Balakrushna Jani shows a medicinal plant which was available in abundance in their old forest before being replaced by teak plantations.

Community forest management – the way forward

Following concerns raised by environmentalists and biodiversity conservationists, the forest department has stopped planting teak trees in Kandhamal district. “Since the last two years, we are raising indigenous seedlings to plant in the forest. We have stopped planting tree species like teak, Chakunda (Cassia tora), Acacia mangium, eucalyptus,” confirmed Viswanath Neelamber, Divisional Forest Officer of Baliguda of Kandhamal district. However, raising teak saplings and seedlings in the departmental nursery has not stopped. “We distribute teak saplings to people who voluntarily opt to plant teak in their private lands,” the DFO added.

According to reports, understanding the impacts teak plantations have on natural forest cover and biodiversity, the state of Kerala has decided to replace the teak plantations with natural forests. As the first in action, the state has appointed a committee to study the impact of teak trees and the need to set up natural forests and the advantage it would bring to the biodiversity.

Kandhamal district has a history of community forest conservation. As per a forestry policy and institutions working paper of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, the communities of Kandhamal joined conservation activities with the realisation that they have to assume responsibility to protect their forests to avoid threats to food supply and livelihood opportunities.

Kutia Kandhas living in Belghar gram panchayat in Odisha are deprived of all ecosystem services since the government conducted teak plantation in their forest. Photo by Basudev Mahapatra.
Kutia Kandhas living in Belghar gram panchayat in Odisha are deprived of all ecosystem services since the government conducted teak plantation in their forest. Photo by Basudev Mahapatra.

Banner image: Rajkumari Majhi’s farmland and livelihood was disrupted due to the government planted teak forests. Photo by Basudev Mahapatra.

The story was first published on Mongabay India

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