A forest in trust

Krushak Charcha Mandal,
Sayagata village,
Chandrapur district, Maharashtra
Total area 514 ha
Forest area 272.38 ha
Population 430
Suryabhan Khorbade (left) with fellow villagers in Sayagata forests

In the village of Sayagata the forests were destroyed after the 1960's due to illegal logging. Besides, after Independence, the forest department also denied the villagers access to the forest. Put together, it meant a loss of livelihood for them. There were no tendu leaves, gum and mohua to sell in the market. The only solution in sight was to work together in regenerating the land. In 1993, the villagers themselves launched a joint forest management (JFM) project.

But to start with, in 1973, the villagers formed an organisation called Krushak Charcha Mandal under the leadership of Surybhan Khorbade of Sayagata. After the Gram Sabha elections in 1979, a committee headed by Khorbade was formed to lead the forest regeneration effort. They fenced the forests, but did not plant any new trees. The stress was on regenerating natural root-stock. Groups of 10 people guarded the degraded forests day and night, says Khorbade. By 1982, the forest started showing signs of recovery.

Under the JFM programme, villagers in need of wood have to apply to the village forest committee. If anyone is caught felling without prior permission, that person is asked to pay a fine of Rs 1,000 or is punished suitably.

The result is there to see. The green cover is back. The groundwater table has also risen. "Now water is available throughout the year," says Kusum, a resident of the village. The agricultural yield has almost doubled, says Lala Ram, another resident. Says Khorbade, "We have realised our power. And there is a feeling of kinship among us. This is our greatest achievement."
No water
Water war
Look up!
How to harvest
    In rural areas
 n In urban areas
Jal yodhas
Way ahead
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