The Project reflects good physical and financial progress and is on track to accomplish its project development objective and targets. The objective Component 1 having 2/3rd financial outlay is to increase the afforested/reforested areas through participatory approach in the degraded forestland, marginal, fallow and newly accreted land in coastal and hilly areas. The targeted area of afforestation and reforestation is 17,500 ha block plantation. In addition, the project targets 2000 km strip plantation.
Upto June 2015, the project has completed 13,139 ha block plantations in both coastal and hilly areas. This is 77.3% of the overall project target. The project also completed 1,505 km strip plantation, which is around 90% of the target. The remaining plantations will be completed in 2015-16 year. Project plantations are established in Govt Forest lands, Coastal Char lands and Marginal lands under control of the Govt. Plantations are not established on any private lands. Project plantations are established on participatory basis. In achieving the target of participatory afforestation and reforestation, up to 30 June 2015, about 23395 beneficiaries have been involved in the plantations (male 17324, female 6071).The beneficiaries are selected after community consultation by a 9-member selection committee at Forest Beat Levels. At Forest Range level, Grievance Redress Committees (GRC) have been formed to address complaints and grievances about beneficiaries’ selection and other related issues. Employment generation is another objective of the project and the plantations have generated 1.54 million man work days up to 30 June 2015. The plantation activities have not created any social unrest in the project area. The project activities will generate lot of employment in the rural area in future.
During 2013 -14 and 2014 -15 financial years, plantations were established in 539 sites under 10 Forest Divisions covered under the project. Before establishing plantations social screening formats and environmental screening formats were filled up following Social Management Framework (SMF) and Environmental Management Framework (EMF) prepared jointly by Bangladesh Forest Department (BFD) and Arannayk Foundation (AF). Project plantations are environment friendly. The afforestation and reforestation program is expected to make a positive long-term contribution to the environment, mitigating cyclone and tidal surge, reducing atmospheric pollution, and providing habitat for flora and fauna. Under afforestation and reforestation program monoculture plantation has been restricted, use of indigenous tree species has been encouraged, no burning is done in the plantation site, and no insecticide is used. .
Component 1 also supports the rehabilitation/ reconstruction of the existing field offices of the BFD.
To accomplish the task of rehabilitation/reconstruction of the existing field offices, a consulting firm was hired in mid-March, 2015 to carry out field assessment and feasibility study, conducting the detailed design and cost estimate, prepare bid documents and provide supervision and monitoring support during the construction. The topographic surveys, environmental and social screening/assessment, and geo-technical investigations of the selected sites were carried out. 8 types of architectural designs were finalized and the design criteria for the detailed designs was prepared and approved. The site specific structural design based on the architectural plan and the geotechnical investigation report is being prepared.
Under Component 2, Arannayk Foundation with its two partner NGOs identified 200 climate vulnerable villages and 6000 forest dependent households through in-depth survey in 878 villages and validation with relevant stakeholders. Thus 200 Forest Dependent Groups (FDG) were formed and federated under 55 unions to form Union Level Federation with three to 10 villages under each union. The group members were trained in organizational development and financial management. To motivate the FDGs, 16 different types of vegetable seeds weighing about 3500 kg were distributed after providing an orientation on agronomic practices. In addition, each household was provided with more than thirteen fruit tree seedlings of twelve species namely dragon fruit, Sapota, Mango, Lemon, Pumello, Narikel, Supari, Guava, Amra, Jalpaietc and 4-5 chickens or 2-3 ducks. Each household realized benefit from the harvest which was consumed by the household and surplus was sold to the market. From the analysis, it was found that average income of the household increased by 20%.
The AF envisioned nurturing the groups as self-help groups. They were encouraged to have their own saving scheme. As of June 2015, the participants have savings of BDT 4.8 million. Each household contributed BDT 100 per month. Arannayk Foundation has provided matching grant of BDT 44.6 million to form MRSLF managed by the Union Federation. A MRSLF savings and loan policy was developed by the Union Federation. A format has been developed for loan application on business plan. All the FDGs were trained for preparation of business plan. FDG developed business plan and submitted to the Union Federation for loan. So far 2243 FDGs received loan from the MRSLF for different AIGA. The size of loan varied from BDT 5000 to 15,000 based on the AIGA and commitment of payment schedule.
The AF shall provide Improved Cooking Stove (ICS) to all the project participants. So far, 5530 ICS have been installed and the remaining will be completed within August 2015. It is observed that due to use of ICS, fuel wood requirement is reduced by 30-40%.
The AF has mobilized participants to form 21 CPGs with 441 FDG members. They are patrolling forest plantation and natural forests in the project areas. They are contributing in protecting the old plantations from encroachment and theft, and protecting the new plantation from grazing and illicit felling. CPGs are also participating in seizing the timber felled illegally and eviction of the forest encroachers with BFD officials.
AF has conducted a study on value chain and market situation analysis to upscale the AIGA program. The study was undertaken in Mondupasha, PaschimJoysree and Barota villages under Shikarpur union, UzirpurUpazila, Barisal. Pond fish was identified as a sub-sector with significant opportunities for improvement.
The objective of the Component 3 is to improve the technical knowledge base of BFD on forest resource assessment, program monitoring and long-term planning for the sustainable development of the forest sector. To attain the objective, CRPAR Project has made good progress in Component 3 also. For capacity building of RIMS, a three-day training program was organized to train RIMS personnel with the other selected officials of BFD to strengthen the capacity of RIMS Unit on satellite image processing and analysis. A total of 185 block plantation has been recorded and demonstrated in the map. Apart from the summary map, plantation maps of five forest divisions: Cox’s Bazar South and Cox’s Bazar South Forest Division, Chittagong South and Chittagong North Forest Division and Coastal Forest Division, Noakhali have been completed. Summary reports of plantations have been generated for two forest divisions: Cox’s Bazar North and Cox’s Bazar South Forest.
Drafts national forestry policy has been prepared, which will be shared with inter sectoral departments and ministries (Forestry, Agriculture, Environment, Fishery and Revenue). National Forestry Policy after finalization through consultation process will become a part of the Forestry Master Plan to be drafted by a consulting firm which is being contracted.
The project is also supporting to strengthen the capacity of BFD and targeted communities to better manage forest resources in order to confront climate change risks. BFD officials have received several training programs facilitated by the World Bank and PIU on project approach, operation manual, procurement, financial management and safeguard. Fourteen BFD officials (Assistant Conservator of Forest) already completed a two (02) months long certificate training course on Climate Change Adaptive Sustainable Forest Management and Development at the University of Philippines, Las Banos, Philippines. Four BFD officials (Assistant Conservator of Forest) also completed a two (02) weeks long exposure visit on Addressing Climate Change Vulnerability through Climate Resilient Forestry and Adaptation Practices at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India. A batch of six Range Officers (RO) completed one month long certificate training course on Remote Sensing for Carbon Forestry and Monitoring from Indian institute of Remote Sensing, Dehra Dun, India. Exposure visits were also arranged for a batch of Assistant Conservator of Forest on Forest Carbon Baseline, Inventory and Monitoring Methods and REDD+ and CDM Project Development for four Divisional Forest Officers respectively. Seven officials from BFD and MoEF are attending Masters Program on Climate Change from the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom. Other training programs for BFD officials are under process.