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Community Forest Management in Dozam, Bhutan
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The Kingdom of Bhutan, a landlocked country, is located in the Eastern Himalayas. It is bordered by the Tibetan Region of China to the North and India to the South. The total land area is approximately 46,500 km2 (Chophel, 1997, p.16), where around 72% is covered with forest, of which
- 26% is protected area;
- 9% is biological corridors;
- 8% is forest management units; and
- the remaining 57% is reserved forests(Karma Jigme Temphel & Beukeboom, 2006, Background, para.1).
Bhutan is divided into 20 dzongkhags and 250 gewogs. Gewogs (blocks) is an administrative unit below dzongkhags (districts) and above thromdes (municipalities) and chiwogs (election area) (Parliament of Bhutan, 2009).
There was no formal system of forest management except for some customary arrangements before the establishment of Department of Forest (DoF) in 1952 (Dorji, 2016). The condition of the forest was good prior to nationalization before 1969 because of the idea of local ownership with the forest resources. The Forest Act, established in 1969, had nationalized all forest area, including trees on private land but excluding individual-registered land. The local community lost their traditional right to manage, protect and access the forest. The Government Reserve Forests, now known as States Reserved Forests, were opened to all citizens on a regular permit system which resulted in forest resources depletion (Wangdi & Tshering, 2006). There is evidence show that some districts in more populated areas have increased re-vegetation of forest grazing lands, fewer forest fires and a reduction in illegal forest conversion due to the forest nationalization. On the other hand, there are indications of an increase conflicts between some local communities and the forest department due to the loss of ownership and responsibility of local community (Chophel, 1997).
The projected forest degradation rate had alarmed the Royal Government. The increasing demand for food and fuelwoods caused by the booming population growth, together with overgrazing and shifting cultivation, had put enormous pressure on the forest resources. At the same time, the government realized the importance of local people active participation to conserve Bhutan’s forest resources. As a result, the community forest program was introduced in a Royal Decree of His Majesty in 1979 with the goal to encourage community participation as a primary means to restore degraded lands in the rural area. The Royal Decree highlighted the importance of people’s participation in environmental conservation and granted certain State Reserved Forest to the Community Forest Management Group (CFMGs) for use and management with an approved 10 years validity management plan (Dorji, 2016).
Initially, after the Royal Ruling in 1979, there was almost no progress in the development of Bhutan community forestry because of the lack of legal provision for transferring government reserve forest to a private community. The communities also reveal skepticism on the probability of the Department of Forest handing over the Government Reserved Area. Poor communication between the communities and the Department of Forest was observed where local people were not informed about this approach (Prasad, 2015). The absence of local acknowledgment and government support limited the early development of Bhutan community forest.
In 1993, the Bhutan Government implemented its decentralization policy and created Dzongkhag Forestry Extension Section (DFES) for future empowerment. The Forest and Nature Conservation Act 1995 was established to restore traditional rights of the communities, and in 1997, the first certified community forest was created in Dozam under the Mongar District (Prasad, 2015).
Dozam Community Forest
Dozam Community Forest locates in the Drametse Gewog under the Mongar Dzongkhag. The community forest covers 300 hectares and 114 households from seven villages (Wangdi & Tshering, 2006). It has 1012.4 m3 of wood and a fixed maximum annual allowable cut at 10 m3. The area is generally steep (average of 67% slope), southerly oriented with altitude varies from 800m in the South to 2,000m in the North (Chophel, 1997). Dozam Forest is almost completely depleted due to the uncontrolled timber and fuelwood harvesting, unplanned extraction of lemongrass oil, forest fires, and overgrazing. Poor soil quality with distorted vegetation patterns and deforestation aggravated effects of wind and water erosion (Dey, 2003). The Dozam community forestry program was initiated by the World Bank and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) under the Third Forestry Development Project (TFDP) (Chophel, 1997). The primary objective of the program establishment is to rehabilitate its vast degraded forest for the long-term socio-economic benefit of the community (Wangdi & Tshering, 2006).
As the area is extremely infertile, the Dozam community heavily relies upon the Government Reserved Forest to meet their daily needs (Wangdi & Tshering, 2006). The community’s primary activity is dryland cultivation where maize and potatoes are their main crops (Chophel, 1997). Since the community experiences severe shortages of forest products, they are interested to develop and manage their forest sustainably. They urge to establish woodlots to meet their immediate needs for fuelwoods, fodders, and timber (Chophel, 1997).
The Dozam community also views the establishment of the community forestry as a business expansion opportunity for its lemongrass oil production. The Dozam community depends on its essential oil production as their major source of income since 1981. The local production of 1.2 tons of lemongrass oil accounts for 14% of the average annual national production of 8.9 tons in 2007 (Yangzom, Krug, Tshomo, & Setboonsarng, 2008).
Community Forestry is one of the key agenda addressed by the Bhutan Government in its Eleventh Five Year Plan (July 2013-June 2018). The Royal Government of Bhutan has budgeted Nu. 0.1 million (around C$ 2,000) for Community Forest Management (CFM) training and Nu. 0.08 million (around C$ 1,600) for amla plantation, both with Dozam Community Forest as the beneficiary (Royal Government of Bhutan, 2013).
The main vision of the community forestry development in Bhutan is to ensure 60% of the country geographical area is under forest cover in perpetuity (Uddin, Taplin, & Yu, 2007). According to the Social Forestry and Extension Division (SFED) under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forest (MoAF), as of June 2015, there are 600 CFs approved and established across Bhutan, and all managed by the rural communities (Zangmo, 2016).
According to the statutory law, the government possesses the legal title of the forest land while the management rights are handed over to the Dozam community (Temphel & Beukeboom, 2006). With an approved community forest management plan (valid for 10 years), the community can access to their forest resources as stated in the management plan description. If the community has more resources, both non-timber forest products and timber, than they needed for their own consumption, the community is granted the right to sell the surplus to any buyers within the country, with the prices decided by the Community Forest Management Group (as discussed in later sections) (Royal Government of Bhutan, 2017).
However, to date, Dozam Community Forest does not have any surplus, or potential, to sell their excess resources due to its unproductive forest land. As the community forest cannot supply their needs, the Dozam community has to apply for timber through the Territorial Forestry Office, which is a lengthy process (may take more than 2 months to process application) (Temphel & Beukeboom, 2006).
The Dozam Community Forestry Management Group (CFMG) has the authority to make decisions for the betterment of the forest, such as determining a harvest level, a benefit-sharing ratio and managing conflicts (Prasad, 2015). To form a CFMG, a minimum of 10 households are required. Individuals and households with traditional claims to the community forest area are eligible to join the Group (Prasad, 2015). In Dozam, there are a total of 114 households’ representatives as registered members, of which 70 are women (more than 60% of all the members) (Rinzin, 2012). A Community Forest Management Committee is elected by the members to hold responsibility for the management of the forest (Buffum, 2012). The Management Committee organizes regular meetings to implement revised work plan, and allocates patrols to deter any illegal harvesting or forest grazing activity (Buffum, 2012). Offenders that remove forest produce from the community forest area without authorization from the committee members are liable to pay a fine to the Management Group (Royal Government of Bhutan, 2017).
The Dozam Community Forest Management Group is responsible to prepare and develop a management plan which emphasizes on forest restoration and natural regeneration. The Dzongkhag Forest Extension Officer (DFEO), along with project staffs in the area, will provide technical assistance during the Plan preparation stage (Chophel, 1997). An approval from the Chief Forestry Officer (CFO) is needed to implement the Management Plan. In the case where the CFO fails to come to a decision, the material will be further referred to the Forestry Headquarter (Royal Government of Bhutan, 2017).
In addition, all the Dozam Community Forestry Management Group’s activities are monitored by the Department of Forest & Park Services of Bhutan. Any selling, leasing and mortgaging community forest in violation of the Management Plan and relevant bylaws will result in a fine of Nu. 10,000 (around C$ 200) and a 3-year suspension of rural subsidized timber entitlement from the Community Forest and the State Reserved Forest (Royal Government of Bhutan, 2017).
As the Dozam community’s livelihood depends heavily on the lemongrass grown in their community forest, the Dozam Community Forest Management Plan has established guidelines focusing on the sustainable management of lemongrass, and a member of the Group has demonstrated correct grass collection techniques to the local community (Yangzom, Krug, Tshomo, & Setboonsarng, 2008).
Social actors (stakeholders, user groups) who are affected stakeholders, their main relevant objectives, and their relative power
Interested Outside Stakeholders
Social actors (stakeholders, user groups) who are interested stakeholders, outside the community, their main relevant objectives, and their relative power
A discussion of the aims and intentions of the community forestry project and your assessment of relative successes or failures. You should also include a discussion of critical issues or conflicts in this community and how they are being managed
Your assessment of the relative power of each group of social actors, and how that power is being used
Your recommendations about this community forestry project
- Chophel, T. (1997). Community Forestry Development in Bhutan: New Practice or Another Bandwagon : A Case Study of Three Community Forestry Pilot Projects. Retrieved from https://www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/1842/8976/Chophel1997.pdf?sequence=1
- Temphel, K. J., & Beukeboom, H. J. J. (2006). Community Forestry: Supporting Bhutan’s National and MDG Goals While Protecting Forests. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/3/a-ag131e/ag131E16.htm
- Parliament of Bhutan. (2009). The Local Government Act of Bhutan, 2009. Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20110706162642/http://www.nab.gov.bt/downloadsact/Dzo74.pdf
- Dorji, K. (2016). Women’s Participation in Community Forest Management under Chhukha Dzongkhag.
- Wangdi, R., & Tshering, N. (2006). Is Community Forestry Making a Difference to Rural Communities? A Comparative Study of Three Community Forests in Mongar Dzongkhag A Series of Case Study on Community-Based Forestry and Natural Resources Management in Bhutan. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.598.1511&rep=rep1&type=pdf
- Prasad, R. (2015). Community Forestry and Management of Forest Resources in Bhutan. In Spatial Diversity and Dynamics in Resources and Urban Development (pp. 461–481). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-9771-9_25
- Dey, D. (2003). Community Forestry in Bhutan Himalayas: Sustaining Life and Environment Through Participation. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/docrep/ARTICLE/WFC/XII/0498-C1.HTM#fn1
- Yangzom, K., Krug, I., Tshomo, K., & Setboonsarng, S. (2008). Market-based Certification and Management of Non-Timber Forest Products in Bhutan: Organic Lemongrass Oil, Poverty Reduction, and Environmental Sustainability.
- Royal Government of Bhutan. (2013). Eleventh Five Year Plan Mongar Dzongkhag. Retrieved from http://www.gnhc.gov.bt/en/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Mongar-1.pdf
- Uddin, S. N., Taplin, R., & Yu, X. (2007). Energy, Environment and Development in Bhutan. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 11, 2083–2103. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2006.03.008
- Zangmo, T. (2016). Community Forest’s Increasingly Benefit Rural Communities and The Local Environment. The Bhutanese. Retrieved from http://thebhutanese.bt/community-forests-increasingly-benefit-rural-communities-and-the-local-environment/
- Temphel, K. J., & Beukeboom, H. J. J. (2006). Community Forestry Contributes to the National and Millennium Development Goals Without Compromising the Forestry Policy! A Series of Case Studies on Community-Based Forest and Natural Resource Management in Bhutan. Retrieved from https://www.recoftc.org/sites/default/files/old/uploads/content/pdf/Community_Forestry_Contribute_to_70.pdf
- Royal Government of Bhutan. (2017). Forest and Nature Conservation Rules and Regulations of Bhutan, 2017. Retrieved from http://www.dofps.gov.bt/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/FNCRR2017.pdf
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