Course:FRST370/Projects/Collaborative Forest Management in Nepal: A case study of Terai Forest

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Figure1: The distribution of Nepal

This study will revise the historical background and current development of the Collaborative Forest Management in Terai district, Nepal.

Forestry product is an essential source of national revenue of Nepal, so Nepal has a long history of forest management, from the time of Rana family to the government of Nepal. The forest management in Nepal has developed through multiple modalities, Community forestry (CF), Governmental Forest and Collaborative Forest Management. To correct some errors and consolidate the power of the national government in forest management, CFM was introduced by the government as a management policy of Terai district in 2000. Besides that, The Community forestry was abolished at the same time, and the CFM replaced it. Different modalities represent the tenure and benefits of various stakeholders, so there is also a consistent conflict between the supporters of varying forest management modalities, especially the CFM stakeholders and CF stakeholders.

Terai area was weak in the consistency and implement of policy in the history, so the fluctuation and shift of policy also lead to many conflicts.The geographic location, ethnic composition, high economic-value forest together with fluctuated forestry policies produced a complex background in the Terai area. This paper will overview some history and current condition in the Terai forest and discuss the current stage of CFM. 

Description

Terai districts take up the large proportion of the national land area of Nepal and have nearly half of the population[1]. Terai forest has many high economic value trees since the predominance hardwood species particular Sal (Shorea Robusta), Sissoo (Dalbergia Sissoo) and Khair (Acacia Catechu)[1]. The social importance of Terai district and the high economic value lead to the management of Terai forest is critical for the national development and stability. Other than that, Terai forest also is an essential resource in ecology, culture and recreation[2]. The effectiveness of a forest management modality is dependent on the resource and value of the forest, so the value of Terai forest is closely related to whether CFM succeeds or not.  

The geographical location, population and races 

Terai area is located in the southern part of Nepal in a 32 km belt of fertile plain, and nearly 50% Nepal population live and rely on the 20 Terai districts[1]. Before the 1960s, the population consisted of the communities of ethnic Dhanuwar and Tharu. After the 1960s, with the eradication of malaria, the development of East-West highway, and construction of new land promote the tendency of immigration from surrounding communities, so the rate of population increase in Terai is much higher than other areas. The new immigrants caused heterogeneous and unstable social composition[1]. The population of Terai consist of the Indian origin, descendants of the original Tharu inhabitants and migrants from the hills. The amount of new settlers from other areas has exceeded the number of descendants of the original communities.

Furthermore, the ethnic composition of migrants is also heterogeneous, they are from Magar, Chettri, Kami, Gurungs and Newars[1]. Therefore, the overall ethnic composition is complex, and it has a huge impact on the stability of society, consistency of policy and assignment of the forest resource. Social contradictions have continued. The complicated social composition leads to the conflicts in land resource usage and benefits, and such social conflict always exists in different stages of development of forest management. The complex in ethnic composition and high value are a part of the complex background in Nepal, and it could lead to the incomplete implement of policies and social conflicts. Thought the failure of operational forest management plans (OFMPs), the central government started to consider the interest of different groups, especially local users, to make the policies consistent and expand the authority[3]

Review the Nepal Forestry policies

Due to the high value and complex background of Terai forest, the importance of Terai forest has been recognized by groups in power since the time of Rana family. In Nepal history, the shift of the management modality of forestland and resource in Terai has happened several times. The timeline of the historical policies and management modalities is below: 

·     In 1951, Rana regime was abolished. The nationalization of forests which was belonged to the Rana family provided a major source of income to the government. The export of forest product provided a source of national revenue[4].

·     In the middle of the 1960s, the introduction of immigration encouraged many hill settlers to settle in the Terai. Terai forests were the income of politicians and illegal logging[4]

·     Since the 1960s, a compulsory control from the government: national parks and protected areas were created. The conflict between the local community and national parks existed since local communities through the protected areas was local territories[4]

·     First democratic movement and Forest Act (1993) and the 1995 Forest Regulations formed a political framework for the forestry. CF was formed in the first amendment of the Forest Act 1993. The user groups were legalized[1]

·     In the late 1990s, the failure of operational forest management plans (OFMPs) resulted from a lack of local stakeholders[5].

·     The controversial Revised Forestry Sector Policy in 2000 introduced the CFM through the second amendment of the Forest Act 1993[1][5].

Tenure arrangements

In the history of forestry, state-owned forest land is a characteristic of the Terai region start from the Rana family. The groups in power control and management through centralization and some bureaucrats. Currently, this characteristic is kept. Even though the central government started to emphasize decentralization and public participation through some community-based management system, they still hold unlimited power of the forest.

Forest tenure includes rights and specific benefits produced from forests, management, and alienation[5].

The government-owned unlimited use right, 50% benefits from the forest (40% gained from central government and 10% gained of local government)[5]. Regarding the management right, the government can approve plan and scheme, so that forest is managed through annual schemes or long-term plan. The government is the only political entity that has the revoke right to change the land use.[5]

Local communities and local users have access and withdrawal rights, and they share 10% of the revenue from forest products[5]. They are involved in the management process. However, the participation of local communities is managed by DFO. It means local communities cannot make decisions on their own, and their participation and behaviour is under the approval of governmental forestry sectors[5].

As for the household or individuals, they have few spaces to decide the benefit-sharing modality, and they do not have an impact on the decision-making process. Besides that, the indigenous groups do not own explicitly legal tenure in forest management. However, in reality, the operators will consult them in practice[5].

Administrative arrangements

CFM working groups work under the domination of the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation (MFSC), which defined the CFM as a collaborative modality to achieve and share benefits with multiple stakeholders[6]. Central government implement CFM policies through a bureaucratic system. The District Forest Office (DFO) is the core institution in CFM which monitors the implement of CFM policies and controls other institutions, like the District Forest Sector Coordination Committee (DFSCC), Collaborative Forest Management Group (CFMG) and Program Management Committee (PMC)[5].

Governance 

Terai forest is the State-owned forest. The Nepal central government has the most power and 40% of the revenue of forest products[4], and they have absolute control over forest management and unlimited tenure of Terai forest. Therefore, the central government is the high power and high interest stakeholder.  

Terai forest management is a ‘techno-bureaucratic’ system. It means a system of forestry that is controlled over a scientific management system but through a bureaucratic planning structure[7]. Local government and Forest bureaucrats (national forest departments) are the institutions that assist the central government in achieving its absolute control and unlimited tenure, so they also have high power over Terai forest. The difference between state forest departments and local government is that local government also share revenue but state forest departments do not. The interest of them is relatively low.

The local users are under the control of the central government, but they can share 50% of the total revenue[5]. They have high interest and low power. Other than that, NGOs, distantly located users, donors are all the low interest and low power groups. They do not share any benefits and do not have any power over the forest management. 

It can be seen that, even though CFM policy reforms enhancing devolution of power to local communities, the authority in forestry is primarily within state agencies[7]. The power of the central government is unlimited[5].

Affected Stakeholders

CFM modality announced that the profits from forest products such as timber and fuelwood would be shared among the national government (40%) and local government (10%) and local users (50%)[5]. Hence the three major affected stakeholders are the Nepal Central government, local government and the CFMGs. There also some affected stakeholders not explicitly indicated in CFM, like indigenous people. 

·     Nepal Central government

The central government introduced CFM as the pilot in 2000, and legalize it in 2016. The central government has the power to control and formulatethe policies, which has a direct impact on the local communities. Furthermore, the high-value forest products and timber products are the sources of national revenue. Therefore Nepal central government is the major affected stakeholder. The right and tenure of a national government is unlimited in the modality. The government shares 40% economic benefits from the forest, like the income of forest product and timber product[4][5]

·     Forest bureaucrats: State forest departments 

In CFM, forest bureaucratsinclude the District Forest Office (DFO) together with the District Forest Sector Coordination Committee (DFSCC), Collaborative Forest Management Group (CFMG) and Program Management Committee (PMC). State forest departments help the central government to implement the CFM directly and control the whole management process. The forest departments participate in the management and promote the engagement of stakeholders. They have power and influence in CFM policies.   

·     The local government: 

Local government shares 10% of the total revenue, and they are geographically located in CFM regimes. They have a close connection with local users and local NGOs 

·     Local forest user groups: CFMGs

In 2017, twenty-six Collaborative Forest Management groups (CFMGs) have been established throughout the whole Terai area. One single CFMG consists of multiple surrounding communities or villages. These CFMGs control and implement the policies in the CFM regime, around 67,000 hectors[5]. The local users shared 50% the profits from the forest products. They have high benefits and high power in the CFM regime, so they are the affected stakeholders. 

·     Indigenous groups. 

Indigenous people are not explicitly included by CFM, but the operator should ask for advice from indigenous groups as long as they prepare the management plan[5].

Interested Outside Stakeholders

·     Non-governmental organizations (NGOs): ACOFUN

AssociationOf Collaborative Forest Users, Nepal (ACOFUN) is an NGO who represent CFM. The function of ACOFUN is an NGO which is on behalf of CFM groups and advance the CFM program which represents the interests of Madhesis people[7]. ACOFUN do not own and power or share any interest in CFM regime.  

·     Donors: Dutch

Dutch is a donor active in Terai forests and support the CFM program[5]. In the beginning stage, CFM starts from a Dutch-funded BISEP-ST program in eight Terai districts[5]. Dutch contributed to the beginning of the CFM program and supported it at following stages, while they do not have authority in Terai forest, and there is no evidence showing that Dutch share profit from the program.

·     Distantly located users (e.g. the Madhesis and Tharus)

Distantly located usersshare the benefits from the Terai forest, but they are less dependent on the CFM forest, and they do not directly participate in the management process. In the previous management modalities, the distant communities got fewer benefits than local communities, so there were some conflicts between the distant and local communities. One reason lead to the conflict in between local and distant users is that remote users do not have enough power in the community forest, they can only purchase or share benefits in a forest[8]. Their power is relatively low, and CFM program is trying to enhance the right of distantly located users. 

Discussion

CFM is a serious forest management program which was introduced in 2000 as a regional experiment in some Terai districts supported by the government and donors, and until 2016, it was legalized in 2016 through the second amendment of the Forest Act 1993[5]. The primary CFM regime is located in the Terai region. In the history of Terai forest, there were some benefit conflicts in between local communities and the central government regarding access and usage of forest land. CFM is considered as a method of strengthening the control, benefit and power of central government.

Four announced goals of CFM:

1.    Maintain consistent management of the large and high-value forests in Terai[5].

2.    Meet the demand and balance the benefits among multiple stakeholders, like local communities and remote communities[5]

3.    Maintain the productivity of forest to keep high commercial value in a long period by using scientific silviculture system[5].

4.    Preserve biodiversity and ecology[5]

The conflict between CF and CFM

In the history of Nepal, there was always conflict between local communities and government in terms of access, use, control, and commerce. 

In the research by Nightingale and Ojha (2013), the authors review the history of the conflict between CF and CFM. Community Forest (CF) first came out in the Terai in the middle of the 1990s and community forestry user groups (CFUGs) are established, and the Federation of Community Forestry Users Nepal (FECOFUN) are products of CF, and they are also a strong opponent to CFM[7]. The CFUGs in Terai thought they were independent since the central government did not provide enough protection. In addition, CF in the Terai achieved some successes because of the struggles of locally-based CFUGs supported by NGOs. The village leaders tried to build up the connection with national NGOs, particularly FECOFUN, to let them get power and challenge the power of District Forest Office (DFO) which is official in the forestry sector[7].

It produced huge stress to the central government since not only the CFUGs but the FECOFUN had the possibility and potential power to become new political subjectivities[7]. By contrast, in the hill region, which is another region away from Terai, CFUGs did not struggle to protect their rights so the feudalistic relationship with the central governmentwas entrenched. The authors think that due to the success of CFUGs in Terai region, the central government put an end to CF. They announced that Terai forest is not only the property of local communities but also belonged to the nation and the public[7]

In 2000, CFM established and the government-owned more control and power over the management process, as well as 75% percent of the revenue[7]. On the contrary, CF users kept and controlled all revenue from forest product. That is the core contrast between CF and CFM other than the official announcements, and source of the benefit conflict between the central government and local communities.

The conflict between CF and CFM also embodied the opposition betweenthe State and the local community. In CF, local communities share more rights and benefits from forest than CFM and they can become an independent political organization away from the governmental control. The supporters of CF hold the view that CF could take good care of forest and the minor groups can uptake more benefits. In addition, CF users already achieved the goals like conservation and proper forest management. The authors hold the views that CFM was initiated as a replacement by the government since the central government need to consolidatetheir benefits and authority in forest management. 

Assessment

The process of CFM policies are often temporary and unstable and the purpose of the management process is to seek higher productivity, so it fails to recognize the productive potential in a long period[5]. Concerning sustainable development, CFM cannot be treated as a successful modality. 

The fluctuation of policy has continued both in the history and within CFM regime. Therefore, Terai forests have never been continuously managed. Technically, the CFM fail to achieve the potential of forest management because the main goal is to produce more forest product, so the sustainability and ecological landscape are ignored in some cases. The forest is not managed even according to basic principles[5]. For example, DFO and CFMGs have concerned the productivity of Sal (Shorea Robusta), which is a high-value hardwood species. In some area, Sal forests are vulnerable to forest degradation under bad silviculture methods[5]. The poor implement of silviculture principles and high demand for forest products will enhance forest degradation.

Concerning the multiple stakeholder participation, there are some stakeholders ignored. CFM policies are still weak in the engagement and respect of indigenous group; there are no explicit principles to protect the tenure and revenue of indigenous groups. In another word, the indigenous group are excluded by CFM regimes even though they are still living in the local forest.  

The central government shares most benefit and power, but there is no explicit statement how to ensure transparency and legitimacy of policies. The abused power can produce corruption and lack confidence of the public. As a supporter of CF said, “CFM moves to give DFO staff more control over forest management appear to be about consolidating authority and access to forestry revenue rather than conservation”[7]. Although the goal of CFM is to promote local community participation, the major tenure belongs to central government so that it reduced the believability of CFM. It is negative to the advance of CFM.

Recommendations

CFM is a multiple participants modalities, but apparently, the most and significantly affected stakeholder is the Nepal national government. They share half of the profits from forest product. They have the power to control and monitor the management process and decide the implement or revoke of policies. In the history of Nepal forestry, the forest resources are under the control of minor stakeholders in power, from Rana family to the central government. Centralization is the characteristic of Terai forestry, CFM is no exception. I think the core reasons are the complex background and the high-value of forest products. Due to the state control, local groups do not have enough power in the decision-making process, and their participation is limited. CFM emphasizes the participation of multiple stakeholders together with sharing revenue with the participants. However, central government tend to dominate other groups and hold power rather than share power with the public. 

The problems in CFM largely result from some social problems originated from the complex background and the centralized management system. Due to the centralization and bureaucratic management, justice and equality of the benefit-sharing mechanism is critical in terms of the developing CFM regime, reducing corruption, and enhancing the believability. 

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Iversen, V., Chhetry, B., Francis, P., Gurung, M., Kafle, G., Pain, A., & Seeley, J. (2006). High-value forests, hidden economies and elite capture: Evidence from forest user groups in Nepal's Terai. Ecological Economics58(1), 93–107. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2005.05.021
  2. Jamarkattel, B. K., Dhungana, S. P., Baral, S., Rana, B., & Dhungana, H. (2009). Democratizing Terai Forestry Governance: Emerging Innovations in the Western Terai Region of Nepal. Journal of Forest and Livelihood8(2). https://doi.org/10.3126/jfl.v8i2.2306
  3. Bampton, J. F. R., Ebregt, A., & Banjade, M. R. (2007). Collaborative Forest Management in Nepal ' s Terai : Policy, Practice and Contestation. Journal of Forest and Livelihood.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Satyal Pravat, P., & Humphreys, D. (2013). Using a multilevel approach to analyze the case of forest conflicts in the Terai, Nepal. Forest Policy and Economics33, 47–55. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.forpol.2012.09.013
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 5.16 5.17 5.18 5.19 5.20 5.21 5.22 5.23 5.24 Dhungana, S. P., Satyal, P., Yadav, N. P., & Bhattarai, B. (2017). Collaborative Forest Management in Nepal : Tenure, Governance and Contestations. Journal of Forest and Livelihood15(1), 27–42.
  6. Poudel, M. (2007). Evaluating collaborative management of forest from Rangapur CFM, Rautahat. Banko Janakari17(1), 32–38.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 Nightingale, A. J., & Ojha, H. R. (2013). Rethinking Power and Authority: Symbolic Violence and Subjectivity in Nepal’s Terai Forests. Development and Change44(1), 29–51. https://doi.org/10.1111/dech.12004
  8. Rai, R. K., Dhakal, A., Khadayat, M. S., & Ranabhat, S. (2017). Is collaborative forest management in Nepal able to provide benefits to distantly located users? Forest Policy and Economics83(March), 156–161. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.forpol.2017.08.004


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