Forest dwellers’ relationship and dependence on forest resources has been a little-studied area. Historically, the British government took control of forest resources to serve its colonial projects, and the Government of India passed the Forest Rights Act (FRA) in 2006 to undo this historical injustice. However, India’s forest dwellers continue to remain one of the most marginalised and vulnerable communities.

One reason, according to several studies, is that the forest bureaucracy has often actively opposed the FRA’s implementation. So we need to review and remove inconsistencies in forest governance to ensure FRA is implemented without any reservations. Some conservationist NGOs have also challenged the FRA’s constitutional validity, offering a unique opportunity for courts to evaluate the implementation process and suggest improvements.

In 2019, American researchers published a study in which they claimed community-based forest management (CFM) of more than 18,000 community forests in Nepal has helped reduce both poverty and deforestation across the mountainous country.  This is not surprising: CFM increases the likelihood of win-win outcomes. They also found that lowering the deforestation rates of larger and older forests have a bigger (positive) effect on communities of poor people, indicating that greater benefits may result from longer-term investments and larger areas brought under CFM. At the same time, community forests established in poorer areas may require additional support to minimise the tradeoffs between socio-economic and environmental outcomes.

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