Forest Conservation and Tribal Rights

Forest Conservation and Tribal Rights In 20 scheduled area villages of Akole block, LokPanchayat is implementing a project to raise awareness on tribal rights and use to the natural resources. The tribal communities from these 20 villages are scattered across the Harischandragad and Kalsubai mountain area of the Western ghat ranges.

The tribal communities subsist on rain fed agriculture with low yields. Other sources of livelihood being absent, the tribals migrate to nearby towns for their livelihood. Food insecurity, poor health and access to basic facilities have kept the tribal communities in a state of acute poverty and isolation.

Meeting the challenges of development in these tribal areas, LokPanchayat is implementing a project that will improve livelihood options and help them establish their rights under PESA and Forest Rights Act.

This project has been supported in the initial stages by CordAid and Misserour. TDH, Germany and ActionAid have subsequently provided support to carry this project forward.

Approach :

• Improving Food Security
Grain banks have been started at the village level to ensure availability of food grain during periods of scarcity. Efforts are made to encourage women to manage and operationalize the grain banks in the villages.

Promotion of sustainable farming practices is also a major activity to ensure preservation of local varieties of traditionally consumed millets, pulses and paddy. Use of low external inputs is encouraged through demonstration on farmer plots.

Participatory Guarantee System is introduced as a way of providing an assurance to buyers by the producer farmers about the organic quality of the produce.

(Formation of Van panchayat. It is a organization of tribal and forest dwellers to take collective action for their right)

• Creating awareness on Tribal Rights
Awareness workshops, exposure visits and Kala Manch -the cultural troupe are the different ways of providing information to tribal communities on their rights under Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Area and Forests Rights Act. Also relevant information on Bio-Diversity Act, NREGS is also provided with a view to educating the tribal people.

• Conservation of the forest and collecting NTFP
NTFP collection using non destructive methods, their aggregation and marketing is promoted through a village level group. Some efforts are also underway on value addition of NTFP like karonda (wild berry), mango, jamun, hirda and wild honey through women SHGs.

• Strengthening local governance
Trainings are conducted on importance of Panchayat meetings and Gram Sabha under the 5th schedule. Role of local governance for the utilization and monitoring of Government funds for creating common community resources and infrastructure ; conservation of the surrounding bio-diversity are emphasized upon during trainings. Women focused trainings are held with the understanding that they are key players to improving local governance.

• Facilitating alternative learning process at schools
Starting of school libraries, educational trips for bio-diversity appreciation, creative methods of teaching are introduced in the ashram schools and primary schools to provide the children a window to learning in a liberal educational environment.

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