Indian NGO Samata and the UK's Forest Peoples Programme have found that the resettlement action plan (RAP) of the World Bank-funded Andhra Pradesh Community Forest Management Project (APCFMP) undermines customary rights and livelihoods and is in multiple breach of Bank safeguard policies on Indigenous Peoples and Involuntary Resettlement. The participatory evaluation, which was undertaken in seven villages in NE Andhra Pradesh in November 2006, has discovered that many problems identified in an earlier Samata-FPP study (see end notes) of this Bank forestry project, which started in 2002 and is due to close at the end of 2007, have not been resolved and in some cases have even worsened.
The study finds that affected Adivasi communities have not been able to participate meaningfully in the design of the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP), which under the APCFMP is supposed to offset hardships suffered by Adivasi families after losing shifting cultivation fields in forest land under the previous Bank-assisted Joint Forest Management Project (1994-2000).
Villagers have simply been told that the Forest Department has money for Forest Protection Committee members to do "land improvement" and "income generation" activities under something called the "RAP". Many affected communities do not understand what the RAP is about and why it is part of the so-called “Community Forest Management” (CFM) project. In two cases, NGOs contracted to implement the RAP have incorrectly told villagers that the RAP support is a loan that must be wholly or partly repaid by the villagers. In Chapariguda Village, Shrikakulam District, for example, one RAP implementation NGO has allegedly unjustly collected money from 18 Sávara families promising them that through such payment they would get benefits under the RAP scheme. The villagers have not seen the NGO staff person for 11 months and have no information since then about whether or not their village has been included in the compensation scheme by the Andhra Pradesh Forest Department (APFD).
Indigenous Adivasi villagers have not been properly informed about their rights and entitlements. In several villages visited by Samata and the FPP, people advise that NGOs have pressed them to sign consent letters in order to receive the "sanctioned" 25,000 R per family:
The NGO man took signatures and thumb prints from all the people. He said: ‘Sign here to receive the 25,000 R benefit. There are no wages from the Village Forest Protection Committee (VSS) now, so you should sign the document to get the RAP benefit’. He told us that women will get saris and men will receive cloth. He took 200 R from each family which he said was necessary to receive RAP support. 18 families paid this man this money! [Savara families in a meeting in Chapariguda village, November 2006]
We asked the NGO man why are you taking our signatures? He replied: ‘The Forest Department has sanctioned 25,000 R per family. You will get that in materials. You just need to sign for it. He did not explain anything about any legal commitments to give up our forest land…If we had understood that we were making legal commitments not to return to podu (shifting) cultivation, we would have never signed.” [Adivasi villagers, Narseepatnam Division,Vishakhapatnam District, Andhra Pradesh]
Contrary to the project loan agreement, in all the villages visited there have been no detailed impact assessments conducted for each family to assess what monetary and non-monetary costs or hardship they have endured over the last 10 years after losing their shifting cultivation lands. Local NGOs have complained that flat-rate of compensation under the RAP is unfair and inaccurate, but these complaints have been dismissed by the Forest Department.
There are worrying signs that in some villages families who became landless under the previous Bank forestry project are being excluded from compensation under the RAP altogether – in direct contravention of the loan agreement. In Sagara village in Vishakhapatnam District 5th Scheduled Area, for example, families who became landless after being obliged to leave their shifting cultivation (podu) lands in the forest under the World Bank-financed JFM project in the 1990s claim that they have been excluded from RAP assistance. According to village leaders, these families were not invited to the RAP meetings and local APFD officials have dictated that compensation for damages caused by the previous Bank project is only available for those families who already have patta lands (permanent fields).
Community leaders and support NGOs point out that the whole CFM project is out-of-date because it undermines current governmental moves to go some way towards recognising customary forest rights under the newly enacted Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act (2006)). Given the inadequacy of the RAP and the serious flaws in its design (not least arbitrary level of (flat rate) compensation), a growing number of villages have refused to take part in the RAP. Many local NGOs are also refusing to implement the resettlement plan.
As the project nears closure (at the end of 2007) villagers like those of Gorapadu village in Srikakulam District protest that the World Bank-financed APCFM Project still lacks transparency and has less community participation than the previous Bank project! Village authorities have had to use the Freedom of Information Law to obtain information on the Forest Department’s use of project funds, and uncovered information that has confirmed their fears of corruption. Local NGOs who have long since withdrawn from the CFM project, say they will not be duped next time by Bank promises of a new participatory approach to forest management:
When we first heard of the CFM project, we thought that the “community” would be central, and that communities would gain control of forest land. We believed that the CFM project would be nourishing, like the ghee-bottle gourd: full of rich clarified butter oil. But when we drank from this gourd we found its contents tasteless. There is no richness there. There is no “community” in CFM. The goodness has been taken out [Sanjeeva Rao, Velugu Association, November 2006]
Village authorities and support NGOs are now taking their grievances about the RAP and the APCFM project in general to implementing agencies and “independent” monitoring bodies. However, at this stage, the communities hold out little hope that they will secure genuine redress for the hardships caused by existing and previous Bank forestry interventions. The early signs are that the APFD will once again deny any problems with the project and dismiss legitimate community grievances as unfounded or “misinformed”.
By Tom Griffiths, FPP, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Ravi Rebbapragada and Bhanu Kalluri at email@example.com and Tom Griffiths at firstname.lastname@example.org For a more detailed article, see Griffiths, T (2006) Going from bad to Worse: World Bank forestry project in Andhra Pradesh fails Adivasi communities,
For earlier studies of this same World Bank project, see: Griffiths, T, Rebbapragada, R and Kalluri, B (2005) “The Great Community Forest Management Swindle: a critical evaluation of an ongoing World Bank project in Andhra Pradesh (India)” WRM Bulletin No. 93 (April 2005). See also, FPP and Samata (2005) Andhra Pradesh Community Forest Management Project – A preliminary independent evaluation of a World Bank forestry project