Securing Livelihoods and Conservation of Forests Resources by of Shankarpur Gram Panchayat, Gadchiroli District, Maharashtra


The Shankarpur Gram Panchayat in the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra biogeographically represents the Deccan peninsular region in India. It is surrounded by dense deciduous forests, and the local community is largely dependent on it for sustenance.

Need for the Initiative

However, during and post-colonisation, the focus shifted from forests being used as a resource base for sustenance of local communities toa State resource which curtailed centuries-old, customary use of forest resources by the communities. Over time, forest resources declined due to irregular extraction and scarcity of water, triggering conservation efforts in 2003.

Conservation Initiatives and Impacts

The Shankarpur Gram Panchayat undertook Joint Forest Management (JFM) projects along with the State Forest Department to rejuvenate the depleting forests between 2004 and 2007. This provided employment to 50 per cent of the community members who have been protecting and patrolling the forests and carrying out development works. 300 dams have been built under these projects in order to improve the water table and check soil erosion. In 2009, the Panchayat instituted a Biodiversity Management Committee (BMC) as per the mandates of The Biodiversity Act, 2002. The village has been divided into three sections with a sub-committee comprising 15 members for each section, out of these, 15 members are chosen into the BMC representing all religions, marginalized castes and women representatives. The meetings held by the BMC are attended by one male and one female representative from each household. Regular study sessions regarding the provisions for conservation and development, under the Indian legal framework, are conducted in the nearby village of Mendha Lekha and members of Shankarpur BMC and Gram Panchayat also attend these sessions. It was through these sessions that they became aware of the provisions of Community Forest Rights (CFR) under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, which recognizes the Community Forest Rights (CFR) to use, manage and conserve forest resources. The provisions under section 3(1) and section 5 of the Act together with Rule 4e give rights and responsibility to the Gram Sabha for sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity & wildlife. Thereafter, the community, with the help of the Gram Panchayat and the BMC, constituted the Forest Rights Committee (FRC) in 2009. In 2012, 32 applicants from Shankarpur village secured CFR titles for 598 hectares of forest land under the Forests Rights Act, 2006. It was one of the first villages in the state to acquire such rights. The local governance institutions facilitated the effective implementation of regulations for the conservation of the forest resources, that prohibit hunting and restrict grazing in forest areas. The BMC has played an important role in creating awareness regarding good conservation practices and sustainable harvesting of biological resources. These efforts are complemented by regular plantation drives. Monitoring of the conservation activities is conducted by the community members. A system of social audit has been established by the Gram Panchayat to monitor the work done under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), 2005 which was a major source of funding for development work in the village. Since the commencement of the initiatives, communities have reported improved forest cover and ambient temperatures. Several large mammals like the civet cats, leopards and animals like swamp deer (Rucervus duvaucelii), sambar deer (Rusa unicolor), spotted deer (Axis axis), nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus), bears, wild boars, wild dogs and various monkeys can now be spotted in the forests after decades. A significant rise in the water table has been observed. Employment generated through conservation activities, animal husbandry and eco-tourism, and improvement in availability and quality of non-timber forest products, has drastically reduced out-migration.

The Gram Panchayat of Shankarpur won the India Biodiversity Awards under the category ‘Decentralized Governance’ in 2012.
Contact -Neema Pathak Broome Tel. +919850952359 Email: