Cadasta Foundation and Waatavaran Partner to Secure Tribal Forest Rights in Western India

Cadasta Foundation and Waatavaran are pleased to announce their partnership to secure the land claims of Scheduled Caste and Tribal Communities in Western India. 

Cadasta and Waatavaran began collaborating in October 2019 in support of our shared mission to promote equitable and sustainable development. With funding from Omidyar India and The/Nudge Foundation, Waatavaran is leveraging the training and tools offered by Cadasta to more efficiently map and collect community spatial and household data for Scheduled Caste and Tribal Communities living in the forests of Raigad District in Maharashtra State. Currently, these communities lack any form of formal records or proof of their communal and individual forest rights. Once documented, the community and individual claims will be submitted to local village councils for the first step of approval of their formal individual and community forest right titles under the Indian Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006. 

Using Cadasta’s Esri-based platform—with its accessible satellite imagery, mobile tools, and digital maps—the project began data collection last month and aims to document 2,000 households, representing approximately 12,000 citizens. 

Commenting on their partnership with Cadasta, Waatavaran’s Founder & CEO Bhagwan Kesbhat, noted, “Even though satellite imagery is accepted as an evidentiary document for claiming land rights under the Forest Rights Act (2006), its use was unexplored in Maharashtra until our collaboration with Cadasta. Working with Cadasta has given us access to innovative technology that allows us to use satellite imagery to map land parcels which will be submitted soon as evidentiary documents.”

Bhagwan Kesbhat continues, “Cadasta’s user-friendly platform allows us to work in remote areas both online and offline and has enabled us to conduct on-site mapping, surveys, and submission of documents that has helped us engage, develop, and strengthen our bonds of trust with these tribal communities. The Cadasta Platform has also eased the process of data collection due to its convenient digital interface. The data stored on the server can be accessed at any time and thus manual paperwork is reduced. Moreover, since the application is available on mobile phones, its accessibility is maximised and no high tech devices were required for land mapping. And as the survey format for collecting data can be converted into multiple regional languages, it has widened our ability to reach local areas. This technology holds great potential to be scaled up and used to create a digital database of these land parcels.”

Reflecting on the partnership, Cadasta CEO Amy Coughenour noted, “Cadasta is thrilled to partner with Waatavaran, a climate justice leader in India. By working together to document and secure the land and forest rights of tribal communities in Maharashtra State, we are helping communities protect forest land and improve their livelihoods.”

With Waatavaran’s strategic community work and Cadasta’s innovative tools and training, this project will lead to the empowerment of forest dwelling individuals and communities to sustainably use, manage, govern, and protect forest land and resources now and for generations to come.  

About Cadasta Foundation:

Founded in 2015, Cadasta Foundation is a Washington, D.C. based nonprofit that develops and promotes the use of simple digital tools and technology to help partners efficiently document, analyze, store, and share critical land and resource rights information.

By creating an accessible digital record of land, property, and resource rights, we help empower individuals, communities, organizations, governments, and businesses with the information they need to make data-driven decisions and put vulnerable communities and their needs on the map.

For more information about Cadasta’s work visit: http://cadasta.org/

About Waatavaran: 

Waatavaran is a social venture based in Mumbai, India, which believes in a climate just environment. The environment we live in is a crucial determinant of who we are. A great environment leads to healthy individuals, increased productivity at work and a successful life. Hence, through research, engagement and advocacy we are trying to create awareness among the public, academia, researchers, institutions and policy makers toward limiting/changing our activities to improve the quality of the environment that we live in.

For more information about Waatavaran’s work visit: http://waatavaran.in/