Tuesday, June 5, 2001

Branching Out: Joint Forest Management in Four Indian States (with Roger Jeffery and Neil Thin), Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2001.

Joint Forest Management (JFM) is a relatively recent attempt to make Indian forest policy socially responsible. Through JFM, people can contribute to and benefit from the regeneration of forests. This book shows, however, that JFM, far from being a simple, unified programme, consists of debates, policies, and practices, all recent in ecological and institutional terms, and all continually evolving. Through detailed study of 16 villages in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh the authors show how the livelihood objectives of poor people living in and around forests are still far from being met. The problems JFM set out to address and the objectives it was meant to fulfil have been deeply contested by the state, NGOs and villagers. Even as sources of income and subsistence for villagers, conflicts over objectives remain, for instance, between men and women, and between people of different occupations. Despite the official explicit objective of JFM—the afforestation of degraded lands—this book shows that in practice, governments have had other implicit agendas. In the process of implementing ‘participatory’ forestry, communities and their needs are being reconfigured. While there are grounds for hope that Forest Departments and village institutions can work together to make a success of the new initiatives, several issues still need to be addressed, including the role of NGOs and the organisational culture of the forest department.