Village Forest Protection Committees in Madhya Pradesh: an update and critical evaluation


Formalised by the Government of Madhya Pradesh in 1991 and funded by the World Bank from 1994 to 1999, Joint Forest Management (JFM) in Madhya Pradesh has been the subject of great controversy within Adivasi, activist and academic circles, and has lead to strong Mass Tribal Organisation opposition to the project at state level. Although JFM claims to promote greater participation and benefits to communities, in many cases its underlying objective has been to reduce the dependence of Adivasi communities on the forests they have managed for centuries, and to curtail their rights to their lands and resources. Its implementation rests on the formation of Village Forest Protection Committees, through which government and development aid funds are channelled for ‘forest management’ and village-level development works. Since Bank funding ended in 1999, the Village Forest Protection Committees (VFPCs) in Madhya Pradesh have been largely non-functional. Nevertheless the JFM policy and project have left a legacy of Adivasi disempowerment and community-level divisions [documented in reports such as Sarin et al, 2003 [1] , the Summary Report of Jan Sunwai (Public Hearing) on Forest Rights at village Indpura, Harda District, 26 May 2001, etc.] which are still affecting communities.