Monthly Archives: December 2006

Joint Forest Planning and Management (JFPM) in the Eastern Plains Region of Karnataka: A Rapid Assessment

CISED Research Team: Sharachchandra Lélé, A. K. Kiran Kumar and P. Shivashankar

Over the past decade Joint Forest Management (JFM) has become the key concept through which forest generation activities are being implemented in most parts of India. This study was a rapid independent assessment of the JFPM activities conducted by Karnataka Forest department under a massive loan from the Japanese Bank for International Co-operation, focusing on the northern and southern maidan regions. The assessment used data from various sources at different scales and depth, including macro-level data gathered by the department itself, responses to a mail-in questionnaire, observations from brief field visits to a number of villages, and from in-depth case studies in a few villages.  

The study uncovered several lacunae in the way JFPM was being undertaken. Many of the basic tenets of ‘joint planning and management’ like consultation with villagers and setting up of Village Forest Committees (VFCs) are being violated from the outset. The selection of villages has been poor.  Most VFCs exist in name only with poor participation of the village general body.Some of the lacunae in JFPM implementation are due to lacunae in the basic framework for JFPM. It is also true that the Eastern Plains region presents special challenges to JFPM implementation. But genuine JFPM is generally absent even in pockets where favourable conditions exist. On the contrary, the few ‘success’ stories are often cases of exploiting existing hierarchies to meet narrowly defined goals. Thus, the major cause of the poor quality of JFPM processes and outcomes is the refusal of the implementation agency to seriously commit itself to the concept of participatory, people-oriented forestry.

Published as: Technical Report, Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Environment and Development. (Full text , Pdf file, 536 KB,  Executive Summary [ Pdf file, 39.0 KB)


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Land Use Change and Litter Insect Communities: Effects of Traditional Forest Use and Modern Plantations in Sringeri Taluka of the Western Ghats of India

Research Team: P. Dharma Rajan, P. A. Sinu and Sharachchandra Lélé

How do different forest management practices and the conversion of forests to other land uses affect biodiversity, in particular the diversity and structure of litter insect communities? This is the first of two studies conducted in the Western Ghats region of India that explored this question. 

In this study, litter insect diversity in natural (i.e., relatively undisturbed) forest patches was compared with that in well-managed soppinabettas (forests that are intensely managed and used for fuelwood and leaf mulch collection), degraded soppinabettas, and monocultural Acacia plantations in the semi-evergreen forests of Sringeri taluka of Chickmagalur district, a part of the Western Ghats region in Karnataka. Using satellite imagery and GIS techniques, a number of locations containing each of these four land-use types were identified. After carrying out detailed field verification, five sites, each containing all four land-use types, were finally selected (transects were laid) and systematic sampling was carried out across three seasons using pitfall traps and Berlese-Tullgren funnels. Data on environmental variables, vegetation structure, and litter density were also collected.

The preliminary results show that the changes in the land use affect litter insect diversity in complex ways. Well-managed soppinabettas and even degraded soppinabettas have a seasonally high species-richness, comparable to the natural forest, whereas the monocultural Acacia plantations tend to have a stable but low level of species-richness. Soppinabettas are constantly at an ‘intermediate level of disturbance’ and hence the species-richness is maximised but is in a non-equilibrium state. Clearly, monocultural plantations are much more detrimental to litter insect diversity as compared to heavily used forests, but the latter may be able to sustain high levels of diversity only under certain management practices. The role of natural forest patches as refugia may be quite important.


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Impact of Land Use Change and Litter Beetles: A Case Study from the Forest and Coffee Ecosystems of the Western Ghats of India

Research Team: Smitha Badrinarayanan, Jagadish Krishnaswamy, Sharachchandra Lélé and K. Chandrasekhara

How do different forest management practices and the conversion of forests to other land uses affect biodiversity, in particular the diversity and structure of litter insect communities? This is the second of two studies conducted in the Western Ghats region of India that explored  this question.

This study analysed the impact of the conversion of forest to coffee plantations in the Western Ghats on beetle communities in the litter layer using a space-for-time substitution. Remote sensing data, GIS, and field surveys were employed to select four blocks, each containing comparable sites under three different land use types – forests, coffee plantations with multispecies shade trees, and coffee plantations with shade trees of just one exotic species (silver oak— Grevillea robusta).

Beetle communities at these twelve sites were sampled using pitfall traps at the beginning and the end of the dry season in 2000-2001. Forests consistently had higher density (33 to 227 per cent) and species richness (by 37 to 93 per cent) of beetles than coffee plantations. Both multi-species and monoculture shade coffee plantations had equally low beetle species richness by the end of the dry season. Vegetation parameters explained 77 per cent of the variation in beetle species richness across these land use types (p<0.0001). The three land use types held similar proportions of species in various trophic guilds. An analysis of beetle community composition suggests that forests may act as refugia for certain beetle species during the dry season. This highlights the need to conserve all remaining forest fragments in this landscape.

Published in: K.N. Ganeshaiah, R.U. Shaanker and K.S. Bawa (Eds) Proceedings of International Conference on Tropical Ecosystems: Structure, Diversity, and Human Welfare. New Delhi, Oxford-IBH Publishing Co., pp.162-163. (Extended Abstract PDF)


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Understanding the Benefits and Costs of Conservation: Disaggregated BCA of the Creation of a Wildlife Sanctuary

Research Team: Sharachchandra Lélé, V. Srinivasan and K. S. Bawa

Tropical forest ecosystems provide a wide range of benefits to humankind. Changes in the condition of these ecosystems leads to changes in the magnitude and distribution of these benefits. “Should society invest in strict conservation of these forests?” has been a question of much policy interest and debate. Economists have focused on developing techniques for the valuation of these (mostly non-market) benefits. Such valuation studies, however, are not of use to policy discussions unless they compare the outcomes of different (but realistic) scenarios. Benefit-cost analysis (BCA) is the traditional economics approach to doing this comparison. But it is criticised for the manner in which benefits and costs accruing to very different individuals or groups get aggregated. This is particularly relevant to questions of forest ecosystem conservation, where these benefits and costs may be distributed across a wide range, from local fuelwood collectors to global beneficiaries of carbon sequestration in forests.

The case of the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple (BRT) Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS) in Southern India was used to illustrate ways in which realistic scenarios can be built and the aggregation issue made more transparent. First, the stream of benefits and costs resulting from the management of the BRT forests as a WLS was compared with the corresponding stream in the most likely alternative scenario wherein these forests are managed as Reserve Forests. Secondly, the affected population were categorised into relatively homogenous income and cultural groups, and the benefits and costs were estimated in a disaggregated manner for each group. These were then aggregated using the conventional method and an alternate income-weighting scheme. Finally, as the BRT forests were accorded WLS status in 1977, this ex-post analysis gave us more realistic estimates of the rates of deforestation/regeneration and changes in local use of the forests. The beneficiaries of the BRT forests were categories into five groups: the forest-dwelling and forest-dependent Soligas, the non-Soligas within the forest who also extract certain forest products, the farmers in the plains who depend more indirectly on soil conservation services of the forests, the tourists who enjoy the wildlife, and the global community that benefits from carbon sequenstration. The costs of conservation are borne by the national community of taxpayers.

To construct the trajectory that BRT forests would have followed had they remained an RF, information from neighbouring forests that remained RFs after 1977 as well as scenario building by experts was used. It appears that the RF scenario would have led to more rapid degradation of the forest, resulting in lower carbon sequestration, long-term losses to downstream farming communities due to siltation of irrigation tanks, and zero benefits to wildlife tourists, but (at least initially) higher benefits to local communities from heavier NTFP extraction, fuel wood collection, grazing, and agricultural expansion, as also greater incomes to government agencies from timber felling. A detailed sensitivity analysis along with the use of different discount rates over time and weights across income groups was carried out.  The estimates of benefits and costs suggest that the conversion to WLS seems highly beneficial if aggregate benefit-cost is calculated without adjusting for income disparities. But income-dependent weights can drastically alter the balance, indicating how unfair the distribution of benefits and costs is across different income groups. The study suggests that only a conservation strategy that combines strict protection from external pressures with substantial forest use by forest-dwelling communities can be somewhat socially equitable.


Published in: K. N. Ganeshaiah, R. U. Shaanker and K. S. Bawa (eds.), Proceedings of International Conference on Tropical Ecosystems: Structure, Diversity and Human Welfare. New Delhi: Oxford-IBH Publishing Co., pp. 31-33. (Extended Abstract)

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Ex-Post Evaluation of the Impact of an “Enterprise-Based Conservation Project”: The BCN Project in BRT Wildlife Sanctuary

Research Team: Sharachchandra Lélé, K. S. Bawa and C. Madegowda Enterprise-based conservation is now being viewed as a means to increasing the benefits flowing to local communities from natural resources while simultaneously achieving biodiversity conservation. This study examined the impact of an enterprise-based conservation project implemented under the Biodiversity Conservation Network Programme in the BRT Wildlife Sanctuary in southern Karnataka. The project attempted to increase the returns from non timber forest products (NTFPs) accruing to the Soliga tribal community by setting up an NTFP processing and marketing enterprise, and also by mobilising the community to improve the functioning of their existing NTFP-harvesting cooperative. Using these ventures as the incentive, the project sought to involve the Soliga community in a systematic monitoring of the NTFP resource dynamics and conservation efforts in the forest. ‘Before after’ and ‘with-without’ comparisons were used for different components of the impact analysis. In terms of magnitude of economic benefits, the study found that the employment generated by the enterprise was modest, and the profits from processing and marketing highly variable and not very high on a per collector basis. However, the limited changes brought about in the functioning of the NTFP-harvesting cooperative (LAMPS) resulted in very significant increases in returns to all harvesters. The approach of reforming the LAMPS thus turned out to be more efficacious, although more difficult and politically sensitive. The project was able to generate only moderate enthusiasm within the community for participatory biological monitoring, partly because they do not believe their extraction has any major impacts. Inadequate participation of the agency that controls the forest (the Karnataka Forest Department) confounds the problem. . Also, the Soliga community responded to raw NTFP price increases by increasing their harvesting efforts, without worrying much about sustainability issues. This could be attributed to the highly insecure tenure (legal and de facto) that the Soligas have over the forest. The study concludes that in taking an enterprise-based approach to conservation, it would be important to work towards reforming existing institutions—both in terms of institutional autonomy and security of tenure over the resource—and also to understand the capabilities of the communities carefully before making capital and technology-intensive interventions. Contact Email:

Common Property Resources and the Agrarian Economy

Researchers: Ajit Menon and Ananda G. Vadivelu


This short study examined the role of common property resources (CPRs) within different agrarian landscapes across a multitude of agro-climatic zones in India. The analysis was based primarily on data from the 54th round of the National Sample Survey (NSS) on de jure and de facto CPRs, supplemented by existing case study literature on the commons. The main purpose was to re-examine the underlying assumption that the rural poor depend more on CPRs than the non-poor and that CPRs are more important in semi-arid and forest zones than in the intensive agricultural belts.                 

We found that CPRs do indeed benefit the rural poor the most, and especially the landless, across most agro-climatic zones including agriculture intensive pockets of the country. A more disaggregated analysis of the data illustrated that while CPRs continue to be important, they have declined in extent over time and become tenurially more insecure in terms of community access. The study also highlighted that while the poor (and the landless) are more dependent on certain CPR products such as fuelwood this is not the case in terms of fodder where the landed are more dependent. This is especially noticeable in Green Revolution areas such as Punjab and Haryana. Here too, however, the poor and the landed depend more on the commons while the landed on private lands. The study concludes by suggesting that secondary data sets such as the 54th round need to pay more attention to use of and access to different types of CPRs.

Presented at: All-India Conference on Agriculture and Rural Society in Contemporary India, Bardhaman,   17-20 December 2003.

Related Output: Common Property Resources in Different Agro-climatic Landscapes in India