Methodological and Technological issues in Technology Transfer

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Case Study 25

Tree Growers' Cooperatives: A Participatory Approach to Reclaim Degraded Lands
Sudha, P., Indu K. Murthy & N.H. Ravindranath
Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science,
Bangalore - 560 012, Karnataka, India

Keywords: India, forestry, S S

National Tree Growers Co-operative Federation (NTGCF) was established in India in 1988 with the main objective of restoring the ecological security of village communities in eco-fragile and marginalised zones. The NTGCF has promoted the organisation and establishment of village-level Tree Growers Cooperative Societies (TGCS) in six states of the country, and provided technical and financial support for regenerating degraded forests, conservation of natural resources through community protection, and activities related to Joint Forest Management. Nearly 11 million trees have been planted, resulting in fuelwood, fodder and employment benefits for the villagers, as well as in indirect benefits such as enhanced carbon sequestration and the setting up of processing units for higher value-added products.

The NTGCF was created in 1988 with the objective of restoring and protecting the ecological security of the country through the creation of self-sustaining village TGCS, and supporting the activities of these Cooperatives through training, financing, and institutional development. The concept of the NTGCF was based on the recognition of land degradation as a major concern, and informed by the earlier success of the National Dairy Development Board in the enhancement of milk production through milk cooperatives.

Financial assistance by the Swedish International Development Authority in 1991 and the Canadian International Development Agency in 1993 enabled the NTGCF to establish activities in six states of India: Gujarat, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh.

The main objective of the TGCS has been the restoration of the biological productivity of marginally productive and unproductive degraded lands by establishing sustainable fuelwood and fodder plantations to meet the essential needs of the villagers. Additional produce caters to the urban demand for fuelwood, timber and tree-based products. Concurrent objectives include the strengthening of existing village institutions and empowerment of women.

NTGCF facilitates the organisation and establishment of TGCSs in villages, and assists the villagers in acquiring village wastelands on long leases. In cases where village-level forest-management institutions already exist, NTGCF helps them frame management rules based on specific village needs. The degraded lands are restored to a productive state through natural regeneration plantations and soil and water conservation measures. In some areas, large scale seed sowing of forest trees and shrubs was done. For the seeds to germinate on difficult sites, alternations such as wildings at the super-abundant stage of germination and replanting on village lands, soil stabilisation and moisture conservation work had been undertaken. The villagers are supplied seeds, saplings, cuttings and biofertilisers. NTGCF promotes community protection of forests by ensuring that forest-management rules link the needs of the villagers to the sustainability of the forests.

NTGCF has had to contend with many issues such as common property rights, sustainable extraction of rare and endangered medicinal and aromatic plant species, appropriate market channels for surplus produce, legislative enactments, etc. This has lead to capacity building in the Cooperatives and in NTGCF to influence policy with regard to forest dwelling communities and conservation.

In order to manage biomass demand, NTGCF and the TGCS encourage and facilitate the adoption of energy conserving techniques and devices such as improved stoves, biogas plants, pressure cookers and solar cookers. They have also developed facilities for the processing and marketing of wood at Cooperative and regional levels, and created opportunities for the value-addition of forest products, such as a Neem biocide plant.


As of March 1998, NTGCF had organised TGCS and other village institutions in 518 villages involving 40,237 members. These institutions have revegetated 8,911 hectares of the 15,343 hectares of the common lands made available, and planted 10.74 million trees on their common land as well as private lands. This work has generated 1.22 million workdays of employment in these villages. Indirect benefits to the leased land has included soil fertility improvements and moisture retention, and benefits to nearby land has included wind protection and decreased salinity.
The experience of the older TGCS promotes the organisation of new Cooperatives in surrounding villages, and proposals to organise TGCS on non-revenue wasteland, which are either equally degraded or belong to the village, are being introduced.

The global benefits include carbon sequestration in standing trees, litter and soil. Furthermore, fuelwood supply from the new forests leads to conservation of C sinks in forests and village trees. The NTGCF has not conducted ecological studies of these plantations with regard to the survival of seedlings and the standing biomass, but based on the NTGCF experience, it is estimated that its activities have lead to the sequestration of 52,183 tCO2. Carbon density of litter and soils also increases. Thus, in addition to restoration of degraded lands, carbon sequestration is an additional benefit of the projects. If the TGCS concept is extended to cover all the degraded forest land, pasture, and cultivatable wasteland of 41.62 million ha, the annual C sequestered could be ~ 20.81 MtC.

Lessons Learned

One of the major reasons for the success of the project is its ability to secure tenure of the land in the form of a lease. This kind of ownership allows communities to take a long-term view, and encourages better management of the common lands. The NTGCF experience indicates that the village institutions that have become self-sustaining are those that the communities developed themselves and built on local knowledge and needs. A mid-term review concluded that the sustainability of TGCSs in terms of social and economic aspects is closely linked to the sustained collective action of the community. Introduction of alien rules and regulations leads to confusion and non-compliance.

The protection and management of land leased by the cooperative societies has, however, shifted the pressure on surrounding common lands. NTGCF proposes to take a holistic look at the entire village landscape while dealing with the common land resources with secured tenure.

Creating awareness, capacity building and establishment of a formal institution such as TGCS at the village level is critical to revegetation of degraded village commons. An external institution such as NTGCF is necessary for providing technical assistance and training to local communities to protect and manage village commons.

The other effects of the projects are leadership development, spread of collective action and cooperation into other spheres of village life, institutional development, resource enrichment and expansion, and improvement in the quality of life of rural communities.

National Tree Growers' Cooperative Federation: Annual Report 1997-98.
A Decade of Learning. 1996: A participatory mid term review summary of Sida and CIDA Assisted Tree Growers' Cooperative Project (November).
Qualitative/quantitative aspects - mid term review/evaluation. 1996: Data Review (November).
Seebaur, M., 1992: Review of social forestry programmes in India. GWB Gesselschaft Fur Walderhaltung und Waldbewirtschaftung GMBH, Michelstadt, GermanBH, Michelstadt, Germany.

Coordination Office
National Tree Grower's
Cooperative Federation Ltd.
Anand - 388 001
Phone: 02692-41303
Fax: 02692-42087

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