
The Government of India, Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change consolidated the intervention on participatory forest management through the National Forest Policy, 1988, and then through enabling guidelines in 1990 on Joint Forest Management (JFM). States followed their own guidelines on the JFM programme. As it happens with any change in the management regime, the progress of JFM was slow in the initial years as many policy, technical and institutional issues cropped up in the field. Only around 4 million ha of forests in 17 states were under JFM until 1998. The programme received a major boost when a JFM cell was created in August 1998 in the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), to monitor the progress of JFM and act as a clearing house for information on JFM. After wide ranging discussions among all the stakeholders through a committee of experts, the MoEF issued another set of guidelines in February 2000, which inter-alia included uniform nomenclature and legal back up to the Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMCs) across the country and extension of JFM to good forest areas with focus on management of Non-Timber Forest Produce (NTFPs). Further guidelines were issued in December 2002 on setting up conflict resolution mechanism with Panchayat Raj Institutions to ensure their support in forest management.
The JFM programme got further impetus when the JFM Cell and National Afforestation and Eco-Development Board (NAEB) evolved the concept of Forest Development Agencies (FDAs) as an autonomous federation of JFMCs registered under the Societies Act 1860, for empowerment of the local communities for the regeneration of the forests and for livelihood creation activities. This provided financial support to JFM programme by the Government of India and facilitated fund flow to the implementing agency (-FDA) to their bank account directly from NAEB. In addition, financial support to JFM activities came from other sources in different states such as World Food Programme (WFP), Hariyali Yojana, District Rural Development Agency (DRDA), Tribal Development Schemes, externally aided projects, etc. In some states like Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Nagaland, JFM activities are confined to forest plantation areas which are fully funded under FDA. Joint Forest Management has been in operation for about 20 years in India and adopted by all States and UT of Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
The total number of JFMCs in the country as on 2010 are 112, 896 and the forest area brought under it is 24.6 million ha, till March 2010. Though there is over all increase in the number of JFMCs, the area covered under forests has decreased compared to 2006 status, there has been downward correction in number of JFMCs and forest area covered in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Punjab because many registered JFMCs were found non-functional. In Jammu & Kashmir, JFMCs of Integrated Watershed Development and Eco-restoration of Degraded Catchment have become non-functional because of closure of these projects, but some addition in JFMCs and in forest area took place in Social Forestry programmes.