Capacity Development of Biodiversity Management Committees in India

22 Jan, 2021

Lessons from the Access and Benefit Sharing Partnership project 2016-20

By: Dr Geetha Nayak, Senior Advisor, GIZ

A unique feature of India’s Biodiversity Act is the 3-tier institutional structures created for its implementation. The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), State Biodiversity Boards (SBB) or Biodiversity Councils and the Biodiversity Management Committees - all have distinct, yet shared mandates to promote conservation of biodiversity, its sustainable use and promoting fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from biological resources.

In line with India’s Panchayati Raj system established to promote local people’s participation in rural administration, the Biodiversity Diversity Management Committees (BMCs) are community-based institutional structures bestowed with regulatory functions contributing to the local governance of biodiversity. The statutory powers vested with the BMCs are significant – starting from establishing a system in the form of People’s Biodiversity Registers to take stock and monitor biodiversity in the region to decision-making on providing access to the biological resources and traditional knowledge. Furthermore, the law mandates NBA/SBBs to channel back 95% of benefits accrued from the ABS agreements to the BMCs to the conservation of biodiversity. Thus, fully functional BMCs can bring radical changes in the way biodiversity managed and significantly contribute to averting the negative trend in biodiversity and its benefits to people.

There are over 2.6 lakh BMCs established under the Biodiversity Act across 28 states and 4 union territories in India, covering a diverse range of habitats and ecosystems across 10 bio-geographical zones. With such a large number of BMCs, and complex, technical tasks involved, a well-planned, coordinated capacity-building strategy is essential to enable members to perform the mandated functions.

This article presents an overview of approaches and tools to capacity-building, lessons learnt, and success stories garnered from the Access and Benefit Sharing Partnership project implemented in three states: Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu Uttarakhand in 2016-2020.

Participatory village resource mapping exercise in Uttarakhand©GIZ/Pradeep Mehta

1. Strategic selection of BMCs – With the limited financing available for the BMCs, it is essential to identify those which have rich biodiversity and a high potential for generating income through levying collection fees and ABS. Successful examples will inspire actions from other BMCs. Following criteria may be applied to identify BMCs to prioritise for capacity building in the initial stages.

  • Areas representing the different ecosystems of the state
  • Areas with substantial sourcing and trade of biological resources
  • Areas providing supplies to biodiversity-based businesses
  • Areas known for exporting biological resources
  • Areas with semi-processing, processing and manufacturing industries
  • Areas with active local communities showing considerable interest or initiatives in biodiversity-related matters
  • Areas with potential biodiversity heritage sites
  • Areas well known for traditional knowledge associated with biodiversity

Strategically selecting BMCs will also help SBBs and technical support groups in generating experience that can help in managing a certain type of habitat or addressing a challenge. For instance, sustainable sale of snake venom v/s forest produce and seaweeds. ABS has no precedence; therefore, piloting these processes with a small number of BMCs with traceable biological resources will generate much-needed insights to implement ABS.

2. Capacity Needs Assessment (CNA) – Many states have identified BMC members who are also part of other committees. In Tamil Nadu, BMC members are drawn from Village Forest Committee, Village Poverty Reduction Committee, Mahamai (SHG), NGO, farmer, fisherfolk and Block Development Officer as the secretary of BMC. Out of 140 members from 40 BMCs surveyed, 88% were well-versed in conducting meetings, writing minutes, maintaining accounts, etc., due to their association with other committees. However, 60% had no knowledge of biodiversity, it's importance in trade and local issues. They required hands-on training on the record-keeping and functions of BMCs. In Uttarakhand, out of 64 respondents, 50% of Gram Panchayat Vikas Adhikari (VPDOs) had heard about the Biodiversity Act, while they were involved in establishing BMCs in their region and only 32% knew about People’s Biodiversity Registers. These outcomes from CNA were considered while developing the training and capacity building activities.

3. Training BMC Members for Operationalisation of BMCs – Outcome of CNA revealed a large divergence between the current (actual) and the intended state of knowledge, attitude and practices (KAP) of BMC members which are required to fully operationalise BMCs. A 3-day training was developed and pilot tested by the ABS Partnership Project with a focus on:

  • Building on basic knowledge of biodiversity and drawing interlinkages between biodiversity and associated practices in the community
  • Identifying location-specific threats to biodiversity and its impact on their livelihoods
  • Administrative functions and operationalisation of BMCs
  • Negotiation techniques through role plays
  • Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) provision of the Biodiversity Act
  • Hands-on training on record keeping and process for documenting PBRs
  • Structured Learning Visit (SLV) to document PBRs

4. Training on BMC record keeping – A 2-day training to provide hands-on experience on record-keeping has been developed by the project. It included practical exercises on: (a) preparation of agenda for the BMC meeting (b) writing minutes of the BMC meeting (c) maintaining BMC Resolution book (d) BMC Accounts book (e) Providing feedback on the access application forwarded by the NBA/SBB (f) BMC Annual Report (g) BMC journal-register (h) Receipts and vouchers (i) Levying fees etc.

5. Support to BMC to conduct consultation meeting on ABS applications – A guide was developed under the project to conduct BMC consultation on ABS applications with detailed instructions.

6. Exposure visit to NBA and SBBs to participate in meetings to discuss ABS applications – ABS is a new and complex process. Experience showed that explaining the ABS process can be challenging even for experienced trainers. The exposure visit to NBA to witness the ABS negotiations proved to be an effective way to understand the process. Witnessing the negotiation with companies after the consultation meeting with BMCs will repose the trust in the process. BMC members will also understand how the ABS expert committee scrutinises access applications and how benefit-sharing amount is determined. These meetings are also an opportunity to learn about the procedural mechanism for facilitating ABS.

7. Training of Trainers – Reaching out to over 2.6 lakh BMCs, each with 7 members will require a large workforce, time, and resources –it is best achieved by leveraging existing State Governments programmes. For example, the State Institutes of Rural Development and National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj have well-established programmes and certified trainers in various states in India. These age-old institutions regularly conduct training programmes for stakeholders involved in rural administration. The ABS Partnership project partnered with SIRD in Tamil Nadu and GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment & Development to create a pool of resource persons in Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand respectively. 50 certified trainers further trained over 270 community resource persons in Tamil Nadu.

L-R: Know your 12 BMC posters in English and Tamil and the ‘Simply Explained’ Film series in four languages

8. Poster campaign on “Know Your BMC” Owing to lack of awareness, implementation of Biodiversity Act has been slow. The project designed a poster campaign titled “Know Your BMC’ to raise public awareness of BMCs, their functions, and the local biodiversity of their blocks in English and Tamil. These feature outside the BMC/Panchayat offices of the blocks.

9. ‘Simply Explained’ series of films on the Biodiversity Act, BMCs and PBR were produced in English, Hindi, Marathi and Tamil and are now used in training sessions to understand the relevance, functions of BMCs and PBRs and objectives of the Biodiversity Act 2002.

Capacity building of BMC is a lengthy process. It can only be achieved with the patience, hard work and cooperation of people from the community, local bodies, State Biodiversity Boards and the National Biodiversity Authority; creating a space for a partnership that the project set out to achieve.


About the project

The ABS Partnership Project aims at strengthening the capacity of the National Biodiversity Authority, selected State Biodiversity Boards, Biodiversity Management Committees, as well as creating awareness amongst commercial users of biological resources and associated traditional knowledge for the effective implementation of ABS mechanisms under the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 in keeping with India’s commitments under the Nagoya Protocol for ABS. Read more

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