Recognition of Forest Rights of Scheduled Tribes - Individual and Community Rights over Forest Lands

Implementation of Recognition of Forest Rights Act to give forest land rights to forest dwelling scheduled tribes and other forest dwelling communities using GIS based survey to identify and secure the lands; and community participation through Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) to generate 'Resource Maps' for identification and enumeration of Common Property Resources.

About You

Organization: Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) Visit websitemore ↓↑ hide↑ hide

Section 1: About You

First Name

Saurabh

Last Name

Gaur

Country

India

Section 2: About Your Organization

Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Organization Name

Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA)

Organization Website

Organization Phone

+918731275201

Organization Address

Integrated Tribal Development Agency, Utnoor, Adilabad, Andhra Pradesh

Organization Country

India

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Is your organization a

Government

Your idea

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Name your project.

Recognition of Forest Rights of Scheduled Tribes - Individual and Community Rights over Forest Lands

Describe Your Idea

Implementation of Recognition of Forest Rights Act to give forest land rights to forest dwelling scheduled tribes and other forest dwelling communities using GIS based survey to identify and secure the lands; and community participation through Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) to generate 'Resource Maps' for identification and enumeration of Common Property Resources.

Country your work focuses on

India, AP

Innovation

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What makes your idea unique?

Government of India has enacted “Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dweller’s Act, 2006” whose aim is to recognize the traditional rights that the forest dwelling scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers have been enjoying over the forest land.
Though exhaustive rules had been framed duly elaborating the procedural aspects, the method of implementation had to be decided on the basis of the ground realities and overcoming the challenges while staying within the realm of the Act. The task at hand was enormous considering the geographical area of forest land over which the rights had to be recognized and taking due care to protect the forest from encroachment by proper delineation of the area claimed.
The effort was aimed to implement the Act in a time bound and transparent manner by involving the community in the process of recognition of forest land rights and leveraging technology in the form of GPS based survey to define, localize and geo-reference the individual land rights and the community rights.
The local tribal youth were trained as 'Social Mobilizers' to mobilize and educate the community regarding the Act and provided assistance for the filing of claim forms and completion of all statutory requirements by the claimants.
The educated youth from within the community were selected and trained as 'Community Surveyors' for conducting the land survey using GPS devices. The Community Surveyors were assigned the task of survey and delineation of each individual claim on the basis of the claim form filed by the individual claimant as well as the claim for Community Rights filed by the traditional headman representing the community. Such survey work was carried out with reference to the 'Resource Map' that was generated by the community itself.

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Impact

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Tell us about the social impact of your innovation. Please include both numbers and stories as evidence of this impact

The innovation described in this project was carried out in tribal areas of Utnoor in Adilabad District that is the northernmost district in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India having a total area of approximately 16000 sq km. More than 20% population of the district is belonging to Scheduled Tribe Communities such as Gonds, Lambadas, Pradhans, Naikpods, Andhs and the primitive tribal groups such as Kollams and Thoties who have been categorized as 'Poorest of the Poor' as per the socio-economic survey conducted by the government agencies. These communities are the forest dwelling scheduled tribes who primarily reside in forest and whose bonafide livelihood is dependent on the forest. Similarly the other traditional forest dwellers are defined as the communities that have been residing in the forest for three generations that can be estimated to be around 75 years. Thus such forest dwelling scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dweller communities are reasoned to have the maximum stake in preservation of the environment and conservation of forests while the traditional rights that they enjoy over land and other community forest resources are identified and recognized.
Nearly 43% of the area in the district is under forest cover. thus the total area under forest is nearly 1.35 million hectares and the land that was estimated to be under the traditional occupation of the tribal communities and forest dwelling communities is 90000 Ha. Implementation of the program in a time bound manner would have benefited nearly 50000 tribal households and given them title, possession and uninhibited access to their lands that would have been fulfillment of a long cherished dream. This would be the starting point to reverse the social injustice that the tribal community had experiences over centuries altogether.

Problem

The basic issue that was aimed to be redressed through this initiative is to recognize the traditional rights that the forest dwelling scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers have been enjoying over the forest land for decades altogether without getting any sanction from the government in form of a legally valid title and possession over such lands. The traditional rights that have been recognized during the implementation of the Act through this innovative process include individual rights such as right over the land under individual cultivation or that being used for homestead purposes. Further the traditional rights also include community rights that are rights collectively enjoyed by the community such as the right to collect minor forest produce, right to use the water tanks, religious rights etc. Some of the communities do not feel the need or the urgency to get their community rights documented as they have been enjoying the same without any hindrance or objection from any authorities. Further the community feels that some rights are inalienable such as the right to worship their gods, celebrate any religious ritual, use a well or burial ground in the forest.

Actions

In the tribal areas of Utnoor in Adilabad district, 500 Forest Rights Committees (FRC) were organised in almost 1100 tribal habitations. Care was taken to include the traditional village leaders in each of the FRC as per the local customs and traditions. These people were well respected in the community and were key to implementation of the Act in an equitable and non-partisan manner by providing a forum for building consensus and resolution of disputes within the community.
These FRCs have been specially trained to be able to receive and process the claims with the secretarial assistance of the Social Mobilizers and the Community Surveyors. Emphasis was laid on better understanding of the Act by the FRC members by getting the Act and its provisions translated into local tribal dialects and giving a thorough training regarding the provisions of the Act to the FRCs so that they were able to effectively scrutinize and verify the claims and present the same before the approving authorities. 500 Social Mobilizers and 200 Community Surveyors from among the local community itself were trained and recruited to provide all necessary assistance to the FRCs.

Results

For the total of 55663 claims filed for individual rights, the acreage claimed has been nearly 88000 Ha. Subsequently during the ground truthing with the use of GPS survey equipments, it has turned out to be only 76500 Ha. This is inclusive of both the accepted and the rejected / pending claims. Thus the revised acreage subsequent to the survey has been determined and restricted at 86% of the acreage originally claimed. If this methodology of community participation and GPS technology has not been used then the claimants would have filed claims for excess land compared to the land cultivated. This may have been done mostly out of ignorance but in some cases wantonly by some unscrupulous elements so that they can encroach further in the forest by destroying the forest once they get the right without proper survey and identification of land. Further in absence of proper survey and demarcation, rights would have been conferred in excess of the land available under cultivation that is bound to create disputes among the claimants and future destruction of the forest by these right holders. In total, the rights have been conferred for 28500 tribal households for an extent of 40000 Ha.

How many people will your project serve annually?

More than 10,000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

Less than $50

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?

Yes

If so, how?

The method of implementation of the Act in the district has became a model that was adopted in the entire state and became widely acclaimed in this regard.
The geo-referenced data with occupancy rights in digital form has been provided to the forest department which has helped in the stricter enforcement of the Forest Conservation Act.
The digital storage of the record of forest rights with photographs of the right enjoyer will act as a registry for all the future references.
The digital data that has been generated can be put in the public domain as a proactive disclosure under Right to Information. If properly stored and retrieved the data may be given in the future in mobile platforms such as mobile phones or PDAs and this would help the community in future to solve their occupancy related disputes on their own.
With the recognition of individual and community rights and settlement of claims by way of grant of non transferable title deeds to the rightful claimants, the focus is now on issues such as:

i. Development of such forest lands now granted to the claimants
ii. Promotion of plantations and other forestry as well as farm sector activities
iii. Tying up credit through institutional sources for input requirements
iv. Institutionalizing a Community Based Sustainable Agriculture / Plantation programme duly leveraging the inherent knowledge of the tribals and other forest dwelling communities.

Sustainability

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?

Yes

Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with NGOs?

Yes

Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with businesses?

Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with government?

Yes

Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your innovation.

Partnership with the tribal community and with the NGOs who are working for tribal empowerment and development is critical to the success of the project because community should be empowered to utilize these rights in a sustainable way and in a comprehensive manner. This can only be achieved by active involvement of NGOs who promote community development through group action and community driven natural resource management. Even the individual rights that have been granted in the forest area should be subject to group discipline and imposing accountability in the form that if any of the group members abuses any right like cutting more trees or allowing wood smugglers or poachers etc., then the group itself should be held accountable for that. This kind of approach may help the community to guard their rights for perpetual enjoyment as well as to act responsibly. This is possible if the NGOs become partner to this project and constantly work with the tribal communities for sustainable development of these forest lands where property rights have been recently acquired by the tribal communities.

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

Being a government organisation, the project has been fully financed by the government.

The Story

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What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

When the Government of India had notified the Recognition of Forest Rights Act, there was lots of skepticism in the minds of some of the tribal community leaders whether they shall be given their rights in a transparent and equitable manner within a specified time frame as it was an onerous task to conduct survey of such vast extents of hitherto unsurveyed lands.
Similarly some representatives of the civil society and the environmentalists were also campaigning against the implementation of the Act stating that it would encourage further encroachments in the forest areas and lead to environmental degradation. Thus though both the parties had strong valid arguments, there was a consensus that rights should be given to the forest dwelling tribal communities who have been traditionally occupying the forest lands and living in a symbiotic relationship with the forests. It was concluded that securing, documenting and establishing the property rights of these tribal communities shall eventually lead to protection of forests from further encroachments and make them an ally of the Government in forest conservation.
The entire process of involving the community in implementation of the Act in a transparent manner while duly addressing the concerns of the Forest Department by resorting to a scientific GPS based survey and superimposing it to the Forest Maps had allayed all the fears in the minds of all the skeptics. The present approach towards implementation of the Act has been unique in combining a community centric PRA based resource map generation that is truly a community document with a geo-referenced digital map generation that can be superimposed on layers detailing the forest blocks and which can be stored and retrieved in case of future disputes.

Tell us about the social innovator—the person—behind this idea.

The nominee has been directly involved in the implementation of the initiative at the field level by carrying out the role of planning, training and orientation of the community, supervision of the field staff and ensuring better coordination among all the departments involved in the implementation of the Recognition of Forest Rights Act.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Friend or family member

If through another source, please provide the information.

Approximately 50 words left (400 characters).

Additional

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Which (if any) of the following strategies apply to your organization or company (check as many as apply)

Formalizing and documenting property rights (i.e. titling, leasing or certification), Legal education and awareness, Developing/applying technology for surveying, mapping and documenting property rights.

Please explain how your work furthers one or many of the above strategies (if you selected “other”, please explain your strategy)

Use of GPS technology for survey has been received well by the community to demarcate their occupation as the claimants of the right themselves took the GPS based survey devices and measured the area of occupation with the help of the trained community surveyors. Through this transparent process, it became obvious to the community that the area surveyed is accurate and documented properly.

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Title_Document.JPG82.99 KB
Resource_Map.GIF463.5 KB
Superimposed_Occupation_Map_on_Forest_Map.GIF240.61 KB
202 weeks ago Saurabh Gaur updated this Competition Entry.
202 weeks ago Saurabh Gaur submitted this idea.