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Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Livelihoods through Assisted

Natural Regeneration – An Analysis of Current Processes and Scope of

A.K. Bansal, M.G. Gogate and P.R. Choudhury


Assisted/Aided Natural Regeneration (ANR) forms the major strategy under the National Afforestation
Plan (NAP) and externally aided forestry projects to enrich degraded forest land. However, unlike as its
name suggests and the way it is practiced in South-east Asia, ANR is often interpreted as a plantation
model in India. Review of ANR practices undertaken in Maharashtra from secondary sources and in
Orissa from primary sources reveals considerable gaps between ANR prescriptions and practices.
Ongoing ANR approaches are also not in line with the policy shifts in the forestry sector towards
participation, local livelihoods and biodiversity conservation. To bridge these gaps and to aid the process
of Joint Forest Management (JFM), a refined process to ANR planning has been developed in the Orissa
Forestry Sector Development Project (OFSDP). The step-by-step process developed through stakeholder
interactions follows a diagnostic and design approach with the involvement of the community, the Forest
Department and the non governmental organization (NGO) partner. The process relies upon use of grid-
demarcated Geographic Information System (GIS), maps, local ecological knowledge and silvicultural
prescriptions. Through different steps, eco-livelihoods characterization of the grids, collaborative logical
species prioritization matrix and grid-wise treatment plans are developed with stakeholder participation.
Concerns of livelihoods and biodiversity conservation are addressed through promotion of non timber
forest products (NTFPs) along with shrubs, tubers, herbs and climbers, and shifting focus from what-to
cut to what not to cut. This process also provides scope to formalize role of communities and NGOs in
forest planning and management.

Degradation of forests continues to cause serious problems worldwide and deforestation
now is the second largest anthropogenic source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,
according to the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) (2009). A variety
of measures have been tried to address these problems at different levels, with varying
degrees of success, the more recent being the options around Reduced Deforestation
and Degradation (REDD). Communities around the world have also shown their
ingenuity in manipulating forests and ecological succession to reverse the process of
deforestation, evidence of which includes the ‘Slash and Char’ (Biochar/Tera preta)
system practiced by the pre-Columbian Amazonian community to recent community
forestry movements in Orissa, India (Singh, et al., 2005). Assisted or Aided Natural
Regeneration (ANR), based on principles of secondary succession and supplemented
with traditional knowledge and involvement of the local community, is an important
option employed in India and South-east Asia to rehabilitate the degraded tropical
forests through augmenting natural regeneration and enrichment plantations.

In South-east Asia, ANR is regarded as a flexible approach to reforestation. It uses the

natural regeneration of forest trees (“wildlings” or natural seedlings, and sprouts) and
“assists” natural regeneration to grow faster through tending operations. In the
Philippines, it utilizes natural processes and promotes regeneration of indigenous
species for restoring degraded forests covered by Imperata cylindrica grass (Dugan, et
al., 2002). The key elements of ANR in the Philippines are: fire control, restricted
grazing, suppression of Imperata growth and involvement of local people (Ganz and
Durst, 2003). In Indonesia, TPTI (a silvicultural system utilizing selective cutting and
natural regeneration) as a form of ANR has laid out a number of trees to be retained at
different age groups during ANR operation, for example, retaining a minimum of 25,
200, 1,600 and 20,000 per hectare (ha) of evenly distributed nuclei trees, pole-size trees,
saplings and seedlings, respectively. Enrichment planting with tending operations is
carried out for sites with insufficient number of poles, saplings, seedlings (i.e., open
canopy) (Soegiri and Pramono, 2003). Where such a plantation of additional trees is
relied upon as per need, ANR is also referred to as “accelerated natural regeneration”
(Ganz and Durst, 2003).

ANR technologies in South-east Asia comprise site selection, site assessment, site-
species matching, site modification such as shade opening, supplemental or enrichment
planting of appropriate species, protection and maintenance, and monitoring (Sajise,

Table 1: Advantages of ANR in South-east Asia

Aspects Advantages
Economic Faster and cheaper; not necessary to establish nursery
Ecological Promotes and conserves biodiversity; maintains the
(biodiversity and local original vegetation stand and corresponding ecosystem
ecological knowledge functions; maintains the integrity of the soil and involves
perspectives) minimum soil disturbance; promotes hydrologic integrity
and biotic functions; promotes use of indigenous
knowledge (IK); helps blending of traditional knowledge
with modern scientific forestry

Social Treats local communities as an integral part; labor

(community intensive, provides employment for the local community;
participation, promotes empowerment if IK and traditional institutions
empowerment and are used and valued; effective in remote locations where
livelihoods perspectives) government approaches have not been very successful
Source: Sajise (1989), Ganz and Durst (2003), Walpole (2003), Butic and Ngidlo (2003)

Unlike in the Philippines, ANR in India is treated as a tool for afforestation. It forms the
dominant component of the National Afforestation Plan (NAP), the flagship
afforestation program of the Government of India (GOI). NAP aims to support and
accelerate the ongoing process of devolving forest protection, management and
development functions to decentralized institutions of Joint Forest Management
Committee (JFMC) at the village level, and Forest Development Agency (FDA) at the
forest division level. It has covered a total area of 1.58 million ha during 2001-09 spread
over 795 FDAs at a cost of Rs. 2,675.26 crore (GOI, 2009a). ANR also forms the major
strategy for rehabilitation of forest land under externally aided forestry projects being
operated in 11 states of India at an investment of Rs. 5,577 crore (GOI, 2009b). Under
NAP and externally aided projects, ANR is primarily viewed as a plantation model with
focus on planting of a fewer number of trees (e.g., 200 plants per ha in NAP and 300
plants per ha in Orissa Forestry Sector Development Project (OFSDP)) in comparison to
other block plantation models (for example, bamboo and mixed plantations, etc., with
625-1,100 plants/ha). Provisions for soil moisture conservation works and ensuring
community participation through awareness raising and micro planning, etc., also exist
under ANR and other plantation models in NAP (GOI, 2002).

While, in India, ANR is being adopted as an approach of afforestation through Joint

Forest Management (JFM), the three decade long experience in South-east Asia
demonstrates it to be a reforestation tool with embedded socio-ecological concerns. The
importance and scale of ANR interventions (almost three-fourths of the total
investment and area under NAP and externally aided project) in India and the need for
it to be aligned along the current forest policy paradigms (GOI, 1988; MoEF, 1990; GOI,
2002) towards enhanced community participation, livelihoods and biodiversity
conservation, make it imperative to analyze the current approaches and field practices
of ANR in India. Such an analysis is essential not only to delineate the scope for its
refinement to suit policy concerns, but also to suggest enabling processes and methods
to support field implementation. As such the broad objective of this study is to analyze
the current ANR paradigms in India from field perspectives and to suggest a
methodology for desired implementation by the field practitioners (cutting edge staff of
the Forest Department and communities) in the JFM framework.


As per the objectives, to analyze the current processes as well as to suggest approaches
for refinement of field practices, a two-fold methodology is adopted. NAP and bilateral
forestry projects being two vehicles of ANR implementation, review of the ongoing
field practices under these two different situations has been carried out. ANR field
practices under NAP have been summarized by drawing upon an unpublished
evaluation report in Maharashtra of a GOI commissioned assignment. The second
author was involved in this study carried out by SEVAK in 2008. The ANR situation in
the bilateral forestry project is summarized from experiences in Orissa with Swedish
International Development Agency (SIDA) and OFSDP. The methodology for the
second objective is participatory development of an implementable refined ANR
process through two years of regular and close interaction and analysis of the field
situations and stakeholders’ (the Forest Department, the non government organization
(NGO) and the community) perception. The authors as the project director and
consultant are instrumental in conceptualizing, designing and demonstrating the
refined approach.
ANR field practices: NAP experiences in Maharashtra (SEVAK, 2008)
The ANR model was proposed to be implemented in 39 Forest Development Agencies
(FDAs), over an area of 21,495 ha, with a canopy density more than 40 percent. Of this,
12,269.50 ha was covered during 2003-06 in 32 FDAs. The study covered a sample of
795 ha of ANR area (7 percent of the total ANR area) spread in 30 villages including 13
tribal villages with an objective to gauge effectiveness of ANR in restoring forests with
cost effectiveness while fulfilling community needs.

Table 2: Status of Different Elements of ANR under NAP in the Field in Maharashtra

Elements of ANR Status in the Field

Community Participation Better participation in protection (70%), followed by in
implementation (60%) and in micro-planning (30%)
Choice of Species More as per technical suitability (90%) followed by
villagers’ requirement (80%) and as per microplan (60%)
Survival and Growth Average survival is 65%; 442 no. of woody stems (> 30 cm
girth at breast height) per ha out of which 62% were
existing trees
Soil Moisture Carried out only in 25% villages
Site Selection 10% villages were not suitable with > 40% canopy density
Silvicultural Not matching to working plan prescriptions; tending
Prescriptions operations have not encouraged upcoming natural
regeneration to establish; mechanical work without
consideration of variations in local situations
Support to Local Only through wage labor; no conscious mechanism to
Livelihoods augment regeneration and growth of livelihoods species
Use of Local Ecological No mechanism to use the LEK
Knowledge (LEK)
Conservation/ Promotion No direct provisions
of Biodiversity

The study has outlined conditions for effective ANR implementations. The ideal site for
ANR is forest area with coppice root stocks and/or 300 standing trees (>30 centimeter
(cm) girth at breast height (GBH)) per ha apart from having a minimum crown density
of 40 percent. Treatment maps are to be prepared by Forest Department officials with
0.5 ha blocks laid on ground and serially numbered. The map should highlight areas
needing soil moisture conservation treatment, blocks for seed sowing and the place for
live hedge fencing. No planting is suggested in blocks having 150 or more standing
trees. Alignment of pits is to be done at 7 x 7 meter (m) for blocks having 100-149
standing trees over 30 cm GBH and at 5 x 5 m for blocks with less than 100 standing
trees having GBH above 30 cm. Silvicultural operations like cleaning of brush wood,
dressing of old stools, coppicing of root stock, and singling and alignment for planting
are be done in January-February. Seed sowing in bushes is to be adopted in the blocks
with less than 30 standing trees.

ANR field practices: bilateral project experiences in Orissa

In Orissa, the ANR approach was first used in the SIDA assisted social forestry project
during the early 1990s with the involvement of the village forest committee. Now it is
applied to the Rehabilitation of Degraded Forests (RDF) through the JFM mode and is
aimed at augmenting productivity of fuel wood, fodder, small poles, non timber forest
products (NTFPs), medicinal plants, etc. Afforestation through ANR covers about
75,000 ha of degraded forest area in Orissa under different schemes during 2007-09,
according to the Government of Orissa (GOO) (2009).

In the bilateral OFSDP (www.ofsdp.org) assisted by Japan International Cooperation

Agency (JICA), ANR forms the major forest treatment intervention. Eighty percent of
1.76 lakh ha of degraded forests around more than 2,000 forest-fringe villages are
covered through ANR following the JFM approach (OFSDP, 2007). ANR in OFSDP was
designed to facilitate natural regeneration of degraded forests with existing rootstocks.
It is prescribed to be carried out through singling of coppice shoots, removal of high
stumps and climbers apart from planting of short rotation economic species like NTFPs
and medicinal plants (@ 300 plants/ha) in gaps to incentivize the Van Samrakshyan
Samiti (VSS) or JFMC (SAPROF, 2005).

In OFSDP, forest treatment is planned through blending of the top-bottom Geographic

Information System (GIS) approach by professionals with the bottom-up participatory
micro-planning by the community. Three sets of GIS maps (1:5000 scales) are
developed for each VSS site to provide detailed information about the area (base map –
location, boundary and topography), land use (agriculture, forest, orchard, rocky
outcrops etc.) and forest maps (canopy density, forest type, major species, stage of crop,
slope and drainage lines, etc.). In the maps, grids of 4 ha in (200 m x 200 m) are
demarcated to help better map interpretation and treatment planning, implementation
and monitoring. These maps help in preparation of site-specific, community-focussed
forest treatment plan through participatory micro-planning. Despite these provisions,
the project’s internal monitoring processes comprising regular field visits, stakeholder
interactions and review workshops over a two-year period found the following gaps
(Table 3) in planning and implementation of forest treatment in general, and of ANR,
in particular.

Table 3: Practices and Gaps in ANR in OFSDP as per Internal Monitoring

Aspect Practice Gap

Principles Preference towards revenue Shift in forest policy and priorities
and timber oriented forestry towards participation and
and departmental execution by biodiversity conservation not
Aspect Practice Gap
cutting edge staff; community appreciated by the cutting edge staff
participate mostly as wage labor of the Forest Department
Objective Restoration of degraded forests Local livelihood needs get subdued;
with green cover and revenue increasing economic value of NTFPs
generation; more national focus not considered
Focus Promoting regeneration and Neglecting regeneration and growth
growth of timber species like of non-timber livelihoods species
Sal (Shorea robusta) and some and biodiversity
Planning Influence of target in planning GIS maps and forest Participatory
treatment area independent of Rural Appraisal (PRA) tools not
site conditions; dominant consulted adequately; involvement
decision by department staff of community and other
stakeholders limited in planning;
potential local ecological knowledge
not tapped
Enrichment Preference to planting and Neglecting seeding and planting of
Plantation compartmental approach – wildling; site-specific treatment
block planting all seedlings through dispersed plantation not
(300/ha) meant for entire ANR followed
area in
in gap(s) @1,600 plants/ha
Choice of Preference towards non- Neglecting livelihoods species which
Species browsable, fire hardy, fast may be shrubs, climbers, herbs, etc.,
growing, light demanding tree and slow growing, shade
species with easy seed bearers/demanders, browsable, etc.
availability and known nursery
and silvilcultural techniques
Tending Singling of coppice shoots and No targeted tending operations to
Operations stool cleaning of timber species; promote natural regeneration of
cleaning and climber-cutting of non-timber livelihoods species, e.g.,
non-timber species (including no climber cutting of livelihoods
trees, climbers, shrubs and species like Bahuinia vahlii; no
herbs) provision for thinning in subsequent
Soil Compartmental approach; No dispersed treatment as per site
Moisture preference to comparatively requirement; ridge to valley system
Conservation high cost structures like check not followed; bunding, trenching
dams and use of vegetative options limited
Results Creation of even-aged single- From ecological and biodiversity
storied pure crop, often perspectives inferior in comparison
congested stands of Sal with no to mixed uneven aged multi-storied
Aspect Practice Gap
other storey and ground cover forest; often additional investments
resulting in soil and are put for ex-situ conservation of
biodiversity erosion biodiversity, while through ANR
cleaning, in-situ biodiversity is
Monitoring Peer pressure towards higher Lack of monitoring on livelihoods
survival and growth; preference and biodiversity implication; more
towards teak as economic attention to target than the process
plantations; influenced by limits incentive for participation;
approachability and difficulty in monitoring area and
detectability locating treatments in a site

Participatory development of refined ANR process

To overcome the gaps in ANR planning and implementation, a refined approach to
ANR in the form of a user friendly implementation process was required. Accordingly,
a draft process to carry out ANR in the field was developed and was demonstrated at
four different circles (forest administration units consisting of few forest divisions)
during February-March 2009. This was followed up by consultations with forest
officials from the field. Based on the feedback from demonstration and consultation
process, a protocol for refined ANR implementation has been developed. The refined
approach seeks to augment forest-based livelihoods and to promote biodiversity
conservation through multi-stakeholder participation. It follows a diagnosis and design
approach through different steps and uses a combination of restrain (not to fell) and
enrichment (planting/seeding) to meet its objective.

The refined ANR process

The team and materials: The project has delineated a working group comprising
members of the VSS, the Forest Department, the partner NGO of the project and local
resource persons (OFSDP, 2007b). Eight members of this working group along with
partner NGO team members and Member Secretary (Forester) will form two teams of
five members each to develop ANR treatment. They will take about two days to survey
the forest area of an average 80 ha (divided into 20 four-ha grids) allotted to each VSS
under JFM. The materials required include grid-demarcated GIS (land use and forest)
maps of the site, forest-PRA outputs of the micro plan of the VSS, 30 m tape and/or
Günter chain and a simple compass.

Step 1 (area diagnosis): The first step is about comprehensive diagnosis of the forest area
to be treated through the use of grid-marked (4 ha grids of 200 m X 200 m size) GIS
maps, multi-stakeholder grid transact walks and use of silvicultural and community
knowledge. Each grid is allocated with a unique identity (rows are numbered
alphabetically and columns with Arabic numbers) as per its location in the matrix. In
this step, the teams take transact walks along the marked grid lines (Figure 1) to assess
and characterize each grid in terms of its canopy density, ecological status, livelihoods
potential, important species in different storeys and dominant age group. The team also
suggests tending and soil conservation measures for each grid as per its observation. All
this information is recorded in a tabular format. (Format 1).
Format 1: Eco-livelihood Description of the Grids
Sl Densi Ecologic Livelih Importa Domina Suggest Status SMC
No ty (> al Status ood nt nt age ed of measur
of 70%, or Type Potenti species group Tendin Soil es
the 40-70 of al (menti (Young g Erosi suggest
Grid %, Forest/ (rich, on at –below Operati on ed
s 10-40 Plantati mediu least 2 pole or ons (shee (trench
(Mar %, on m, import bearing includi t, ing,
k <10% poor, ant stage or ng rills, gully
this ) very species old) Specific gullie plug
sl no poor) under Treatm s, etc.)
in each ent for ravin
the categor Bambo es
copy y of o etc.)
of tree,
the climber
GIS , shrub,
map) herb

Figure 1: Marking the Grids and taking Transact along Grids


A5 B5 C5 E5 F5 G5

A4 C4 D4 E4 F4

A3 B3 C3 D3 E3 F3
Step 2 (species choice): The next step involves deciding about species (trees, liana,
shrubs, herbs, climbers, tubers) to be augmented in different grids G3
as per rational
D2 E2 G2
A2 B2 C2

stakeholder choice (weighted scoring matrix) made through use of local ecological
knowledge and species silviculture. In the species matrix (Format 2), the first column
for species is filled up by writing down the important species recorded for grids in step
1 under appropriate sub-heads like trees, shrubs and climbers, etc., and avoiding
repetition. Any other species suggested by the community, NGO or the Forest
Department representative is also added. Then the team members consult among
themselves to list out key desirable characteristics (for example, fast growing, food,
medicine, easy to sell, etc.) they expect of these species in the first row and then
attribute weights (0-5 scale) to these characters in the next row as per their perceived
importance in the team. Subsequently, they debate among themselves regarding the
score (0-5 or 0-10) to be allotted to each species for each characteristic and continue
filling the table. The column under total weighted score is filled by summing up the
weighted scores (score of one species for a particular character is multiplied with the
weight of that character). Accordingly, species are ranked under each sub-head and
stakeholders jointly agree upon the cut-off rank up to which species will be selected.
This table forms the basis of species selection and helps avoiding biases and impositions.
The listing of candidate species helps the working group to plan its seed collection in
advance and silvicultural information about the species, if required.

Format 2: Logical Species Matrix for Collaborative Species Choice

Preferr Preferr Preferr Preferr Preferr
ed ed ed ed ed
Uses/ Character Weight Ran
Charact Charact Charact Charact Charact
ed k
er 1 er 2 er 3 er er n
Weight (0-10 scale)
Species (Local
Score Score Score Score Score



Step 3 (Local Ecological Knowledge (LEK) of species): In this step, the selected species
are described in terms of their livelihood uses, regeneration potential and LEK (Format
3). This information helps to compliment/supplement the available/silvicultural
knowledge about the selected species and therefore facilitates nursery/tending

Format 3: List of Candidate Livelihoods Species for ANR

To be Local Ecological Knowledge
Local Tree/ Local uses
through NR Specific
Sl Name Climber/ for Preferred
or AR tending
No of the Shrub/ Livelihood habitat
(seeding, requiremen
Species Herb s
planting, t

Step 4 (treatment plan): In the fourth and last step, the treatment plan (Format 4) for all
grids is finalized as per the requirement of species retention/augmentation (through
seeding/transplanting of seedling/wildlings), tending operations (cleaning, weeding,
singling, thinning, stool cleaning, etc., specific treatment measures for bamboo stock
augmentation as per requirement) and soil moisture conservation (SMC) measures
(trenching/bunding/gully control as per the erosion types). This format is filled up by
the team with reference to the information already tabulated in previous formats.
While deciding about the treatments, retaining given importance over planting, seed
sowing/wilding are preferred over planting of seedlings; herbs, shrubs, tubers and
climbers are accorded equal importance as tree species; NTFPs preferred over timbers
and what not to cut over what to cut. Under soil conservation measures, principles of
ridge to valley treatments are followed along with preference for biological or bio-
mechanical measures.

Format 4: ANR Treatments for Different Grids

Sl No Conservatio
Species to be Promoted Operation
of n
Grid Measures
Retention Seeding Planting


In spite of being an eco-social approach to aid natural regeneration, ANR in India is

often interpreted as a plantation option. It has the potential to restore native plant
communities, preserve ecosystems (Ganz and Durst, 2003), promote biodiversity and
also to augment local livelihoods. In the changed forestry policy contexts, ANR
approaches also need to be socially and departmentally acceptable and institutionally
supported (Sajise, 2003). Therefore the need to experiment with user-friendly and
adoptable ANR processes compatible with local conditions and multi-stakeholder
participation was imperative in the Indian context. OFSDP provided an ideal multi-
stakeholder platform where the senior officials of the Forest Department and project
consultants engaged with the cutting edge staff, the NGO partners and the community
to develop a refined step-by-step process of ANR in a participatory framework. The
evolved process provides an option to the JFM stakeholders in India in form of a doable
and simple tool to carry out ANR, the major forestry operation assigned to them. By
providing a strategic space to communities (VSS) and civil societies (NGO) in the
planning and decision making of ANR operations and hence in the manipulation of
forest structure and composition, this process incentivizes and reinforces the concept of
JFM. Having evolved from an understanding of field level limitations and gaps, this
methodology helps easy implementation by the cutting edge staff and community in
implementing it and monitoring by the senior forest officials. Comparing and
contrasting the resulting forests evolved through this co-managed refined ANR
approach with the forests resulting from management separately by the Forest
Department (through the working plan) and the community in terms of ecological and
socio-economic impacts will provide immense learning opportunities in the direction of
future forest management in India.


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