After an 8 hour jeep ride through the Himalayas, we have arrived to the little and beautiful village of Narayanbagar, where UYRDC is based. Johan and I will be staying here for about a month, learning as much as possible about UYRDCs work in the Chamoli District.
Compared to SOPHIA who work with the Van Gujjars, UYRDC work with the hill communities to facilitate the community forests rights and better management of Van Panchayats (Forest Council) under the Forest Rights Act. The programme is covering 25 villages (905 households) in Narayanbagar Development Block, Uttarakhand,
During our stay here, Johan and I will visit 15 of these 25 villages. First out was Maltura village comprising of 30 households. When we arrived yesterday to the village we were immediately welcomed by a group of women with smiles and tea (the best tea I had in India so far). Around 20 women had come to join the meeting with UYRDC. The meeting started with Gnaishi Devi chairperson of the Van Panchayats holding a speech about the village need to use the forest. It then turned to a general discussion as well as showing their social mapping. The village use this social mapping as evidence to show that they used the forest for 75 years as required by the Forest Rights Act.
Today awaits a new village namely Acer. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to meet these people fighting for their forest rights.