Gender and social inclusion in Joint Forest Management: lessons from two Indian states

India is a front-runner in developing policies to engage forest dependent communities in the management of their forest lands. Under India’s Joint Forest Management (JFM) programme, the state, represented by the Forest Department (FD), and the village community formally share responsibilities and benefits of jointly protecting and managing forests adjoining villages. The agreement is operationalized through JFM Committees (JFMCs) – referred to as Village Forest Committees (VFCs) in some states – where elected community representatives and a FD official make forest-related decisions in a supposedly collaborative manner. In some cases, when women participate in forest management committees, these institutions have been shown to enhance forest conditions (Agrawal and Chhatre 2006; Agarwal 2009), incomes from the forest (Upadhyay 2005), and cooperation in forest management (Molinas 1998; Coleman and Mwangi 2013). Yet, despite reserved seats on JFMCs for marginalized groups such as women, Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Schedule Tribes (STs), these groups face significant barriers to active engagement in JFM processes (Agarwal 2010).