Community Forest Rights Ownership: Collective Action of Tribal and Forest-Dwelling Communities Helped Assert Their Forest Rights in Odisha
Keywords:Forest Right, Tribal Communities, Collective Action
The villagers of Nayagarh district in Odisha, India, have been protecting and reviving their community forest for decades. After years of hard work, the forest regenerated, wildlife returned, and streams started flowing again. However, illegal logging and hunting by some villagers and even the Forest Department threatened the community's efforts. In response, the villagers formed the Community Forest Resources Management Committee (CFRMC), which established rules and regulations for the sustainable use and protection of the forest. When they discovered the Forest Department had cut down trees without their permission, they petitioned for forest ownership under the Forest Rights Act 2006. It empowered them with rights for protection, regeneration, conservation, and management of forest resources.
The villagers' ownership of the forest gives them food and livelihood and allows them to establish boundaries to restrict outsiders' entry. They carefully considered the cattle grazing land, barren land, streams, types of trees, forest deity, and places their ancestors used to visit when redrawing the traditional boundary line. The restrictions on outsiders are also expected to protect the forest from fires, which the villagers toiled hard to extinguish in the past.
Their journey to get the CFR titles and recognition was not easy, as they faced protests and legal battles with industries and the government. Nonetheless, their persistence and collective efforts paid off, and 1,239 out of 1,695 villages in Nayagarh district have now applied for CFR titles. The community's story is a testament to the power of collective action, perseverance, and traditional ecological knowledge in restoring and protecting our natural resources.
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