Environment > Strengthening grassroots institutions in forest villages in sub-Himalayan West Bengal
Strengthening grassroots institutions in forest villages in sub-Himalayan West Bengal under the Forest Rights Act of 2006, in order to protect a system of community forest governance as a sustainable and equitable way to fight deforestation
State: West Bengal
NGO: Bajkul Gram Bharati
The North Eastern Society for Preservation of Nature and Wildlife initiative (NESPON) with Bajkul Gram Bharati is based out of Siliguri, West Bengal and is focused on strengthening community forest governance and conservation amongst Adivasi and forest dwelling communities in Sub-Himalayan West Bengal. They work with ~500 villages in Alipurduara, Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri.
Forest dwelling and Adivasi communities have traditionally had a very close association with forests and have been dependent on the forest for their livelihood and existence for generations. These communities have extensive amounts of traditional knowledge about the forests. Their coexistence with the forest is what puts them at the forefront of conservation of forests. Across India 250 million people are estimated to live in the forests and approximately 100 million are from adivasi communities.
- NESPON is focusing on promoting conservation of forests through the implementation of the 2006 Forest Rights Act (FRA). The FRA provides these communities
- The right to live in the forest
- The right to access forest including the forest produce and water bodies
- The right to conservation of the forests.
- To achieve this, NESPON has been working with the local communities to
- Strengthen the community institutions i.e village level gram sabhas
- Promote participation of women within the gram sabhas through formation of women groups
- Develop village-specific institutional framework outlining the roles and responsibilities of the community to govern the local resources.
- In 2016, NESPON conducted a Gram Yatra that involved a team of five activists visiting each village over the year. The yatra focused on helping the villages obtain no objection certificates (NOC) from the Forest Departments and enforcing implementation of NREGA. The yatra also resulted in restarting gram sabha meetings in 14 villages in Coochbehar and 10 villages in Buxa Tiger Reserve.