Conservation of Forests and Securing Livelihoods in Village Payvihir, Maharashtra


Payvihir, a village in the foothills of Melghat region of Amravati district in Maharashtra is situated in the Deccan peninsular biogeographic region and is surrounded by dense dry deciduous forests. The village has approximately 110 households and 80% of its population belongs to the Korku tribe. For decades these forests were the primary source of NTFPs and fuel wood for the communities and a vast portion served as grazing areas for their livestock.

Need for the Initiative

However, these forests degraded over time with limited species of flora remaining, such as flame of the forest (Butea monosperma) and Custard Apple Plantations. Rain-fed agriculture along with harvesting and sale of custard apples, were the only remaining sources of livelihood, with the majority engaged as daily wage labourers. This caused a significant increase in the rate of outmigration.

Conservation Initiatives and Impacts

Regeneration of the forests surrounding Payvihir commenced in 2012 when the community filed for the Community Forest Rights (CFR). With the help of KHOJ, an NGO working in Melghat, the Payvihir Gram Sabha filed for CFR, as per Section 3(1) of Forest Rights Act, 2006, and were granted these rights over 192 ha of forest land in June 2012. At the same time, the community formed a Community Forest Rights Management Committee (CFRMC), for effective management of their natural resources, while working in consonance with the forest department. The Joint Forest Management Committee constituted by the Forest Department facilitates execution of tasks planned by the Gram Sabha, through departmental resources. In the past, due to lack of awareness, the communities used to sell custard apples to local contractors while accruing minimal wages. In 2012, the local youth were mobilized to conduct a market survey and were instrumental in establishing direct market linkages with commercial institutions, for the sale of the fruits. Payvihir made a profit of Rs. 17,000 in the first foray itself. Initially, the people of Payvihir encouraged shramdan (voluntary, unpaid labour) to plant bamboo (Dendrocalamus strictus) in the forests and the forest department channelized the forestry funds under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) for soil and moisture conservation work in the CFR areas. Weeding and removal of invasive species such as lantana was carried out along with the planting of 50,000 mixed species such as amla (Emblica officinalis), custard apple and bamboo. These short-rotation species provide assured annual economic returns. Other useful species such as mahua (Madhuca longifolia), hirda (Terminalia chebula), baheda (Terminalia bellirica), charoli (Buchanania lanzan), mango (Mangifera indica), and bhilawa (Semecarpus anacardium) have also been planted in the area. Grass plantation on the trenches has produced seeds of over 2 quintals that would be used for re-plantation. Payvihir also helped its neighboring village Nayakheda, in planting 75,000 trees of teak, which would be ready to harvest after 30–35 years. The Gram Sabha implemented certain regulations on grazing practices. While 132 hectares of forest land are marked as a ‘Non-Grazing Area’, village cattle are allowed to graze on the remaining 60 hectares. Logging activities have been banned and communities can collect dead timber for fuel wood consumption. With the help of the tribal department, the village will soon be shifting towards a biogas project that will reduce their dependence on fuel wood. Most houses are covered under Indira Awas Yojana and hence less wood is needed for construction. Water trenches have been dug in the forest for wildlife, which ensures respite during the harsh summers. The women’s Self-Help Group is running a ration shop and the village has become guthka (chewing tobacco) and liquor-free. Over the last few years, there are significant traces of forest regeneration, which has also brought back many species of wildlife, such as Sambar deer ((Rusa unicolor), wild boars (Sus scrofa), jackal and hyenas along with a variety of avifauna. Collection of custard apples has become a major source of income for the village. They are sold under the brand, ‘Melghat Naturals’ in Mumbai and this project has earned a revenue worth INR 500,000. The Gram Sabha of Payvihir, through its initiatives, has not only conserved 192 ha of its own forest land but has also motivated neighboring villages to conserve 1000 hectares of their forest land.

The Payvihir Gram Panchayat, won the India Biodiversity Awards (IBA) under the category ‘Decentralized Governance’ in 2014
Contact -Ram Lal Kale Tel. +917774877304 Email: