How Van Panchayat Rule Systems and Resource Use Influence People’s Participation in Forest Commons in the Indian Himalayas

  •  Kazuyo Nagahama    
  •  Kaoru Saito    
  •  Hirokazu Yamamoto    
  •  Yasukazu Hama    
  •  Hem Gairola    
  •  Prakash Singh    
  •  Randeep Rakwal    


Van Panchayats (VPs) are self-initiated forest management groups institutionalized since 1931 in the Himalayan Uttarakhand state of North India. VPs are considered to be successful case of Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM) despite an observed decline in VP practice around the 1990s. This study clarifies CBFM in the context of local rules, forest resource use and people’s participation. It reveals the possible factors behind better resource management of forest commons use from four VPs in Uttarakhand. A multi-dimensional research approach was followed comprising a literature review of the state forest department data, forest inventory, interviews with village leaders as snowball samplings in several villages, and semi-structured interviews with villagers/house-holders. Results showed that local rules are different depending on the villages expect for prohibited timber logging. The most useful tree species for local people was Banji oak (Quercus leucotrichophora) and every village had an oak forest which was utilized for fuelwood and fodder for daily livelihoods. VP forest size and the basal area of trees also influenced people’s participation in forest management. Much larger size of the VP forest land is declining due to the people’s de-motivation for forest management. Furthermore, a higher education of the householder increased the level of participation. Transparency of Management Committee (MC) for the VP members is an important aspect. To summarize, availability and utilization of the valuable forest resources and its management by villagers following local rules and the VP system was considered to influence people’s participation in the forest commons.

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