Forests, Governance and Livelihoods

Understanding the major historical and contemporary policies/​laws that have shaped forest-based livelihoods.

India is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world and harbours almost 8% of all known species in the world. This includes more than 90,000 species of animals and 40,000 species of plants distributed across 10 biogeographic zones. With respect to plants, close to 3000 species are endemic (i.e. found nowhere else in the world) and at 300 are wild relatives of cultivated varieties. Overall, around 23% of India’s land area is covered by various types of forests. Next to agriculture, forests are the second most important source of livelihood for about 100 million Indians, most of whom belong to adivasi and other historically marginalised communities. These communities are not only culturally distinctive but also custodians of different forms of ecological knowledge — much of this remains to be documented and utilized for better management of forests. Moreover, the increasing commodification of forest-based goods and services raises important questions of justice and equity with respect to such communities. On the whole, this is a sector where matters of history, governance, ecology and rights have a strong bearing on livelihood choices. This makes the status and sustainability of forest-based livelihoods a significant area of interest for development practitioners.

In the context of the M.A Development programme, it contributes to the curricular
objectives of enabling students to acquire a historically and socially grounded
understanding of different livelihoods, engage with the lived realities of marginalised
communities and acquire practical competencies for development action. The course will
build on the concept of social-ecological systems as well as the conservation versus
livelihood debates covered in Semester I (Ecology and Development, core course) and the
PRA techniques learnt in Semester II (Methods for Social Research and Action, core course). In addition, students will acquire working knowledge of key skills required to
carry out field projects in this sector.