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In the early 2000s, local communities living adjacent to the sanctuary began to work in cooperation with the Forest Department to promote co-management of the protected area. The process began quite organically, with the committee forming through community meetings and discussions and developing into an official Co-Management Committee in 2004-5.
Chunoti Co-Management Committee (CMC) protects the once-degraded Chunoti Wildlife Sanctuary and mainly focuses on reducing the overexploitation of timber and non timber forest products. Though, the committee does coordinate volunteer patrols to prevent and discourage illegal logging and wildlife poaching. Patrol teams are often comprised of women and poorer members of the community, and have received additional support for the creation of alternative income generating opportunities.
Patrol teams are often comprised of women and poorer members of the community who receive a stipend of US$ 50 for joining the program. While the stipend provides an incentive for participation, the patrols are essentially volunteer-run. Many women community patrol group members have used their volunteer stipends to purchase cows which provide milk for consumption and sale.
The lot of women in particular has been improved a great deal by the work of the initiative – a considerable achievement in a religiously conservative region, where women’s participation in decision making processes is not the norm. Women in the region are largely uneducated and homebound, with their roles limited by tradition. The empowerment of female community members through the creation of women-led community patrol groups, which patrol the forest alongside a forest guard a few times a week, has been recognized in international media and women are now taking an active role in protecting the wildlife sanctuary. In total, 424 patrol group members have received support to improve their incomes, and as a result many of them have moved out of poverty and begun sending their children to school.
Co-management has required a great deal of investment in community capacity building, particularly on the management side. The history of tension between local practitioners and the government has also required an investment of time in conflict resolution, building trust and fostering cooperation.
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