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Local Perceptions of Conservation Intervention in Kanha National Park

Forests and national park areas have become increasingly significant because they contain various biological resources. Recent conservation interventions by the State with the creation of national parks governed by rules and regulations entailed a loss of use and access rights to forest areas and produce for the local people. This also led to a change in the perceptions of the local people in the context of conservation of forests and wildlife as it created socio-economic and cultural vulnerabilities. This paper examines the causal factors which influence the changing perceptions of the local people towards state-created national park areas. The main aim of the study is to identify the significance of non-wood forest products for forest dependent people living in rural ecosystem spaces. The case study here is of Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh.


Local Perceptions of Conservation Intervention in Kanha National Park

Ananya Mukherjee

Forests and national park areas have become increasingly significant because they contain various biological resources. Recent conservation interventions by the State with the creation of national parks governed by rules and regulations entailed a loss of use and access rights to forest areas and produce for the local people. This also led to a change in the perceptions of the local people in the context of conservation of forests and wildlife as it created socio-economic and cultural vulnerabilities. This paper examines the causal factors which influence the changing perceptions of the local people towards state-created national park areas. The main aim of the study is to identify the significance of non-wood forest products for forest dependent people living in rural ecosystem spaces. The case study here is of Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh.

This is a revised version of a paper first presented at the Sixth BioEcon Conference at King’s College, Cambridge University, United Kingdom, September 2004.

Ananya Mukherjee ( is with the ZSL Climate Change Thematic Programme of the Zoological Society of London.


orests and national park areas have become increasingly significant because they contain various biological resources. Local communities resided within and in the surrounding area of the rural ecosystem spaces as village clusters prior to the designation of forest areas as state reserved protected areas. For the rural poor, this meant dependence and control over the means of production and resources needed to meet their subsistence needs. Recent conservation interventions by the State with the creation of national parks governed by rules and regulations entailed a loss of these former use and access rights for the local people. Subsequently, this also led to a change in the perceptions of the local people in the context of conservation of forests and wildlife as it created socio-economic and cultural v ulnerabilities.

This paper examines the causal factors which influence the changing perceptions of the local people towards State created national park areas. The main aim of the study is to identify the significance of non-wood forest products for forest dependent people living in rural ecosystem spaces. Often the significance of these resources is underestimated, in turn, creating gaps in terms of understanding the socio-economic dependence of locals on forests and its impact on subsistence lifestyle of these communities once conservation intervention has been introduced by the State. The focus is mainly on the knowledge gaps resulting from an undervaluation of non-wood forest produce. The objective of this study is to evaluate the use and collection pattern of minor forest produce by the rural poor. This is relevant in the larger context of the study to delineate the changing attitude towards forests and forest resources when these areas have been designated as legally protected areas under the State conservation initiative. Previous studies in Nepal and other places in India showed that local people comprising small and big farmers had come into conflict with the forest department over the issues of grazing in and around the national boundary, access to fodder and firewood and the protection of their crops from the wild animals coming from the park (Ghimire 1992; Pers Comm 2003; WWF 2007).

The case study area being examined is Kanha National Park (henceforth KNP). The causal factors have been traced using a household social survey to ascertain the socio-economic condition of the people living in Kanha. The survey also helped to identify some of the problems faced by the locals, the various income sources which they relied upon and the vulnerabilities caused from the loss of this source of livelihood. Descriptive statistics

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have been used to describe and analyse some of the important factors or variables, which are linked to the causal factors behind the conflict. For the purpose of this study, KNP has been divided into four zones: core, fringe core, buffer and the relocated area, based on the geographical proximity to the forest area.

Some of the resources utilised by the local people in KNP have been described along with their dependence on these on a daily basis. This is mainly to explain variations in local attitudes t owards the creation of park rules and regulations based on the collection and income pattern of the residents. Knowledge of the daily collection practice helps in understanding the problems faced by local residents and the importance of these resources, which often served as “safety nets” enabling people to sustain themselves during seasons when agricultural produce was low (Jodha 1990; 1991; Kothari et al 1998: 2607; Christ et al 2006). Some of the problems faced by the locals have also been described to explain the existence of human-animal conflict in KNP which could potentially play a role in shaping the local perception of people towards the creation of KNP.


Most of the data on the socio-economic condition of the rural population in Kanha was collected using a household questionnaire. The questionnaire was designed and tested in a separate village in a different national park area as a focus group study. It was then modified based on this and questions were framed in order to capture the socio-economic condition of the people. Questions were asked pertaining to the lifestyle of the people and ownership of property such as: the kind of lands they owned; the crops they grew; whether they had livestock and how and what they fed them; whether they sent them to graze in the buffer area of the forest; if there were incidents of livestock being killed by wild animals; whether they had daily clashes with the park officials with regard to entering the park to collect resources or graze their cattle. The data collected from the survey was sufficient to draw a picture of the socio-economic condition of the people living in and around Kanha.

The questionnaire mainly dealt with four distinct areas: socioeconomic conditions, behaviour, attitudes and beliefs. It was also a semi-structured and partially open questionnaire because in many instances, there was a lot of information which could not be recorded and one had to be flexible in terms of recording information in the form of notes or adding some relevant questions to enable the flow of conversation when a relevant point was being made. Questions were asked pertaining to the problem area: viz, awareness of and reasons for the creation of the national park; existence of park rules; attitude t owards the designation of the forest area as a park and park rules; preservation of wild animals; benefits received as a result of the creation of the park in terms of firewood, construction materials (like bamboo, thatched grass, etc), spices, fruits, nuts, honey, and minor forest produce for sale like leaves and mahua (local alcohol); costs incurred after the designation of the area as a park in terms of damage to property, livestock and crops; loss of access to forest property; and, inability to hunt freely as was the former practice a few generations ago.

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Furthermore, all qualitative data collected, even if it was an unimportant piece of information, was initially given equal weight in terms of whether it reflected the real aim of the study so that inconsistencies were not overlooked; instead they helped in understanding why such contradictions existed. Frequent i nterpretation and understanding of these inconsistencies clarified the confusion regarding the occurrence of a particular contradictory event or incident viz, refusal of the locals to comply with park rules and regulations in Kanha. This was mainly done by listening to the accounts narrated by both parties, i e, the v ersions of the local people and of the state officials.

Ethnographic methods were also used to understand the various nuances of the lives of people and the deprivation they experienced following the creation of the legally designated national park area. The interviews were conducted in villages within each zone in order to give adequate representation to the four zones with respect to their proximity to the park. Each household was considered as an “interview unit” or a socio-economic unit, and interviews were conducted with household representatives b ecause members of a household, especially in poor rural areas, usually combined their individual incomes to subsist. The pooling of food resources was also done at the household level, even though there could be some variations among individual families with respect to pooling of income and food resources. For instance, there were some households where members had moved to the towns in search of a job. But when the household was interviewed they described their income pattern as one unit. Data analysis was done using cross-tabulation analysis. Chi-square tests (notation X2 and df) were done to test significant association between both dependent and independent variables. The main dependent variable identified was people’s reaction to the national park area. Independent variables were: geographical proximity to the park (i e, those located within one or two kilometres from the boundary of the park); the various collection patterns of the people; income and the various income categories; benefits received from the park; age; and, education.

Common Problems Faced by the Local Communities

With the creation of the national park, restrictions were imposed on access to the forest in order to protect the wild animals (Saberwal et al 2001). Hunting of wild animals was strictly prohibited and any form of harm or disturbance to wildlife was discouraged (Madhusudan et al 2003; Mukherjee 2009). As a result, the villages surrounding the buffer area of the park faced a number of problems. Since some of the villages were located adjacent to the park, a common problem faced by the villagers was crop loss as a result of wildlife interference or when wild animals attacked livestock owned by the villagers (Madhusudan et al 2003; WWF 2007; Lamarque et al 2009). Studies conducted in Africa confirm that many conflicts between humans and wildlife (viz, elephants) have been caused by the destruction of crops by elephants (Saberwal et al 2001; O’Connell-Rodwell et al 2000; Osborn and Parker 2003; WWF 2007; Weston 2009). Sultana Bashir’s (2000) study in Wayanad Sanctuary, Kerala also reiterated the common problems faced by the locals, mainly wildlife interference leading to crop loss. In Kanha, the common pest animals that consume or destroy crops are sambar (wild deer), chital, wild boars and occasionally tigers. Similar instances of crop damage have occurred in villages that were located within the core and the fringe-core area of the park.1 Thus my initial hypothesis was that this was one of the main causes of discontent among the local communities living adjacent to the park because it was illegal to harm the animals even though retaliatory killings were rampant in such rural ecosystem areas (Asare et al 2009).

A primary finding from the study in Kanha was that none of the people who were interviewed perceived the wildlife as belonging to the human communities of the local forest area where they lived (Pers Comm 2003). This finding is consistent with the 1997 study by Ezealor and Giles on the Sahelian wetland area. This attitude indicated the net impact of the feeling of alienation towards the wildlife of the wetland as expressed by the people (Ezealor and Giles 1997). This perception might have been due to the crop depredation associated with wildlife as recounted in n umerous studies on human-wildlife conflict (WWF 2007; Asare et al 2009). Assuming that this was one of the factors responsible for discontent among the local people, an analysis was run between crop loss due to wildlife interference (which is my explanatory variable) and agreement or attitude towards the creation of the national park (my respondent variable).2

Table 1 describes some of the common problems faced by the local people living around the park area. It is seen that 28% of

Table 1: Most Common Problems Faced by the Local Population* the sample interviewed

Common Problems % of People said that they faced cli-
Climatic Conditions 28.4 matic problems with re
Disease/Pests 4.5 gard to the maintenance
Wildlife Interference 66 of crops and about 5% a t-
Missing 1 tributed crop damage to

* This question was adapted from Bashir’s (2000) questionnaire while designing the questionnaire for disease and pests. Sixtythe study.

six per cent of the sample interviewed stated that wildlife interference was the main reason behind crop damage. Hence, it was reasonable to conclude that wildlife interference was the main cause behind the discontent of the local communities.3 In order to determine whether wildlife interference determined people’s attitude towards the park, a cross-tabulation analysis was done between the two variables. A contingency table was constructed along with a chi-square test for measuring association between the variables, attitude towards the creation of the national park and wildlife interference.

The variable “attitude of the people towards the creation of the national park” was selected in order to perceive local attitude towards the creation of the park. The attitude of the people was an important determinant of the outlook of the people towards state conservation measures. Though several factors may influence this attitude, wildlife interference was considered the single most significant factor in determining whether the locals were happy or unhappy about the creation of KNP. This variable also enables us to understand how the creation of KNP has affected the socio-economic conditions and day-to-day life of the local people in KNP. It implied whether the locals agreed or strongly agreed, disagreed or strongly disagreed to the creation of the n ational park and its rules and regulations.

There were some discrepancies though this variable was selected to measure local perceptions. Initially, a five-point scale was fixed to measure the attitude of the people ranging from “strongly agree”, “agree”, “indifferent” to “disagree” and “strongly disagree” which was collapsed into “agree”, “disagree” and “indifference” for two important reasons. One, the respondents were not able to distinguish clearly between “strongly agree” and “agree” or “strongly disagree” and “disagree”, and hence the response was poor in this respect. Later, in the analysis those who strongly agreed or strongly disagreed came up as outliers as they were very few. Hence, the categories “agree”, “strongly agree” and “disagree” and “strongly disagree” were merged into two categories, respectively.

The results showed that 28% of the people interviewed who had not experienced any wildlife interference agreed to the creation of the national park. The results were contrary to what one might expect, that is, that those who did not suffer crop loss would agree more to the creation of the park than those who did suffer crop loss. Cross-tabulation analysis showed that 49% of the people disagreed (were opposed) because they had suffered crop loss as opposed to 39% of the people who did not suffer any crop loss due to wildlife interference and yet disagreed to the national park. This showed that even though the total percentage of people who suffered crop loss in Kanha from wildlife interference was 66% (Table 1), of the 34% who did not suffer crop loss, 42% agreed and 39% disagreed. This inference was drawn from the chi-square test for measuring association. The results showed no significant relationship between the variables crop loss from wildlife interference and its influence on the attitude of the people towards the park. The findings suggest that the reason why they were opposed to the national park was not due to wildlife interference even though it was one of the common problems faced by the people in KNP. This finding is contrary to the findings of previous studies (Woodroffe et al 2005). There were several other factors that added to the discontent of the people apart from human-animal conflict which influenced and shaped local perceptions.

Having discussed the common problems faced by the local people living near rural ecosystems, I now look at the economic importance of wild forest resources for them. The following subsections in this paper are based on primary data from Kanha to establish the dependence of the rural poor on forest resources. However, it is beyond the scope of this study to look at the economic value of wild foods in detail, as that would constitute a separate study in itself. The next section briefly reviews the significance of forest resources before analysing primary data collected in Kanha. This is to underline the fact that forest resources have always provided for the livelihood needs of the rural poor. The importance of some of these resources and their collection pattern explains how the denial of access rights had led to discontent among these grass-roots level actors.

Economic Valuation of Common Property Resources

Common Property Resources (CPRs) generally comprise resources like food, fuel, fibre, small timber, manure, bamboo, medicinal herbs, oils, raw material for handicraft4 products, resin gum, honey, etc.

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The rural poor, especially women and children, engage in collecting and utilising these resources as they are a good supplement for meeting subsistence needs especially during lean periods (Beck and Ghosh 2000; Beck and Nesmith 2001; Reichrath 2006; Mukherjee 2011 forthcoming). The amount of income raised by forest user groups is a good indicator of the economic value of CPRs (Hunt et al 1996 cited in Malla 2000: 7). These resources can be accessed by the whole community within a village and there are no exclusive individual usufruct rights (Beck et al 2000: 147-53). In West Bengal for instance, CPRs generated about 10-40% of the income of the rural poor (Beck 1998). The incentive to collect, use and manage these resources differed widely based on where they were found and access to these resources was controlled accordingly. More often, these resources were accessed by women and children, particularly belonging to groups living below the poverty line (Beck et al 2000). Previous studies on the significance of CPRs in the arid regions of India showed that they provided 14-23% of the income of the rural poor, which household, the greater the dependence upon and the contribution of CPRs. Other studies conducted by authors like Iyengar et al (1999), Chakravarty-Kaul (1998), and Gadgil et al (1995, 1992) have pointed out that the “local communities” have the ability to manage local natural resources. The most commonly cited example was the mutually beneficial agreement made between pastoralists and cultivators after the harvest, by which the pastoralists were invited to graze their cattle for a fixed period on the land of the cultivators in exchange for cattle manure (Beck et al 2001: 123).

Establishing the significance of these resources for the rural poor, I have identified dependence as a causal factor determining the attitude of the people towards KNP. The term dependence has been used to explain the amount of forest resources used or regularly consumed by the local people, in order to meet their daily subsistence needs. A good index for measuring dependence is the

collection habits of the

Figure 1: Proportion of People Dependent on Each of the Forest Resources (percentage) people. Another is the

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 percentage and utility

increased to more than 50% in dry periods (Scoones et al 1992: 169-70). Other studies have estimated that CPRs contributed around $5 billion a year to the income of the rural poor in India (Reichrath 2006). In Wayanad sanctuary, local residents sold wild foods such as honey and mushrooms along with gooseberries and other medicinal plants earning an annual average income of Rs 3,500 (i e, $75) per household (Shylajan and Mythili 2003: 109 as quoted in WRI 2005). Jodha’s study in the villages of Rajasthan showed that almost 80-100% of the people depended on CPRs for fuel, fodder and food (Jodha 1995) and for 21 districts over seven states, 84 to 100% of the poor households depended on public lands for food, fodder, fuel and other needs (Jodha 1986).

Tony Beck’s study on the significance of CPRs in the rural areas of West Bengal, however, showed that access to resources such as fruits, crops and unused lands was declining as they were being increasingly commercialised or access to these was being restricted (Beck 1998). In other instances, access to many of these village resources had not been legally defined and so it depended on a process of negotiation and conflict between the rich and the poor and on a system of customary rights. According to Freese (1998) as quoted by Beck and Nesmith (2001: 123) the elite had increased their control over CPRs which were being used by the poor, partly through privatisation or enclosure of formerly “common” land and partly through refusal of access to CPRs over which previously they had access rights. The economic value of CPRs varied widely depending on the size, condition and type of forest, the level of forest utilisation, the type and proximity of markets and the kind of income-generation activity practised (Hunt et al 1996 cited in Malla 2000: 7).

Furthermore, other studies conducted by Fairhead et al (1996) in Guinea, West Africa, showed that local forest patches were not merely vestiges of previous extensive forest cover but were actively managed forest which continued to increase over time and not decline, as revealed by local history and archival sources (Beck et al 2001:120). Research on the use and management of CPR in India has also revealed that they contributed about 12-25% to the income of a rural poor household and, the poorer the

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value of some of the resources collected by


the household. Figure 1 shows the proportion


Thatch grass

of people dependent


on forest resources by


analysing the various

Tendu and others

resources collected by

the local people (Figure 1). The next section discusses some of the resources commonly used by the locals in Kanha and their collection patterns.

Utility Value of Resources Collected

The utility value of forest resources for the poor who are resource dependent in rural ecosystems has been discussed often in literature (Jodha 1990; Beck and Ghosh 2000; Mamo et al 2007; K amanga et al 2009). Apart from non-fuelwood products which are used for various purposes, fuelwood has its own importance for the resource poor people. Its collection is much higher than of most of the other resources that are collected from the forest. The survey showed that of the total sample interviewed, about 97.8% stated that they relied on firewood for cooking purposes on a daily basis and 100% stated that they relied on wood for both heating and other domestic purposes. This is mainly because fuelwood has a high utility value. It is the main source of domestic energy and is utilised by every household except for those reliant on biogas (gas generated from cow dung). Natural gas (LPG) and kerosene are scarce resources as are coal and charcoal and therefore fuelwood is mainly used in this region for cooking purposes. The large number of local teashops, tourist lodges and restaurants around the park all rely on fuelwood for cooking and other related activities. Besides cooking, it is also used for heating in the winter, as well as for fencing and other household needs.

Other domestic needs include construction of wooden furniture, wooden doors and small fences for the houses. Hundred per cent of the people stated that wood was an essential resource for their day-to-day survival and that they needed to collect it regularly.

H owever, only 26% of the sample population reported selling firewood (N=90) when asked directly.5 The other resources collected mainly by the local communities included honey, bamboo, thatched grass (78% of the interviewed sample), tubers, fruits and nuts, tendu and other kinds of foliage for household handicraft purposes. Thatched grass is also used for building roofs of

Figure 2: Percentage of People Using Bamboo in the Four Different Zones





Core Core-fringe Buffer Relocated
Collect 55.6 71.4 58.6 45.4
Buy locally 5.6 0 6.9 13.6
Both 0 0 1 0
None 38.9 26.6 31 40.9

traditional houses and other domestic purposes. Sometimes it is also used as an alternative fodder for the cattle.

Apart from thatched grass, bamboo, tendu and mahul leaves are also important to a large extent for a number of purposes. Bamboo is used for constructing houses and roofs, and the requirement of bamboo varied with the design and size of the house. Bamboo poles are used as beams, rafters and columns in the construction of houses and for creating fences around agricultural fields to keep animals from entering and eating the crops. Bamboo poles are also used as ladders. This explains why 52% of the people collected bamboo (Figure 2).

Use and Collection Pattern of Forest Resources by the Local People

Collection pattern based on Village Zones: Having identified dependence on forest resources earlier as an important determinant shaping local perception towards national park areas, it is important to unpack the collection habits of the people based on their geographical proximity to the park. The percentage of people accessing these resources and utilising them was higher in zones which were geographically closer to the park than in the zones which were more distant. For instance, people belonging to the core zone or the buffer area of the national park area are more likely to use forest resources than those in the relocated (fringe core and relocated) villages that are far from the park. Zonal dependence here means the dependence of the people in each zone on forest resources. Descriptive statistics have been used to describe clearly how and in what proportion each zone used the forest resources.

Collection habits of the locals helped to establish the level of dependence among the various categories of people interviewed in the household survey. The results of the survey showed that 56% of the people interviewed in the core region used bamboo (Figure 2), 78% used thatched grass (Figure 3), 83% tendu and mahul leaves (Figure 4), 89% firewood (Figure 5). 6%, 56% and 65% respectively used honey, fruit and nuts and tubers in the core region (Figure 6). In the fringe-core region, it was seen that collection and use of firewood (87%, see Figure 5) and bamboo (71%, see Figure 2) was much higher than in the buffer and relocated villages. Since these two zones were located inside the national park area, this facilitated easy collection even though most of the collection was made illegally.

This indicator determined the basis on which local people accepted or rejected national park rules and regulations. The findings suggest that between the four zones of the village and the collection pattern of the people (Table 2, p 65) the core region

Figure 3: Percentage of People Using Thatch-grass in the Four Zones

100 80 60 40 20

Core Core-fringe Buffer Relocated
Collect 77.8 92.9 82.8 86.4
Buy locally 0 0 3.4 0
Both 0 0 0 0
None 22.2 7.1 13.8 13.6

Figure 4: Percentage of People Using Tendu Leaves and Other Minor Forest Products (MFPs)

100 80 60 40 20 0

Core Core-fringe Buffer Relocated

Collect Buy locally BothNone 83.3 11.1 0 5.6 85.7 14.3 0 0 40 23.3 3.3 33.3 63.6 13.6 0 22.7
Figure 5: Percentage of People Using Firewood 100
0Collect Buy locally BothNone Core 88.9 11.1 0 0 Core-fringe 86.7 13.3 0 0 Buffer 72.7 24.2 3 0 Relocated 83.3 12.5 4.2 0

Figure 6: Percentage of People Using Fruits and Nuts


60 40 20 0

Core Core-fringe Buffer Relocated
Collect 55.6 64.3 40 45.5
Buy locally 11.1 7.1 26.7 9.1
Both 0 0 3.3 0
None 33.3 28.6 30 45.5

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had the maximum advantage in terms of collecting resources from the park followed by the buffer zone.

Table 2: Relationship between the Village Zones and Their Ability to Collect Resources as Much as They Want from the Park

Village Zones in Relation Respondents Stating Whether They Could Collect Resources
to the Park as Much as They Liked
Yes Without Being Seen (covertly) No Total %
Core (8) 73% (3) 27% 100
Fringe-core (3) 30% (7) 70% 100
Buffer (16) 70% (7) 30% 100
Relocated new (7) 37% (12) 63% 100
Missing response (27) 30%

The fringe-core (relocated villages) and relocated new villages which were geographically distant from the park were at a disadvantage in accessing resources as compared to the core and the buffer zone. However, the findings showed (Figure 5) that in the fringe core relocated villages and the relocated new villages, firewood collection was at about 87% and 83% respectively. This finding is in contradiction to the results in Table 2 (see above) since chi-square test results showed (p.039) significant association between the village zones and their ability to collect as much resources as possible.

Income Generated from Forest Resources within Each Forest Zone

Forest resources are significant in terms of generating income for the rural poor. The analysis on the linkage between income from forest resources and the village zones showed a significant association between zones closer to the park and those able to collect more resources and earn an income through the process. Table 3 shows that villages located within the core region of KNP earned a higher income from forest resources as they had better access to them than villages located outside the national park area. Hence, these villagers frequented the park more often than people who had been relocated outside the park.

Table 3: Income from Forest Resources within Each The analysis also Forest Zone

showed significant

Village Zone Income from Forest Resources (%)

association between

No Yes Total

people who collec-

Core 20 80 100

ted forest resources

Core fringe 57.1 42.9 100

for meeting liveli-

Buffer 39.4 60.6 100

56.5 100 hood needs (i e, the

Relocated new 43.5

frequency of their collection habits) and the probability of their agreeing to the creation of the park. For instance, people who frequented the park more than once a week and at least once a week displayed a negative attitude towards the establishment of the park compared to those who never went or went once in every two weeks or bought the product (Figure 7).

Livelihood Practices of the Local People in Kanha

As livelihood practices have been identified as one of the key f actors responsible for determining attitudes among the local people, it is important to identify the various sources of income for the households interviewed. The main occupations (which take up most of their time and are their main sources of subsistence) of the respondents interviewed are: agriculture and animal

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husbandry; sale of non-wood forest product; sale of firewood: casual wage employment; salaried income and household industry. Most of the people interviewed stated that they sold their agricultural produce in the local markets (85%). Some of the common products sold included cash crops like mustard or rai (the local name for mustard), which is used to make oil and therefore had a good market demand. Firewood was also an essential commodity but sometimes households could not afford to sell it b ecause they used it for various domestic purposes. So we see that about 74% stated that they did not sell firewood and used it for household consumption, whereas only 26% sold firewood in the local markets. Non-wood forest products were also used for household consumption purposes. These included fruits and nuts, honey, and

Figure 7: Frequency of Collecting Forest Resources by the mahua fruits. Local People (%)

Income from agri-



culture as well as

Twice a week Every 2 weeks

forest produce is important for an accurate assessment of the dependence of the poor on the ecosystem. Selling of farm products and firewood products Every week however varied from household to household as the households also consumed them. On many occasions, households under-reported what they sold because collection of some of the wild resources was forbidden by law. Often there was an overlap between the two sources of income, as in the use of thatch grass for animal fodder or forest leaf litter as crop mulch. Thus it is difficult to arrive at a correct estimation of the significance of collection of wild resources for poor rural incomes, as it was more of an auxiliary source than a main source of income. Whatever be the case, the important point is the various ways people living in KNP used and associated themselves with wild resources, socio-economically.

The survey further showed a higher dependence of people in the core region on minor forest resources. It also showed that in the core region, 80% of the income was derived from forestry compared to the other zones. This is mainly because it is located within the interior of the park and people relied on these r esources for a living and for personal consumption.

Comparatively speaking, 61% of the people in the buffer zone reported that they earned some income from forest resources. This showed that people who were able to access the forest for collection of resources, whether from the buffer or from the interiors, managed to sell them in the local market. Moreover, people in the buffer zone also collected fruits and nuts (40%) and tubers (48%). Tubers were mainly collected for personal consumption and on some occasions they were also sold in the local markets. Of the fruits and nuts, mahua fruit was the most popular amongst the local communities. It is available in large quantities within the buffer and the core region of the park and is used for making local liquor, while dry mahua fruit is also used as an alternate or supplementary fodder for the cattle. Other items collected in large quantities by most of the local communities were tendu and mahul leaves. Figure 1 showed that 60% of the people collected tendu and other leaves as they were a good source of cash income. Figure 4 showed that 83% and 86% of the households in the core and the core fringe areas respectively collected tendu leaves. The lowest collection of tendu and mahul leaf was in the buffer zone. This was mainly because people in the buffer zone had alternate sources of income like tourism and the hotel industry which made them less dependent on these minor forest products. In addition, these trees were sparse in these areas since they were mainly concentrated within the park interiors. Hence, any such collections made were done illegally.

Tendu and mahul leaves are similar to cash crops like tea or coffee. They facilitate easy earning of cash. This is mainly because tendu leaves are used for making local cigarettes (bidis), which are cheap and easy to make. Collection of tendu leaves usually takes place before the monsoon season between April to June and again in winter. This is also the case with collection of mahul leaves which are another source of income. The leaves of the mahul tree are used for making plates, which are then sold to local markets in packs of 100. These plates are then bought by l ocal people during festivals or religious ceremonies. This explained why 60% of the people collected tendu and mahul leaves (see Figure 1).

As mentioned before, bamboo was another commonly collected resource from the forest. Even though its collection is res tricted in the core and the fringe core zones, its collection is permitted in the buffer areas. Since it was an essential commodity for the local communities, a lot of the collection was made illegally, especially within the core areas of the park. People have increasingly encroached into the core areas of the forest in search of bamboo because there were fewer bamboo trees in the buffer zones.

To summarise, people who depend most on the forest resources for their livelihood needs are most likely to feel discontented following the restrictions. In fact, when local people have less income from other alternate sources they are more likely to depend on the forest for their daily needs and hence have greater Table 4: Association between Income from Alternate Sources and Attitude Towards the National Park

Attitude Towards Income from Other Sources %
the Park None Less than 1,000 1,000-2000 2,000-3,000 and above
Agree 9 21 39 62.5
Disagree* 91 79 61 37.5
Total 100 100 100 100
Missing 13.3

The five point scale was merged into agree and disagree as stated earlier.

hostility towards the establishment of the park. Similarly, income groups who have earnings from alternate sources and belong to a higher income category agree to the creation of the national park in contrast to those who have lower incomes from alternate sources. Lower income groups have less diversified sources of income and mainly rely on forest resources for meeting their subsistence needs. Thus we see that the degree of discontent of the people towards the creation of the park decreased with a rise in income from alternate employment sources (Table 4). Those belonging to the higher income group, i e, between Rs 2,000 and Rs 3,000 and above showed a more positive attitude (63%) towards the creation of the park. Evidently, alternate sources of livelihood reduced the dependence of people on forest resources to a large extent. Income and livelihood practices were thus seen as major determinants of the attitude of the local people towards the national park area.

Relationship between Income, Receiving Benefits and People’s Attitude towards the National Park

Since income has been identified as an important determinant in shaping the attitude of the people towards the park, this section analyses the relationship between the various income groups to check whether there is an association between them and the attitude of the people and the benefits derived by the people from the park. The analysis showed that among the lower income groups there was no significant association between agreement to the national park and those receiving or not receiving benefits from the park when the income variable was controlled. However, there was a statistically significant (X2 =18.11, df = 1, P.0005) (Fisher’s Exact Test P=0.000) association between receiving benefits from the park and agreement to the national park. Further analysis showed that 50% of the people in the lower income groups who received benefits agreed to the park and 50% disagreed. This suggested that income was not the only determining factor among lower income groups as far as attitudes to the creation of the national park was concerned. While it was one of the reasons why people among lower income groups disagreed to the creation of the park, other factors might also have shaped and influenced their perception. Contrarily, the higher and middle income groups who did receive benefits from the park agreed to the national park areas.


Most of the respondents were candid about their perception of the national park area. Persons who were reluctant to express their opinions were often asked various other questions or simply reverted to later to get a better response about their opinions and feelings about the national park area, its rules and regulations. In-depth interviews with people further showed that benefits played an important role in shaping people’s attitudes. A good proportion of the people viewed the park as a tourist place which enabled the state to earn a good source of income to the economic and sociocultural detriment of the locals. Locals who adapted to the changing socio-economic scenario around KNP often were economically better off and belonged to the higher income category and hence had a positive outlook towards the national park. The benefits that the lower income category received were often illegal as a consequence of the power struggle between the rural elite and the poor or due to the illegal nexus between forest guards and range officers who often followed the policy of looking the other way, in exchange for an informal inducement.

Hence, despite receiving benefits a high percentage of people in the lower income category were opposed. Conversations with local villagers also revealed that people who did not receive direct benefits from the park still agreed to the park as they were apprehensive of creating illwill between officials and themselves.

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Often these were people who were related to those who received benefits from the park and disagreements might have led to loss of privileges for those who received them. As Neumann had explained, these were examples of community resistance to the state forest policy that threatened established production and reproduction strategies (1998).6 This finding corroborates the above statement that violations of forest rules and regulations also involved the cooperation of other members of the community including the involvement of the forest guards or range

o fficers themselves.

When asked about the relationship between the forest range officers and the local communities, one person stated that as long as they followed the policy of mutual sharing and coexistence, the relationship was not strained. Thus, even if people resented the rules and regulations of the park authority and received no benefits, they agreed to the national park, at least nominally. Apparent acts of acquiescence as in the front stage (Goffman 1959) were often used to camouflage real and hidden subversive scripts (Scott 1990). This attitude was more prominent among the lower income category. This evidence also substantiated the argument as to why lower income categories, despite not receiving benefits, had agreed to the national park. Hence, the divided response from people when asked about their attitude towards the park given the level of income was a constant factor especially among lower income groups. Apart from income and receiving benefits, the other factors responsible for determining attitude towards the creation of the national park were age, education and level of awareness of the people living in the area. For instance, the younger generation had more awareness as they were educated and displayed a positive attitude towards the park compared to the older generation.

Geographical proximity to KNP also played a significant role in determining the attitude of the people. Proximity to the park was significantly related to the ability of the local people to access forest resources; however, there was an obvious contradiction as villages distant from the park were able to collect resources in large quantities. Findings from ethnographic data and in-depth interviews revealed the illegal nexus between local insurgents and the residents of these relocated villages. One specific conversation with a local villager showed that the Naxalites in the Kanha region aided the local people in earning their livelihood when faced with restrictive park entry policies (Local village boy, Pers Comm 2003). Since the relocated villages have been moved into the buffer zone area, some of the people residing in these areas collaborated with the local insurgents in order to collect forest resources illegally (having reasonable political clout in the area) and sold them in the nearby markets without fear of retribution from the forest authorities.

This is indicative of the covert forms of resistance practised by the locals in the region. It also reflects the overt forms of strife between locals and the forest officials. The latter were apprehensive about the local insurgents in the region and were often i ntimidated by their powerful presence. On the one hand, the powerless resorted to covert forms of resistance faced with severe entry and access restrictions within Kanha. On the other hand, the local insurgents operated openly, aiding the powerless to

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earn an income without feeling pressure from the forest officials. For the common man these people were not insurgents but a group of people who were helping local residents in resisting the state forces (Joseph 1990).7 Even though local insurgents were involved in smuggling and poaching (representing intermediate types on the spectrum of social protest) that the state considered as crimes in the conventional sense, the local people often sheltered and supported them and did not regard them as perpetrators in the usual sense (Guha 1983; Joseph 1990).

Summary of Research Findings

From my analysis of the data from the household survey of the socio-economic conditions of the local people resident in the p eriphery area of the park and those that have been relocated, the following findings can be discerned: income, age and education played a role in explaining attitudes towards the national park and park authorities. These factors are important while analysing the political economy of the region in order to explain some of the important nuances of the underlying resource struggles which determined the perception of the people towards protected areas. Earlier village household surveys have shown that there was an association between specific socio-economic factors such as age, education, size and income of households, food expenditure and the knowledge and use of non-commercial non-wood forest products (NWFPs), which were collected for various purposes (Bashir 2000; Richman 2002). It was also found in the present study that those who were better educated had a positive outlook towards conservation mainly because they were motivated by both its utility and intrinsic values. Attitudes of the people were also significantly related to locally perceived benefits.

Even though income did not adequately explain the attitudes of the local people towards the park, it was found that it was the lower income groups or the rural poor who were mostly resistant to park rules and regulations on an everyday basis. This was mainly because lower income groups lacked alternate sources of income and relied heavily on forest resources for meeting their daily subsistence needs. In addition, they were deprived of benefits like cattle grazing and hunting for bush meat that they used to receive as a result of the forest. This was compounded by the underhand activity between the forest guards with some of the privileged locals who won favours from the former through bribes and other corrupt practices. All this culminated in a negative attitude towards the park. Hence, the lower income group has been identified as the most vulnerable and agitated group a ffected by state imposed park rules and regulations.

Another interesting finding was that geographical proximity to the park also determined the attitude of the local people towards the national park area. For instance, people living within the park or just in the buffer zone were less hostile to the rules and regulations compared to the rural poor households relocated in places far from the park area. This was because the latter did not gain the same benefit as the rural elite households who managed to get benefits by engaging in various activities such as the hotel industry or the local tourist industry or by selling dairy products to the local hotels and accommodation places and were relatively better off, economically. This also showed that those who stood to gain from the creation of the national park were clearly agreeing to its creation unlike the 48% who might not gain from the lucrative tourist industry. Furthermore, the negative attitude was likely to be strong among people who had less opportunity to earn livelihoods from other sources like casual wage labourers or migrant jobseekers who moved to nearby towns and cities. One other point was that the households who were socio-economically better off wielded considerable influence among the low ranking forest guards living in the buffer region. Thus they stood to gain from the park compared to the rural poor who lived in abject poverty. This explained why 52% of the people in the buffer zone displayed a positive attitude towards the park.

In addition, the fact that the buffer zone was located around the border of the national park posed a potential danger, i e, any overt expression of negative feeling might be suppressed because patrolling activity of the forest officials was quite prominent around the region. There was a significant association (p value .019.05) between the variables “agreement to the national park” and “respondent’s residence status” in relation to the park. In other words, it implied that greater the proximity to the park the higher the agreement, and the farther the location the lower the agreement. The above analysis and findings have been conducted to determine the level of dependence of the local people and the collection habits and practices which subsequently, determined the attitude of the people towards the state-designated national park area. This attitude was also dependent on the geographical proximity to the park and explained why people who were located within the park had an even more negative a ttitude than those located in the buffer zones (see previous discussion). Though their negative attitude would not directly affect the creation of the park, it contained seeds of future discontent following the sociocultural alienation. The other reason was that the relocated lands were not as fertile as the forestland where they originally lived. In their original homes, there was free availability of water, since the park was located next to the Hallon River which made the area fertile and green for cattle grazing pastures compared to the unfertile arid territory where they had been shifted.

More importantly, even though most residents could not identify exactly the benefits that they derived from the park, these benefits were a decisive factor which determined their attitude towards the park. Benefits from the national park included being able to access resources from the park, to hunt wild animals, to graze cattle within the forest area, to own land and to earn an income with the creation of the park. But they were aware of the deprivations that they were subjected to following the creation of the park in terms of restricted access to resources like non-wood forest products and wild meat; entry restrictions for grazing of cattle inside the park; lack of pastures and fodder for cattle; loss of livelihood and source of subsistence for the local population. In addition, the local people had very few differences of opinion, as far as human-wildlife conflicts were concerned even though these were not significant in determining their attitude towards the park. A large number of people also considered tourism to be the main reason for the fencing of the forest area.


Forest dwelling communities have been the first to protest against ecological practices which alienated the local people from nature. The creation of enclosed spaces or a fortress attitude to conservation areas has always generated much hostility among those who are most dependent on these areas for their daily living. Their general argument is that being closer to nature they should naturally be entitled to access and use the resources of these ecosystem areas. However, a reality check points to a process in which the rural poor lose their entitlement and are excluded from using and accessing natural resources, so that pristine areas may be protected in their natural form without causing damage to their flora and fauna.

On the other hand, such an approach often runs the risk of b eing exploitative of the socio-economic and cultural needs of the rural communities which is often visible and direct. For i nstance, rich farmers who benefited from irrigation and cash crop agriculture, the state tourism industry which drew incomes from tourists, merchants who profited from distress sales by poor peasants, the technicians and bureaucrats who managed largescale projects have often found it convenient to hide behind an ideology of “development” (Omvedt 1971). The peasant communities, i e, those that were lower in the social scale, however, were unable to exploit the dynamics that often led to their further economic impoverishment. The only apparent reason for their poverty and suffering was the boundary line around the forest territory that formerly belonged to them. This was followed by the restrictions imposed on them in accessing forest resources creating a scarcity of resources, which they could access previously. As starvation is caused not by food shortage but by the shortage of income, lack of livelihood practices and purchasing power (Sen 1971), this can be interpreted as a systematic dispossession of the local communities who were once attached to these ecosystem areas, historically speaking. Hence, the incidence of conflict between the latter and those in conservation is ongoing.

Current studies have shown that the best way to deal with park-people interface conflict is by increasing the stakes of the local people (Hindustan Times 2007). Park outreach activities that encourage the engagement of the local people not just in tourism activities but also in managing resources as part of conservation programmes can often generate a positive response from people. This can be displayed by delegating power and responsibility to the people and giving them ownership of the very resources from which they have been socio-politically alienated by the state. The findings from this study strongly suggest the alignment of the interests of the locals, conservationists and the tourists in order to ensure a successful conservation intervention. Even though education and awareness of the significance of conservation can help in creating an understanding among the locals of the importance of preserving wildlife, positive stakes alone can make them cooperate in pro-conservation practices which would be conducive to reducing hostility among locals towards such programmes.

june 18, 2011 vol xlvi no 25


1 For the purpose of making this study realistic, I had to divide the population that I surveyed into four geographical zones, based on their location within and outside the park. They are: the old buffer, the relocated new, fringe-core relocated new and the core villages.

2 The analysis was run using cross tabulation in SPSS to find out any significant association between the two variables.

3 This assumption was made based on the focus group study that was initially conducted in Kanha. The people were asked about some of the common problems that they encountered as a result of the national park. Almost all the people interviewed stated that they faced crop-loss due to animal damage but they could not do anything to the animals to retaliate, given the strict prohibition on harming wildlife in the region.

4 The fibre from plants and other raw materials are used for making ropes and other handicraft p roducts.

5 Not much emphasis was given to the sale of firewood. Though the question existed in the questionnaire, this question was not stressed much as this was one of the resources over which there was a lot of controversy since it was an important resource for the daily needs of the local communities. Overemphasis of this question would have resulted in under-reporting of the collections made since the sale of firewood is illegal around national parks unless it is collected from the buffer zone. Most of the wood collected consisted of dead twigs and logs of dry wood.

6 Neumann (1998) had explained that forest encroachers could never be characterised as independent-acting, asocial criminals. Such activities were well planned and organised tactical manoeuvres to appropriate forest resources and land, and their success necessarily required a degree of community cooperation.

7 The peasant’s own perception of crime differed greatly from that of his class enemies (i e, the landlords, bosses, and government officials). The latter tended to lump all forms of defiance of the law as crime, even though the peasant was normally tolerant of crimes of indigence and often regarded acts of defiance against authority as justifiable protest (Guha 1983). The “official mind” of the state (as reflected in the police and judicial records that served as the basis for much of the existing revisionist historiography on banditry and rebellion), might be inclined to view and most certainly portray such social phenomena as criminal deviance (Foucault 1977). By contrast, peasant rebels would tend to interpret such behaviour as clear-cut social protest (Guha 1983).


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    December 11, 2010
    Dissecting the Ayodhya Judgment – Anupam Gupta
    Secularism and the Indian Judiciary – P A Sebastian
    Idols in Law – Gautam Patel
    Issues of Faith – Kumkum Roy
    Was There a Temple under the Babri Masjid?
    Reading the Archaeological ‘Evidence’ – Supriya Varma, Jaya Menon

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