April 18, 2024, Thursday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Community forests: a successful model for rural livelihood, environment and climate action

The Nepal Weekly
August 15, 2023

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda”, on recently the occasion of National Community Forest Day, appreciated the success of community forest practice in Nepal which brought an extremely remarkable results. The methodology has been contributing to reinstate Nepal’s forest density, well keeping of environment, conservation of biodiversity, support to climate action and income generations to the users. The practice initiated 4 decades ago has been a grand success as forest density is decreasing all over the world while Nepal is improving to regain the forest density.

Earlier in May this year, in his address to the national general convention of the Federation of Community Forestry Users Nepal (FECOFUN),PM Dahal mentioned that the sustainable management of community forestry would ensure additional benefits for the local community, increasing the collection of national revenue.

Community forestry programme in Nepal formally started in late 1970s. Since then concerning movement has been evolving to involve local communities in the management and utilization of forests. The government policy was originally intended to meet the basic forest products required by the communities through active participation in forest development and management. Later, it was expanded to include the mobilisation and empowerment of the members of community forest user groups in the development of their local communities. It is experienced that the trend of forest degradation has decreased since the handing over of national forests to local communities. However, some undesired social anomalies have also grown side by side. Such anomalies essentially constitute of the inequity and unfairness in the local and national level and in terms of long-term sustainability of forest resources.

Due to successful results, Nepal now stands as one of the leading countries in community based forest management as they have made direct progress in halting environmental degradation and by regenerating forests in barren areas.

The success of community forestry initiatives in Nepal can be attributed to several factors according to experts. Firstly, the involvement of local communities in decision-making ensures their needs and concerns are taken into account and that forest management practices are tailored to local contexts. This participatory approach helps to build trust and cooperation between communities and government agencies and has been shown to reduce conflicts over forest resources.

Secondly, community forestry initiatives provide economic incentives for communities to manage and protect nearby forests. By granting legal rights to use and manage forest resources, these initiatives create opportunities for communities to generate income from sustainable forest-based enterprises, such as eco-tourism, agroforestry, and non-timber forest products. This helps alleviate poverty and provides a financial incentive for communities to protect and manage nearby forests sustainably.

Reports on community forests in Nepal state that the forest cover in the country has grown from 39.6 percent to 44.74 percent, while other wood and shrubs areas have decreased from 10.6 percent to 4.38 percent.

Based on the latest statistics from the forest department, a total of 2,237,670 hectares of forest area has been transferred to 22,266 community forest user groups. This initiative has directly involved around 14.45 million people from 2.9 million households. However, experts also warn that the forests in the Terai and Chure regions remain at high risk and can be protected if converted them as community forests.

Federation of Community Forestry Users Nepal (FECOFUN), a formal network of Forest Users Groups (FUGs) from all over Nepal. This was established with the goal of promoting and protecting the forest users’ rights through capacity strengthening, economic empowerment, sustainable natural resource management, technical support, policy advocacy, good governance and learning sharing of best practices. FECOFUN emerged from the idea that forest users from all parts of the country should be linked in order to strengthen the role of users in policy making processes. Since its inception, FECOFUN has grown into a social movement organization with about 14 million forest users. As of now, 22,415 community forestry user groups (CFUGs) covering 2.9 million households have been federated into FECOFUN, and are protecting more than 2.3 million hectares of forests. Apart from this, other Community Based Forest Management Groups (such as leasehold forestry groups, religious forestry groups, buffer zone and traditional forest management groups) in Nepal are also affiliated with FECOFUN.

According to FECOFUN, a total of 16,186 forest groups are affiliated with the FECOFUN. These community forest groups have been making significant contributions to various development projects, such as education, health, drinking water, and roads, in society.

Nepal earns financial benefits from carbon trade on forestry where contribution of community undertaken forests should be well appreciated.

Nepal had signed an important agreement with the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) in 2021. This achievement positions the country fifth in the Asia-Pacific region and 12th globally. With a substantial 44.74% of its land covered by forest areas, Nepal possesses immense potential for generating revenue through carbon financing.

The carbon trade-deal agreement plays a vital role in Nepal’s strategic programme on forest landscapes and climate action. This innovative financing agreement serves as a powerful tool to address the underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation while simultaneously inspiring and mobilizing communities across the country. As part of this initiative, a strong emphasis on improving community-based forest management, granting local communities user rights over national forests, enhancing integrated land use planning, promoting alternative energy sources, and strengthening the capacity for managing protected areas will be done. Together, these measures will contribute to the sustainable management of forests and the mitigation of climate change impacts in Nepal. (By R.P. Narayan)