Trees & Tanks in Villages: International experiences of community forestry have its potential in forest management for India.

Also, references are available on the role that forests and trees play and how to manage these resources in indigenous literature like Vedas, Upanishands, Mahabharata, Ramayana, Arthasastra, and Brihatsamhita etc.


production and
utilization of

WOOD biofuels
in India


Indigenous Indic Traditions in Forestry: What lessons are there for Contemporary Sustainable Forest Management from adapting these?


Forest management systems are referred to as
indigenous, when they are primarily based on local experience of their ‘local world’ that is, perhaps, most important to them. Indigenous refers to knowledge and practices that have originated

locally and are performed by a community or society
in a specific place. This knowledge evolves and emerges continually over time according to people’s

perception and experience of their environment and
is usually transmitted from generation to generation by word of mouth or by practice.


In contrast, scientific forestry utilises specialised knowledge for managing forest resources not only for local populations but also for wider objectives and the global

scientific forestry community. Scientific
knowledge on forest management is generally shared in formal, written, and nontraditional ways.


Forest management has been defined as the process of making and implementing decisions about the use and maintenance of forest resources and organisation of related activities. The decision-making process involves integration and utilisation of several kinds of knowledge.




community forestry

Water harvesting and tree growing



Varahamihira in 5th century AD wrote on the tanks and trees relationship

total of 1.53 million village tanks built from 2000 BC onwards still survive in India today.  These tanks vary in size (0.5 ha to several hundred ha. of water harvesting area and a grove of few trees to very large groves).


Biomass availability

When indigenous knowledge, indigenous institutions and indigenous strategies are combined with scientific strategies and knowledge the result is far more productive than as understood currently.



International experience suggests that when communities are given greater rights to use forest

resources along with increased responsibility and
capacities, both rural incomes and conservation often improve dramatically. To lift rural incomes,

however, forestry also needs to be coupled with
broader rural development programs that promote diverse livelihoods. Farming, sericulture, and horticulture, as
well as the collection, processing, and marketing of forest products like timber, medicinal plants and aromatic oils can help boost the rural economy.



Joint Forest Management in India
 In

India, community forestry is being promoted

under Joint Forest Management. It comprises a
partnership between local community institutions and state forest departments for sustainable management and benefits sharing.
 Although

the primary objective of community

forestry in India is that of growing timber, the
programme deals mainly with the reforestation and rehabilitation of degraded forest lands.


Joint Forest Management: COMMENT
 This

is accomplished through the natural

regeneration of Sal (Shorea robusta) forests, which in many areas regenerates easily if protected from grazing animals.

The prerequisite for Joint Forest Management is an agreement
between government and local people – the management plan. Yet solely the forest department can prepare the

management plan without adequate negotiation with local
people. This is a limitation to community forestry’s success in India.


Joint Forest Management: CRITICISMS
 The

local people are requested to look after the

forest but it is the government, which logs the timber. For example, in Bihar state, Krishnaswamy (1995) mentions that low participation persists

because people do not expect to benefit from the
forests they are supposed to protect. The government generally only designates poorly stocked, relatively unproductive and degraded forests for Joint Forest Management.


Joint Forest Management
 Revenue

sharing between villagers and

the government only reduces the
inadequate return local communities receive from these forests. Ideally, the community needs all the benefits to have a reasonable chance at rural development.


Since the Rigvedic period through Puranic times there are numerous descriptions of the trees groves and tanks (talabs) in India. Varahamihira in 5th century AD wrote and with great detail on the tanks and trees relationship. These prescriptions were considered sacred and ethic demanded that the people should practice for the common good of the humanity. This phenomenon can be understood as a proven fact getting institutionalized by the cultural traditions.


What resulted from this is amazing! A total of 1.53 million village tanks built from 2000 BC onwards still survive in India today. These tanks vary in size (0.5 ha to several hundred ha. of water harvesting area and a grove of few trees to very large groves).

20 Water harvest methods

India wants sustainable development while solving the water problem. It must revive

and support the traditions that are useful
and have stood the test of time. In fact at several places revival of such traditions has been very encouraging. Examples suggest that this has resulted in the sustainable forestry and livelihood security.


About ethnoforestry or the indigenous knowledge on forests in India:

• On the role that forests and trees play and how to manage these resources, older literature references are available in Vedas, Upanishands, Mahabharata, Ramayana, Arthasastra, and Brihatsamhita etc. • On the contemporary landscape and indigenous management forms, data is available that is illustrated with assessments of the various types of indigenous forests, trees and landscape management in several parts of India.

22 equity of knowledge

This has a great relevance for the
history of forest management and the

future of sustainable forest
management in India.

To clarify the issue of equity of
knowledge adopted here is the framework of empowerment, security and opportunity.


Equity of knowledge as Empowerment: This can be understood as making the state institutions pro-people and pro-people's knowledge, thereby reducing the social

barriers to participation and enhancing the
capacity of the poor to make choices to address the livelihood security and sustainability.


Equity of knowledge as Security: By
making the productive use of

collective wisdom of formal and
traditional sciences we shall be able to

help the poor to manage the risks they
face because of the destruction of the resource-base and societal hindrances.


Equity of knowledge as Opportunity: The process of access, transmission, integration

and field application of indigenous
knowledge and Indic traditions with formal

strategies promises to enhance the
productivity and efficiency of context specific developmental interventions for attacking the poverty and addressing the sustainability of natural resources.


Basic issues that are to be explored are: 1. What are the indigenous Indic traditions in forestry? 2. What is the history of the neglect and destruction of these traditions? 3. How are these traditions reflected in contemporary landscape in India? 4. How can the society benefit from Indic Traditions in order to achieve the objectives of sustainable forest management? In other words, how the equity of knowledge can be achieved between the local communities possessing the indigenous knowledge and formal forestry scholars? 5. What are the contemporary examples of integration of Indic traditions with modern forestry?


Contributions that examine the above issues may relate to: 1. Indigenous Indic Traditions in Forestry including various ethnoforestry practices such as sacred groves, sacred gardens, home gardens, sacred

corridors, tanks and trees, community conserved
landscapes etc. 2. Ecological, Economic and Societal dimensions of Indigenous Indic Traditions in Forestry


3. Indigenous Indic Traditions in Natural Resource Management 4. Indigenous Indic Traditions in Water Management including Traditional Water Harvesting Systems 5. Role of Indigenous Indic Traditions for Sustainability

6. Case studies that demonstrate the applicability and
integration of Indic traditions with modern science? 7. Role of Indigenous Indic Traditions in Forestry for Empowerment, Opportunity and Security; Carbon Sequestration; Watershed Protection; etc.


Pressures on India’s Forests Pressure on India’s forest comes from a variety of sources, including: · Increase in population, from 390 million in 1950 to 1 billion in 2001 · Loss of 4.5 million hectares since 1950 through agricultural conversion and other uses · High percentage (78%) of forest subject to heavy grazing · Exposure of half the forests to fire risk · Shifting cultivation, which affects almost 10 million hectares of forest · Encroachment on 1.36 million hectares of forest by 2002, with evictions accounting for only 10% of affected land by 2004. Source: India stat (2005); Bahuguna and others (2004). © 2006


The challenge now is to manage forest resources for multiple benefits, requiring

communities not only to reconcile
competing internal interests, but also to manage a complex interface with both the state (representing the public interest, nationally and globally) and the forest industry.

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