March 21, 2014
Joint Forest Management Committee members working at the Water Harvesting Site in Tamil Nadu
New Delhi, March 21, 2014: In November 1971, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations decided the annual observance of 21 March as International Day of Forests. Since then the day is celebrated around the world to remind the public of the importance of forests and their blessings and raise awareness of the key forest-related facets such as protection, production and recreation.
India is a country where poverty is predominant with approximately 302 million people living below the poverty line (BPL). Most of the poor in India are confined to rural or tribal areas and the livelihood of the majority of these people depends directly or indirectly upon forestry resources. Being in the primary stage of development, the poor largely live off the land and actively use fire woods, fodders, timber and other products taken from forests, thus putting immense pressure on the natural forests around them. Over decades, perhaps centuries, this has resulted in extensive degradation of forests and depletion of forest resources across the country, driving the Government of India to undertake massive afforestation/regeneration programmes with their own resources and with assistance from international donors.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)'s assistance to the forestry sector started in 1991 with the "Afforestation and Pasture Development Project along Indira Gandhi Canal Area" in Rajasthan. Since then, JICA's Loans have been extended to a total of 22 projects, across 12 states in India, making Japan the largest donor in the sector with a cumulative commitment of 214 billion Japanese Yen (approximately Rs.12,000 crores) and with the total afforestation area of 26,000 km2.
In the field of technical cooperation, JICA and the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF), Government of India have conducted a national level project aiming at further improvement of trainings for State Forest Services at Central Academy for State Forest Service (CASFOS), Dehradun. The project is the first technical cooperation project in the sector in India and total 5 Japanese experts stationed in Dehradun have worked with Indian counterparts during 5-year project implementation period.
Furthermore, JICA have organized national annual workshops serves as a platform to share the best practices and experiences along with the issues and challenges being faced by all executing agencies.
A number of notable achievements of JICA assisted projects include, a) environmental improvement due to increased forest cover through large scale afforestation and regeneration, b) effective soil and moisture conservation measures, c) institutional strengthening of the forest departments in terms of management and introduction of latest technologies, and d) strong community development of income generation activities.
According to Shinya Ejima, Chief Representative of JICA in India, "We sincerely hope that the knowledge and experiences of JICA-assisted forestry projects, which have been formed and implemented through active collaboration between Japan and India, would contribute to massive afforestation toward the national target of 33% forest cover and sustainable livelihood improvement of the poor. JICA will to continue its positive support for the forestry sector projects in India in the years to come."
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is a Japanese government institution responsible for providing Japanese Official Development Assistance (ODA) Loans, Grant Aids and Technical Cooperation to developing countries. Japanese ODA Loans are concessionary, long-term, low interest funds that supplement the efforts of the developing countries in building their socio-economic infrastructure and achieving economic stabilization.
Grant Aid is provision of funds to the governments of developing countries without the obligation of repayment for social and economic development. Technical Cooperation Projects is to provide knowledge, experience, and skills to resolve specific issues through dispatching of experts, invitation of personnel from developing countries for training, or provision of necessary equipment.
Japan's ODA to India first started in 1958, when a Japanese ODA Loan of 18 billion Japanese Yen was extended to supplement the efforts of implementing the Second Five Year Plan at the request of the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. In 2004, India became the largest recipient country of Japanese ODA Loans in terms of annual commitment, and that trend has continued until today.
JICA works to help developing countries become self-reliant in pursuing their own socio-economic development. Its aim is to act as a bridge between Japan and developing countries so that their knowledge and experience can be shared and developing nations can strengthen their own problem solving capabilities.