Conflicts in Joint Forest Management: cases from South Rajasthan, India

Conflicts in Joint Forest Management: cases from South Rajasthan, India

The causes of conflict within JFM: saving the wood from the trees in India

Joint Forest Management (JFM) has been an important step for improving amangement and governance of forests in India. However, conflicts and conflict resolution arrangements in the JFM framework are one area where there is urgent need for attention. This paper attempts to bring out some of the major areas of conflict in the JFM arena based on the experience of the author while working in Udaipur on implementation of JFM projects in India.

The author finds that:

  • the question of who should decide on the patch of forest that is to be protected, whether communities themselves, the Forest Department, NGOs or a combination of theses
  • boundary conflicts between neighbouring villages/communities are the most commonly cited conflicts in JFM
  • formalising rights over a particular patch of forest is invariably problematic, since the complex and elaborate customary use patterns are seldom mapped and addressed adequately before a patch of forest is brought under the ambit of JFM
  • conflicts often surface between the three main players in JFM, the Forest Department, communities and the NGOs, as these three stakeholders do not perfectly share the objectives of JFM and the ways and means to achieve them
  • the issue of benefits sharing is a major potential flashpoint, and the timeframes within which benefits materialise can alter dramatically from one region to another
  • there are questions over whether partners in JFM are equally accountable to one another
  • conflicts created by JFM at the village level itself need to be better understood

The author concludes that understanding and articulating the realities of fragmentation within communities needs to be improved, along with the attitudes of various layers of forest bureaucracy and their respective interactions with the forests that are to be transformed from being an open access resource into a common property resource. The author suggests that the basic philosophy that should govern progress towards conflict-free joint management strategy would be based on ‘Domain-Consensus’, which would mean that every party is clear about and in agreement with the roles the other players would play in the whole arrangement.

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