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SDFU to hold workshop in memory of Dr RS Tolia

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By Our Staff Reporter 

Dehradun, 9 Dec: Sustainable Development Forum, Uttarakhand (SDFU), a civil society led network platform with the mission to mainstream concerns of Uttarakhand and its people in the development dialogue of the state, is organising a one day workshop under the aegis of RST Forum, an annual programme held in tribute to the late Dr RS Tolia. This year’s theme is “Role of Community Based Organisations and Women in Forest Management and Climate Change Mitigation in Uttarakhand”.

The late Dr Raghunandan Singh Tolia was  a visionary son of the mountains, scholar and beacon of action. The 11th of December also happens to be International Mountain Day. A large number of institutions and civil society organisations including Integrated Mountain Initiative (IMI) will observe this day in various ways.

It is worth noting that one of the major contributions made by Dr RS Tolia in the newly established state of Uttarakhand was administrative reforms in forestry working and convergence between forest and rural development. From the very beginning, the state has recognised the role of community based organisations (CBOs), especially Van Panchayats (VPs), Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs), and women’s self help groups (SHGs), in forest based rural development in Uttarakhand. The state has established as many as 12,064 VPs and 7,991 BMCs to strengthen forest management and biodiversity conservation. In addition, a large number of eco-development committees (EDS) have been established around protected areas to sustainably manage the buffer and eco-sensitive zones. It is estimated that nearly 5,23,289 hectares of forests in the state fall under VPs that form about 14% of the geographical area. All other classes of forests, village grazing lands and revenue land under Gram Sabhas are to be managed and sustainably utilised by the local communities through BMCs as per the provisions of Section 41 of the Biological Diversity Act (2004).

Despite a long history and experience of community based forest management and rich legacy of women led forest conservation movements such as Chipko, the state still faces several challenges when it comes to participatory management of forests and forest resources, equitable sharing of benefits from bio-resources especially non-timber forest produce from the community forests or the village commons. It is also well established that, in rural Uttarakhand, women form the single largest user group of forest resources. They play a leading role in prevention of fire and protection of forests. However, scarcity of fuel wood and fodder directly affect women and their workload. There are very few schemes that encourage women to participate in forest and pasture restoration activities. Though, it is mandatory to have women representatives in the BMCs, it is not so in formation of VPs. Furthermore, out-migration of men increases their burden many times. Outmigration in many areas has another ramification in the form of agricultural abandonment, loss of agro-biodiversity, infestation of invasive alien species in the village pastures.

The workshop will bring together various stakeholders including senior civil servants, scholars, forest officers and representatives of CBOs, especially women from Uttarakhand, as well as outside the state to deliberate on the ways to strengthen the role of CBOs and women in management of forests also forest based climate change mitigation. Major objectives of the workshop would be:

  1. To revisit the role of CBOs, especially VPs and BMCs in forest based rural development in the state of Uttarakhand;
  2. To identify the areas of convergence among CBOs and various line agencies for the sustainable use of natural resources and forest based livelihoods in Uttarakhand;
  3. To deliberate on the role of rural women in climate change mitigation and their role in implementing the state level climate action plans.

The workshop is being organised in collaboration with and in association with Doon Library and Research Centre and being sponsored by The Nainital Bank. It is expected that several participants from other parts of Indian Himalayan region will also join online and share their views. As an outcome of the workshop, a policy paper on revamping the efficacy and roles of Van Panchayats and Biodiversity Management Committees for forest based sustainable development in Uttarakhand vis-a-vis role of women in forestry based climate adaptation would be developed. In addition, gaps in policy and practices in functioning of these institutions would be flagged and detailed recommendations communicated to the Government of Uttarakhand. The workshop venue would be Manthan Hall at the Forest Headquarters, Rajpur Road.