Sunaposi forest is a patch of forest located in the Chandua block of Mayurbhanj District in Orissa. This area comes under the Deuli Forest Range of Baripada Forest Division and has eleven villages situated surrounding it. This five square kilometer spread of forest is the main source of subsistence use and livelihood support of these villages and is legally classified as the Reserve Forest. The ownership of this forest lies with Orissa Forest Department. Kalikasole village, inhabited mainly by the Santhal tribe is the first village around this patch of forest where the conservation initiative began. The village is located 24 km from Mayurbhanj district headquarters, Baripada and 7 km from the Block headquarters, Chadua.


In 1979, there was a severe cyclone in Orissa. Powerful wind uprooted thousands of trees in the Sunaposi Reserve Forest. The Forest Department gathered these trees and sold them in the market. Taking the cue, the villagers illegally started cutting down living trees and soon the entire forest was reduced to nothing.

During that time, NTFP still did not have a big market. Collection of Sal (Shorea robusta) seeds was not introduced yet. The local tribals did collect some NTFP for self-consumption and sale in the local market. Income from this sale sustained them for about 3-4 months in a year. In the lean period, forest was an important source of food for them. These people therefore were severely hit by deforestation in the area.

Two members of the village, namely, Makardhaj Marndi and Ranjan Murmu took the lead for conservation of one portion of Sunaposi forest which was adjacent to the Kalikasole village. Six persons were selected to patrol the forest on a rotation basis.

The villagers soon realized the difficulties of protecting one patch of the forest without the cooperation of the neighboring villages. They then initiated discussions with the other neighbouring villages. Over a period of time five other villages started conservation activities.

Subsequently in 1988, Joint Forest Management (JFM) was introduced in these villages and a Forest Protection Committee was officially constituted with the help of Forest Department for the management and protection of the forest. The committee in its General Body meeting decides all rules and regulations which every member is bound to follow.

The main community involved in protection are the Santhals, although the benefits are now being shared by all. The Forest Department largely plays a supportive role


The forest has regenerated considerably since the protection started. The villagers now derived substantial income from the forest. Besides meeting livelihood needs, they also extract food items and medicinal plants from the forest.


Although decisions relating to the daily management of the forest lie with the committee, they are not consulted on policy related matters, which are taken by the State Government. The communities do not get the opportunity to express their views on the policy matters, neither are they informed about the decisions taken unless they find out on their own or through the NGOs working in the area.

Differences between the conserving communities and the user communities seems to be gradually increasing as is the inequity in relation to forest use and contribution to the conservation process itself.

The major thrust on regeneration, development and harvesting of Sal trees has led to the neglect of other flora and fauna in this area. Recently, the villagers have decided to adopt systems of management such that it contributes to the conservation of all elements of biodiversity and also contributes towards the adjoining wildlife sanctuary. The decision is too recent to assess its implications and efficacy.


Deepak Pani
Secretary, Gram Swaraj. Kamala Nehru Girls’ High School Road. Ward No-16, Baripada
Mayurbhanj, Orissa, 757001. Telephone :06792-259565,258511,09437039565(M)