Course:FRST270/Wiki Projects/Rural Nepal's Community Forestry: The Impacts of Policies on Marginalized Groups

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Rural Nepal’s Poverty and Unemployment: The Impacts of Community Forestry Policies

Community forestry allows local peoples to work with government and outside organizations to be more engaged in the decisions that affect their livelihood. Approximately 850, 000 hectares of forests in Nepal have been given to 11, 000 forest users groups to manage[1]. Nepal’s current government and forest management policies marginalize community forest user groups (CFUG) due to its inadequacy to sustain an income for poor households. This paper discusses the impacts that governance issues have on poverty in local communities of Nepal and how marginalized groups are unable to participate in the decision-making process.

Nuwakot forest site

Description

This case study is located in the rural regions of Nepal and focusses on the relationships between wealthy local peoples, poor local peoples, and the State. Nationalization of forests by the government in 1957 took away local peoples’ customary rights they had with the land. This act of nationalization has created a negative relationship between the local peoples and Nepalese government, leading to mistrust[2]. Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 153rd in the Human Index, so for some people, forest products are their only resource for subsistence and minimal income. Local peoples depend on subsistence farming such as fodder, timber, and non-timber forest products for their livelihood because almost all of them are illiterate and unable to participate in any decision making made by higher authorities. Wealthier households who hold more power than poorer households tend to have more say in the benefit distribution process and work against the poorer households. They focus primarily on timber production, which is economically viable for them but not for poorer households who depend on non-timber forest products (NTFP). It also takes away their ability to keep livestock, which is the most profitable resource[3]. In addition, poorer Nepalese households tend to have large families, small landholdings and minimal to no income. Currently, the governing policies managing timber and NTFP in Nepal do not work in favour of the people who need it the most- marginalized groups of local people.

Tenure arrangements

Nepal has had a history of degradation of forests due to a high influx of people. In the last 50 years, a large portion of Nepal’s forests has been transformed into land for agricultural farming. Nepal’s increasing population has increased the amount of dependence local peoples need from forests. The “increasing demand for forest products and land, forests can be expected to be under increasing pressure again”[4]. Since there was no official regulation of how the forests were used, local peoples treated them as open access. This led to deterioration and degradation of the forests and many of the resources became unviable. The Nepalese government implemented a policy that created Community Forest User Groups (CFUG), in order to stop the unsustainable practices of the local peoples[5]. The program is considered a global innovation in the field of participatory environmental governance[6] and meets the goals set out by CFUGs. The main objective of CFUG’s was “meeting the subsistence needs of local people and at the same time for protecting the forests by transferring user rights of forest resources to the local users”[7]. However, this objective does not work in favour of the people who need it most – the poor and marginalized groups. CFUG’s hold community meetings to discuss benefit distribution and relevant issues to how the forest is used, who is able to use it and when. Poorer and marginalized people cannot afford to attend the meetings as they need this time in order to farm, harvest and sustain themselves and their families. The Nepalese government has entered into the REDD+ policy that will “to generate carbon revenues as well as non-carbon benefits for the country and its people” and work to create “sustainable forest management, the integration of various sectoral policies that optimize cross-sectoral synergies, and will lead ultimately to an improvement of forest law enforcement and governance at large, with necessary amendment of act and regulations by accommodating the concerns of all the stakeholders”[8]. The local peoples also do not have land ownership over the forests that they manage but merely have the execution of land rights. Through decentralization, they are able to be part of the decision-making process. However, they are unable to fully own the land. The State has eminent domain while communities have management rights.

Nepal's Forest Act of 1993 states the legal rights that local people and communities have to participate in forest management. It allows local communities to access forest resources and partake in the decision-making process of managing their forests[9]. It is worth to note that there are differences in principle and practice of exercising these rights. In principle, "CFUGs can determine which forest products can be harvested (though the harvested amount must be within the limits prescribed by foresters in the CFUG’s Operational Plan), set the price of various products, receive and distribute income, and use the revenue for community development activities"[10]. In practice, CFUG's almost always must seek approval from forest officials and jump through extra loopholes[11].

Type of Rights Local People of Nepal
Access Yes
Use for Subsistence Yes, but limited
Use for Sale Yes
Management Co-management under State
Exclusion Yes
Alienation No
Strength of Claim Medium

Administrative arrangements

Community forest user groups committees (CFUGC) in Nepal are comprised of 9-15 people. These people are elected from the community and are in charge of the decision making of how the forests around them are managed and going to be managed in the future. CFUGC’s hold meetings to discuss these decision-making processes. Decision-making factors include the proportion of agenda items, meeting frequencies and discussion hours[12]. For local peoples included in the decision-making process, opportunity and time are key. Many are unable to be present in these important meetings if they are not paid as they must focus their time on farming –, especially poorer, uneducated and marginalized individuals. CFUGC’s are also a male-dominated society. Women are usually not encouraged to sit on the committee, however; a regulation has been implemented that a woman must fill a high power position. Chairperson and secretary are the highest in power. “I was not interested in becoming the chairperson, but everyone forced me into it. Forest officials and developmental workers said that it was a requirement of forming the committee, so I accepted the post."[13] This woman from Mygadi did not have the education or technical skill set in order to fulfill this position successfully. She was only elected so that the requirement was met. She stated, “As uneducated and poor people, we don't confront other members, as they are also people on which we depend for employment and credit”[14] when she was asked why she was unable to confront a person of higher authority. Women, marginalized groups, poor and uneducated individuals are unable to confront and question authorities because these are the sources of subsistence they depend on.

Affected Stakeholders

Affected stakeholders are “any person, group, or entity that is likely to be subject to the effects of the activities in a locally important or customarily claimed forest area”[15]. Stakeholder power and equity distribution are significant factors to take into account when making a decision. It is important to note that not all stakeholders are equal in power. Affected stakeholders in the case study include the Dalit, Nepalese local peoples, poorer families, women, community forestry advocates and activists, and local forestry practitioners. Local peoples that are heavily dependent on forest resources, poorer families, and women have the least power in the decision-making process of benefit distribution. They are interested in using the NTFP to use for subsistence and daily living. "The poorest households, who are the primary focus of pro-poor development interests, appear to benefit less from community forestry than wealthier households in a community"[16]. People who are the most reliant on NTFP receive significantly fewer benefits than wealthier, elite households because elite households tend to focus more on timber production due to timber sales. Poorer households are not interested in timber production as it does not affect their daily lives but are interested in NTFP to use for subsistence. Yet, the State does not recognize their customary laws into legal standing, therefore; the local peoples are not protected when it comes to their sources of livelihood. Nepalese government recognizes that they need to protect the forests by decentralizing power from the government to the local users, however; have not actually implemented this policy into what happens in reality[17]. This is not unlike many other community forestry cases where there is an acknowledgment of what governments should do, but no action to follow up.

Interested Outside Stakeholders

Interested stakeholders are “any person, group of persons, or entity that has shown an interest, or is known to have an interest, in the activities in a forest area"[18]. They tend to have more power and be higher in authority than affected stakeholders as they have jobs outside of the forest in question. A majority of interested stakeholders hold civil servant occupations and are paid for their time spent on the decision-making process of how the forest is managed, who uses it, and when it is used. They do not depend on the forest and the resources it provides for their livelihood. In this case, the interested stakeholders include elite groups of local peoples, Nepal government, UK Department for International Development’s Livelihoods and Forestry Programme (LFP), and Nepal’s Ministry of Forestry. The elite group of local peoples are the “small group of people from the larger society”[19]. They are usually significantly less dependent on forest resources than other local peoples however; they are a majority of the individuals that are on the CFUGC. Elites rarely pay attention to marginalized groups therefore, the benefit distribution is in their favour. LFP’s goal is to improve the livelihoods of Nepalese local people. They “support Nepal community forestry by providing financial and technical support to Department of Forests at the district level”[20]. LFP’s stakes are quite low but still have an interest in the situation. Nepal’s Ministry of Forestry’s mandated goal is forest protection and management, but not improving livelihoods which is what community forestry about. They have a large stake because they are determined to protect the forests. Nepalese government has created the program to implement CFUG’s but does not allow CFUG to be involved an adequate amount that allows them to have an appropriate say in the decision-making process. Their objective when implementing the CFUG program was to stop the degradation of forests when local peoples treated it as open access. However, they do not think that CFUG decision makers have the capabilities to use the forest and its products properly. It is important to note that the government may be an interested stakeholder but is also considered a decision maker, since they hold a lot of power.

Stakeholder Interests Source of Power Scale of Influence Level of Power Means to Achieve Interests
Local People Access to forests and use of NTFP Local voting power, previous customary land rights Local Low Attending CFUGC meetings
Marginalized groups i.e women and poor Access to forests and use of NTFP, participate in decision making process Local voting power, previous customary land rights Local Very Low Attending CFUGC meetings
Nepal State Use forest for timber sales State power, decision maker National High Create programs to regulate timber/NTFP use
LFP Improve livelihood of local people International recognition International Low-Medium Local action, networking, representing

Discussion and Assessment

The aims and intentions of this case study are to reach the full potential of timber and NTFP resources for CFUG through decentralization of power, maximize rights of disadvantaged and marginalized groups to they are able to contribute to decision making appropriately, and secure rights for marginalized groups so the benefit and economic distribution is allocated equally. It is important to note that there has been a form of decentralization of power but not for marginalized groups. For example, women are still unable to participate in the decision making properly though they have a seat on the CFUGC. Rights of disadvantaged and marginalized groups should be maximized as they are the most dependent on forest resources. They are the people using NTFP for their livelihood while elite members of CFUGC who are not as dependent are making the decisions. However, there are some successes to this case study. First, increased participation of women in executive committees. In previous years, women were not able or encouraged to sit on CFGUCs but there was an institution implemented that half of the committee must be women and that a woman must occupy either the chairperson or secretary position[21]. This still has issues because women tend to be uneducated and poor in Nepal so they cannot make educated decisions. They are there to just fulfill the requirement. Another success is that local peoples are working in co-management with the government. The State had implemented the CFUG program in order to stop the degradation of forests and relatively speaking, it has been quite successful. An issue in the community is that there needs to be equity created in economic distribution through educating marginalized groups. Since they are the most forest resource dependent within the community, it only makes sense that they are able to have a significant say in the decision-making process that manages how forests resources are used, and who are using them. In order for marginalized groups to get respect and credit from powerful authorities like the State, they need to be educated in order represent themselves properly.

Recommendations

In order to improve benefit distribution among local peoples in the rural regions of Nepal, three things will need to occur.

For State and/or NGO's

  1. Numbered list item An education program hosted by the State or other NGO's to teach marginalized groups of local people how to read and write to help them participate in committee meetings
  2. Numbered list item Change government policies so that legal provisions for forest tenure rights are secured for local peoples to improve poverty levels. Government policies are in place for CFUG's to operate however, they do not work in favour for the people who need forest resources the most.

For CFUGC

  1. Numbered list item Improve economic equality between members of CFUG's by reducing elite members power within the committee and decentralizing to disadvantaged and marginalized groups

References

  1. Joshi, M. Community forestry programs in Nepal and their effects on poorer households. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/docrep/ARTICLE/WFC/XII/0036-A1.HTM#fn1
  2. Binod, B. (2016). History of forestry and community forest in Nepal. Retrieved from http://www.imperialjournals.com/index.php/IJIR/article/view/2550/2450
  3. Chhatre, A., Persha, L., Ojha, H. (Nov 2009). Community Forestry in Nepal. Retrieved from http://ebrary.ifpri.org/utils/getfile/collection/p15738coll2/id/16969/filename/16970.pdf
  4. Face the Future, The Netherlands. (2015, August). Nepal REDD+ strategy. Retrieved from https://www.forestcarbonpartnership.org/sites/fcp/files/2016/Aug/Annex%201%20-%20Nepal%20draft%20National%20REDD%2B%20Strategy.pdf
  5. Binod, B. (2016). History of forestry and community forest in Nepal. Retrieved from http://www.imperialjournals.com/index.php/IJIR/article/view/2550/2450
  6. Kumar, N. 2002 as cited in Chhatre, A., Persha, L., Ojha, H. (Nov 2009). Community Forestry in Nepal. Retrieved from http://ebrary.ifpri.org/utils/getfile/collection/p15738coll2/id/16969/filename/16970.pdf
  7. Binod, B. (2016). History of forestry and community forest in Nepal. Retrieved from http://www.imperialjournals.com/index.php/IJIR/article/view/2550/2450
  8. Face the Future, The Netherlands. (2015, August). Nepal REDD+ strategy. Retrieved from https://www.forestcarbonpartnership.org/sites/fcp/files/2016/Aug/Annex%201%20-%20Nepal%20draft%20National%20REDD%2B%20Strategy.pdf
  9. Kumar, N. 2002 as cited in Chhatre, A., Persha, L., Ojha, H. (Nov 2009). Community Forestry in Nepal. Retrieved from http://ebrary.ifpri.org/utils/getfile/collection/p15738coll2/id/16969/filename/16970.pdf
  10. Acharya, 2002 as cited in Chhatre, A., Persha, L., Ojha, H. (Nov 2009). Community Forestry in Nepal. Retrieved from http://ebrary.ifpri.org/utils/getfile/collection/p15738coll2/id/16969/filename/16970.pdf
  11. Chhatre, A., Persha, L., Ojha, H. (Nov 2009). Community Forestry in Nepal. Retrieved from http://ebrary.ifpri.org/utils/getfile/collection/p15738coll2/id/16969/filename/16970.pdf
  12. Yadav, B. D., Bigsby, H., & MacDonald, I. (2015, January). Land use policy: The relative distribution: An alternative approach to evaluate the impact of community level forestry organisations on households. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/science/article/pii/S0264837714001951?_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_origin=gateway&_docanchor=&md5=b8429449ccfc9c30159a5f9aeaa92ffb&ccp=y
  13. Pokharel, R. (2013, March). Good governance assessment in Nepal’s community forestry. Retrieved from http://www-tandfonline-com.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/doi/full/10.1080/10549811.2013.779902?scroll=top&needAccess=true
  14. Pokharel, R. (2013, March). Good governance assessment in Nepal’s community forestry. Retrieved from http://www-tandfonline-com.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/doi/full/10.1080/10549811.2013.779902?scroll=top&needAccess=true
  15. Bulkan, J. (2017, September). Affected and interested stakeholders. [Powerpoint Slides]. Retrieved from file:///Users/amykim/Downloads/13%20September%202017%20Affected%20and%20Interested%20Stakeholders%20(2).pdf
  16. Chhatre, A., Persha, L., Ojha, H. (Nov 2009). Community Forestry in Nepal. Retrieved from http://ebrary.ifpri.org/utils/getfile/collection/p15738coll2/id/16969/filename/16970.pdf
  17. Binod, B. (2016). History of forestry and community forest in Nepal. Retrieved from http://www.imperialjournals.com/index.php/IJIR/article/view/2550/2450
  18. Bulkan, J. (2017, September). Affected and interested stakeholders. [Powerpoint Slides]. Retrieved from file:///Users/amykim/Downloads/13%20September%202017%20Affected%20and%20Interested%20Stakeholders%20(2).pdf
  19. Yadav, B. D., Bigsby, H., & MacDonald, I. (2015, January). Land use policy: The relative distribution: An alternative approach to evaluate the impact of community level forestry organisations on households. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/science/article/pii/S0264837714001951?_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_origin=gateway&_docanchor=&md5=b8429449ccfc9c30159a5f9aeaa92ffb&ccp=y
  20. Thoms, C. (2008, May). Community control of resources and the challenge improving local livelihoods: A critical examination of community forestry in Nepal. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016718508000080
  21. Pokharel, R. (2013, March). Good governance assessment in Nepal’s community forestry. Retrieved from http://www-tandfonline-com.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/doi/full/10.1080/10549811.2013.779902?scroll=top&needAccess=true


Seekiefer (Pinus halepensis) 9months-fromtop.jpg
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