Category Archives: Displacement

Forest management policies over the last thirty years

Last year the Indian environment’s Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change ministry published a “draft national forest policy 2016” on its website, with a call for comments. News of the misguided proposals to relocate/evict human beings from “wildlife rich areas” was published on this website.


In January there was a summary of Devinder Sharma’s account of his recent journey to the forests of Vazhachal-Sholayar in the Western Ghats who depend on forest resources for their sustenance. As he wrote: “Home to hornbills, elephants and over 200 animal species, the Vazhachal-Sholayar forests are rich in resources for the Kadar tribes to bank upon”. He explained:

“Since the Kadar tribes have not been traditionally into agriculture, the maintenance and conservation of forest resources is vital to them”.

80s – 90s: Joint Forest Management  

A draft forest bill for draconian controls on access was abandoned in 1982, following mass Chipko demonstrations. The 1988 National Forest Policy adopted conservation measures and focussed on meeting local needs. The success of pilot schemes in West Bengal and Gujarat in improving the quality and area under forest was shown in remote sensing satellite data (Sarin 1995). A government order of 1990, which provided for the formation of Village Forest Committees (VFCs) to protect forests said: “Access to forest land and usufruct benefits should be extended only to the beneficiaries who get organised into a village institution, specifically for forest regeneration and protection.”

Initially, 15 state governments issued resolutions assuring participating villages free access to most non-timber forest products (NFTPs) and a share in the profit from poles and timber, when harvested, in return for forest protection (as specified by the forest department). It is said that after initial successes in West Bengal and Haryana, as of 2005, 27 states of the Indian Union had various JFM schemes with over 63,000 FPCs involved in the joint management of over 140,000 km² of forested land. (The link: Resource Unit for Participatory Forestry (RUPFOR) – Joint Forest Management – About JFM unfortunately led to a website on a different subject.

In the 90s TV producer Fiona Charlton-Hill published her dissertation for the School of Oriental and African Studies on JOINT FOREST MANAGEMENT IN INDIA – A KARNATAKA CASE STUDY, SEPT.15TH 1996). Some findings:

  • The increased height of trees had resulted in new leaves growing beyond easy reach and affected the production of Sal leaf plates.
  • Leaves from Tendu bushes, used in the production of bidis, had been shaded too much by the denser tree growth.
  • Quarrels between villagers and the Karnataka Forest Department (KFD) over the grazing of animals on forest land –  92 cattle used for draught power –  were the major impetus behind the institution of Joint Forest Policy Management (JFPM).
  • It was decided that women were to be responsible for collecting firewood and fodder leaves.
  • Microplanning included demands for smokeless chulas, safe drinking water, a gobar gas plant, bamboo for fencing, seedlings of a plant which produces a large quantity of green leaves, for 21 other species of plants and profit sharing.
  • Previously acacia had been cut by Alga Ulga and Sathgeri villagers for firewood and fencing. The guard posted had not prevented this. KFD now pays a watchman and the committee – in groups of five – now watches the forest and the watchman.
  • The most successful JFPM was in Sathgeri.

Villagers enabled to speak directly to Whitehall by video 

w-ghats-sirsiPandurang Hegde, a local Karnataka activist and Chipko/Appiko Andolan veteran, came to CHS in Mumbai with written statements, asking for help. A letter giving an account of various corrupt practices was sent to the [British] director in New Delhi, who did not reply. Then the ODA in UK was contacted and this director sent a furious letter to CHS colleagues for ‘going over his head’.

As letters of complaint and reports were being ignored by the UK government’s Overseas Development Agency (ODA) representative in Delhi, The Ecologist contacted CHS and paid for a video with a subtitled translation. Shot on location in the Western Ghats, it presented villagers’ evidence about the problems arising from the Joint Forest Management (JFM) projects heavily funded by the UK Overseas Development Agency. The video was taken to UK by Pandurang Hegde where CHS’ Jeremy Seabrook and Nicholas Hildyard of the Ecologist arranged and chaired gatherings at which the video was shown and Pandurang. The ODA (now DFID) officials agreed to a meeting at their London office, and, after seeing the video, agreed that an enquiry should be held.

Is Community Forest Management a better answer?


NDTV reports that in Gunduribadi, a tribal village, the women of the village took charge of guarding forests in 2000 after the male members failed to do so. “If the men objected to the illegal cutting of woods, they would get beaten up. But, we were not harmed. So, we took over forest patrolling from them,” says Ramma. This movement was successful: the ‘Sata Bhai’ or the ‘Seven Brothers’ hill which was barren until a few years ago is alive once again.

 In 2013 Ashish Kothari wrote about his visit to the Baigas of Madhya Pradesh who were campaigning to regain their traditional rights of access, to restore the diversity of their forests and to protect national wealth.


Birju Singh Bindhia explained: “Not so long ago, we had a much greater variety of plants in this forest. Then the Forest Department came along with its working plan involving coupe felling, which included getting rid of crucial species like mahulikayafal, lianas and others that interfered with the felling. They also deliberately encouraged only sal so that over the years other species disappeared. Seeing this, our own people also indulged sometimes in felling, and we lost the traditional restraint that our elders had practised. But now we are bringing them back, and nature is responding.”

Those with a keen interest in the subject might wish to read the devastating analysis of JFM as practised at the time: Same Platform, Different Train, The Politics of Participation, Corner House Briefing 04, by Nicholas Hildyard, Pandurang Hegde, Paul Wolverkamp and Somersekhave Reddy, 3rd March 1998

Devinder Sharma visits Kadar tribal people in Kerala

Bringing back memories of CHS co-founder Winin Pereira’s visits to live with and learn from adivasis in Alonde, Devinder Sharma writes about his recent journey:

Deep in the forests of Vazhachal-Sholayar in the Western Ghats, I met Maya. She is a tribal belonging to the Kadar tribe. Faced with extinction, there are only about 1400 Kadar in the world, of which about 850 live in the tribal settlements in Thrissur district in Kerala (about 150-200 kms from Kochi in Kerala).


They depend on forest resources for their sustenance. Home to hornbills, elephants and over 200 animal species, the Vazhachal-Sholayar forests are rich in resources for the Kadar tribes to bank upon. Since the Kadar tribes have not been traditionally into agriculture, the maintenance and conservation of forest resources is vital to them. Maya, along with a few more, had camped on the big rocks on the banks of a rivulet.

To learn more about them, Usha Soolapani and Sridhar R from Thanal in Thiruvanthapuram and I decided to walk up the rocks to meet some of them camping there. With just bare necessities, which includes a few aluminum utensils, a few clothes and a couple of bed sheets, Maya has been camping here for about two months. A frail puppy was tied outside the makeshift tent. The condition of the tent can be seen in the accompanying picture.  Usha and Sridhar did the talking being able to converse in Malayalam as well as Tamil. Maya told us that the entire family gets out into the forests to search and collect some tubers which are used in cosmetics, along with honey and a couple of minor produce. Sridhar Radhakrishnan tells me this tuber plant is called Manjakoova in Malayalam. It is an Yellow Arrowroot. She gets about Rs 100/kg for the cut and dried root tubers. You can see a picture of it in her hand.


It is heartening to know that WWF-India had earlier initiated a dialogue with the Forest Department to set up a simple honey filtration unit for the Kadar communities. A benefit sharing mechanism from honey sale through the Forest Development Agency was also worked out. I am not aware of how this mechanism works. Since the Kadar have immense knowledge about ethnobotany I see an immense potential of documenting the traditional knowledge of some of the lesser known properties of the plant species found abundantly in these forests. It will be good to know of the benefits in monetary terms, if any.


When they move to inside of the evergreen forest they put their essentials on a machan (platform) so that it escapes the eyes of wild animals. I asked Maya if she was content with her living conditions. She said yes and when I suggested why doesn’t she move to the nearby town she flatly refused. She told us that she and her family were very happy with what they are doing.

(Winin Pereira would have applauded her)

But perhaps the next generations will look at it differently. Her four children are in a school for tribals. I only hope the next generation helps to improve the lifestyle, and helps to strengthen the bonding with nature, using modern technology and expertise while at the same time making an economic transformation.

(And debated these points with Devinder)

But I only hope the next generation does not push for a complete abandonment of the tribal culture.

(Both would agree on this) 

Posted by Devinder Sharma to Ground Reality




Tigers and Tribals in India

Sharad Vats asks: “Who needs more conservation; Tiger or the Tribes of India? “

He explains that the government is trying to protect an endangered species and is considering the relocation of some tribal villages to give the tiger a safe area in which to live.


In April it was reported that for the first time in this century, the global tiger population in the wild has grown to 3,890 in April 2016 from 3,200 in 2010 – an increase of almost 22%.

Baigas have been the biggest conservators of the forest for centuries

The tribes in question are the Baigas (below), who – like the tigers – have lived for centuries in the forested districts of Mandla and Balaghat, which house Kanha National Park. Baigas practice shifting cultivation, which the government feels drives deforestation. But Sharad thinks that it is the development strategy of the nation which leads to deforestation. He explains that during his recent visit to the area via Nagpur he saw expansion of National Highway 7 cutting few thousand trees and asserts that this expansion of roads network, and small Tehsils like Baihar, Paraswada, Birsa is accounting for more deforestation than are the tribals.


In 2005, Sunita Narain, appointed chair of a Tiger Task Force reviewing the management of tiger reserves in the country, pointed out: “the British stripped the forests of Ratnagiri in coastal Maharashtra to make ships and railway lines and independent India sold its forests for a pittance to the pulp and paper industry. This was the extractive phase. Sharad adds: “Mining is destroying forests at a much faster rate than tribals could destroy in 200 years – but they would not do so. Their wants and desires are few, dependent on the forest for their livelihood and so seeing the need to preserve them”.

The Forest Act 2006 was passed following massive national demonstrations involving hundreds of thousands of people. Sharad singles out Ekta Parishad which organized some of those walks and demonstrations.

He continues: “But an ad hoc shifting is not a solution. One must do it scientifically, strategically, with their sanctions and without sufferance. Not easy to do, but possible for sure. Also, if a master plan is made to shift only some crucial villages and not all then it is fine. One must remember that Baigas have been the biggest conservators of the forest for centuries. Making a forest bereft of them could actually put the forest at risk, and this the administration and forest department realizes well”.

Sunita points out that these tribal lands are rich in natural resources — minerals, forests, diverse wild plant, insect & animal species – and are the source of water that irrigates farms, that villagers and city-dwellers drink. Her recommendation is that policies to build green, enterprising futures from the use of forests – which provide fish, firewood, fodder, building materials and raw material for industry – are needed.

Sharad Vats ends, “For me Tiger and Tribes are both integral to each other. None can be sent to another planet to survive, they must co-exist”.

And Sunita says that “the answer, untested across the world, lies in our abilities to use the environment so that forests and people can coexist”.




Misguided proposals to relocate/evict human beings for ‘wildlife-rich areas’

Earlier this year the Indian environment’s Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change ministry published a “draft national forest policy 2016” on its website, with a call for comments.


The Hindu reports that the draft policy, a review and revision of existing forest policy, was prepared by the Bhopal-based Indian Institute of Forest Management which proposed that: “Voluntary and attractive relocation packages of villages from within national parks, other wildlife rich areas and corridors should be developed.” The proposal to relocate/evict people from the vaguely described “other wildlife rich areas” and “corridors” as well as National Parks and Tiger Reserves would cover a huge area affecting millions of tribal people who have been dependent on and managed their environments for millennia.

Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, says that tribal peoples are being illegally evicted from their ancestral homelands across India in the name of conservation. Most so-called “voluntary relocations” are far from voluntary, says Survival, with tribal people often given no choice – they face arrest and beatings, harassment, threats and trickery and feel forced to “agree” to leave their forest homes.

CHS co-founder, the late Winin Pereira, lived for periods in an adivasi (tribal) area, learning from their traditional knowledge and culture. He became aware of a whole system of village self-reliance in which the resources of their forests, pastures and wetlands were sparingly used to meet the needs of the local people from time immemorial, see a reference from his book Tending the Earth.


He would have agreed that evidence proves that tribal peoples are better at looking after their environment than anyone else. In the Biligiriranganatha Swamy Temple (BRT) Wildlife Sanctuary tiger reserve in southern India (above)where tribal people have been allowed to stay, tiger numbers have increased at above the national average. There is no reason to believe that evicting tribes helps tigers. In fact, it is harming conservation.

However, a few days later the “policy” was removed, and a statement was issued claiming that the document was merely a study by the Indian Institute of Forest Management, which had been “inadvertently uploaded.” But Indian news website Live Mint quoted an anonymous ministry official: “[The] U-turn came after intense criticism of the draft policy from civil society.”

An agency reporter notes that the speedy withdrawal of this “draft policy” has been welcomed, but adds that concern remains at what lies ahead for the tens of millions of India’s tribal people and others who live in forests.




Four comments on India’s Green Revolution as the focus shifts to Africa


Anne sent a link to an angry article by Simone Adler bringing news that the Gates Foundation is funding green revolution initiatives in Africa together with governments linked to ‘the old hub of capitalism’, the US, the UK and the Netherlands. The Foundation is coordinating this in partnership with around 80 African seed companies. Anne’s comment: “When will people realise that making billions off sweatshops in the computer sector doesn’t mean one knows how to solving poverty…”. One extract:

In Uganda and other east African countries where the banana is a staple food, the Gates Foundation has invested millions of dollars into a genetically engineered banana project. Their idea is to enable Ugandans and other east Africans to access vitamin A by commercially growing a banana genetically engineered to produce beta carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A, as if a diverse diet won’t give Africans this vitamin. Ugandans grow around 27 varieties or more of bananas. So this super banana project is a Trojan horse; it’s very similar to the golden rice they’ve been trying to commercialize since the mid-80s, which has gone nowhere after a huge expenditure of money.

Winin Pereira3India’s Winin Pereira trained as a nuclear physicist, but after realising the industry’s damaging potential left to form an agricultural development organisation with four colleagues. He saw supplying hybrid seeds, and other agricultural inputs, as a strategy whereby TNCs gain control of agricultural production, adding “This happened in the case of the green revolution”.

He listed several undesirable practices including:

  • the use of good agricultural land for cash crops which are not required for basic necessities
  • the use of hybrid and high yielding varieties of vegetables and cereals which are bred solely for their appearance, or packaging qualities, rather than for their food value;
  • the promotion of exotic vegetables which are less nutritious that local ones;
  • the production of high-cost vegetables which only the rich can buy;
  • the destruction of common property resources from which many people obtained and still need to obtain, free, clean food.

He quoted G F Keating, Director of Agriculture, Bombay Presidency, who wrote in 1913:”The old self-sufficing agriculture by which each tract, each village and each holding supplied its own needs is now largely a thing of the past…. The French forced the African nations they controlled to replace the cultivation of traditional food crops by groundnut, which they required since they had no large local source of edible oil. This cultivation pattern persists today, requiring the continuous import of food, even in the absence of drought. Western agriculture is itself unsustainable”.

Pereira points out that the green revolution is dependent on the use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides produced from mineral oil and natural gas, and of fossil fuels for powering tractors, irrigation pumps and transport. Moreover, it has recently been discovered that the HYVs have a much reduced ability to store micronutrients like Vitamin A, iron, zinc and others. The loss of these essential nutrients to populations subsisting mainly on HYV cereals not only causes direct ill health but also has a major damaging impact on the immune system. While food production grew, an increasingly large number of people have suffered from extensive malnutrition and its consequences.

Mark Tully wrote some time ago:

mark tully 2“There are dire warnings coming out of Punjab now because of the Green Revolution’s dependence on intensive use of chemicals and water . . .

“I have never been able to understand how a system designed for intensive mechanisation and vast farms can have any relevance to a peasant agricultural economy . . . it seems absurd to me to think of any global trading system which can bring these two together”.

Richard Douthwaite wrote: “Even the main achievement of the 1950-90 period, the 175% increase in agricultural production as a result of the Green Revolution, was hollow It was only the richer farmers who could afford the new types of seed and the fertilizer, pesticides and machinery to go with them, and many poorer farmers were displaced, exactly as happened in England during the Agricultural Revolution almost 200 years earlier. Moreover, the coarse grains consumed by the poorer people were less responsive to the new techniques, and their output fell. So did the production of pulses, on which most Indians rely for their protein intake: government figures show that the weight of pulses available per head almost halved between 1956 and 1987 dropping from 70.3 g per day to 36.2 g, a serious situation since dietitians recommend vegetarians (which most Indians are) to eat 80 g each day. And the surpluses of rice and wheat that seemed to appear after the record harvests in 1986 and 1989 were illusory, although the government had insufficient space in its famine-reserve warehouses to store all the grain the farmers wanted to sell. As Professor L. S. Venkataramanan of the Institute of Social and Economic Change in Bangalore commented to me, the excess only arose because the people who needed it could not afford to buy.

richard douthwaite2“On top of all this, the richer farmers who successfully adopted the new techniques are caught in a nasty pincer movement. One jaw is that they have to apply ever larger amounts of fertilizer to maintain yields, pump water from increasingly deep wells and spray more and more pesticide as insects’ resistance grows. The other jaw is that the prices of chemicals, tractors and of electricity for their irrigation pumps have risen remorselessly while the government has been trying to limit agricultural price rises, minimize wage pressures, moderate inflation and help the poor. As a result many farmers have fallen into debt . . .

“In an article in the Lokayan Bulletin in 1986, the environmentalist Vandana Shiva wrote ‘`Soil loss on fields without mulch [has been] found to be 232.6 tonnes per hectare per year while that on mulched fields was 8.2 tonnes’. The use of artificial fertilizers had meant that mulching had been largely abandoned, she claimed, while the use of heavy tractors in place of the plough oxen had caused soil compaction and further reduced the amount of rain the soil is able to absorb. As a result, the rate of soil erosion had greatly increased while less rain had been able to percolate through the soil and replenish the water table. Simultaneously, 10 million hectares of land had become waterlogged as a result of irrigation, and another 25 million hectares was affected by a growing salinity”.

devinder sharma 3Devinder Sharma summarises; “The 1st Green Revolution ushered in an industrial farming system which has led to the crisis that we are witnessing today. It destroyed soil fertility, added to malnutrition, mined groundwater, and played havoc with human health and environment . . . Farmers were misguided, and made to believe that putting more inputs would bring them more profits. They did it, and eventually have been pushed deeper and deeper into debt. . .

It doesn’t stop here. These economists, scientists and bureaucrats are now clamouring for free markets — commodity exchanges, future trading and food retail — as the way to turn farming economically viable.

It didn’t work in the US and the European Union. But look at the way it is being aggressively promoted in India. The beneficiaries of future trading and commodity exchange are not the farmers but speculators, the consultancy firms and rating agencies, and the business. And again, this is being done in the name of farmers.

Simone Adler ends: “I want you to reimagine Africa as a vibrant continent where farmers are in control of their seed systems, are proud of their knowledge systems, share seeds from generation to generation through the age-old practice of exchange where they are self-reliant on a huge diversity of seeds under their control, where women play an important role in production decisions, seed selection, and breeding — and where our local food economies find their roots”. 





KRRS require Bt cotton companies to compensate farmers whose ‘pest resistant’ crops were destroyed by corn earworm

A reader has drawn our attention to news that in India, the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) has asked the state government to ensure that Bt cotton companies pay compensation to farmers whose crops were destroyed by corn earworm across the State. We will return to that subject after reminiscing about the organisation and its former leader.

Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) is an Indian peasant farmers’ movement, created in 1980 to address the growing problems facing farmers caused by the globalisation of world trade. It was the first peoples’ movement in India to mobilise massive demonstrations against GATT, and under the leadership of the late Professor M. D. Nanjundaswamy (below) membership of the KRRS reached about 10 million farmers, over one sixth of Karnataka’s total population. The members are mostly small farmers (5-20 acres) and peasants, who find it difficult to compete with aggressive multinational corporations (MNCs).

Professor M. D. Nanjundaswamy

Born in Mysore in Karnataka, India, Professor Swamy graduated in science and law, studied at the Hague Academy of International Law and in Constitutional Law at different universities in the then West Germany and France till 1964. He worked as Professor of Law in Mysore and Bangalore Universities till 1979, served as a member of the Karnataka State Parliament from 1989 to 1994 as an independent non-party member, and founded the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) in 1980. He took a strong position against agricultural and economic policies that threaten the livelihoods and survival of millions of India’s small farmers. He died in 2004.

Forward to December 2015 and the request of KRRS that the State government ensures that Bt cotton companies pay compensation to farmers whose crops were destroyed by corn earworm across the State.

krrs media

Addressing a media conference here on Tuesday, state president of the organisation Chamarasa Malipatil said that nearly half of the Bt cotton crop was destroyed due to the Helicoverpa pest:

“At the time of introducing Bt cotton in India a few years ago, there was a big propaganda that it was pest-resistant. Now, we find that the genetically modified organism, Bt cotton, is vulnerable to corn earworm.

“An overwhelming majority of cotton growers have cultivated Bt cotton this time. Over 50% of all brands cultivated Bt cotton have now been destroyed by the pest attack. The seed companies that sold Bt cotton seeds to farmers are liable to pay compensation and the government should ensure that they do.”

Chamarasa Malipatil added that vast tracts of Bt cotton fields in Andhra Pradesh were also destroyed by the corn earworm and was reported to suspect that seed companies might have supplied substandard seeds to farmers in order to deal with growing cotton stock in the international market.

He alleged that neither the officials of the Department of Agriculture nor the agricultural scientists from the University of Agricultural Sciences, Raichur, had paid any visits to the Bt cotton fields hit by the corn earworm.

On a more positive note, KRRS’ late president created the Amritha Bhoomi, Via Campesina’s Agroecology School, as a model of constructive work towards promoting food and seed sovereignty. To carry out his vision, Amritha Bhoomi is developing a seed bank, local medicinal plants reserve, agroecological model plots and different methods of agroecological farming.

From 4th December, the men and women of la Via Campesina from 30 countries and members of the Confédération Paysanne will be present in Paris to show that the form of agriculture that is the basis of their everyday life represents a valid means of counteracting adverse climate conditions.