Peace and quiet reigns in the early morning in the village of Dhaba in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. The people emerge slowly from their houses and gather in front of the “Documentation Centre”. The women wear typical, heavy silver chains around their necks and carry their babies in their arms.
The residents of the village belong to the Baiga ethnic group. They originally lived in the woodland and lived on its fruits, leaves, roots and mushrooms and on hunting. Their natural living space has shrunk in recent decades, as a result of which they are now compelled to safeguard their survival as day labourers and through subsistence farming.
Woodland for the Baiga
In addition to the government-backed employment programme, laying claim to the rights which are enshrined in woodland and land rights legislation is an important cornerstone in the activities in the 120 Baiga villages. SWISSAID’s partner organisation and the local people must endure complex and tedious processes in order to claim these rights. The villagers have to prove that they have used the woodland or the land for at least two generations.
However, it has been worth the persistence and stubbornness. Last year, the 105 families from Dhaba alone were promised 9100 hectares of community woodland, and 33 families successfully applied for land ownership, whereby the ownership certificates are made out in the names of both spouses. Around 90 applications are still pending.
Promoting women: Courage to act
Project code: IN 2/12/20
Duration of the project: until 2013
Project costs: 96,265 Swiss francs