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OFSDP at Reamal, Khamar and Telkoi Ranges

I. Introduction
The existing forest cover in Orissa is 48,366 km2. Out of the area having forest cover, 20,196 km2 have crown density of less than 40%, which would require treatment for regeneration and reforestation. The degradation of forest has resulted into the vicious poverty cycle wherein absence of livelihood options encouraged the local people for more and more removal of forest produce in unsustainable manner leading further degradation of forest with spread of poverty and unemployment. Thus the project is necessary for improving the living condition of the people residing in and around the forest by providing them livelihood options consistent with conservation of forest and its sustainable management.OFSDP

II. BISWA as the Implementing Agency for OFSDP

(i) Reamal Range
Reamal Forest Management Unit (FMU) is operational from its office based at Reamal, near the Field Department office. Reamal Block head quarter is about 29 kms away from Deogarh District head quarter. Reamal FMU covers 20 villages spread over a radius of 45 kms. Most of these villages are inside the forest area where there is no proper communication. These villages are highly affected by Maoist activities and attacks from Elephants.

(ii) Khamar Range
Khamar Field Management Unit (FMU) is operational from its office based at Khamar Forest Range office. Khamar Block head quarter is about 70 kms away from Deogarh District head quarter. It covers 11 villages.

(iii) Telkoi Range
Telkoi Field Management Unit (FMU) is operational from its base office at Telkoi, at a distance of 70 kms from Keonjhar district headquarters and BISWA is presently given the responsibility of 13 villages.

III. Administrative structureOFSDP2

  • Team Leader
  • Development Officers

(For each Range)

IV. Co-ordination and Delegation of work

  • Team Leader

The role of a Team Leader is crucial for the implementation of this project as he is responsible for the delegation of work to the subordinates, co-ordination between them to avoid duplicity of work and is entrusted to liasion with the Forest Department officials. BISWA appointed Team Leaders are qualified Masters in Social Work and Rural Management with field experience of implementing similar projects.

  • Work Progress Review

The work progress is reviewed at every operational level starting from the field project office to the district head quarter and at the head office level once in every month. All the field level staff working in this project meet twice a day to discuss the relevant issues. In the evening, staff members review the target achieved and plan for the next day as well as the strategy to mitigate the problems faced by them.

  • Problems in Programme deliverance

The field staff members work in adverse conditions as about all the villages are situated in the forests or adjacent to the forests. In the rainy season, it is very difficult to reach the operational villages. To reach at a village the officials have to cross the kuchha muddy roads and streams. Some times they walk for 10-12 kms to reach at the villages as there is no transportation facility. The staffs cannot stay at the villages for late evening as the area is highly elephant prone and they have to return on that road. In official purposes they just go for manual operations as there is no computer facility in the field project office.

V. Experience Stories
(i) Grameswari VSS, A community effort towards sustainability
Arakhpali, a small tribal village of 32 families located about 50 kms away from the district head quarter. After traveling 17 kms from BISWA Reamal field office towards Angul, a narrow kuchha road connects for Arakhpali. Most people depend upon agriculture and daily wage labour. But there was a time when maximum families used to collect Non Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) like Sal leaf, Sal seed, and Mohul flowers from the forest to support the need of their families. It is said that 20 to 30 years ago, the forests were full of timbers, but gradually there was decrease in the availability of the plant varieties – medicinal herbs and fruit bearing species. Nama Pradhan, a villager says, “There was a time when the branches of the trees were touching our roofs and wild boars were found around the houses in the early morning. But now we are unable to see even a jackal in the fields”.

They started patrolling the forests strictly but very informally. They formed an informal organization and started protecting forest underLATHI PALI. Lathipali meant that 2-3 lathis i.e. the sticks would be placed before some houses in the evening. Then the members of the houses which are coming behind Lathi will have to patrol for the forest without fail. In case of fail the member has to give a fine before the committee, in case of non serious problems. The main objective of that committee was

  • To minimize the use of timbers
  • To protect the timbers and the NTFP from the mafias
  • To patrol in the forest regularly

Though the villagers were constantly harassed and threatened by the external people for this activity. Today, there Lathi Pali concept is well recognized programme known as the Orissa Forestry Sector Development Project (OFSDP). The Arakhpali village is covered under the Reamal Range OFSDP implemented by Bharat Integrated Social Welfare Agency (BISWA). The programme directly aims at forest conservation with economic sustainability through a formal and registered committee named Grameswari Vana Samrakshan Samiti. The programme has achieved to bring the Government Forest Department and Communities on a common platform with the help of a facilitating agency – BISWA.

Prafulla Ku Das, forest guard, Kundhaigulla section says, “Previously the villagers had no platform for the protection of the forest. Different people had different attitudes but now their common objective is to save the forest. Very strategically and methodologically they are proceeding”.
Now, the VSS puts it statutorily thatOFSDP3

  • One member from each family will patrol the forest without fail.
  • A person found guilty of cutting the tree will have to pay fine even up to Rs 1000.
  • No permission will be given to the out siders for NTFP collection.

(ii) Kamaleswar VSS
Kamalangi, a village of 111 households with a population of 545 situated near the river Samakoi. It is about 4 kms away from the block head quarter, Telkoi and about 60 kms away from the district head quarter, Keonjhar. Some 50 years back, the village was inside the dense forest with lots of valuable trees like Sal, Pia-sal, Teak and many more medicinal plants. As the village was inside dense forest the livelihood of many families of this village was totally dependant on NTFP collection.
Biseswar Bisoyi, one of the oldest person of this village says, “There was king’s rule during our childhood days. The forest was under the supervision of the King. The rules and regulations for the sustainability of the forest were very strict. If some one was found guilty of cutting trees, he was being punished physically and financially. If it was necessary, King’s representatives approval was needed to cut trees, only the dead trees not the live ones”.
But after independent every one did become independent to cut trees. There was no rule and no guide for the society. Every body started snatching the valuable trees and even the bushes for their self needs. Gradually the forest started to lose its identity and the existed wild life also started to be extinct. Naba Kishor Bisoyi’s father was the king’s representative of that area. The young man is the real motivator in the village to protect forest. He started ‘Jungle Bachao abhiyan’ with the formation of a youth club to:

  • Create awareness for optimum utilization of NTFP for livelihood
  • Plantation in the barren land
  • Regular patrolling in the forest

But, this initiative faced a number of obstacles. It was then that BISWA started the implementation of OFSDP with the formation and registration of Vana Samarekshana Samiti. VSS has been instrumental in providing legal support and technical guidance for forest management. BISWA staff work tirelessly to begin with the resource and social mapping and collecting village data to prepare a micro plan for sustainable village development. The additional incentive in the programme is continued support of BISWA and Forest Department with an active people’s participation.