Promise of the Commons

Over 350 million Indians live in rural communities without secure tenure rights over the shared natural resources that adjoin their farmlands. These shared natural resources, referred to as Commons, including forests, pastures, dry lands and water bodies, have the potential to address the interconnected challenges of environmental degradation, social inequalities and unharnessed natural resources-based economic opportunities.

The Foundation for Ecological Security, supported by Tata Trusts, aims to create sustainable livelihoods for 38 million rural poor by strengthening local governance and conserving 30 million acres of Commons in India totalling to 1/5th of India’s total Commons land. The core model on the programme is built on the objectives of securing land rights, resource management planning and ensuring access to resources, leading to ecological health and resilient livelihoods.

In the first phase, the focus is on building the ‘Alliance for Commons’ for collaboration around translating research into implementation for scale and government integration, shifting leadership onto FES regional offices that work with the district and state government to build capacity, and improve awareness about opportunities to use the Commons by integrating data and technology. Even as Prakri Karshayalas (rural colleges) are being set up in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Telangana, new geographies and partners are being identified for the Alliance of the Commons.

In the second phase, the priority will be to add partnerships and lay the ground for expansion, while contributing to research on property rights over natural resources, rural economic growth and the environmental condition through the Alliance. This will be followed by scaling-up the use of information technology tools from the India Observatory through natural resource management and rural development programmes, and providing support for national-level mapping of Commons lands and resources.

In the concluding phase, the outlay is to establish government partnerships in eight states and expand the programmatic reach to cover 12 states. The India Observatory will increase features and products through enriched time-lapse data and application on the ground through governments and partners. Besides organising international events to help knowledge exchange between stakeholders in India and abroad, reports like Commons Contribution to Address Climate Vulnerabilities and Sustainable Development Goals, Alternate Forest Survey of India and Citizens Report on Commons will be published for benchmarking and charting the future course of action.

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