[World Bank, New Delhi, April 3, 2006]
A newly-released World Bank report states that with greater community control over forest management, income from forests could rise from an estimated US$222 million in 2004 to approximately US$2 billion per annum in 2020. The report indicates that community-based forestry offers vast potential for poverty reduction and rural economic growth in India while also supporting critical national conservative goals. This is possible by undertaking effective reforms in managing community forest resources and improving forest productivity.
The report titled ‘India: Unlocking Opportunities for Forest-Dependent People’ estimates this potential rise from the current community-based Joint Forest Management (JFM) programme that covers 27 per cent of the national forest area across India, and encompassing 85,000 village communities. The report draws heavily on detailed background studies in Assam, Jharkhand, and Madhya Pradesh. The three states represent a good cross-section of JFM history, scale and implementation progress.
Reforms need to ensure that JFM provides:
* More secure tenure and management rights for forest dwellers.
* Strengthened forest management, monitoring and control systems.
* Access to more effective market systems.
* More effective and flexible institutional models.
Forests are the second largest land-use in India after agriculture. An estimated 275 million people in rural areas depend on forests for at least part of their livelihoods. Forest dwellers, which include a high portion of tribals, are among the poorest and most vulnerable groups in society. India’s community-based JFM forestry model is
continuing to evolve, but most communities are not tapping the full potential of forests to improve their livelihoods and reduce poverty.
Sharing the findings of the report Grant Milne, Senior Natural Resource Management Specialist, World Bank and also one of the key authors of the report said, “With improved forest productivity and policy reforms for community forestry many communities could earn up to Rs.10, 00,000, or more in cash income each year. The net value of domestic fuelwood and fodder could be worth US$ 1.1 billion a year; ecological and ecotourism values from current JFM forests could be as high as US$ 1.7 billion.
Given improved technology and better market access, many communities could evolve higher level value added activities and generate even greater returns. Forests offer excellent potential for poverty reduction and rural economic growth in India while also supporting critical national conservative goals.”
The report envisages that carefully phased state and national reforms around JFM, a focus on broadening livelihood opportunities at the community level, and investing in improved forest productivity, will lead to increased income from commercial timber, bamboo and non-timber products from community forests for both the communities and the government.
For this the reforms need to ensure that JFM provides:
* More secure tenure and management rights for forest dwellers – states need to strengthen forest policies and grant stronger land or resource rights to communities.
* Strengthening forest management, monitoring and control systems – community-based forestry must be supported by more effective management, planning, mapping and research systems that meet local needs.
* Access to more effective market systems – market systems for community based forestry need to be liberalized and more aligned with ongoing transitions and reforms in agriculture marketing.
* Develop more effective and flexible institutional models – targeted training and investment programs should be implemented to help forest departments rationalize their roles and focus more on facilitation and technical advisory services.
A Forestry Donor’s Forum, consisting of United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID), Japan Bank for International Cooperation(JBIC), German Development Bank(KfW), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Bank was recently established to share information and strengthen donor coordination around forestry programs in India. One direct outcome of this Forum has been extensive collaboration on a dissemination and knowledge sharing program based on the proposed reforms in the report.
“The proposed reforms would strengthen incentives for communities to improve forest conservation and management. A look at other countries, for example in Latin America, shows that where community forestry has improved, forest conservation also tends to improve” Grant added.