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Community Forestry – Nepal

Nepal

INTRODUCTION:

Community Forestry is one of the most popular participatory forest management practices in Nepal started in 1970 after realization of the people’s participation in the sustainable development by the government of Nepal. Community forests are national forests handed over to the local user groups for protection, management and utilization according to the Forest Act, 1993. The forests are managed according to the Operational Plan (OP) prepared by Community Forest Users Groups (CFUGs), approved by the District Forest Office (DFO). According to the act, CFUGs has to be established and registered at the District Forest Office (DFO) before handing over of the forests and they are self-sustained institutions (Kanel 1993). The CFUGs can act as self-governing entities to generate, utilize and sell the forest products as mentioned in the Operational Plan. Procedural details of the community forests are explained in the Forest Rules 1995 and community forestry guidelines and directives. Since 1970, the handover process of the CF have been increasing in the hilly region as well as in Terai. Many civil society organizations, private institutions, community forestry federations and networks, development partners and donors have also been involvingfrom the beginning of the program. As a result, a total of 2,237,195 households through 18,133 Community Forest User Groups (CFUGs) have managed about 1.75 million ha. National forests as community forests up to the date.

STUDY AREA:

Nepal Map

The four districts (Sankhuwasabha, Bhojpur, Terhathum and Dhankuta) of Koshi hills have been selected for this research work as it canrepresent the hilly regions of Nepal. The study area comprises from the tropical to the Alpine forest. Most of the forests are evergreen in status as comprises with temperate and alpine forest.

METHODOLOGY:

A total of 50 community forestry user groups have been visited from four districts—among them 25 in Dhankuta, 15 in Terhathum, 5 in Sankhuwasabha and 5 in Bhojpur. Observed their Operational Plan and Constituent, interviewed withcommunity forest users groups, visited local NGOs working at CFUG, had discussions with forest authorities, visited FECOFUN Offices, performed in-depth study, household observation and had discussions with stakeholders as well as observed community forests in order to garner reliable information.

FINDINGS:

Opportunities:

Improved forest condition

The number of CFUGs in the area have been increasing. Similarly, degraded forests have regenerated, the condition of forests has been improved, and land degradation is decreasing with decreasing soil erosion. Biodiversity looks to be increasing with increasing greenery in the hilly region of Koshi hills.A study in four eastern hill districts showed that the total number of stems per hectare had increased by 51 percent, and the basal areas of forests had increased by 29 percent (Branney and Yadav, 1998).A certain level of sustainable forest harvesting has increased due to the implementation of the community forestry program. There is high potentiality offorest products that can be used for community livelihood enhancement, forest based enterprise that can generate jobs for those unemployed, and revenue for community development activities.

National data

No of CFUG Area Ha. Households
18,133
1.75 million
2,237,195

Koshi Hill Data

District No of CFUG Area in Ha. Household
SSB
284
31267.49
25780
BJP
539
41215.42
51340
TTM
338
18673.95
27880
DKT
370
29867.10
43826
Total
1531
121023.96
148826

IMPACT:

Youth Migration Problem in Second Generation Leadership

Due to the increasing number of Nepali youth migrants leaving their home for jobs in foreign labor destinations, elderly people make up the majority of those living in rural areas, but they are unable to participate in community works. Most of the community forestry user’s committee members are over 60 and illiterate theydepend on the elite in the village for social works such as school teachers and some government personnel. Also they are illiterate to write and prepare their own rules based on community forestry guideline. Due to absenceof youth in the community, scientific forest management is lacking, creating problems for sustainable development of the community. Women from poor families are forced to collect firewood and fodder during the winter season as CF is opened in a year.Many management prescriptions are conservative in terms of the harvesting levels allowed for forest products. There is big problem for the second generation leadership as the youth are settling in the urban areas of the country leaving their birth places earning money in foreign countries.

Migration of the People from the Rural Area.

Most of the people (especially youth) have migrated to Terai and other towns for a brighter future as they do not have proper hospitals, schools, and irrigation and transportation facilities in rural areas. Similarly, climate change challenges for food production and even drinking water as the water resources are drying up most of the hilly region.Due to decrease in the collection of firewood, fodders and less movement of cattle in CF, as farmers are migrating and changing their occupations, private land, including the CF, are convertinginto dense, bushy areas increasing potentiality of forest fire.One the other hand, increase in wild animals disturbs to cattle as well as crops of farmer’s poses the possibility of conflict

Policy Constraints for Forest-based Enterprise Development

Some of the community forest users in this area whoare poor and Janjati groups have indigenous knowledge and skills to prepare artistic wooden masks from valueless timber (Artocarpus lakhochha, Artocarpus integrifolia and Albizzia spp). Such spp. are very soft and weightless, making masks easy to transport to nearby markets. However, they are not allowed to continue such type of entrepreneur without provision in their Operational Plan agreed by DistrictForest Office (DFO). The DFO only will be able to give provision for such timber use if there are written documents in the Operational Plan of CF and mentioned in the annual plan. Yet, how are such poor people able to write up their OP? They are uneducated and don’t know the forest laws of Nepal. Even if they get the provision from the DFO, they will not be able to sell in the market due to forest law. This way, the indigenous knowledge is disappearing from the Janjati people.The poor have less cultivated land and suffer from wild animal disturbances to the cattle as well as their crops. Rural people played vital role in protection of their forest in the past now are not allowed to utilize the forest products due to long procedures in forest law loosing employment opportunity in the vicinity.

Weak Institutional Development

(Participation, Transparency, Accountability, Rule of Law, Effectiveness,)
Very weak participation was found in all programs and activities from poor, women and the Dalit community.Many amendments have been made in forestry sector policies and strategies for gender equality and social inclusion but leadership by women and Dalits in CF management become very challenging. The poor and Dalits often have no option but to think of day-to-day survival, which hinders their participation in the social and economic development process. Women have countless workload as they have to look after their children, livestock and farmland unable to participate in social work also have been facing unequal power relations and gender-based barriers due to the patriarchal society. The main position of CFUC is occupied by female members due to law enforcement however; the task has been performed by male members of their family or other male members of the committee. Issues related to community forest management and financial activities are discussed in committee meetings and in general assembly’s where Dalits, poor people and women usually do not participate.

Researcher visited many CFUGs among 1,531 and observed their documents regarding the governance. Very weak information systems were found in various CFUGs and most of the financial records found were verbal. Very few CF were found performing public auditing and public hearing system. Research also found that single persons handled the CF—some were chair persons or secretaries and some were the treasurers from the committee. Male members of the CFUC say females are not ready to take the position as they don’t have enough time to participate in meetings and can’t travel here and there that is hindering the process. However, female are the main participants in conservation and harvesting of the forest products.Elite domination is still remaining in most of the CF leadership and weak institutional development exist. Most of the CFUG members are unfamiliar with their OP and constituent however, it must be prepared by CFUG members, due to lack of education.As the elite members of the CFUG and the DFO staffs make the decisions on this matter, real users are unaware of it. Rules and regulations are written on paper not in practice by the users in regard to accountability.

SN District Total CF Chairperson Secretary Dalit In Major Position
Male
Female
Male
Female
Male
Female
1
Dhankuta
370
46
7
16
37
1
1
2
Sankhusavha
284
39
6
39
6
0
2
3
Terhathum
338
40
3
5
38
0
0
4
Bhojpur
539
70
5
6
69
4
3
Total
1531
195
21
66
150
5
6

Problems in Forest Protection

As youth are not in community the elites of the village make decisions in all steps. Elders want to transfer the responsibility to the youth for amendment process of operational plan. There are plenty of community forests have been waiting for the amendment process since long time. Without amendment of OP users are not allowed to harvest forest products from mature forest. Due to lack of sustainable management of forests, invasive species have been increasing with some disease in old trees. There increase the bushes and forest fire. Elders and women are unable to go in the forest to control the fire. The private grasslands are also in no used therefore increase the possibility of forest fire to ignite the village and damage the houses, shed and damage the life and property. As name of community forest the responsibility goes to the community for all type of protection, management and utilization of these forest. Government has very few staffs in the field with no essential equipment’s for the fire control. Some of the forest near by the city had got the support from police staffs but most of the community forest are in remote areas with difficult terrain. There were a huge number of community forest fire in Nepal in 2016.NASA had reported that as many as 1.3 million hectares (over 3.7 million acres) of forest cover in Nepal was affected by wildfires in two weeks till April 11, 2016.The wildfireseverely damaged and prohibited the regeneration and growth of seedlings, destroyed non-timber forest products, increased natural disaster and invasive species, affects soil structure, young immobile animal species, including nesting sites of birds with carbon emission. After forest fire the trees are covered with invasive species that hinders the growth and life of the trees.As figure shows the result.

CONCLUSION:

CF Should be an institution that provides services not a services receiver. Strong coordination should be there among all stakeholders to capture the potentiality of CF for community development. Institutional development is essential for sustainable forest management and it must be strong. All concerned authorities should go to the grassroots and implement the program with observing the situation that will support for real change. Donors should provide grants directly to the community rather than follow multi stakeholders’mechanism, if we are looking for meaningful change or development in the life of the poor and discriminated people of the community and increase the poor’s leadership. Research on forest diseases and involvement of the highly educated people in sustainable forest management is essential in days to come. Similarly, the fighting materials (equipment’s and clothing) should be provided to the police and Nepal army as youth are not available in the village to control the forest fires. Involvement of women is essential for fair and equitable distribution of the benefits among the users, as they are the key change agent and real users of the forest. Conflict should be managed between wild animals and farmers. Forest based enterprises should established in the potential area that provide the job opportunity to the second generation leadership who play the vital role in institutional development of the community forestry in days to come.

REFERENCES :

Mathura Khanal
M. L. Sharma

Professor

Central Department of Chemistry
Tribhuvan University, Nepal

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