People’s forests: Is community forest resource governance the future of India’s jungles?
First came the forest, followed by the people, and then the government. Does this chronology allow the newest entrant in the scheme to determine the relationship between the two older entities? In other words, does the new regime of Community Forest Resource (CFR) bequeath rights or is it merely a recognition of unalienable rights already vested in the communities living in forests? This question is at the heart of the investigation carried out in this report as it examines the processes of the CFR regime and their implementation through case studies from four states. Can a recognition of the historical bond of people with the forests unearth a willingness to make forests wholesome again (for example, by avoiding monocultures), create more egalitarian forest communities, and ensure that the forest meets (almost) all the needs of its citizens, not the least their need for livelihood? The answer seems to be in the affirmative—and why should it not be? After all, if a tree falls in the forest, the people living in the forest are the first to hear.