The Bandhavgarh National Park, declared in the year 1968 as a National Park for Tiger, is located in Umaria district of Madhya Pradesh. The reserved forest is having 14 villages and the national park is surrounded by 70 villages. The village communities include Gonds, Baigas (agriculture is the primary livelihood) and Yadav- whose primary livelihood is cattle rearing. There is huge human and cattle pressure on the park, which compete with the wildlife for food, fodder, fuel, water, etc. In addition to this, poaching of wildlife is also a major problem for protecting the wildlife, which is practiced by outsiders with the help of village people.
The village community depends on the health of the economy from subsistence agriculture, cattle rearing, NTFP collection, etc., the economy depends on the prevailing natural resources system (including the National Park’s natural resources) and the latter, in turn, provides a basis for sustainable livelihood success.
The agricultural land is undulating; crops (e.g. paddy, maize, jower, wheat, kutki, etc.) are grown as rainfed. The landholding ranges between 1 to 2 acres. In spite of the existence of seasonal and perennial streams, irrigation infrastructure is not yet developed, as the village communities are practicing subsistence agriculture, which generates little surplus to invest for such infrastructure. In the year of good crops, there is always the problem of Herbivorous animals (e.g. Spotted Deer, Wild Boar) entering into the field and crop damages. This creates a tension between the Park Authorities and village communities, which ultimately deprives village people to reap a good harvest.
The cattle rearing also faces the problems of availability of good quality breed, feed & fodder, primary healthcare services and even if milk is produced, the lack of marketing does not help the cattle rearers to sell milk for revenue generation.
The NTFP based livelihoods is now-a-days is also not able to generate enough surplus, due to restriction imposed by the Park Authorities in reserved forest.
The landless households (which are around 20%) sustain their livelihoods through wage labour in agricultural fields and also through the NREGA programme. The Panchayati Raj Institution is not fully aware of the NREGA programme, which is one of the major reasons for the community not able to get 100 days of job, as envisaged in the programme. The problem of timely payment to NREGA workers, no access to financial institutions, also other major issues related to this programme.
There are other informal village institutions e.g. SHG, Eco Development Committee (EDCs are promoted by forest departments with the aim to carry out development activities and contribute to maintain the ecosystem of the National Park); but these are in defunct stage and not able to contribute for the livelihood enhancement of the village communities.
Therefore, the livelihoods of the village communities, is hampered not only with the obstacles like subsistence agricultural practices, inadequate source of irrigation, unmet needs in irrigation, undulating lands, inadequate infrastructure, lack of access for market (for better price realization), financial institution, but also by dysfunctional village level institution. The ultimate result is drastic reduction of living standard instead of improving livelihood as well as more pressure on the National Park resources.
IGS has completed detailed study and livelihood analysis of the 481 households of 8 fringe villages and the above observations are based upon the study. IGS believes that, to address all these issues, an innovative project needs to be developed, which would be able to showcase the idea of Livelihood Finance. The reasons for designing “Livelihood Finance” based strategy are:
The village people (having 1 – 3 acres of agricultural land), find it difficult to level or bund their land for conserving soil and rain water, since it requires investment;
- Utilizing existing perennial stream for irrigation purpose through the construction channel, digging of new well, purchase of pump set, etc. can not be done by village people, because no financial institution is ready to extend credit;
- Land treatment is a must, so that, the dug well and perennial stream will not dry up;
- Purchase of good quality milch animal is also not possible, since it requires credit, along with insurance is a must; maintenance of milch animal requires feed & fodder, veterinary care, and also market for milk outside the village;
- Insurance for lives and livelihoods need to be addressed to sustain the livelihood activities;
- Plantation of trees also can not be taken by villages because of lack of money;
All the households require investment for the above-mentioned series of interventions, which are directly affecting their livelihoods. Neither the households have enough surpluses, nor, financial institutions are ready for providing credit for all these interventions. Therefore, IGS would initiate an innovative project, which would invest capital on household basis (based on the requirement for the livelihood activities), which would be repaid back to the Village Institution (to be promoted as Village Development Committee). The investment will be as project grant from RBS FI to IGS, but the household will repay to VDC over a period of time.
Umaria district is located to the North East of Madhya Pradesh. Total geographical area of the district is of 4548 sq.km and population of the district on is 515,963. Out of which about 83% population resides in rural areas. The average rainfall is 1093 mm. About 42% of the total area is covered by forests. The district is rich in minerals, the important mineral is coal.
The main NTFPs collected are Tendu leaf, Mahua, from the forest.