Community Forest Management in Dozam, Bhutan
Dozam Community Forest was the first Community Forest established by the Department of Forests and Park Services (DoFPS) of Bhutan in 1997. By June 2015, there were 600 CFs approved and established across Bhutan (Zangmo, 2016). Although the Dozam CF serves as the pioneer forestry management model to the government and neighboring communities, it has its flaws. In this Wiki article, its successes and positive changes to the local community will be discussed. In addition, drawbacks and its consequent negative impacts will be examined, and possible recommendations will be suggested.
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), where around 72% is covered with forest, of which
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 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 (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 (Chophel, 1997; 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||Main Relevant Objectives||Relative Power|
|Dozam Forest Local Community||
|The Lemongrass Cooperative||
|The Department of Forests and Park Services (DoFPS) of Bhutan||
|The Royal Government of Bhutan||
|The Europian Lemongrass Market||
Although Dozam CF is rather degraded, the local community has benefited from harvesting and marketing lemon grass and amla fruit from their CF. The Dozam forest community has gained wide international recognition and both local and export demand for its quality lemongrass oil with certified organic standards (Yangzom, Krug, Tshomo, & Setboonsarng, 2008). The Group, as an organized entity, is able to enhance marketing and marketability of their produce and products, secure more favorable prices, strengthen local capacity and add additional downstream value to primary produce (International Monetary Fund, 2010).
Residents in Dozam expressed (Phuntsho, Schmidt, Kuyakanon, & Temphel, 2011):
Savings, incomes from fees for the use of forest products, sale, fines for illegal activities and donations from visitors all contributed to the community funds. In 2006, the Dozam CF’s fund is sourced from (Wangdi & Tshering, 2006):
With the total expenditure of Nu. 15,400, the fund generates a positive balance of Nu. 94,616, which is deposited in a bank account jointly operated by the concerned executive members of the Dozam CFMG (Wangdi & Tshering, 2006). The Dozam CFMG uses the fund for:
The local community is empowered by the decentralization policy where self-help and self-organizing activities are held. This strengthens confidence and capacity in farmers and encourages collective problem-solving. This bottom-up management also fosters the establishment of real grass-roots democracy and improves local governance (Gilmour et al., 2009).
The formation of the Management Group allows delivery of information, development inputs and services more convenient for the Royal Government to communities with local representatives serving as an essential focal point for communication. The community can also better express their concerns and defend their rights in the local parliament as an organized group (Gilmour et al., 2009).
Full participation from the community is reported by the chairman of the Dozam CF. The community gained more awareness of the importance of the CF to their livelihood with the establishment of the CF, whereas, in the past, community participation in any community development work was minimal (Wangdi & Tshering, 2006).
The village elders of Dozam CF observed that reduced conflicts over resource utilization and livestock grazing. All members are now given an equal opportunity to express their views, suggestions, and comments in the meetings to reach a consensus collectively. The CFMG also serves as a platform for discussion of issues other than CF (Wangdi & Tshering, 2006).
In Bhutan, there is generally a limited representation of women in local decision-making bodies and a lack of women’s awareness on entitled legal rights. However, women users in the Dozam Community Forest had overcome the gender hierarchies. Among the 114 registered members of the Community Forest Management Group, 70 are women, accounting for more than 60% of all the members (Rinzin, 2012).
After the establishment of Community Forest in Dozam, there is a significant drop in the number of wild forest fire incidents. Seven forest fire incidents were recorded to be stopped by the local community (Dey, 2003). An increase in vegetation cover is also observed (Temphel & Beukeboom, 2006). The regeneration rate in oak and Castanopsis has raised with 1.3 kg chir pine seeds being broadcasted (Dey, 2003). No timber has been harvested from Dozam CF because of its limited capacity to supply wood for another ten years (Wangdi & Tshering, 2006). The improvements in the forest conditions are triggered by:
The Dozam CFMG:
More native species are planted in the CF to protect water source (Gilmour et al., 2009). Controlled grazing and forest fires, which encourage natural regeneration, has contributed to better rehabilitate degraded land and areas prone to landslides (Wangdi & Tshering, 2006). The controlled forest fire, with the thick bush growth, also increase the number of wild boar and deer every year (Wangdi & Tshering, 2006).
In Dozam, poorer households have limited access to loan services established within the CFMG (Phuntsho, Schmidt, Kuyakanon, & Temphel, 2011). Preferences are given to richer members and outsiders such as local contractors, as they are expected to have a higher possibility to repay the loan, on time, and with a higher interest rate.
Although according to the Forest and Nature Conservation Rules 11, CFMG has the right to manage their forest resources, the local community is not authorized to manage and operate stone extraction from the CF area, unless with a granted license (Phuntsho et al., 2011). This creates a barrier for the members to generate income through such activities. The Dozam committee members said (Phuntsho et al., 2011):
Dozam CFMG included a mix of rich and poor households where the poorest group tended to be under-represented (Buffum, Lawrence, & Temphel, 2010). 27% of the members are in the poorest category, occupying only 18% of the committee representatives position.
Although the elected executive committee members have continuously maintained CFMG’s records and accounts, the documentation is inadequately recorded because of their low literacy rate (Wangdi & Tshering, 2006).
There is high demand for organic certified essential oil in Europe, which Dozam could utilize the opportunity and gain revenue to improve the community livelihoods. A project has identified that the cost of distillation of wintergreen and Artemisia in Dozam is way too high for the current essential oil market (Rinzin, 2012). The Government could initiate projects coordinating both scientists and the local villagers, to collectively create other innovative lower-cost distillation methods, hence expand the export market. Money received could be used to reinvest in the Dozam CF, creating a virtuous cycle.
The government should revisit the Forest and Nature Conservation Rules to ensure the stone extraction practices are more flexible. This allows poorer households in Dozam to derive optimal benefits from the CF.
As the Dozam community urges their CF to be able to support their daily demand, forest professionals, scientists, and ecologists could collaborate with the Dozam CFMG and assist in preparing a more competent management plan and harvest practices for their woodlots.
The Dozam CFMG could actively seek proper training in record keeping and financial management from the Department of Forests and Park Services (DoFPS), to generate Group’s documentation and records more professionally.
|This conservation resource was created by Course:FRST270.|