Regenerating Wastelands Through Cooperatives: Experience of Tree Growers’ Cooperatives in Rajasthan, India

Type Conference Paper - Governing Shared Resources: Connecting Local Experience to Global Challenges, the Twelfth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Commons
Title Regenerating Wastelands Through Cooperatives: Experience of Tree Growers’ Cooperatives in Rajasthan, India
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2008
City Cheltenham
Country/State England
Over the past few decades, there has been an upsurge of interest in community-based approaches to simultaneously address environment and development concerns. Within forestry, these are commonly referred to as community-based forest management (CBFM). CBFM grew rapidly in the past couple of decades and by 2004 there were an estimated 370 million hectares of forests under CBFM. Although the area under CBFM has increased steadily, there has also been a growing debate over its efficacy.

"This paper assesses the impact of one CBFM model--Tree Growers' Cooperative Society (TGCS)--employed for establishing and managing fuelwood and fodder plantations on village commonlands (revenue wastelands). It is based on fieldwork conducted in three TGCSs in the Ajmer district of the state of Rajasthan in India. The data was collected through household questionnaire survey, semi-structured interviews, and analysis of TGCS records.

"The three TGCSs have been operational for over 15 years and have survived for the past 10 years without any external support. The tree plantations raised by the TGCSs over leased commonlands have also survived. This shows that it is possible for the local communities to manage tree resources and regenerate degraded village commonlands through collective effort, provided there is security of tenure. While the economic and ecological impacts of the TGCSs have been positive, these have been rather limited due to degraded condition of the leased lands and lack of adequate rainfall in the past several years. The social impact of the TGCSs has also been positive though there seems to be limited involvement of most members in running their affairs. A number of factors such as security of tenure, institutional framework, choice of species, role played by the facilitating agency, and rapidly changing external environment have shaped the outcomes of the TGCSs. The study also highlights strengths and weaknesses of the cooperative model for managing common pool natural resources such as commonland tree plantations. One of the major contributions of the TGCSs has to been to preserve the village commonlands in an environment where these are being gradually privatised--legally or illegally.

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