Joint Forest Management

This component aims at improving the management of forests and the conservation of biodiversity through the engagement of forest fringe communities. It will also provide opportunities for these communities to enhance their livelihood through forestry, ecotourism, and other income generation activities (IGAs). The expected outcomes include the following: increased tree cover; enriched forests and alpine vegetation; sustainable management of forest resources adopted and popularized; flora and fauna better-protected from threats such as fire, indiscriminate exploitation, and overuse by tourists; improved village facilities; diversified livelihood options including the development of ecotourism; reduced state dependence; and improved income of forest fringe communities. This component will adopt the joint forest management approach practiced widely in India including Sikkim. Existing JFMCs, EDCs, and PSS?s will be taken up or new ones created at the village level for project intervention. The primary unit of intervention will be the revenue village and forest village (for the sake of simplicity, the two village types will be referred to as the revenue village). The revenue village will be the basic unit for JFMC/EDC/PSS establishment. A total of 180 revenue villages will be selected for project intervention. The committees to be set up will serve as the foundation for village-based management of forests and biodiversity in reserved forests and protected areas. They will also be involved in the activities proposed under the forest and biodiversity conservation component and the ecotourism component. The selection of activities will be carefully done by the forest fringe communities and the Forest Department based on the constraints and opportunities associated with the natural and physical conditions of each community, market potential of the selected forest products, and profitability of the IGAs and ecotourism activities. Because this component seeks to mobilize the social and economic incentives of the forest fringe communities, their sense of ownership of the activities will be the determining factor for selecting the villages for intervention. Therefore, the activities to be taken up under this component are not predefined at this stage of project formulation. Once the project commences, market research will be conducted by the Project to examine the economic potential of the IGAs within the given conditions. Results of the research will be used to inform participatory appraisals for determining the IGA activities in selected villages. To implement this component effectively, a cluster approach will be adopted. This approach is designed to build on the spatial socioeconomic linkages of rural communities observed in Sikkim. By finding and selecting motivated forest fringe communities, and by recognizing and utilizing the positive spread effects that a public intervention in one community has on its neighbors, the cluster approach will help maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of public service delivery. Through interactions with forest fringe communities, the Project will assess their motivation levels, select a village for the initial intervention, and then monitor the spread of the positive impacts to the surrounding communities to select candidate villages for subsequent intervention. 

The cluster approach aims to motivate communities efficiently by 
  • selecting a central village for initial intervention; 
  • forming a cluster of villages comprising the central village and surrounding villages; 
  • demonstrating the outcomes of the initial intervention to the surrounding villages; and 
  • encouraging the surrounding villages to get involved in the project activities. 

In effect, the community members of the central village are expected to share their experience in project activities with the surrounding villages. This in turn will facilitate the extension of the activities to the surrounding villages for subsequent interventions. The incremental expansion of interventions will require fewer resources compared to the initial intervention. The Project will create village clusters each consisting of approximately ten revenue villages. As there are 445 revenue villages in Sikkim, it is assumed that 45 village clusters will be established. For each cluster, one village will be selected as the Initial Intervention Village (IIV). The surrounding villages will observe the project activities, including joint forest management, and their outcomes. Some villages will subsequently wish to join the project activities. Such villages will be called Spread Effect Villages (SEVs) and will be the target of subsequent project interventions. This component will aim to work with 45 IIVs and 135 SEVs. This translates into four target villages per cluster and 180 villages in total. The foremost criterion for the selection of target villages will be their willingness to participate in joint forest management activities. The Project will not intervene in any villages that do not demonstrate this willingness. However, it will continue to encourage their participation through inviting them to learn about the activities undertaken and progress made in project villages. They may be included as target villages by the Project if and when they express interest in taking part in joint forest management. The interventions for the three types of villages under the cluster approach are described below. 

1) Initial Intervention Villages (IIVs): These villages will be carefully selected to ensure the successful implementation of joint forest management activities and their demonstration effects. The project will develop these villages as models for other villages in the cluster. One IIV per cluster will be selected.

2) Spread Effect Villages (SEVs): The Project will attempt to systematically spread the effects of project interventions on the IIVs to their surrounding villages. For this purpose, the Project will identify at least two village residents who have leadership qualities, vision, and commitment (?village pioneers?) from each of the surrounding villages. The village pioneers will be invited to observe the project activities of the IIVs. The village pioneers will go back to their villages with information on the IIV. The purpose of this plan is to motivate surrounding villages to participate in joint forest management. The Project will intervene in such villages by involving them as SEVs. If the Project will not be able to identify SEVs due to low incentive for participation, the concerned cluster may be dropped from the project intervention. 

3) Other villages: It may be difficult to identify village pioneers or to motivate a village to participate in the project activities within the available period of time. In such villages, the Project will continue to encourage village residents to observe the activities and outcomes of the IIV and SEVs. 

The Project will start interventions in the target villages in four batches. The first batch will take up 45 IIVs. The second, third, and fourth batch will take up 45 SEVs each. The duration of the intervention will be four years for all target villages. In addition, at the appraisal stage, it is assumed that one IIV and three SEVs will be selected in each cluster, and among 180 intervention villages in total, 90 intervention villages are assumed to be the existing JFMC/EDC/PSS and the rest of 90 intervention villages will be the new JFMC/EDC/PSS which will be established under the Project. However, 90 intervention villages for the new JFMC/EDC/PSS is the tentative target, and the selection of JFMC/EDC/PSS should be conducted in accordance with the uniform objective selection criteria with scoring methodology described later in detail.