Conserve Natural India

Sustainable Development in Northern India

Social research in Naddi on the uses of forests and local views on the reforestation project

On the two last weekends of November, six students from Central University of Himachal Pradesh (CUHP) came to Naddi to help with my research on how local people use forest products.

The six students and Thomas after the second weekend

Prior to the students’ arrival I had made a questionnaire and ran a pilot session in the communities to identify potential difficulties and confusing questions. After a few adjustments on the questionnaire, I explained the exercise to the CUHP students with the help of Norma, Igor and Daniela. Since they are not students involved in natural sciences, we had to run a little training session to make sure they collected the right data, especially as my aim was to make a statistical analysis of the results.

All that work was eventually rewarded and by the end of the two weekends the students managed to conduct 36 surveys in five different communities in Naddi. Here are some interesting findings:

  • Almost everyone uses wood for both cooking and heating their houses.
  • Two thirds of the families have at least one farm animal: mainly cows but also goats, sheep and -in a few cases- horses.
  • Every family collects fodder in the forests; it is either grass or tree leaves.
  • When they lop trees to collect the leaves, 60% say they climb up the trees at a considerable height that can, sometimes, reach up to 40ft.
  • Ban oak (Quercus leuchotrichophora) is by far the species that is lopped the most.
  • Half of the people surveyed say they just pick wood from fallen trees, the other half claims they pick both fallen and standing trees.
  • For both fodder and wood collection, people estimate they walk 60 minutes to get to the collection place; they mostly go there twice or 3 times a week.
  • Tree leaves are mainly collected during winter.

Although the main focus of this research exercise was to investigate the different ways in which local people use forest products, we also took the opportunity to introduce the communities the reforestation project we have been working on. The last section of the questionnaire was specifically designed to look into how receptive people would be regarding our plans for reforestation activities. We were very happy to discover that almost everyone (35 out of 36 people) agreed with the need to plant –and have- more trees around. However, much as this can seem rather positive, we are aware that people in India are not keen on giving negative answers, so all our future steps are being planned with a note of caution.

Two students interviewing a woman from Gaddi community

The questionnaires were a good tool given the time constraints when a few extra pairs of hands were available to help, providing me with significant and –mostly- hard data in a fixed-structure manner. To minimise the risks associated with a single-method approach, I decided to include a qualitative element that could help overcome potential validity issues, so Mr Bhular and I planned a focus group session with Channi, the community directly involved in the project.

For the exercise, eight adult members participated; Mr Bhular acted as an interpreter and helped with the spontaneous discussions that my questions generated within the participants. They all said to approve the project but did not seem too convinced to see the closest land to their houses become out of boundaries to their animals for four years. After some negotiations, we managed to find agreement compromise: the area is to be divided into two sections: the first one will be planted immediately, and the second one only after two years, reducing the ban on grazing by half to only two years.

The focus group session in Channi

Now we all seem to be in the same train of thoughts, it is time to grow the trees!

Daniela Innocente  (Argentina) and Thomas Andrieu (France)

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This entry was posted on January 14, 2014 by in ConservEN, WildForest and tagged , , .
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