A consultation/workshop “Orans/ Dev-vans’; Deemed to be Forests; Climate Change & EbA links” has been organised by ‘Krishi Avam Paristhitiki Vikas Sansthan’ (KRAPAVIS) with the support of Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies, and in collaboration with ‘Rajasthan State Biodiversity Board’ (RSBB), at KRAPAVIS training Centre Alwar, on 18 & 19 Oct 2019 to promote the conservation and management of Orans (community lands). Over 68 people, includes representatives from communities, forestry research, research institutions, universities/ colleges, Forest Department, RSBB, NGOs and other concerning government departments were gathered, and a mission statement of the workshop was unanimously prepared. A few important issues ivolved such as that it becomes duty of all global citizens to protect and restore this Sacred natural & cultural heritage sites for Prosperity and Posterity. It is in-line with the National Forest Policy the increase in Green cover for the country. The Oran and the community are inseparable entities, as they are the ecological land forms with great cultural, emotional and spiritual significance.
In the project area, Orans (community conserved areas) have proved to be a source of food, fodder and livelihoods for communities, thus providing adaptive capacity to people. Radeprasad, 68 years old pastoralist from Doba village shares his experiences, “many of our livelihoods also lead to restoration and conservation of the Orans”, in a consultation conducted in July 2019. Thus, this set of ecosystem and livelihoods provides resilience and reduces the vulnerability of the local communities to climate change, while also maintaining and improving the ecosystem. The community conservation of Orans is driven by the extent of livelihoods people derive from the resources that Orans provide. It was thus decided in the consultation that the Ecosystem based Adaptation, is the most appropriate fit for this work, and over time could prove to be a good indicator of adaptation to climate change.
The project communities has developed their self-fine system for combating illegal activities like cutting trees, illegal grazing, maintaing ‘Dara’hillsides plateau where to cut grass–traditional environmental preservation focused on household and so on. Many melas (cultural fairs)) take place round the year in the project area. KRAPAVIS team participated in order to using these mass gathering for creating awareness on biodiversity and conservation. Shisram Gujjar from Rundh Kalikhol village said, “Our livestock and we have been sharing space and natural resources with wildlife, Gujjars and other indigenous communities living here have harmonious co-existence, even with the tiger, the top predator of the jungles”. Despite of all these, eviction of herder communities from the local forest area is being carried out by the government. However, struggle of the herder communities for saving their livelihood and eviction is continues.
About a dozen pastoralists’ community leaders from the project area met here at the KRAPAVIS training centre Alwar, to plan for claiming their community grazing rights, during 19-21 December 2018. A senior advocate from the higher court and two experts have facilitated this three days consultation. Processes of claiming of community forest rights (CFR) under the Forest Right Act (FRA), including relocation related issues were discussed and planned. Also, came up with the mandatory responsibility on how they will manage and conserve the surrounding environment, along with livestock grazing, extraction of non timber forest produce (NTFPs), using forests and Orans (community conserved areas) for livelihoods, subsistence and other purposes (as specified in the law).
The pastoralists’ leaders developed affidavits during the consultation, in order to submit these to the Court. Mr. Gurjar, resident of Madhogarh village, Distict-Alwar, State-Rajasthan, says in his affidavit, “I am a member of pastoralist community, and I am entitled to the benefit under the Forest Rights Act, as other traditional forest dwellers. I do live with my family and our livelihood depends on the forest by way of grazing the livestock, collecting non timber forest produce and agriculture--- that I am aware of the fact my family and other families in my village are entitled to recognition and benefit under the Forest Rights Act. Unfortunately, we are being denied this right due to negligence and discrimination by the State.”
Pastoralist communities, particularly women, in the project area have come forward with mapping of their village natural resources and specific aspects of the life support system of local communities and its relation to the kind of eco-friendly system services provided in these grazing landscapes. Roondhs identified as the major grazing areas where communities customarily graze their livestock such as buffaloes, goats, camels, cows. They also collect forest resources such as grass, stone, wood from Roondhs. They also have demarcated areas that are dedicated to a local deity usually called Devbannis or Orans which they actively conserve and protect through various rules. Devbannis serve as grazing areas even in summer.
The local communities will use this map as a tool for discussion to understand the relevance of community forest rights claim and their relationship with forest resources, their traditional practices with respect to resource governance and major challenges relating to livelihood and land tenure. Pamphlet, as fact sheet, has been developed and distributed among the communities for awareness and campaigning. Community worker of the project, Mr. Tewari facilitates this sustainable ecological development planning.
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