International Day of Forests: JICA’s Support for Ecological Restoration and Sustainable Livelihoods

New Delhi: JICA is committed for upgradation and sustenance of India’s forest lands.

According to the India State of Forests Report (ISFR) 2019 the total forest and tree cover of India is 80.73 million hectares which accounts for 24.56% of the geographical area of the country. In comparison with ISFR 2017, there is an increase of 5,188 sq. km in the total forest and tree cover of the country[1]. India is taking credible strides for improving its ecology and the socio-economic conditions of the forest dependent population. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is providing its strong support to the sector for the last three decades and it’s efforts are in line with the national target of Government of India of bringing 33% forest coverage in the country. In this context, JICA celebrated the International Day of Forests, in order to symbolize the impact created by its forestry projects in India.

Since 1991, JICA has extended support for enhancing the afforestation, protection and conservation efforts of India through the Joint Forest Management (JFM) approach by granting Official Developmental Assistance (ODA) loans of 270 billion Japanese Yen (approximately INR 18,000 Crore) to the country. Projects are spread across Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Nagaland, Odisha, Sikkim, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Tripura. Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh were among the top 5 states that increased their forest cover from 2018 to 2019, according to the India’s State of Forests Report 2019[2]. JICA ODA supports a total plantation area of 3 million hectares (ha) in India.

Speaking on the occasion of International Day of Forests, Mr. Katsuo Matsumoto, Chief Representative, JICA India “Forests play a crucial role in sustaining the health of the planet, as well as ensuring livelihoods of tribal and rural population that rely on these forests for resources. JICA is committed to ensure the wellbeing of these communities that rely on forests resources for their sustenance. Moreover, we are also providing support for achieving SDG 13, which aim at taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. Our vision is in line with the Government’s priorities for India’s forestry sector.”

JICA has supported 29 projects (27 ODA loan projects across 14 states and 2 Technical Cooperation Projects (TCP), which include 1 ODA loan project targeting capacity development of front line staff at national level). Plantation activities under these JICA supported projects have covered close to 3 million hectares across 14 states. The increase in forest cover due to plantation activities has supported conservation of these forests’ biodiversity as well as contributed to India’s efforts to become greener and cleaner.

Improvement of livelihood of forest-dependent communities is one of the focuses of JICA forestry projects. In line with the participatory approach of Joint Forest Management (JFM) adopted by the Government of India, the forest areas are jointly managed and protected by the local communities along with state forest departments. Under the projects, SHGs are also formed in every JFMC and the members have been provided access to microcredit and capacity development for undertaking Income Generation Activities. For instance, under Phase 1 of Odisha Forestry Sector Development Project (OFSDP), besides plantation activities, a total of 7,358 SHGs were formed and their businesses were scaled up to several cluster level enterprises to self-sustain and expand the scale of business It was followed by Phase 2 project (OFSDP-2) launched in 2017 that besides plantation activities targets to assist 3,600 SHGs in the area not covered by the Phase 1 while also focusing on soil-moisture conservation, bio-diversity conservation, climate change, mitigation of man-animal conflicts, introduction of new technology, etc.

On International Day of Forests 2020, JICA strengthens its resolve to support India in restoration of forest thereby enabling healthier forestry practices for the rural and tribal populations of the country.