Project – Rural Developement :: Baripada

Vanavasi brothers and sisters encouraged by the Ashram activists and with assistance in pursuing the development projects have excelled in Village development. There are several instances like Baripada in Dhule district, Dhagewadi in Nagar district and Ranshet in Raigad district.

Managing own Forest as the Homestead – the Saga of Baripada

Baripada village in Dhule district, Maharashtra, presents an impressive example of community based conservation. Initiated by a local youth with the support of two NGOs, the conservation efforts helped in maintaining the receding forest line due to water shortage and indiscriminate tree cutting or deforestation. The community’s efforts not only cleared the way for other development activities, but also won accolades at national and international levels. The village community won the award in a competition on “Local Knowledge and Innovation of the Rural Poor” in the Asian region, organized by the International Fund for Agricultural Development, Rome, and SRISTI in 2003.

Managing natural resources through collective action in state owned forests is a tough task. The state Forest Department looks at the rules and regulations for the purpose quite differently from the people. But sometimes, the two perspectives converge as it did in the case of Baripada.

In Sakri blocks of Dhule district, Maharashtra, Baripada village that was blessed with a rich forest cover that extended to 445 hectors. Several different plant species were present in abundance. However, the local community was facing several problems. Illegal cutting of teak and removal of some other plants, mainly by outsiders, had begun to assume serious proportions. The hill near the village that had always been draped in green was turning into a barren, arid sand pile. This was worrisome for the villagers. A village youth Chaitram Pawar had noticed some other harmful effects. The supply of fuel wood had become irregular. One third of the 35 wells in the village were drying up. There were several social problems as well. In the absence of other livelihood options, women had turned to liquor production as a source of secondary income. Liquor consumption led to social disquiet in the village.

Pawar felt that something had to be done. Dr. Anand Phatak who was then associated with a local NGO Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram (he now works on a voluntary basis for another NGO in Jan Seva Foundation) extended his support. Both the NGOs and later even the Forest Department started helping Pawar in his initiatives.

Pawar mobilized the village community and urged them to act. He pointed out that if deforestation continued, their access to dry wood, fruits and other minor forest produce would get affected. In a village gathering on May 23, 1993 a local informal committee known as the Forest Protection Committee (FPC) was set up to protect the forest. Initially, some were skeptical about it. They were then roped in as important position holders in the FPC.

It was decided that FPC would not have any permanent members. The idea was that each family would have the chance to send a representative to the common committee turn by turn. Thus, all the families in the village had a stake in the entire process. Primarily, the people inhabiting the village were eligible for extracting resources from the forest, though later people from the neighboring villages were allowed to do so for certain purpose and if they took prior permission. Pawar was elected the chairman of FPC. The committee declared that anyone found destroying or take anything from the forest would be punished as per the rules framed for regulating human and cattle activities in the area. This was announced in the weekly markets and in all the neighboring villages.

Following rules were followed :

1.The two most elderly people in the village would work as watchmen and report to the FPC. The watchmen would be paid Rs. 100/- per month and would be changed every year. It was decided that each family would contribute three rupees in cash or seven kg of grains to generate the funds required to pay the watchmen.

2.Any person found removing any plant or plant material would be penalized as follows:
Rs 151/- per person if the material is carried out as head load, Rs 751/-, if taken out of the forest in any other manner. Any person who let his cattle graze in the forestland would be fined Rs 1000/-.
if someone other than the watchmen caught the culprit, a cash reward of Rs 501/- would be given to that person. Farmers whose fields lay next to the community forest would be held morally responsible for reporting any incident of theft that they encountered.

3.Nobody from within or outside the village would be allowed to enter the forest with a bullock cart for any reason.

4.There were some changes in the rules and regulations later. It was decided that people from surrounding villages could remove wood from the forest for social and religious purposes if they had sought permission earlier for the same. However, permission would be given on a case-to-case basis.

5.It was also felt that forestland could be given for cattle grazing for at least 30 days in a year. Thus, 50 acres of the forestland was set aside for grazing. The patch selected as grazing land was changed every year. During winter, villagers were allowed to remove dry wood for their fuel requirements.

Social empowerment and environmental impact:

Collective activities have increased appreciably. Marriages began to be organized collectively on an auspicious day, thereby reducing expenses. The village also developed a good method for conflict resolution of the conflicts, no matter what the issue was.

The number of theft cases dwindled. Illicit cutting and removal of plants stopped completely. Protection and conservation of the forest helped reduce water run-off losses. The village became famous. It received Rs 1,00,000/- from the Indian government as an award. This was used in starting a village level, jaggery-making unit. The unit now employs 25 young men from the village.

Jan Seva Foundation and Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram helped villagers in undertaking community based development activities like building improved toilets, setting up kitchen gardens that used recycled water etc. The Forest Department legitimized the informal village protection group under its Joint Forest Management scheme. Certain species were also planted.

Inspired by Jan Seva Foundation, camps for children (where they get acquainted with plants and animals in the community-conserved forest) became a regular school activity. The students got the opportunity to see several medicinal plants including Withania somnifera, Asparagus adscendens and Piper nigrum. They could learn more about Panthers, Wolves, Rabbits, Foxes and Lizards (including the Monitor Lizard) that lived in forest. They could also see several species of Butterflies and Birds like Peacocks, Partridges, Mynas, Storks, Water Hens and Wagtails.

Pawar is happy with the result achieved so far. Plant and animal life had increased, both in terms of number and variety. Most importantly, not only had Baripada become self sufficient in terms of meeting its fuel wood and water needs, it could now even supply water to surrounding villages.

The forest conservation experience fostered the “We” spirit. Dr. Anand Phatak recalls an interesting incident. The forest havaldar had hired some outsiders to collect wood for him from the forest. The villagers came to know about this and they questioned the havaldar. Embarrassed, he asked for a transfer and soon moved out of that region. Dr. Phatak says, “What was remarkable about this incident was the fact that the villagers did not shy away from confronting the havaldar who usually behaved like a king in that area. They could question him because of their own unity and also because they felt that he should not go unpunished.”

Inspiring other initiatives:

Pawar helped the village women in starting a fish farming co-operative using the common village pond. Jan Seva Foundation helped in the process.

The women particularly pleased. They could not give up making illegal liquor. They took an assertive stand on the issue. Rangobai Pawar recounting their success says, “Men in Baripada are now afraid of coming home drunk.”

Villagers have also undertaken cultivation of common forest nursery as a part of joint watershed development activities.

Pawar now wants to create a cadre of 200 youth from the community, who can become future custodians of conservation efforts.

How to reach Baripada:

Baripada is a part of a village called Manjri. Following are the directions to reach Baripada (Manjri). The contact person there is Shri. Chaitaram Pawar mentioned in information above. He is now the President of Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram Maharashtra and has a major contribution in developement of Baripada as stated. Please contact him to confirm his avaialability before making plans to visit Baripada. He can understand and communicate in Marathi, Hindi and Kokana.
Shri. Chaitaram Pawar
Cell #: +91 9823642713, 9404813700

Nearest Airport: Mumbai.

Nearest Train Station on the main line : Nashik Road.

How to reach from Nashik Road:

Go to Nashik CBS (Central Bus Stand) from Nashik Road.

Catch a bus going via Devala-Satana to Nandurbar/Sakri/Navapur.

Get down at Pimpalner.

From Pimpalner it is approximately 20 kms to Baripada (Manjri). To reach there take local shared 4 wheeler transport from Pimpalner.

Driving directions from Nashik Road.

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For the people who are coming from north of the country or cetral railway line.
Please get down at Jalgaon railway station.

How to reach from Jalgaon:

Take a bus from Jalgaon to Dhule.
Take a bus from Dhule to Sakri.
Take a bus from Sakri to Pimpalner. Get down at Pimpalner.
From Pimpalner it is approximately 20 kms to Baripada (Manjri). To reach there take local shared 4 wheeler
transport from Pimpalner.

Driving directions from Jalgaon.

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