A study of factors influencing participation in joint forest management in the northwest Himalayas, India
The study analyses the evolution of Joint Forest Management (JFM) in India. The influence of historical, social, economic and cultural factors on participation in JFM is discussed with reference to the Northwest Himalayas. The history of forest use and management in the eras of Pre-British rule, British rule and post-independent period is discussed. The household level differences in six case study level village, with regard to size of landholding, livestock and trees are compared. The influence of family size, caste, literacy and occupation for its dependence on forests for timber, fuelwood, fodder, livestock grazing and non-wood forest products is analysed for implications for participation in JFM. Variation between villages due to altitude, distance from markets, socio-economic characteristics of households all influence dependence on forests. The opinions of households in villages with regard to decrease in forest and forest resources, in relation to forest management option vary. The protection and management of forest areas need to be clearly defined in relation to multiple use rights of many villages. The existence of institutions of co-operative labour, local village gods, women and youth groups and of sacred forest groves provide examples of potential co-operative development for increasing mutual understanding between communities. These can be utilised for formation of rules for forest use and forest management by Village Forest Development Committees. Forest staff have different perspectives with regard to implementation of JFM. They recognise a need for re-training of front-line forest functionaries particularly 'Forest Guards'. Social, economic and political complexities necessitate that JFM must be a process where these factors are incorporated into Forest Department activities and monitored in order to evolve effective institutions for forest use and management. The new forest policy has to be flexible and needs to be amended on the basis of efforts at implementing JFM.