Centre for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn, Department of Economics and Technological Change, Germany
Since the mid 1980s devolution and decentralisation of natural resource management has become a policy tool for many developing countries across the globe. Countries have devolved and decentralised their resource use and management system to the users. The apparent change in policy from the state-managed top down approach to the community level is fuelled by the recognition of the limits of government agencies in managing resources at the local level, which has resulted in massive degradation of natural resources and of local people's livelihood systems. India has been at the forefront of devolving natural resource management to the local community, particularly in the forestry sector, since more than a decade. The 1988 forest policy was a landmark in the history of Indian forest policy which for the first time recognised the importance of community involvement in the forest management for improvements of their livelihood systems and protection of forest resources. In a follow up document issued in 1990, Central government issued guidelines to all the state governments to implement `Joint Forest Management Systems' by devolving everyday forest use and management rights to the community. Accordingly, almost all the States have formally resolved to implement JFM, making it one of the largest of such programs in the world. This paper makes an attempt to assess the institutional, economic (livelihoods) and ecological (forest conservation) outcomes of joint forest management. For this, an in-depth study conducted in a fringe village in Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, where joint forest management programme has been initiated since 1996. The study reveals that the community got benefited immensely from the JFM programme in terms of wage labour and income generated from the collection of non timber forest produce (NTFP) which has helped the community to overcome the distress of poverty. The forest growth during this period is excellent due to strong community protection. In the institutional front the Forest Department completely failed to provide appropriate technical know-how to carry out the forest management activities and legal support for resolving conflicts (customary rights problems) with neighbouring villages, that is crucial for the sustainability of the program.
Keywords: Andhra Pradesh, India, institutions, Joint Forest Management