Itchari Community Reserve Forest Conservation Project, Khagrachari
Implementing Entity : Boudhi Investigate and Research Assembly of Men (BIRAM)
Location : Khagrachari Sadar, Khagrachari
Duration : 3 Years (June 2009 - July 2012)
Budget : BDT. 6,000,000 (USD 1.00 = BDT 69.00 approx.)
Context :

The Chittagong Hill Tract (CHT), which has a total area of 13,189 sq. km. (9 % of Bangladesh), is characterized by hilly terrain covered by dense and bio-diverse tropical evergreen and semi-evergreen forests. The region is the home of 11 tribes of indigenous communities, who all are traditionally dependent on the forests, especially on shifting cultivation, for their livelihoods. For many centuries, the indigenous communities have managed the forests in a sustainable manner by keeping the rotation of their shifting cultivation long enough. But, in the last 3-4 decades, increased population pressure, especially due to in-migration of poor people from the plains and expansion of road networks and markets, most of natural (old-growth) forests of the region have been lost and have been brought under short-rotation shifting cultivation, crop-agriculture and plantations (teak, rubber, fruit trees). Thus the biodiversity of the region, both flora and fauna, have depleted badly. Aside from deforestation and land-use change, now boulders are removed by people from gullies, creeks and canal beds, which are sold to traders and used for making stone chips for construction works. This practice aggravates soil erosion and landslide and reduces water retention capacity of the soil - the latter causing drying out of water streams in the dry season. The lands of the CHT, except those that have been reserved by the Forest Department, are managed by the Civil administration of the district and are leased out to people (indigenous as well as non-indigenous) for teak plantation and other farming activities. Teak plantation and other farming activities (cultivation of banana, pineapple, turmeric, ginger, etc.) also cause massive soil erosion.

Amid this general scenario of the CHT, some of the indigenous communities still conserve some patches of natural forests as communal property, especially on the parts of the hills from where water streams originate. They do so mainly for sustained flow of water in the streams but they also get timber, bamboo and other minor forest products from such forests for household use. A management committee of the respective community, generally headed by the Headman of the Mouza or the Karbari (Village Head) of the village, oversee such community reserved forests. Such community conserved forest areas (CCA) are called in different names by different communities such as Village Common Forest (VCF), Community Reserve Forest (CRF), Mouza Ban (Mouza forest) or Para Ban (Village forest). The community conserved forests act as repository of the biodiversity of the respective areas (although many species of plants and wildlife have already become extinct). Aside from the CCAs, some of the khas lands (state owned land) and private lands remain fallow and develop into scrub forests, which also harbor many native species of plants and provide shelter to wildlife.

Objectives :
  1. to establish community based co-management and community capacity building and empowering communities
  2. to study floral and faunal biodiversity of conserving forests
  3. to develop eco-tourism facilities in the conservation areas
  4. to restore, conserve and enhance sustainable productivity at the ecosystem level
Progress/Achievements (as of June 2011) :

This project, implemented by BIRAM, is located in Panchari Union of Khagrachari Sadar Upazila of Khagrachari district. The Itchari Community Reserve Forest (CRF) has an area of 67 ha and belongs to a community of 165 households in two villages, Itchari Vitor Para and Itchari Madhya Para. The baseline survey of the CRF revealed that there are 37 species of trees in the CRF while 10 indigenous species of the forest have been lost. Although there was a management committee for the CRF since decades, it was not so active and encroachment and illicit felling of trees were taking place in the CRF. After BIRAM raised awareness of the community members through a number of discussion meetings, the community established a new management committee for the CRF. Through technical assistance and input support from the project, the project participants have developed a management plan for the CRF and have planted about 4,675 saplings of indigenous species in the gaps of the CRF and other places of the villages.

To support alternative livelihood development, BIRAM has established a revolving fund at the CRF organization by contributing BDT 500,000 from the project and initiating a participatory savings program (BDT 5/month) involving the group members. It provided skill development training on fish farming, mushroom cultivation and grafting techniques to 20, 28 and 19 participants, respectively. Using the revolving fund and other technical assistance of the project, 64 out of 165, participants (39%) have adopted various AIG activities such as fish culture (18 participants), mushroom cultivation (18), pig rearing (12) and goat rearing (9 participants).

BIRAM shared the experience of the project with all relevant stakeholders at the Upazila level including government officials, community leaders and civil society organizations by organizing an experience sharing meeting.

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Phone: +880-2-8711240
Fax: +880-2-8711592
Address: House# 21, Western Road, DOHS, Banani. Dhaka - 1206, Bangladesh

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