Joint Forest Management in Andhra Pradesh

The National Forest Policy of 1988 has recognised the need to involve local people in management of forests for ensuring their effective conservation. The Government of India has issued detailed guidelines in the year 1990 on the concept of implementing Joint Forest Management. Accordingly the Government of Anhra Pradesh has issued formal orders in 1992 for adopting Joint Forest Management (JFM) as a strategy for rehabilitation of degraded forests. Detailed guidelines were also issued in the year 1993, for taking up JFM through village level committees called "Vana Samrakshana Samithies" (VSS).

Like many other State Governments, the AP Forests Department have also issued comprehensive guidelines for adopting Joint Forest Management as a strategy for rehabilitation of degraded forests in the year 1993, through village level committees called "Vana Samrakshana Samithies" (VSS). Initially, there was lot of skepticism among the foresters about the worthiness of this strategy as a remedy for protection problems. This type of approach for managing forests was new to the people also, hence lot of effort was needed to convince the people also about the assurances of the Government on the returns promised to the people, if they take up Joint Forest Management.

However, with the passage of time, both the local people as well as the forest officials started seeing what JFM can do for rejuvenating degraded forests, and the concept gained more acceptance. The success stories spread from one village to another village. What was started as a small program has today attained gigantic proportions. Under the dynamic leadership of the Chief Minster Sri Nara Chandra Babu Naidu, the program attained a state level campaign mode. As the CM himself had said many times, if we have to see the impact of any strategy we have to think big and implement it all over the State, instead of dealing with a few hundred villages here and there.

Keeping in view the tremendous enthusiasm being shown by the people towards this program and the spectacular improvement in forest regeneration due to their efforts, the State Government issued orders on 7-12-96 giving 100% share of timber and bamboo to the VSS members, enhancing it from 50% share envisaged earlier. This is a true sign of the confidence imposed in the ability of the people in managing their forest resources efficiently.

Special features of JFM in Andhra Pradesh

• People are given 100% incremental rights over the forest produce, unlike in many other States where the sharing is limited to 25%, with a built in mechanism for recycling 50% of the revenue from timber and bamboo for sustainable management of the forests under their control

• VSS members are given 50% of the net revenue obtained from the Beedi Leaf collected from VSS area

• VSS members are also given a share of 50% in the "Compounding Fees" collected from the forest offenders apprehended by them

• Transparency in VSS operations by channeling the funds through Joint Account system, duly supported by the Managing Committee resolutions, and presenting the quarterly progress reports to the General Body

• 50% compulsory enrolment for women in the general body and > 50% in the Managing Committee

• Involvement of Non Governmental Organisations in strengthening the Vana Samrakshana Samithies through motivation, extension, training and other support activities

• SCs and STs are automatic members of VSS. This is to ensure that the poorer sections of the society are not left out.

• Forest areas under cultivation by the poor tribals are being brought under VSS so that the poor people can get employment during the regeneration phase and subsequently draw income from the usufruct. This will also stop the pernicious habit of shifting cultivation

• Medicinal plants occurring in Forest areas have been identified which the VSS members can harvest and market. Plan for regeneration of important medicinal plants, both insitu and exsitu, are being drawn linking with the market.

• Making requisite funds for implementation available by mobilising resources from Employment Assurance Scheme, Centrally Sponsored Schemes and the World Bank, so that work does not suffer for want of money

• With the initiative taken by Government of Andhra Pradesh, the Government of India has also issued guidelines to all states for earmarking funds for forestry sector under EAS and Jawahar Rojgar Yojana

• Effective inter departmental co-ordination for ensuring development of VSS villages as "Model Villages"