Odisha sets example in forest development through JFM

Bhubaneswar: Odisha Forest Sector Development Project (OFSDP) implemented through Joint Forest Management (JFM) mode has set a good example at the national level. The fact came up at ‘Sameekhya’, the annual review meeting of OFSDP, held here today.

Inaugurating the meet, chief secretary Gokul Chandra Pati said community involvement is the key to protection and development of the forest area. He directed the Forest officials to adopt community-centric approach in planning and implementation of the forest conservation programmes. He also asked them to constitute Vana Surakhya Samitis (VSSs) in each village and involve women groups in it.

Pati also advised the department take up professional management of the forests for providing sustainable livelihood to the people. The department has been further directed to prepare definite action plan for popularization of the common trading brand Asala created through OFSDP initiatives.

Addressing the inaugural session, development commissioner U.N. Behera said that around 38 per cent land in Odisha is recorded as forest land. Professional management of the forest will fetch more income to the people and will add to the GSDP.

Additional chief secretary (Finance) R. Balkrishnan, in his address, said that the life and culture of the people in forest tracks are forest oriented. Citing an example, he said turmeric for tribal in Kandhamal is not just a product, it is part of their cultural life. He opined that growth of Odisha largely depends on development of the forest assets.

In his key note address, principal chief conservator of forests J.D. Sharma said Ama Jungle Yojana will be implemented from 2015-16 in place of OFSDP. He directed the Forest officials not to remain confined to the targets and assured that more funds will be made available to the forest divisions for additional works proposed by them.

Available data shows OFSDP was started in Odisha with JICA assistance from 2006-07. At present, the project is being implemented in 10 districts – Angul, Balasore, Bhadrak, Deogarh, Gajapati, Kandhamal, Keonjhar, Koraput, Rayagada and Sundergarh – in the State with the main objectives of the restoration of the degraded forest and creation of alternative livelihood for the people living in forest areas.

With an estimated cost of around Rs 802 crore, the project has been successful in achieving the targets. Because of the project initiatives, around 12,500 VSSs have been organized in different districts who are now looking after protection of 11.68 lakh hectare (ha) of forest area.

Assisted natural regeneration (ANR) of forests has been achieved over 1,55,045 ha, block plantation in JFM mode has been done over 40,943 ha, teak has been grown in 14,417 ha, mangrove has been raised over 2,769 ha and casuarina plantation has been done over 151 ha. Besides, farm forestry has been developed over 9,497 ha of land of the individual farmers.

Income generating activities have been promoted by enhancing trading activities in 16 items of non-timber forest produces like honey, cashew, ginger, ground nut, hill groom, mahua, maize, mango, onion, potato, pipala, sal leaf, siali leaf, tamarind, turmeric and incense sticks. Around 7,064 self-help groups (SHGs) have been involved in these trades.

A state-of-the-art Forest Geometrics Centre has been set up for scientific planning and effective monitoring of the programmes.

The project period will be over by the end of this month. The State government Odisha has decided to carry forward the activities through Ama Jungle Yojana. The government has proposed for JICA assistance for the programme. Behera said the State is also trying to mobilize funds for the programme from its own resources.

On the occasion, Pati inaugurated the newsletter and eight booklets on forest management technology published by OFSDP. He also visited the exhibition stalls set up by VSSs and WSHGs, discussed with them regarding value addition and trading of the forest produces.

The day-long event included technical sessions, experience sharing among various VSSs, documentation of good practices and open house discussion. OFSDP director Subash Chandra Mishra gave the welcome address and joint director P.R. Karatha coordinated the event.