Chhattisgarh chargaon reaps benefits in first year
Gram Sabhas, community forest resource committees and non-profit organizations team up to streamline processes in Chargaon Naya Basti
Chargaon village in Dhamtari district of Chattisgarh has become the flagship for using forest rights to support livelihoods.
The two Gram Sabhas in the village – Naya Basti and Purana Basti – were granted Community Forest Resource Rights (CFRR) for separate areas in August last year. Unlike most of the other neighboring villages which also received the title at the same time, the villagers of Chargaon began to rationalize the cultivation and sale of forest products.
Down to Earth (DTE) traveled to Naya Basti earlier this month to monitor progress since receiving forest rights for 2,045 hectares of forest land. “It has not even been a year since we received the CFRR title and we have a nursery in our village where we have more than twenty varieties of young trees which we are going to plant in our forest area,” said Deonath Netam, 61. , by Naya Basti.
They have also started to take on responsibilities in protecting the forest since they got the rights, as they can now be proud to be the claimants, he added. “The forest is like my father.”
Residents of Naya Basti with CFRR title. Photo: Purushottam Singh Thakur
In some other villages and peri-urban areas of Dhamtari this DTE visited, economic gains from forest rights are still a distant dream despite obtaining the title.
But in Chargaon, better yields of forest products have reduced migration from the village. Almost all the inhabitants of the village were migrating to other parts of Chhattisgarh and the country in search of work, Netam said, adding:
The cultivation of small-scale forest products has increased, whether mahua or grasses. This change and the full freedom to use forest resources with the CFRR has greatly reduced migration here.
Locals have been selling tendu leaves through middlemen since they received forest rights, he said.
A forest department ranger visited their area and told the Gram Panchayat that 1,000 bags of tendu leaves were sold to Naya Basti on a tender basis the last time they had picked up the leaves, added the local villager. “No other village in any neighboring village received as many tendu leaves as it picked up sold by middlemen.”
The superior quality of the leaves in their area is probably behind the good sales, according to villagers.
The reduction in migration from the village after obtaining the CFRR is a story of self-reliance, Vatti said. The direct benefits of CFRR titles have been limited to protecting their resources from their forest area, he added. “Better planning and the active role of the Community Forest Management Committee (CFMC), with the support of civil society groups, has led them to reap so many economic benefits in a short period of time.”
Villagers have yet to see the desired increase in forest officers’ share of profits from the sale of small forest products, said Sugmalal Vatti, another resident of Naya Basti. “But now anyone from the nearby village or official is afraid to enter our forest without our permission. This is the power of the CFRR.
Additionally, in a significant development from 2021, Chhattisgarh set a new record by purchasing 73% of the country’s forest products. It became the only state to buy 52 minor forest products under the minimum support price system.
Read more: How Nagri, a modern nagar panchayat in Chhattisgarh, fought for its traditional forest frontier
The Gram Sabha, with the help of a non-profit organization, has developed a visual roadmap of community initiatives for effective forest management, Netam said. DTE, holding the document.
It featured 13 circles of different colors drawn in chalk with guidelines for various functions such as block control dam to control soil erosion due to high water flow, management of large boulders, grazing, l disposal, small-scale forest production and waste disposal in each .
The guidelines were written using words such as pasertala, bada dogri, sonadai used by traditional forest dwellers familiar to local forest dwellers.
The roadmap, although in the planning stage as an exercise to guide villagers on forest management, is a detailed vision document.
“Our Gram Sabha’s approach is that we must save our forests from misuse, deforestation, hunting or poaching of animals by some people,” Vatti said. He added:
We form groups and walk around the village and watch for outside elements that can burn wood in the forest and also prevent forest fires. Our livelihood depends entirely on the forest.
Only the Gonds live in this village and they are united about the CFRR.
About 1,800 square kilometers of the Sitanadi Tiger Reserve is in Dhamtari, where the picking of tendu leaves is prohibited. Thus, villages like Jorataraai, Masalkhoi and Karhi within the reserve which have been granted the CFRR title, cannot harvest or sell tendu leaves like the residents of Chargaon.
The lack of a real CFMC is another obstacle for villagers who have yet to taste the economic prosperity of the CFRR, DTE noticed.
This is the third in a series of stories about villages and peri-urban areas in Chhattisgarh that received forest rights last year. Also read the first and second reports.
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