Land rights

In Indian village, women determine who is and isn’t allowed in local forest

In the small tribal village of Ghunduribadi, India, women have taken over responsibility from the men for guarding the local forest they’ve used for generations against intruders and illegal loggers. The British claimed the forest and others across the country for the government in the 1800s, but a landmark law, the 2006 Forest Rights Act, allows tribal villages such as Ghunduribadi to claim title to their ancestral lands. The reform applies to some 150,000 square miles of forest all across India, making it one of the largest land reforms in India’s history.

Thirty years ago, when the men were in charge of protecting Ghunduribadi’s forest, it was nearly barren from overuse. After a series of devastating droughts exacerbated the problem, causing near starvation in the village, the women organized to restore and protect the forest. Now, the forest is flourishing and the number of intruders has dropped to nearly zero. But these hard-earned gains are at risk until the official title to the land is received, a process being held up by Indian bureaucracy.

Nearly a decade after the Forest Rights Act was enacted, says Madhu Sarin, who led the grassroots effort to pass the law, not even two percent of those land rights have been granted. As many as a quarter of India’s districts may be involved in conflicts with local communities over land rights, and state-owned forests continue to be felled for industrial development.

Read the full story at PRI.

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