Ministry of Forest and Environment and Climate Change
Krishi Bhavan, Government of India
Sub : Comments from MAKAAM (Women Farmers Rights Forum) on National Forest Policy Draft 2018
Greetings from MAKAAM! Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch (MAKAAM) is a national alliance comprising of individuals, women farmer organisations, civil society groups, NGOs, academics and researchers, with a presence in 25 States, working to secure identity and recognition for women farmers as well as strengthen their rights over resources such as land and entitlements to schemes and support services. The National Policy for Farmers in India (2007) defines farmers as “a person actively engaged in the economic and/or livelihood activity …..(Including) cultivators, agricultural labourers, livestock rearers,… planting labourers as well as persons engaged in various farming related occupations such as agro-forestry. The term also includes tribals engaged in shifting cultivation and in the collection, use and sale of minor and non-timber forest produce’(: National Policy For Farmers, 2007)”. http://www.agricoop.nic.in/NPF/npff2007.pdf
We strive to secure due recognition and rights of women farmers in India, where access and rights to resources can be secured and representation in spaces and processes that determine the use and management of such resources including forest and forest produce on which their lives and livelihoods depend can be strengthened.
It is in this context that we are forwarding our comments and concerns to you on the recently drafted National Forest Policy with the hope that you will take into consideration the needs, priorities, views and demands of women farmers especially those who are forest workers and forest dwellers and agro forestry workers in finalizing this policy.
Our key concerns that inform the comments we enclose herewith are as follows:
- Women are the backbone of the rural economy and bear the major workload of managing the livelihoods of millions of households across the country, especially in the forest and tribal areas of the country, we find however that there is little consideration of these roles to secure the livelihoods and ease the burden of work and insecurity of food and nutrition inputs that denial of access to forest resources causes for the thousands of toiling women forest dwellers and workers.
- There is widespread acknowledgement and evidence of the symbiotic relationship between women and forests and many studies point to the improved health of forests when women and their communities are engaged in the management of forest resources. The Draft policy neither acknowledges the role of women and communities nor seeks to strengthen these community structures, instead creating a new structure that only empowers the forest department further.
- The Forest Rights Act 2006 provides a statutory framework for the management and governance of forests. This Draft policy however does not acknowledge this Act except at one point, and that too where it proposes an architecture of forest governance that will thwart the spirit and intent of the FRA and even subsume the provisions for community based management within the ambit of the proposed National Community Forest Management (CFM) Mission (4.1.1 h), in contravention of a statutory provision. This is a denial of social and ecological justice.
- Women have gained some ground in the processes of forest rights and governance in the context of the Forest Rights Act 2006. It is feared that these rights will be compromised with the advent of a centralized regime for forest governance as proposed in the Draft Policy, that ignores and overrides communities and structures of democratic self-governance such as the Forest Rights Committees. This may also further criminalize and victimize forest dwellers and perpetuate regimes of violence against women.
- The most glaring issue and matter of concern is the overriding tone of the policy which focuses on strengthening forest governance through a centralized market based approach. This will neither bode well for democratic forest governance processes and nor for the ecological sustainability of forests. Instead it will promote the destructive footprint of commercial mono-cultural forestry, to the peril of diversity and ecological well-being; food security and democratic processes will be at greater risk in the country, especially in the tribal and forest regions of the country.
Our detailed comments clause by clause are placed below for consideration
There is enough evidence from various official reports that reveals that there is an overwhelming contribution of women farmers even in forest areas. A majority of these women are from the most marginalized sections of tribal, dalit and OBC communities. We look forward to your leadership in taking cognizance of our comments and incorporating our suggestions to strengthen the rights and roles of women farmers in the context of forest rights and restoring ecological and livelihoods wellbeing by addressing our comments in redrafting the Policy.
Soma Kishore Parthasarathy, Shubadha Deshmukh
Phone no: 9811405539 | 9420419828