Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research,
Goregaon (E), Mumbai 400 065, India
Degraded lands and forests cover as much as 130 to 170 million hectares (about 50% of total area) in India. Such an enormous resource is unproductive due to lack of initiatives and funds for regeneration. Recently, land restoration programmes to revegetate wastelands have been initiated by the government as well as non-governmental organisations (NGO). The major objective of these programmes is to evolve institutions that could meet their energy and fodder requirements in a sustainable manner through local participation and monitoring. These tree plantation programmes also help in environmental management through carbon sequestration. One such programme I am associated with is by an NGO called National Tree Growers Cooperative Federation (NTGCF). The NTGCF forms tree grower's cooperative societies (TGCS) with the active participation of the local people and finance them during the initial period (generally five years). Mixed species are planted in the TGCS site to obtain fuelwood, fodder, pulp and timber and the benefits are shared among the shareholders. Data were obtained from six TGCS amongst three states in India, viz., Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Karnataka and were analysed to see how they have fared in the economic, environmental as well as social benefits
The analysis shows that economic, environmental, and social benefits of the plantations are significant. The results indicated that the IRR for a 60-year plantation cycle for various TGCS vary between 10 and 12%. The amount of carbon sequestered range from 90 to 110 tonnes per hectare with a cost of about 10$ per tonne. The results also indicated that the NTGCF has developed awareness among the rural communities about the potential benefits they can reap through this type of cooperative movements.
The analysis helps to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the cooperative movement. However, it would be very difficult to generalise them. There were some striking similarities, which can be used for drawing inferences. Villages with greater fuel requirements are more likely to start a TGCS than those with less fuel requirements. Over the years the species distribution may change towards more share of timber rather than fuelwood. The plantation activities brought prosperity to the stakeholders and equity among various strata of the society.
Building on the successful experience in these villages, the government should focus on monitoring of these progrmmes. Unless, a proper monitoring system is in place, these plantations are likely to collapse and land degradation would continue unabated despite the best efforts of the government and various agencies. The existing state forests do not have the capacity to meet the demand for forest products on a sustainable basis. This problem extends to the energy and environmental strategies, which could aim to substitute fuelwood with other energy sources and reduce global warming. Improving the productivity of forest produce will lead to higher production and increase the incentive for private people's participation. Hence, strengthening of the existing cooperative institutions and encourage the local people participation would greatly enhance position of the rural people. Since unauthorised extraction of plantation produce is an important source of income to many of the local people, they need to be made target of employment and income generation schemes if the TGCS is to be effective. The evidence from this study suggests that such sustainable tree plantation programmes can survive even in a market driven economy.
Paper in MSWord format