Course:FRST370/Management Conflicts over Community Forests in the Terai Region of Nepal

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This case study examines the Terai region of Nepal. It explores history conflicts across multiple scales caused by mismanagement of the region. As a source of income, forests were cleared for agriculture use or timber trade. The environmentalist groups have demanded a transition into community forestry management on multiple occasions. However, the inability to show prompt results caused limited support from local residents.

Under the new regulations the environment has benefited but the marginalized poor people have suffered, and the regulations has failed to address the needs of these poorer users. The decision making in the area was mostly dominated by the elite and rich people because their argument was that the disadvantaged meaning poor people were less skilled in financial management. Therefore, it is required to investigate the different sides of the conflict in the region.



Description of the community forestry case study – Where located; history; national or regional context (if appropriate)

Nepal area is 147,148 square kilometer. around 40% of it is forest lands of which is divided into three regions: to the north is high Himalayas, the middle hills which have the most forested area, and Terai region is in the south of the region and consists of 17% of the total area of Nepal’s forested area (Luintel et al.). more than 60% of the population reside in the rural areas and work in the forests doing agricultural related work or gathering forestry products.(Luintel et al.) Also, most of the households use fuel wood as a source of energy; therefore, burning biomass fuels is one the main greenhouse gas emission contributor of the region (Luintel et al.).


In 1957 nationalization of forests in Nepal resulted in forests becoming open access. In the late 1960s and 1970s, scientists were concerned about the rapid degradation of the forested areas; however, the local people of the hills slowly started protecting the forested areas to maintain the forest products (Gilmour et al.). However, in lowland Terai region government still have a lot of power since the region has a high commercial value (Luintel et al.). In the past few years forestry related conflicts of southern Terai region between multiple stakeholders, local people and the government has increased. most of the forests are managed by the state. however on a daily basis active management is missing. Therefore, corruption has caused more deforestation and degradation due to increased illegal logging (Pravat and Humphreys).

Tenure arrangements

Tenure arrangements. Describe the nature of the tenure: freehold or forest management agreement/arrangements, duration, etc.

History of Community Forestry in Nepal and Terai Region

In the late 1960s and 1970s the environmental scientists were concerned about the area's rapid degradation. Eventually, the local people began to to preserve their forests and the state also provided support (Gilmour et al.). Nepal's community forestry program (CFP) started 40 years ago which provided legal circumstances for the locals to control and utilize the forest resources (Luintel et al.). in the mid-1970s the government started the early models of community forestry programs. However, the program was completed and implemented by the early 1990s. under the Forest Act 1993 and Forest Regulation 1995 the management responsibilities of forestry were decentralized, and communities were given power. under these legislation the local people could manage forests for their own benefits. these local communities were called community forest user groups (CFUGs) under the Forest Act 1993. CFUGs were "recognized as autonomous public bodies that can acquire, possess, transfer, and manage property" (Gautam et al.). However, the Nepalese government only selectively decentralized forested areas. For example, most of the CFUGs were recognized in the middle hill region since most of the communities of the region were believed to be capable of protecting the forests. On the other hand, in the lowland Terai region, the government still continues to hold power, and it has been resisting the devolution of power due to the high commercial value of the region (Luintel et al.).

Administrative arrangements

Administrative arrangements. Describe the management authority and the reporting system.

The country was governed by a feudal system and the forests were controlled by the powerful people such as elites. The government of Nepal around 1950s was mostly focused on changing the land use of forested areas toward agriculture because it would increase the tax base for government and also increase the revenue for the country. Around 1950s and 1970s a system of political parties replaced the old system, and in 1951 the new government nationalized all the forested areas under the control of the Forest Department. thereafter, around 1978 the government started community forestry programs which made it possible for local communities to mange their local forests. From 1990s to present, the forests are operated not only by the local people but also under the government of a multi party system of politics which are in contact with various different NGOs. (Malla)

Affected Stakeholders

Regarding conflicts in Terai forestry, it could be understood as a clash of interests in multiple levels. In one pole, global environmental protection concerns raised by international organizations like NGO conflicts with national economic development advocated by the Nepal government. On another side of the pole, conflicts happen at the household level. Access to forest resources and participation in decision-make depends on gender and age (Pravat &Humphrey 2013). In general, male family members are dominant over female members; older family members prevail over younger ones. In between two poles, conflicts between levels of state to community and intra-community are identified.

Conflicts in the level of state and community are interests clash of economic benefits and governance between the national and local communities. Terai region is the nation’s most productive agricultural land and has a large amount of high value hardwood forest (Brown 1998), and it is also the habitat of endangered wildlife. Terai region was valued until the 1990s; however, the national governance has been limited under the influence of local residents (Nightingale, Andrea &Hemant 2013). Due to the history of conflicts between nation and community, numerous protests and violence have been lodged against the issue of resource access and governance (Nightingale et al. 2013). Intra-community conflicts happen between groups of indigenous people and migrants, groups of proximate and distant users and groups of people have different classes, ethnicity, and religion. Take groups of proximate and distant users as an example, one of violent struggle is between residents who live in North/South. In the 2000s, the governmental adopt management program collaborative forest management (CFM) and public land forestry (PLF), which give more access to southern communities (Sultana et al. 2018). At the same time, the community forestry (CF) program addressed the needs of southern communities (Sultana et al. 2018). Together, these three influential programs increased access to southern communities.

Table 1. Multilevel conflicts in Terai forestry (Pravat &Humphrey 2013)
Global vs. national (Environment protection concerns of international organizations vs. economic development concerns of Nepal)

Nation vs. Community (National commercial development and governance vs. local economic development and participation in decision-making)

Intra–community (Conflicts between groups of people have different ethnicity, class, religion and proximate/distant users, indigenous/migrants )

Intra–household (Within a family level, in regard gender and age)

Interested Outside Stakeholders

Various groups have stakes in the forests. The Forestry Department has developed numerous management plans in the Terai region to achieve poverty reduction. In the late 1990s, donors started to invest in the Terai region, interested in developing community commercials to reduce poverty. For local residents, the income source is firewood, forest products, legal, or illegal logging. Poverty in the Terai region is a serious issue. Moreover, some donors also formulated environmental protection projects to support wildlife in the remaining jungle. Since some parts of the Terai region are legal to log, some European logging companies were joined, and their land is under commercial management (Schouwbroeck n.d.). It also attracts the attention of NGOs who think this land could only be managed under the community forest regime, and the Forest Department of Nepal should have the lowest governance.

Situation of stakeholders involved in 1990s: no agreement made

  •  Donors: purpose at reducing community’s poverty
  •  Donor-companies: interested in commercial management
  • Users: only local residences that have access to forests
  • Department of Forestry: adopt forest management plans to reduce poverty
  •  NGO: community forest only and governmental agencies must keep out

In the 2000s, stakeholders started to cooperate. Department of Forestry developed an official partnership with NGOs. They together implemented a program named Collaborative Forest Management (CFM) though there is criticism about it, going to increase access to southern communities and increasing conflicts. The Department of Forestry also established Joint Working Group with donors to support the environmental protection of the Terai region to some extent. Donors shifted to an environmental program: Sector-Wide Approaches as a response to District Land Use Plans formulated by NGOs.

Situation of stakeholders in 2000s: still no agreement made

  • Department of Forestry & donors established Joint Working Group
  • Department of Forestry & NGOs: developed official partnerships
  • Department of Forestry & NGOs: implemented Collaborative Forest Management (CFM)
  • Department of Forestry: supported the environmental protection of Terai forests
  • NGOs: developed Private Forestry Guidelines and District Land Use Plans
  • Donors: shifted to Sector-Wide Approaches
Table 2. Involved stakeholders and their interest
Involved Stakeholders Scope(s) Interest(s)
NGOs international/regional Ecological protection and poverty reduction
Donors national/regional         Poverty reduction and environmental protection
Donor-companies       regional Profits from commercial logging
Nepal Government national/regional         Poverty reduction


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

Two different regions of Kankali and Sundari were chosen by national and international institution for climate change mitigation. the governance of these two different community forests within the Terai region which were selected as Focus groups for evaluating community forest’s governance quality and their awareness of climate change mitigation initiatives.

Kankali community forest

Kankali was set as a pilot project area for the United Nations Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD +) from 2009 to 2013. During 1990 there was a excessive amount of illegal logging and frequent forest fires which left the forest in poor conditions. Some people had to migrate because of the unpleasant qualities of the land such as series of landslides. the local population who remained in the region initiated conservation practices. consecutively, there have been noticeable changes to forest environment comparing the area's present condition to decades ago when the community forestry program started. the area's biodiversity has increased and is considered productive; In addition, the area has also benefited from the program. So, the main source of income is sale of wood and some Eco-tourism which just been introduced to the area due to its unique environment. the revenue created from such programs has been used toward conservation practices (Lacuna-Richman et al.).

Sundari community forest

Sundari is linked to Nepal's United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and National Adaptation Program of Action (NAPA). the forested areas were in good condition until the government launched Human settlement program which lead to immigration of a lot of people to the area that resulted in degradation of the land since there was a lack of conservation program around 1970s and 80s. eventually, In 1996 community forest user group (CFUG) was introduced to the area. although the main focus of CFUG was sustainable forest practices, the user group also tried to improve the livelihood of the poor and disadvantage people of the area. In addition, The sources of income of the area are from forest products, membership fees, research fees, and fines for illegal activities. Such funds are used toward forestry practices such as preservation and also some amount would contribute towards community development.


  • Enhance women’s participation in community forest governance

Based on primary data of research conducted by Agarwal (2009), gender composition affect the conservation outcome. Agarwal (2009) hypothesized that quality of protection is substantially improved if there are more women in executive committee. Agarwal (2009) stated women in executive committee are more likely to comply the rules. Agarwal (2009) also hypothesis that women make contributions through their knowledge and experience about extraction of forest products.

  • Centralised approach to solve forest conflicts show little success

Centralised approach will not solve forest conflicts only there is trade-off (Paudel et al. 2008). Intensive interactions with neighbouring groups will also provide feedback on conflicts, in return inspire an approach. Authority in Terai forest is primarily bureaucratic which centralised conflicts. The process has gone difficultly and endlessly and there are need for support.

  • Make plan to respond negative impacts of climate change.

The consequence of climate change may affect conservation outcome. Such consequence could be monitored the impacts so that user groups can respond appropriately. Researcher urged the problems and potential impact in ecological region of Terai (Dahal et al. 2017).

  • Improve forest management plans

There are several projects has failed in Terai Region such as CFM. CF programme did show a success but it heavily rely on large number of volunteer work. Each stakeholders should develop a plan that shows long term goals and how they would achieve. Then the negotiation and trade-off could be achieved.


Agarwal, Bina. "Gender and Forest Conservation: The Impact of Women's Participation in Community Forest Governance." Ecological Economics, vol. 68, no. 11, 2009, pp. 2785-2799.

Brown, Katrina. "The Political Ecology of Biodiversity, Conservation and Development in Nepal's Terai: Confused Meanings, Means and Ends." Ecological Economics, vol. 24, no. 1, 1998, pp. 73-87.

Dahal, Digambar S., et al. "Sustainability Assessment of Community Forestry Practices in Nepal: Literature Review and Recommendations to Improve Community Management." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, India Section B: Biological Sciences, vol. 87, no. 1, 2017, pp. 1-11.

Devkota, B. P., and I. Mustalahti. “Complexities in Accessing REDD+ Benefits in Community Forestry: Evidence from Nepal’s Terai Region.” International Forestry Review, vol. 20, no. 3, Aug. 2018, pp. 332–45, doi:10.1505/146554818824063041.

Gautam, Ambika P., et al. “GIS Assessment of Land Use/Land Cover Changes Associated with Community Forestry Implementation in the Middle Hills of Nepal.” Source: Mountain Research and Development, vol. 22, no. 1, 2002,

Gilmour, D. A., et al. “Review Reviewed Work(s): Villagers, Forests and Foresters: The Philosophy, Process and Practice of Community Forestry in Nepal By.” Source: The Commonwealth Forestry Review, vol. 70, no. 4, 1991.

Lacuna-Richman, Celeste, et al. “Users’ Priorities for Good Governance in Community Forestry: Two Cases from Nepal’s Terai Region.” Forest Policy and Economics, vol. 65, Elsevier B.V., Apr. 2016, pp. 69–78, doi:10.1016/j.forpol.2015.11.005.

Luintel, Harisharan, et al. “The Effect of the Nepal Community Forestry Program on Equity in Benefit Sharing.” The Journal of Environment & Development, vol. 26, no. 3, Sept. 2017, pp. 297–321, doi:10.1177/1070496517707305.

Luintel, Harisharan, et al. “The Effects of the Nepal Community Forestry Program on Biodiversity Conservation and Carbon Storage.” PLoS ONE, vol. 13, no. 6, 2018, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0199526.

Malla, Y. B. “Changing Policies and the Persistence of Patron-Client Relations in Nepal: Stakeholders’ Responses to Changes in Forest Policies.” History, vol. 6, no. 2, 2001,

Nightingale, Andrea J., and Hemant R. Ojha. “Rethinking Power and Authority: Symbolic Violence and Subjectivity in Nepal’s Terai Forests.” Development and Change, vol. 44, no. 1, Jan. 2013, pp. 29–51, doi:10.1111/dech.12004.

Pravat, Poshendra Satyal, and David Humphreys. Using a Multilevel Approach to Analyse the Case of Forest Conflicts in the Terai, Nepal ☆. 2012, doi:10.1016/j.forpol.2012.09.013.

Sultana, Parvin, et al. “Transforming Local Natural Resource Conflicts to Cooperation in a Changing Climate: Bangladesh and Nepal Lessons.” Climate Policy, vol. 19, no. sup1, July 2019, pp. S94–106, doi:10.1080/14693062.2018.1527678.

Schouwbroeck, Frank. Sustainable Forestry Management in Nepal: Terai Forests | Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships. Accessed 27 Nov. 2019.

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