The project is being implemented with support from the British High Commission under the Sustainable Development Programme. The project was initiated in July 2005 and is being implemented by the Foundation for Ecological Security in Rajasthan and Karnataka.
The recent amendments (73 rd) to the Constitution of India enabling greater decentralisation to the Panchayats (Village Assemblies) and the implementation of massive programmes on natural resource management present a need for illustrative models on democratic functioning of village and inter village institutions and their nesting under the umbrella of Panchayats so as to bring about a synergetic development of both the natural resources and processes of local self governance.
More specifically there is a need for
- Improving the basic democratic functioning of village institutions at hamlet level;
- Graduating from the point 1 above into an improvement in the functioning of the Panchayats (often comprising a group of hamlets) in terms of its accountability to its constituents and transparency in its operations;
- Improvement in the biophysical condition of natural surroundings - forests, grazing lands and water bodies, through village institutions;
- Awarding custodial or ownership rights over collectively used lands such as grazing lands, revenue wastelands and forests so as to foster long enduring institutions for collective management of natural resources;
- Collaborative working of the Panchayats and the local hamlet institutions for the governance of natural resources
- Evolving and/or strengthening federating forums above the level of Panchayats as most of the natural resources and forests in particular and their use patterns are spread across Panchayats.
The aim of the Project is to strengthen community based management and governance of natural resources involving forest dependent communities, agriculturists and landless wage labourers who live in areas adjoining forests. By strengthening the functioning of village and inter-village governance institutions (Panchayats) through ecological restoration, the Project sees a future where the local communities, essentially forest dependent, and their federations determine and move towards a desirable land use that is based on principles of conservation and social justice.
The proposed Project is aimed at the continued protection of forests and common lands through community based village institutions. The project focuses on the forest governance through the people’s institutions at village and inter-village (Panchayat) level illustrating institutional models of forest governance in two states.
In this scenario the project addresses the following:
- Restoration of forests, common lands and private lands in the extremely degraded and economically deprived area in Udaipur district, Rajasthan and Kolar district, Karnataka such that an intervention on improving the potential of the land could improve the ecological and economic condition of the area and the local indigenous people.
- Dovetailing of the management and governance of forests and other natural resources under the Panchayats to strengthen and foster better tenure and decentralisation of governance over natural resources.
- Elevate the level of discussion on sustainable forest management and move towards conservation of forests by its integration with other land use options for the very safeguard of forests and the synergetic emergence of equitable institutional arrangements within and across hamlets.