CEESP member Kannar Kumar Siripurapu writes on the 'Foundations of Community Based Forest Governance Systems in Odisha'.
It is obvious that Community Forestry Management (CFM) had a remarkable impact on the natural resources as well as the local institution in various ways. This has led to regeneration of vast areas of degraded forest patches in different parts of the State. In the process, forest based livelihood as well as local capacity for collective action have also enhanced. In the process, forest based livelihood as well as local capacity for collective action have also enhanced. CFM has contributed significantly in increasing the local capacities in management of other Common Property Resources (CPRs) and addressing social issues. It also enhance to people’s capacity to assert their rights and voice their concerns on various issues related to forest and natural resources. But the question here is why are the communities conserving the forest? How and why did communities initiate conservation? Where lays the contact point between people and conservation? Once a contact has been made what challenges did the communities face? What kind of changes ensued both in the resources and communities following the initiation of forest conservation? And finally, where lays the foundation of community-based forest conservation?
With these perspectives a study was carried out at 09 villages in 03 districts of Odisha. The self-initiated forest protection groups of Odisha provided a rare opportunity to study and explore the parameters and contours of the judicial shift in natural resource governance and examine the foundations of community-based forest governance systems. These self-initiated forest governance systems by the local communities were found to have emerged in confrontation with the forces responsible to forest degradation and livelihood deprivation. The local communities faced many challenges while trying to alter the power dynamics surrounding the issue of conservation and the solutions that emerge out of such negotiations were found to be incredibly successful.