For the last eight decades, initially as the Indian Forest College (1938 to 1987) and later as I.G. National Forest Academy (1987 onwards), this institute has been responsible for professional capacity building at the top levels of the forestry cadre of the civil services in India. It has beenimparting the core professional trainings and organizing shared learning engagements – from the embryonic phase in the Indian Forest Service to stages at various maturity levels co-timed with transitions from field execution responsibilities to supervisory functions and later at policy & planning roles in strategic, programmatic and governance at the state and national levels.
The academy has also been contributing in assisting a few neighborhood countries in meeting apex-level training requirement of their forestry cadres.
The initial training of the IFS officers, their periodic in-service trainings and also the induction training of the state service foresters graduating to the IFS, provide the foundational anchorage with knowledge and skill sets as well as intermittently nurture them with renewal and enrichment of acumen and insights. These engagements ensure the flourishing of the service to foster the best team of capable and competent administrators, managers and agents and leaders of change entrusted with the task of conservation and sustainable management of the forest resources and the forestry sector in tune with the contemporary national and international agenda.
In the recent times, the objectives and functions of this national academy as the staff training college of the members of the Indian Forest Service, have grown in scope and significance with the expansion of governance, administrative and management functions in the country, entailing substantive and critical ramifications for the biophysical environment comprising of the forests and wildlife and the conjoined resources and systems together with the socio-economic dimensions.
This is the age of unprecedented accelerations induced and catalyzed by population growth and dynamics, globalization and disruptive transformations spurred by technological, economic and market factors and innovations. The scenarios and contexts are also confounded by anthropogenic climate change phenomena and their impacts and other human aggravated denudations and impairments in the natural systems of balance and resilience – related to environmental degradation, land desertification and degradation, ecological stresses, biodiversity loss and biological invasion etc. The associated challenges are multifaceted and grave and the options and opportunities are inviting for the abiding human instinct of strife and survival and spirit of ingenuity and creativity for tackling and resolving the adversities and hardships. Exploring and navigating pathways and solutions for sustainable development with consensual sagacity and humane approaches have become essential shared concerns at all levels and scales – global, regional, national and local.
The responsibilities and roles of the foresters in general and the Indian Forest Service cadre in particular, in steering functions have changed from forest estate and asset administration to their conservation, restoration, rehabilitation and sustainable wise use, reckoning the multi-dimensional significant functions of the forests and wildlife. The forests and wildlife are subject to diverse contexts and dynamic scenarios, on many occasions beset with competing and conflicting perceptions and demands. The management and exploitation of natural resources including forests are also determined in the given contexts of the growth of population, the past and future trajectory of social, economic and other developments in the country, in which the foresters and IFS are also key stakeholders and influential partners. The dilemmas and conundrum of development-conservation dual have to be comprehended and resolved in the best feasible manner in coherence with now established operational framework of sustainable development. In this regard, a robust sensitive and responsive cadre of the forestry services have to play the crucial and transformative roles for effective sharing of wisdom, advocacy, communication and facilitation for other key or major stakeholders – community, state organs, the capital and corporate sector, the media and the civil society. Such roles are in addition to the conventional regulating, enforcing and conservationist functions. The human equity and inclusiveness components of sustainable development have also to be accorded substantial rightful space in the governance and administrative functions dealing with forests and wildlife and their attendant human dimensions.
To meet the challenges and capitalize on the avenues and opportunities, the IFS fraternity have to be abreast in the mode of continuous learning and renewal, with the latest revealed wisdom, knowledge and skill resources, and innovation potentials within forestry and wildlife management arena as well as transcending these into many other sectors and professional specializations of current times. The inter-disciplinary and cross-sect-oral approaches have become essential mainstay for effective governance and efficient, economic and fast paced administration involving forests and forestry.
The massive growth of population in the country that would stabilize only by another three decades and the essential or inevitable widespread geographical expansion with the attendant ramifications of the necessary infrastructure development and growth of economic activities entail in many instances intense human induced adverse environmental and ecological footprints affecting land resources and forest landscape therein. As such the profound appreciation, knowledge and insights about forests and forestry and the enmeshed scientific and technological aspects thereof have become necessary for other key influential stakeholders in the country. Towards this end, the academy has of late been also organizing appreciation programmes and sensitization modules for the members of other civil services, judiciary, and even the legislature at appropriate levels. These and other modes of engagements for enlarging and mainstreaming the contemporary knowledge and understanding about forests and forestry in governance & administration in other segments of the services and sectors civil administration, defense, industry and commerce, and other constitutional organs of the state need to be augmented.
The academy strives to continuously improve and update in terms of training inputs, generation, pooling and dissemination of knowledge and skill resources, the methodologies,human resources, infrastructure, facilities and services to facilitate efficient and gainful delivery of the trainings and knowledge sharing.
With compact core faculty of forest officers of varied experiences and specializations, we maintain network of faculty resource pool from other institutions, academia, expert professionals in a big way besides those from sister organizations within MoEF& CC, GoI. This ensures quality and value addition in the training programmesand engagements transcending the boundaries of conventional forestry profession for infusion and exchange of ideas and knowledge from other fields and specializations, and also enhances the competence and capability of the academy.
The academy has always been bestowed with guidance and support of Government of India – MoEF&CC, its other institutes and organizations, and other ministries and organizations in successful performance of its mandated tasks and rendering progressive accomplishments. Cooperation and support of the State Forest Departments have always been forthcoming in all spheres - participation of the trainees, training field tours, on-job trainings and the enlightening feedback and assessments.
Whilst we keep on our endeavors for maintaining the excellence of this academy, we also aspire to undertake new initiatives in our expanding mandates and the linked academic pursuits by the IGNFA community. We look forward to progress therein with support of all institutions, organizations and individuals who are concerned and associated with the academy. In this context as an apex institution in human capacity-building, the academy has also to optimally utilize its internal resources and to gainfully leverage the resources accruing from network externalities into more of action research and academic endeavor’s in governance and administration in the fields of forestry and environment.
The crisis of Covid 19 (SARS CoV-2) pandemic, a globally calamitous and stressful interlude, if I may say so, of uncertainty and intractability that has unleashed chaos, disruptions and distresses, is being faced and overcome with novel and innovative adjustments, improvisations, adaptations and innovations to carry on the mandates and tasks of this academy with poise, resolve and fortitude, as we should, being one of the leading national institutes with the appreciated support, cooperation and forbearance of all associated with the academy.
I have recently joined the academy, and recounted here above my initial sense and understanding of the contextual setting and the tasks of the academy at hand, and also the upcoming prospective engagements and undertakings– some of which have to be novel and path-breaking. I, in all humility welcomecritiquesand compliments, and brickbats and bouquets that may be of utility in improvement and betterment of the academy’s functioning, performance and contributions and furtherance of its objectives, goals and vision in the national interests.