GUWAHATI, Oct 17 - With the growing realisation that easing population pressure on forest land is critical to saving the State�s forests, the Assam Forest Department is implementing a French Development Agency-assisted Assam Project for Forest and Biodiversity Conservation (APFBC) across the State.
Assam has 499 forest villages � something that puts a lot of stress on the forests as the inhabitants� livelihoods are largely linked to forest resources. The remoteness of the forest villages ensures that the benefits of general development schemes remain out of bound of the villagers, mounting their dependence on the forests.
The Forest Department has also embarked on a comprehensive skill development and entrepreneurship building programme for the Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMCs) and the Eco Development Committees (EDCs) of the State under the Assam Project on Forest and Biodiversity Conservation.
�Addressing their livelihood requirements is an imperative which cannot be brushed aside � those being an important component of recent instruments for sustainable forest management as well. The solution lies in skill development and capacity building, which can reduce pressure on the forests through sustainable livelihoods, fulfilling market requirements and aspirations of the youth,� Dr Alka Bhargava, Additional PCCF (RE&WP), Assam, told The Assam Tribune.
One important component of the project envisages adding value and opening market opportunities and promotion and marketing and supporting income-generating activities outside forests and employability potential.
To give impetus to the initiative, Ban Bazars are being set up to showcase and sell the products under the brand name �Banaj�. The recent Wildlife Week celebrations also showcased the Banaj products. The micro planning and skill development programmes are being conducted in partnership with the Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship (IIE), Rashtriya Gramin Vikas Nidhi (RGVN) and the Centre for Microfinance and Livelihoods (CML).
In addition to forest-based and natural resource-based livelihoods, non-forestry based income generating activities are also being taken up to meet local requirements, besides increasing the mobility of the skilled youth to other parts of the State and the country, and at the same time, reduce dependence on the forests.
�The pressures on forests have been increasing due to rise in population, both human and cattle, and development imperatives. The plight of the forest communities becomes even more precarious due to their remote location,� Dr Bhargava said.