Securing Herder Access to Forage with Forest Rights Act

In most states with pastoral populations, there is growing evidence of dwindling herder access to lands they have grazed in the past, some due to land conversion for cultivation or for industry, but mainly due to frequent forest closures by the Forest Department in the interests of conserving biodiversity. CfP is working with affected communities across five states and with government agencies to facilitate the filing and settling of claims to traditionally grazed lands through the Forest Rights Act (2006). Without access to grazing, pastoralism will become increasingly difficult to sustain.
Visit with herders in Virudhanagar and Madurai districts © Mathivanan
Pastoralists depend for their grazing on forests and grasslands across a range of tenurial categories – village commons, privately held agricultural land (for crop residues), protected forests and National Parks/Wildlife Sanctuaries/Tiger Reserves and the like managed by the Forest Department. Securing access to traditionally grazed lands is becoming increasingly tenuous. Despite clear provisions for grazing in the Forest Rights Act (2006), pastoralists have largely been unable to access the act to secure legal recognition of their grazing rights due to the complex nature of their mobility. They are dependent on resources that extend over vast geographical landscapes and across administrative boundaries. There is a clear lack of awareness regarding pastoral community forest rights (CFR) among both pastoralists and government functionaries.
Fakirani Jat herders taking camels to the water hole in Banni, Kachchh © Sahjeevan Archives
Recognising the above challenges, in 2019, CfP explored the potential of utilising claims under the FRA to ensure legal access to grazing for the Van Gujjars in Uttarakhand. In 2020, a similar effort was initiated in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, in partnership with Himachal Ghumantu Pashupalak Mahasabha and Sahjeevan respectively. In 2021 CfP initiated a programme to expand this effort across five states – Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Telangana, and Maharashtra – to secure herder access to grazing lands under the FRA. Thus far, 57 CFR claims have recently been approved in Himachal Pradesh and 1 in Uttarakhand, the first instances of pastoralist communities receiving titles to traditionally grazed lands.
  • Meeting to develop a management plan in one of the Banni Panchayats © Sahjeevan
  • Baaran recording the voices of Van Gujjar community members in the Kunau range, Pauri Garhwal district. © Amit Rathi
  • FRA training in Kangra, Himachal © Viyona Mohan
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