|Ecology and the Politics of Survival: Conflicts over Natural Resources in India (UNU, 1991, 353 pages)|
|Part I Forest Conflicts|
Social forestry in Karnataka
Conventionae forest management strategies have proved inadequate in the task of protecting, regenerating the forest cover of the country and satisfying the people's basic needs for forest products. As a result, the situation is extremely disturbing in almost all parts of the country. The situation has now become desperate with the increasing diversion of available biomass to commercial channels, which takes this biomass immediately beyond the limited purchasing power of the rural poor.
Under this combined crises of unsatisfied basic needs and ecological destabilization of rural agro-ecosystems, the regeneration of forest cover outside the demarcated reserved forests has evolved as a new national programme called 'social forestry'. This programme has, as its primary aim, the development of local biomass resources for the satisfaction of the local people's biomass needs. Consequently, the programme envisaged large-scale tree planting on common lands and open government lands by village communities for the satisfaction of their own requirements.
The supply of fuelwood and fodder is an essential, not isolated, input to agriculture in India. The fuelwood crisis is not an isolated problem since it diverts agricultural waste and dung from its use as organic manure for fuel for cooking, thus sabotaging sustainable agricultural activity. It also undermines agricultural activity by diverting some 20 per cent of available manpower from productive farm work to fuelwood gathering. It is estimated that 18 per cent of the human labour devoted to domestic work is accounted by the collection of firewood. In several parts of India, two man-days of labour are spent per family, simply collecting enough firewood for the week.
In many parts of the country, tree fodder plays a very important role in keeping animals alive to provide draught power for agriculture and transport. In other parts of the country where indigenous varieties of high fodder producing crops are being replaced by 'high yielding' varieties, the fodder situation is becoming desperate. The nature of the fodder deficit in Karnataka is clearly highlighted in Table 5.1.
Table 5.1 Fodder Situation in Karnataka (1979)
|Feed;||Requirements Supply(million tows)||Deficit or||Surplus|
|Straw||190||130||- 60 mt|
|Green fodder||289||111||- 178 mt|
Source: Government of Karnataka, 1980 p. 9.
The third task to which social forestry is committed is the rebuilding of exhausted resources for rural housing needs. No viable alternative to timber (in material and economic teens) is available to the lowest income groups. Some attempts to introduce cheap and appropriate rural housing with new materials have been made. But the diffusion and transfer of these new technologies does not seem possible in the near future. The before. if the basic need of shelter is to be satisfied, dependence on forest resources for housing cannot be avoided.
Where social forestry differs most radically from past forestry programmes is in the recognition that the rebuilding of India's forest wealth cannot be undertaken without the participation of the local community. As Eckholm points out:
Community forestry cannot be imposed from above and carried out in the face of a hostile population. New forms of land use impinge upon, and are influenced by, the daily activities of everyone. When the local people are not active participants and supporters of a project, saplings have a way of disappearing overnight. With fodder usually as scarce as firewood, uncontrolled goats or cattle can quickly ruin a new plantation even when disgruntled peasants facing the alternative of a lengthy hike to collect fuel do not covertly cut the saplings themselves.... Community involvement, then, is not just an ideologically appealing goal; it is a practical necessity if rural forest needs are to be met.
According to the national commission of agriculture (government of india, 1976), the scope of social forestry should include 'farm forestry, extension forestry, reforestation in degraded forests and recreation forestry.' Farm forestry in particular was defined by the Commission as '(the) practice of forestry in all its aspects on farms or village lands, generally integrated with other farm operation.' The same policy was reiterated in the Recommendations of the Second Forestry Conference held in 1980. The Conference stated that:
Social forestry programmes should be given prime importance all over the country with the objective of growing trees on farmlands, community wastelands, road, canal and railway sides and any other land set aside for similar purposes, either singly or in groups, in strips or in blocks.
Thus, in theory, social forestry offers a programme for building forest stocks in two ways. First, it is expected to provide resources to satisfy the basic needs of the population through the creation and regeneration of tree wealth within human settlements. Second, by satisfying these needs locally, social forestry is seen as a mechanism for reducing pressures which are at present destroying the reserved forests. Above all, social forestry provides a means of reversing the earlier trend of converting forests into agricultural land and human settlements. In view of the availability of denuded civil forests and degraded village commons, the reverse phenomenon of generating new forests within human settlements through community participation is a promising one.
Attracted by this promise both the central and the state governments, as well as a host of voluntary groups, international aid agencies have focused attention on this programme. many of the voluntary activist groups this was a new support for a programme they were already engaged in, both formally and informally as an integral part of their routine activity. However, though these voluntary efforts, led by highly dedicated individuals imbued with the spirit of sacrifice and social uplift, were successful in the greening of small areas in almost all parts of the country, they were not quantitatively significant to become a national programme. Furthermore, the type of leadership that is needed was not easily available everywhere.
With the government taking up afforestation outside the demarcated areas, and with liberal international aid pouring in for the purpose, planting of trees became an official activity from a voluntary one. Social forestry projects with foreign assistance in various states of India are listed in Table 5.2. The formal and written objectives of such official programmes with international aid are laudable and promise a permanent solution to the fodder and fuel crisis of the average Indian villager.
(The purpose of social forestry) is the creation of forests for the benefit of the community through active involvement and the participation of the community. In the process, the rural environment will improve, rural migration will reduce, rural unemployment substantially cease... The overall concept of social forestry aims at making the villages self-sufficient and self-reliant in regard to their forest material needs."
Table 5.2 Social Forestry Projects with Foreign Assistance in 1981 (Rs. crores)
|State||Cost Estimate, |
|Uttar Pradesh||36.0||23.00||World Bank|
|West Bengal||34.0||23.0||World Bank|
|Orissa||22.5||To be worked out||SIDA|
|Karnataka||60.0||To be worked out||World Bank|
|Andhra Pradesh||56.0||To be worked out||CIDA|
|Haryana||32.0||To be worked out||World Bank|
|Jammu & Kashmir||24.0||To be worked out||World Bank|
|Bihar||40.0||To be worked out||SIDA|
Source: Himalaya Man and Nature, Special Issues on Forestry, 1981.
Disheartening Results for the Poor?
In the perspective of the hopes raised and enormous international finance available, how has social forestry fared so far? To what extent has it been able to involve society in raising trees on village commons? What contribution has it made to enhance the much needed biomass supply for the rural poor? Has it improved the ecology of agro-ecosystems? These are some of the many questions being raised about social forestry programmes.
While aid giving bodies differ from state to state and, accordingly, some finer adjustments are made in the programmes, the general characteristics of social forestry programmes are almost similar throughout the country. Social forestry programme in the State of Karnataka is possibly the most suitable case for such an analysis since the amount of systematic information on the programme is significant and is available for periods prior to the introduction of the World Bank aided official programme of social forestry. In particular, the district of Kolar in Karnataka, identified as a success district for the official social forestry programme, can be selected for an indepth impact assessment of social forestry.
Impact of Social Forestry in Kolar
The first systematic study of the impact of the official social forestry
programme was undertaken by Shiva e' al. in 1981. Social forestry had been
undertaken by the Karnataka Forest Department since 1975-76 much before the
World Bank aided programme was launched. The official social forestry programme
had gained considerable momentum by 1979-80, when the evaluation was undertaken.
This is apparent from the growth of the project during that year:
|Distribution of free seedlings||300 million|
|Plantations along roads||185 km|
|Plantations on land owned by public institutions||100 ha|
|Plantations along canal banks||20 km|
|Plantation on revenue lands||100 ha|
In the entire range of various types of plantations in the social forestry programme, the programme of plantations on village commons is the one in which direct involvement of the village community is possible and the community can expect to receive benefits directly. In the case of plantations on private farm lands, though the benefits to the landowner are ensured, the community as a whole becomes redundant. In other types of plantations, due to various reasons like unclear modes of benefit sharing and geographical isolation from the village, the possibility of community participation is extremely low. As is seen from the above distribution, the most successful and predominant element of social forestry has been based on individual farmers planting seedlings which were distributed free of cost. Salient features of the study by Shiva and associates are presented here.
The response to the social forestry programme in Karnataka has been most significant in the districts of Kolar and Bangalore. This led to the selection of one of these districts, i.e., Kolar, for the study. Kolar was selected in preference to Bangalore to reduce the impact of the pressure of the metropolitan city of Bangalore. Within Kolar, one taluk, Bagepalli, was chosen to provide information on the land use pattern when the impact of urban centres like Bangalore could be expected to be marginal. The other three taluks chosen-Kolar, Bangarpet and Malur-were bordering the district of Bangalore and were expected to be partly affected by their proximity to Bangalore City. The location of these taluks in the district of Kolar is presented in Figure 5.1. Within these four taluks, villages wete randomly chosen-both remote and near the taluk headquarters, as well as those which were near metalled highways and those at a distance from them. The relative distance of the villages from the nearest town, usually the taluk headquarters, along with other relevant information is given in Tables 5.3 to 5.6 and locations are shown in Figures 5.2 to S.5. The households surveyed were randomly selected from all economic classes with the help of village accountants. The distribution of households in terms of family size and land holdings is presented in Tables 5.7 and 5.8.
Information from individual households was collected with the help of a questionnaire. The important information sought through the questionnaire was related to the socio-economic background of the household, landownership status, land use pattern, domestic energy consumption, future land use programrnes, etc. Besides the data collected through the questionnaire, oral historical information on the type of land use in the past few decades, types of species of trees people need, the relationship of the village organisation with the forest department, etc., was also collected. The fieldwork for the study was carried out between December 1980-February 1981. This information was used to analyse the impact of social forestry in more efficient land utilisation from the point of view of satisfying the basic requirements of the village communities for forest products and the increased stabilisation of the village ecology and life-support systems. The study made certain observations that led to a national debate on the social desirability of the official social forestry programmes as practiced in Kolar. It was observed that official funds were being used by the social forestry programme to transform the excess land belonging to big and absentee landlords into Eucalyptus plantations for pulp industries. Landless labour was most severely affected by this shift in land use from traditional rotation and intercropping to longterm ratoon cropping of Eucalyptus (mainly tereticornis). While the study was used by rural people and many voluntary organisations to revise the social forestry programme, the donor World Bank and the recipient State Forest Department found in the social forestry programme to transform the excess land belonging to big and absentee landlords into Eucalyptus plantations for pulp industries. Landless labour was most severely affected by this shift in land use from traditional rotation and intercropping to longterm ratoon cropping of Eucalyptus (mainly tereticornis). While the study was used by rural people and many voluntary organisations to revise the social forestry programme, the donor World Bank and the recipient State Forest Department found in the social forestry programme to transform the excess land belonging to big and absentee landlords into Eucalyptus plantations for pulp industries. Landless labour was most severely affected by this shift in land use from traditional rotation and intercropping to longterm ratoon cropping of Eucalyptus (mainly tereticornis). While the study was used by rural people and many voluntary organisations to revise the social forestry programme, the donor World Bank and the recipient State Forest Department found in the market forces. Thus, the World Bank aided social forestry programme had clearly nothing to do with society right from the start.
Table - 5.5 Basic Information about the Sampled Villages Bagepalli Taluk
Table 5.4 Bask Information about the Samlped - Villages - Bangarpet
Table 5.5 Basic Information about the Sample Villages - Kolar Taluk
Table 5.6 Basic Information about the Sampled Villages Taluk
Table 5.7 Distribution of Family Size in the Four Taluks Studied
|Number of Households in|
The socio-economic critique of Shiva et al. was subsequently confirmed by official evaluations of the social forestry project by the Government of Karnataka (1984). This study observed that in the two 'success' districts, Kolar and Bangalore, agricultural households who have taken up farm forestry, have converted 44 per cent and 51 per cent of land respectively to plantations of either Eucalyptus or Casurina. In many cases the farmers have used almost all their landholdings for farm forestry. The results of the Government of Karnataka study are presented in Table 5.9.