Institutional arrangement and typology of community forests of Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland of North-East India
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Most community forests in hill regions of northeast India have been managed by traditional local institutions for centuries and most of these institutions remain functional even today. Higher forest coverage on private and community lands as compared to government land indicates that traditional institutions effectively manage community forests in the region. The present study was conducted through a survey of literature and field work using participatory research tools viz., PRA exercises, group discussions and questionnaire interviews with key informants in northeast India. We categorized the institutions involved in conservation and management of forests into three major types: traditional, quasi-traditional and modern. Traditional institutions with hierarchal structure were found in all states and are intact and functional in the state of Meghalaya. Quasi-traditional institutions, a blend of traditional and modern institutions were prevalent in Nagaland while modern institutions have almost replaced traditional institutions in Mizoram. We recorded at least eleven types of community forests viz., group of village forest, village forest, restricted forest, sacred forest, clan forest, cemetery forest, regeneration forest, bamboo forest, recreation forest, village reserved forest and medicinal plantation in villages of three states. The tribal people, through long-term trial and error experiments, have developed an elaborate, functional and generally democratic system of conservation and management of forests and associated natural ecosystems. Several forest and natural resource management lessons can be learnt from the institutional structure and decision making system of the evolving and dynamic institutions of tribal communities of the region.
Keywordssustainable natural resources community institution: tribal
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