The Government of Haryana had initiated Joint Forest Management in the state in the late seventies, much before it became a policy of the Ministry of Environment & Forests. The model developed in Sukho Majri village of Haryana, ensuring participation of people in protecting forests who were given rights over water and forest produce in return, is now world famous. The practice of participatory approach in forestry operations and forest management has continued in the state. Village level Village Forest Committees(VFC) have been constituted in over 817 villages under National Afforestation Programme (NAP). Besides this, 1135 VFCs have also been constituted under Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) funded Integrated Natural Resource Management Project and Haryana Community Forestry Project (HCFP). In all these programmes/projects, there is special thrust to empower women by providing them assistance in forming Self-Help Groups and training them to start some Income Generation Activity to improve their economic well being.
Concept of Joint Forest Management
Joint Forest Management programme is an endeavor to fulfill the forestry related needs and aspirations of the local people from the adjoining government forests with their active participation in protection and maintenance of these forests. The Forest Department is undertaking the forestry interventions in these areas, which synchronize with the local felt needs. An atmosphere of goodwill and faith has been created whereby the people feel that it is their programme and the government is participating in it. The department is increasingly acting as facilitator to meet the aspirations of the local populace and in return seek their active participation in preventing the degradation of forests by eliminating illicit felling and grazing.
To arrest the degradation of forests, successive governments framed rules from time to time. These rules aimed at conserving and enriching the existing forests as well as bringing more eroded areas under tree cover. Whatever meager rights the locals had in these forests were insufficient in meeting their daily needs of forest produce. To bridge the difference between demands and supply, the people went in for illegal extraction of the same, which was opposed by the foresters. Thus, these stringent rules and regulations created a sense of alienation amongst the locals who were always at loggerheads with the foresters whom they thought were only interested in the conservation of forests as part of their official duty without caring for the genuine demands and welfare of the local inhabitants.
Since the last few decades, the concept of the forestry and its application for rural development has undergone a tremendous change. It has now been increasingly felt that it will be virtually impossible to prevent the degradation of forests without the active involvement of the locals in their protection and maintenance. While doing so the needs and aspirations of the locals from these areas have to be clearly understood and met with to the maximum extent possible. Keeping in tune with these developments the role of the forest department has become more supportive, considerate and accommodating to satisfy the aspirations of the locals keeping in view their priorities, perceptions, preferences, motivations and constraints.
The concept of JFM is now woven in almost all the forestry projects being undertaken by the forest department. It has taken deep roots in the Shivalik foothills as well as common lands in the Aravallis.
Joint Forest Management in Shivaliks
In the Shivalik area, Bhabbar grass (Eulaliopsis binata) from adjoining forest areas was earlier auctioned to the contractors but under JFM, the same is given to the Hill Resource Management Societies (HRMS) at the reserve price fixed by the forest department. The society can sell the surplus bhabbar in open auction. The net income made from the sale of bhabbar shall be divided between the government and the HRMS in the ratio of 25 : 75. The HRMS shall contribute 30% of its share towards plough-back fund for further improvement of the area. This fund would be retained by each HRMS as separate bank account, jointly operated by DFO and concerned HRMS functionary with due approval by the general body of HRMS. In addition to this, 10% will be contributed towards Kalyan Kosh and its account will be maintained by the DFO. The rest of the money can be used for village and community development as decided by the general body. This fund is to be used strictly on non-religious and apolitical activities.
The benefits obtained from JFM programme; because of increased production in forest areas as well as water from the water-harvesting dams are distributed equally among all the households. Persons who have no land can sell the water of their share to the land owners. A long-standing demand of the HRMS was to have a share in the tree crop in the forest areas. This has now been met with and the societies are entitled to 30% of the funds to be generated after selling the trees.