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Home > Policy & Practices > Regeneration of Van Panchayats saves time and brings income

Regeneration of Van Panchayats saves time and brings income


In the hill state of Uttarakhand, women have taken the lead in many places to save degraded forests around their villages because they depend on them for food, fodder and firewood. One such experiment in districts Almora and Nainital has led to the plantation of six to eight tree and shrub species in 15 villages. This initiative is by village Van Panchayats (van means forest in Hindi), a government scheme bringing together forest department officers and villagers to jointly manage village forests. A third of the members of the executive committee and half of the general body members are mandated to be women. The Van Panchayat scheme has given legal recognition to a century-old practice of villagers preserving their adjoining forests. Without active participation of people, especially women, these forests do not survive.

Plantations in these forests usually happens naturally but women here  have directly sown about 100,000 acorn (seed) of oak and Bahunia variegate in about 30 ha of forest land to fast-track availability of broad-leaf trees which will later given them leaf fodder. To avail fodder in the short run, three to four improved fodder grass varieties have also been introduced in the forest. These grasses have also been planted on the ridges of agricultural land by individual families.

From a Gender Lens

The plantation of fodder grass close to the house has reduced women’s time in collecting fodder.  It has helped improve the health cattle, increase milk yields and nutritional status of the families. Some sale of animal products has put money in women’s hands. Women are also able to access firewood closer home. Of course, women are putting in labour in sorting, grading, sowing and at times transplanting fodder seeds but the time and labour saved in collecting the fruits of this labour far outweighs this burden. This collective action has also reduced women’s drudgery of fetching 35-40 kg headloads of firewood and fodder from afar - through busy roads or animal/insects-infected degraded forest lands. 

This conservation and regeneration has to some extent enhanced women’s knowledge and skills on collection and preservation of fodder seeds, methods to cultivate them and nurture them to accelerate the vegetative cover. Most of the physical work is done by men and women have to ensure that the tasks get done. Their management skills and adherence to quality are essential to successful regeneration of the forest patches. Women have been able to increase incomes and food security from cattle because fodder is now available.

Policy Options

There are several government schemes that can help villagers conserve Van Panchayats as long as the implementation is done in collaboration with local NGOs. Some of the State legislators are keen to push for regeneration of degraded lands even on the plains in this hill state so incentives through Panchayats, blocks and priority use of legislators’ own funds can yield good results. 

To access more funds and drive, Van Panchayats must dovetail their work with Village panchayats, which have the functional, administrative and financial powers over all village matters and are incharge of making development plans for the entire village. Currently, the two separate structures of Van Panchayats and village panchayats are not able to build on each other’s strengths. Village panchayats are incharge of several schemes, including bank loans from NABARD and the employment-generation scheme – the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. Funds for Van Panchayats can be included in the village micro-plan for resource mobilization. This will ensure that women’s needs are met. Given that 50% of elected posts in village panchayats are reserved for women, this is a good opportunity for women to be in decision-making roles.

Further Reading

1.    Resource organisation: Central Himalayan Environment Association (CHEA) www.cheaindia.org
2.    About Joint Forest Management: http://www.moef.nic.in/sites/default/files/jfm/jfm/html/strength.htm