Establishment Of Committees And Planning Of Activities

Once the target villages are selected, the next step is to establish a JFMC, EDC, or PSS in each village. JFMCs will basically be established in villages that will manage reserved forests, and EDCs and PSS?s will be established for managing protected areas and lakes, respectively. Initially the ROs, BOs, HFGs and FGs, together with the Community Organizers of the DFU, will approach the target villages for rapport-building. The willingness of the villagers to participate in joint forest management will be confirmed at this stage. Then, a JFMC, EDC or PSS will be established if the village does not yet have a JFMC, EDC or PSS.

Establishment of Committees
i) Formation of General Body
A General Body will be formed for each JFMC, EDC, or PSS after rapport-building. It will consist of village residents who are willing to join the committee and participate in joint forest and biodiversity management and conservation. The unit of membership will be the household. Households that wish to become a member of the General Body will select one adult male and one adult female as their representatives to attend committee functions and participate in activities such as meetings and plantation activities. The names of the household representatives will be registered as members of the committee. Representatives can depute another member of the household if the representatives are not available for committee functions and activities. Membership should basically be open to all the villagers. However, the households must have the will to manage forests and conserve biodiversity to join the General Body. In principle, the Project should allow membership to all the households that understand the duties and responsibilities of being a committee member and are willing to actively participate in protection and management of forests and biodiversity in the concerned JFMC, EDC or PSS area. Households that do not express interest in such activities and those that exhibit antisocial behavior should not be granted membership. Membership should not be imposed in any form on any household. Representatives of the households that wish to become a committee member should be registered in its respective committee by signing the application for registration.

ii) Creation of Executive Committee
Members of the Executive Committee will be selected from the members of the General Body. The composition of the members should be based on the Forest Department?s Notification No. 202/F dated June 26, 1998 and its amendments.

iii) Demarcation of Areas to be Managed Jointly 
The members of JFMCs, EDCs, and PSS?s and the Forest Department will determine the area of forestland to be managed jointly. The boundaries will be identified using GPS and GIS and will be indicated on the ground and on maps. In doing so, it is important to ensure that the area to be managed by a given JFMC, EDC, or PSS does not overlap with another?s. The area for joint management will be identified on the ground using existing pillars and by putting new pillars in the ground and/or painting the bark of standing trees.

iv) Signing of MOU
For successful joint forest management, both the villagers and the Forest Department need to understand that each party has their own duties and responsibilities to perform or fulfill. For this purpose, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) will be signed between the two parties after the formation of the Executive Committee and before the commencement of any project work under the JFM, EDC, or PSS in the village. The PMU should review and revise the MOU template attached to the Sikkim Forest Department?s Notification No. 202/F dated June 26, 1998 and develop an improved version if there is need to state the responsibilities of each party more clearly.

v) Registration of JFMC/EDC/PSS as a Society
Forest Department will examine the possibility of registration of JFMCs, EDCs, and PSS?s as a society under the Society Registration Act (1860) so that their legal status is secured. Existing JFMCs, EDCs, and PSS?s are currently registered with the Forest Department, and an MOU is signed between the village residents and the Forest Department. However, these measures are insufficient to secure their legal status. As the committees are expected to generate income and assets through their activities, it is important for them to obtain a well-defined status so that their initiatives are not jeopardized and their assets are protected.

By using the uniform procedures for micro planning, the target JFMCs, EDCs, and PSS?s will formulate a micro plan reflecting their respective needs. The micro plan will be the blueprint of all activities to be taken up by each committee during the project period. During the Microplanning exercise the entire village community and Forest Department officials, with the help of Community Organizers, would be involved. A micro plan should necessarily reflect the real needs of the village community for natural resources and overall development. For the sound and sustainable management of forests and their resources, it is critical for both the village residents and the Forest Department to first understand the status of demand and utilization of natural resources by the village community and then to devise ways to meet that demand in a sustainable collaborative manner. Therefore, in the course of microplanning, the following information will be collected through the PRA method.
  • Information on resources, eg, forest type, wildlife, vegetation, topography, soil, land use, livestock, and infrastructure
  • Socioeconomic data, eg, economic status of villagers, current income generation activities, and utilization of forest products
  • Community needs regarding forest resources
  • Development needs of the community

By analyzing the above-mentioned information, detailed activities including forest management, biodiversity conservation, ecotourism-related activities, entry point activities, and IGAs will be identified.

Forest management and biodiversity conservation activities to be included in the micro plan should, however, be basically in line with the working plan and protected area management plans developed by the Forest Department applicable to the area to be managed jointly. The types of forest management and biodiversity conservation activities to be carried out by JFMCs, EDCs, and PSS?s are explained in a later section. Benefit-sharing should be clearly stated in the micro plan. The Forest Department and the village residents should discuss and agree on what benefits are to be shared, how much, when, and how. The micro plan should clearly state this information. In connection to the benefit-sharing, a Village Development Fund (VDF) should be set up. The villagers should be asked to deposit a certain proportion of the benefits derived from activities defined in the micro plan into the VDF of the respective JFMC, EDC, or PSS on voluntary basis (For more detail of VDF, see 4-7). 

The micro plan should also mention the amount of microfinance loans that can be provided to SHGs, which will be formed under JFMCs, EDCs and PSS?s. The amount of funds that can be provided to them for IGAs should be clearly stated. The draft will require the approval of the DFU before finalization. The finalized micro plan will be signed by the village residents and the Forest Department. The micro plan will be binding to the two parties: the Forest Department will be responsible for extending support to the community in implementing forest management and biodiversity conservation activities, and to abide by the micro plan in benefit-sharing. On the other hand, the village residents have the responsibility to carry out forestry and other activities contained in the micro plan in order to be entitled to receiving the benefits. The micro plan will be valid for five years, and it will be called the five-year work programme. Considering that the micro plan covers for the next five years, financing through JICA might not be sufficient to cover that period. In this connection, Forest Department shall be responsible for securing the required budget for the implementation of the remaining part of the micro plan.

Each Micro Plan should be revisited each year for corrections and modifications, if required. Moreover, progress of each year should also be recorded in the Micro Plan, which would facilitate monitoring of the project activities also by the Forest Department and JICA.