Dhanapal G, Senior Analyst from the Forest Governance team of ISB, visited the study sites in Gondia from 6th to 9th August, 2019. This report is based on observations made during this field visit.
The objective of the visit was to gain familiarity with the field areas, to discuss the survey methods of Community Forest Rights (CFR) and Non-CFR areas with the field team, and to meet forest department staff and local community members in a bid to understand the implications of CFR in the wildlife habitat of Navegaon Nagzira Tiger Reserve (NNTR) in Gondia district, Maharashtra.
- A meeting with the interns working on the CFR and Non-CFR survey was held in Deori. As of date, 67 villages have been surveyed. The interns had used the ‘title sheet’ given to the villages indicating a record of forest compartment and gut number of CFR areas. Based on this information, and with support from local villagers, and forest guards, the interns mapped CFR areas. However, some areas that are outside forest department compartments have been mapped as CFR.
- While verification of such sites shall be taken up, it was decided that in the future interns will use a datasheet to collect information about Compartment and Gut No. on which the survey was done. Interns would also gather additional information such as encroachment, forest cover, incidences of grazing and NTFP collection.
- Visited the villages of Girola, Haiti, Ghategaon, Birhi, and surrounding areas. Visited areas surveyed as CFR but not falling under forest department compartments.. It was identified that the land belongs to the Revenue Department. To confirm if CFR is given to the revenue land by the forest department, a visit to the local forest office in Kohmara was made and a discussion with Deputy Ranger Mr. Sunil Khandekar was held. The Ranger suggested that we enquire with the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) office at Gondia and meet Mr. Ganesh Babu Meshram from the survey department to know the forest boundaries currently managed by the department.
- A discussion with Mr. Prasad Gagte, former president of Forest Rights Committee (FRC) of Girola, was very useful. FRC is an elected body by the Gram Sabha for a period of three years; it has a president, secretary and nine members. The role of FRC is to manage the area under CFR. However, with no funding given to FRC here are no management activities taken up in CFR areas.
- The collection of Minor Forest Produce like Tendu and Mahua are allowed in CFR areas by the villagers while it is restricted in non-CFR areas. Informal cooperative federations are formed for sale of Tendu collected by villagers in CFR areas. The FRC president claimed that villagers use non-destructive methods of Tendu collection while the forest department contractors’ methods are destructive in nature
- Visited the Eco-development committee of Plitbora village in Deori. However, meeting the EDC members was not possible. It was learnt from forest watchers that there are no activities by EDC going on currently. Last year, owing to an external grant, fencing activities to protect the village cropland from crop-raiding was conducted.
- A discussion was held with Mr. Shinde, the Additional Conservator of Forests (ACF) of Gondia forest division. . He assured that data on forest fires, tendu collection and grazing and related data available with the forest department shall be shared with us.
- Visited Forest Development Corporation (FDC), which is undertaking plantation for commercial harvesting. Data on compartments under plantation is available with FDC and can be obtained
- Under the social forestry scheme, plantation in both CFR and non-CFR areas are undertaken. Was unable to meet the officials of the social forestry department, however, data on plantation can be obtained.
- At NNTR office, details on villages under CFR within the NNTR buffer boundary map were discussed. The officer in charge agreed to share related shapefiles.
Dhanapal discussed following next steps with Sanjay Mondol, Research Coordinator ,ISB:
- The planned survey for the 75 villages, i.e., 10 in Sadak Arjuni and 65 in Deori to be completed by September 2019. All CFR and Non-CFR polygons surveyed will have a record of the village name, compartment and gut numbers.
- Shapefiles of compartment boundaries and NNTR for Gondia division are to be obtained from the forest department
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