Natural resource management...... a “chosen participation” or “imposed participation”?
For the last twenty years, the international policy discourse on natural resources management has promoted communities’ participation in order to achieve sustainable development and conservation of natural resources. In India, the Central Government approved and promoted this agenda through its National Forest Policy (1988). The States have been requested to implement Joint Forest Management and Planning (JFMP) schemes so that village communities get a share from the forest resources and “identify themselves with the protection, development and management of forests and other Government waste lands”.
For my fieldwork as part of IRMA curriculum, I went to Kanhari Khurd, Mandla, Madhya Pradesh (a village surrounded by forest from three sides). There also villagers, mostly Baiga Tribals, were engaged in the so-called joint forest management. However, what I experienced was that the villagers were engaged in such a process but not willingly though have got a slight sense of ownership over their forest. They have stopped over-exploitation of forest just because if anyone does so other villagers will complain against it as they have already been denied such source of income (wood cutting, etc). No one was keen on protecting their forest whole-heartedly rather it is more of forced participation. Therefore, there remains a doubt about the long-term sustenance of such natural management practice.
So, isn’t such Collective action for natural resource management therefore assumes more of a shape that describe “imposed participation” rather “chosen participation”? And hence will it have long-term sustenance?