What change happened to strengthen rights to the commons?
When the river is silenced and the water becomes deep, when there is nowhere to go and justice sold, people hear the voice
of their souls and set their own course to... ... re-define development...
The saga started during the nineties, with the development project construction of the Kadana dam: on the one hand, a source of life for some and on the other hand devastation, poverty, and hunger for many others, when thousands of people were displaced from their own land in the name of development. As a compensation package, they were provided with about 900 Indian rupees for land in valley, 800 Indian rupees for horticultural land, and 600 for the other lands. In addition, some were given land, which was either far off or unsuitable for farming. Thus, in the process of struggle for existence, dire need of food and shelter, the people moved in groups into the forest area thus, resulting in the birth for a habitation named Moti Kyar. Surrounded by Kotra, Bhandara, and Bhanasimal villages on three sides and Kadana Dam on the fourth, Moti Kyar village comprises four hamlets, namely Kotha Faliya, Mota Faliya, Rainat Faliya, and Naka Faliya, which is the most affected one due to the backwaters of the Kadana.
Life begets life... well proved in this context
The forest, which was earlier the source of food, fodder, and fuel wood now offered refuge to the population of about 300 households, 400 cattle, bullocks, and goats. The displaced people trying to identify their means for existence in the forestland were now called 'encroachers'. Since their livelihood and survival were at threat, in order to support themselves and their families, they practiced farming in the nearby land. They obtained a receipt in return of the fine paid (200 Indian rupees) for cultivating the so-called 'encroached' land which served as a record for ownership for that land. However, forty families were still considered 'encroachers'. Also in order to fulfill their needs, the dependency on the forest produce increased and was an emerging threat to the existing resources.
However, with the passage of time the community realized that there was a need to strengthen the symbiotic relationship with the forest in order to keep the hillocks alive and green. In the process they joined hands trying to re-create and manage the resources, be it in the form of infrastructure or natural resource to enable them to maintain the ecological balance. They have formed institutions like Panchayat, dairy co-operative and forest development co-operative society in the village for governance and management of the systems and resources in limited space.
Limited space and increasing population result in migration
Since farming is rain-fed and the average land holding is 1 -2 acres, the income generated through it is not enough to support a family during the whole year; hence, it is observed that male members from the family generally migrate during the season not favorable for cultivation. They generally migrate to the nearby villages like Kheda, Rajkot et cetera for agricultural labor; few also migrate to Surat and other towns for some work Iike masonry, construction, et cetera.
The rate of migration in the village is generally high. The migration period lasts about 4-6 months per year. Migrant members return during the rains in June-July to cultivate their own farms, or to serve as agricultural laborers in their village. Since part of the population is literate, migration for other jobs outside the village is also observed.
The role of forestry
Forests, being the integral part of their life became explicit when the utility of different tree species was evidenced:
- Timru: leaves for bidi making (about 500 leaves in one pack)
- Goonda: fruits eaten raw and used as vegetables
- Mahuda: seeds are used to extract oil and flowers are used to manufacture the mahuda drink
- Gori Shyamali: for fruits
- Ratanjyot:, for fencing
- Aranda: for oil extraction and provision of shade to the young saplings during summer
- Khakra: leaves to make plates, which may be used during festivals or other occasions
- Khajuri: for fruits, its dried leaves being used to prepare broomsticks and sievers
- Other species like Neem, Babul, Sag, Sheesam, Khair, Ber, Sadar, and Amba is also utilized.
People can thus see the value of the efforts they have put in by looking at the vegetation being restored.
The association with the Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) has provided the village the guidance in the formation of institutions and its capacity building. Facilitating them in visioning their development and plan accordingly, FES has played a key role creating awareness about the ecology and its linkages with the livelihood and providing training about soil and water conservation measures along with other livelihood support activities like vermicompost etc., which would enhance agricultural production and also restore soil fertility. The organization has facilitated the formation of the federation, which is a platform wherein the village institutions from eight neighboring villages comes together to share and design the mechanism for protection to conserve the forest by addressing the intra and inter village
conflicts. To cut down the usage of fuel woods, energy conservation measures are taken up in form of smokeless chullahs. Thus, people of the village are trying to internalize the lessons and understanding about the social-ecological and economical inter-Iinkages in order to maintain the ecological balance, which has been the boon to the community.
Hence, with the vision of sustainable development, displaced people at Moti Kyar in association with FES - an institutional member of the International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC) since 1999 and regular participant at the Biennial Conferences since 1998 -, are forging ahead and re-defining development to maintain the ecological balance.
Authored by FES
Elinor Ostrom Award Laureate
The Foundation for Ecological Security was one of the 2013 Elinor Ostrom Award laureates. The Elinor Ostrom Award on Collective Governance of the Commons has been established to honor and develop the legacy of Elinor Ostrom by acknowledging and promoting the work of practitioners, young and senior scholars involved in the field of the commons. The FES received the 2013 Practitioners Award for their extensive work with both communities and the government to strengthen the local management of the commons and supportive policies for equity and on sustainability.