The total area of the hill is 360ha. Prior to independence this area was a part of the Nayagarh princely state. After independence it has come under the jurisdiction of the State and has been ascribed Protected Forests category, locally called Khesra Forest. The local people have rights for bonafide use of wood e.g. wood for agricultural implements and house construction, fuelwood etc.
Population of these villages varies from 182 to 1281. Badagorda has the maximum human population of 1281 and minimum population 182 makes up Binjgiri. There is no tribal population in these villages and in most villages Khandais community is in the majority and hence in a dominant position. Puania and Sanagorada have a large scheduled caste population and there is no clear dominant caste as such.
The main occupation in all villages is cultivation with the majority population consisting of small, marginal farmers and landless laborers.
ecology, flora and fauna of the hill were virtually
undisturbed until 1940. Older people remember a
number of streams flowing through the forests in the
hill. Scenario, however changed after independence
when massive deforestation took place and by late
sixties, Binjgiri did not have any forest left . The
streams dried up and the surrounding villages that
depended upon these forests faced scarcity of
fuelwood, water for irrigation and threat of loss of
soil fertility because of increased soil erosion.
TOWARDS COMMUNITY CONSERVATION
In the 1970’s Prof. Narayan Hazari, from Kesharpur village, who teaching in Utkal University, started writing letters to the villagers of Kesharpur expressing a strong concern about the degraded forests and urging them to act. Gradually this made an impact on a few of the perceptive villagers. Mr. Joginath Sahu, Headmaster of Middle Education (ME) school got involved and started an environmental campaign.
As a result of this the villagers of Kesharpur decided to protect a patch of Binjgiri in 1976. As the regeneration came up, the threat of pilferage from the neighboring villages around Binjgiri increased. The villagers realized that in order to protect these forests they would have to involve other neighbouring villagers in protection.
The environmental awareness campaign, already initiated in the early seventies in other areas through Padyatras, slogans and meetings, was further strengthened and made action oriented.This had an impact on other villages on the periphery of Binjgiri Hills and resulted in the seven other villages also taking up forest protection .
Before 1982, the protection was informally done. In 1982, a workshop was organised under the auspices of the National Social Service (NSS) in three villages- Gamei, Nagamundali and Kesharpur which was attended by representatives from 22 villages of the area. At this workshop, ‘Brikshya O’ Jeevar Bandhu Parishad’ (BOJBP) (Friends of Trees and Living Beings), a voluntary organisation consisting of members of these 22 villages was formed. Leadership of this organization was in the hands of Mr. Joginath Sahu, Mr. Udayanath Khatia (a marginal farmer, Kesharpur) and Mr. Vishwanath (a school teacher). This led to the active management of Binjgiri hill by the eight villages and fourteen other villages provided support by restraining themselves from exploitation of Binjgiri hill forest.
Brikshya O’ Jeevar Bandhu Parishad and village village governance
Brikshya O’ Jeevar Bandhu Parishad (BOJBP), is an organization based on Gandhian Philosophy and uses Gandhian tools e.g. padyatra, fasting and satyagraha for averting threats to the forests. Villages that adhere to BOJBP ideology follow an informal village governance system . The structure of these informal village institutions is almost the same in all the villages. Each village has a General Body (GB), which comprises of one member from each household in the village. The GB then elects members of the village council, which consists of 5 to 10 members. The office bearers of the council are president, secretary and treasurer, and are selected by the General Body. The village council members are not elected but selected by common consensus. The process of selection of village council members is different in Kesharpur village. Here the villagers have evolved an innovative system of annual elections to reduce the possibility of nepotism. In this system, there are no candidates for any post. Villagers above the age of 18 years cast their vote by secret ballot bearing names of five persons on it. The five persons whose names occur the maximum times are requested to become office bearers.
Village council meetings are held regularly in all villages. The office bearers do not hold the post by tenure instead they are removed from their post as and when the villagers loose their faith in them. Except Anasinghi and Binjgiri villages none of the other villages maintain minutes of the meetings. However, all councils maintain accounts and the details of expenditure and receipts are presented to the General Body at least once a year.
Management of Common Property Resources by the village councils.
The village councils have been traditionally managing the village schools, temples, village common lands, ponds etc. as common resources. Village ponds are mainly used for bathing and more significantly for pisciculture. The village council manages the pisciculture in the ponds and pays fees to the Panchayat (an administrative requirement for obtaining the rights to practice pisciculture) from the village fund and arranges for seed collection, distribution and sale of fish.
Village common land is cultivated by the village council on share cropping basis. The council selects the person for this purpose and the village share goes into the village fund. In some villages, the village temple and its land are also managed by the village council. Councils in these villages also organizes village festivals.
The eight villages protecting Binjgiri have only a rough idea about their respective portions in the Binjgiri hills. There are no clear demarcation lines. They have framed a set of rules, defining the rights and duties of villagers, which include:
forest is to be protected by voluntary patrolling on
rotational basis following the system of thengapalli
(stick rotation). In thengapalli, the household(s)
assigned the patrolling duties for the day is given
the intimation of the same by the ‘thenga’ (wooden
stick) placed at its door on the prior evening.
Subsequently, the thenga is passed from household to
household. The number of pallis (persons on duty)
per day is determined by the village council,
depending upon the forest area and the external
pressure on the protected patch.
2. It is mandatory that every household participates in thengapalli. In case of inability to go on duty, mutual exchanges of duty or adjustments are allowed. Refraining from the duty without informing or without adequate reason invites compensatory duty on two days instead of one.
3. No one is allowed to cut any tree from the forest without permission. In case of an emergency, the village council can allow such permissions.
4. Dry twigs, fruits, seeds and flowers can be cut. Some shrubs specified by the village council can be cut for fuelwood.
5. The area is closed for grazing until natural regeneration or plantation gets established. In some villages, rotational grazing is practiced.
6. Nobody is allowed to enter the forest patch with an axe, except with prior permission of village council.
7. The villagers can collect the stones for construction from the forest area for bonafide use only.
8. In case of threat to forest from outsiders, every villager is to help the palli on duty.
9. The person who violates the rule is fined. The fine depends upon the village council. Normally the offender is asked to apologize publicly.
During the initial years of protection, a few villages decided to disallow goat rearing. All the goats in these villages were sold off. Village Councils allowed goats to be kept only after some regeneration took place. Thengapalli is generally discontinued where regeneration has been established and the system of community vigilance is followed in these areas. Even the villages that still practise thengapalli, discontinue during the agricultural season.
Kesharpur has another significant rule for the trees on the river bank. It has been decided that the farmers who own adjacent farmlands will look after these trees. When a tree matures, the council takes the decision to fell the tree. The wood is then equally shared between the caretaker and the village. The caretaker also has full rights over the fruits and flowers from these trees.
Conflicts within or between villages are mediated by BOJBP. This body tries to resolve these differences through emotional appeals, tolerance and understanding. It discourages monetary fines, or coercion and promotes local arbitration at community level instead of external intervention to resolve conflicts.
Relationship with other organisations
forest officials express doubt about the success of
such a management system. Various forest officials
have however cooperated with the villagers at
various occasions. Social forestry taken up by the
FD on 44 ha of the hill has led to close interaction
between the two. Interaction with other Govt.
bodies, such as, Sub-Divisional Magistrate and
District Magistrate who helped in stopping quarrying
that was happening the forests.
The National Social Service (NSS) organisation has also played a vital role as an external facilitator. Plantations on barren hill areas with the help of college students and environmental awareness campaign formed a major part of these NSS camps.
IMPACTS OF COMMUNITY EFFORT
Kesharpur has become extremely green with a large number of trees in the forest and the village. Even small children can give detailed accounts of the trees they have planted. In this area, there have also been cases of demands of seedlings in dowry and plantations of trees as apart of death ceremonies instead of feeding brahmins.
Forest protection and regeneration has become an end in itself instead of being merely the means for economic gain or for fulfilling the needs for forest produce. Nobody in the villages speaks of cutting of trees. Production of pole and timber which requires a longer gestation period seems to be of less immediate relevance.
However importance has been given to the production of fuel, either in the form of fuelwood or leaves and fodder. Since protection, the availability of both has increased. In Kesharpur, after the goats were given up, a large number of babul (Acacia nilotica) trees came up particularly on the foothills and banks of ponds and river. This wood is now used for making agricultural implements, fencing and as fuel. Availability of fuel sources like leaves and twigs has increased. Increase in the availability of non-timber forest produce such as nuts and berries and their sale is now providing an additional income to Harijan (scheduled caste) women. In addition, many kinds of roots, leaves, tubers, bamboo shoots, etc. are collected by the people for self consumption.
increase in vegetation, wild animals such as wild
boars, sloth bear, hare, macaques, reptiles like
pythons and many kinds of birds have returned to the
Other benefits from the protection include prevention of soil erosion, increase in soil fertility, rise in water table and increase in rainfall. A number of streams that flow in Kesharpur now have water much after the monsoons.
CONSTRAINTS AND OPPORTUNITIES
All residents of the village have equal access to the forest and rights to collect dried twigs, leaves etc. are equal. But it has been observed that it is the poorer section that mainly practice gathering which is a time consuming process. The rich generally have trees on their farmland and sufficient agricultural residue as fuel or else, they purchase fuelwood. Thus it seems that the increase in NTFP and fuel materials of the forest benefit the poorer section greatly where as the richer persons have benefited from better agricultural yields.
In thengapalli, it has been observed that the poorer section suffer more since due to their turn at patrolling they have to forgo one day of labour which would mean going hungry on that particular day. The richer section often send one of their hired labourers when their turn at thengapalli comes.
The issue of equity also arises in terms of inter village distribution: the area managed by the villages is not in proportion to their population and other villages which are at the same distance from Binjgiri as the protecting villages do not get a share of its produce. In such cases even when there is no equity, the tradition survives.
At present the people have faith in the BOJBP and the general feeling is that the organization is working for common interest. Loss of faith in this institution may lead to the crumbling of the system.
Another factor, which may affect the sustainability,
is the possible non-availability of leaders like Mr.
Joginath Sahu’s credence and devotion in future. The
organization may not be able to survive without
For more information contact
Plot No. 15
Sahid Nagar, Bhubbneshwar – 751007
Ph: 0674 2542011 or 12