24 Aug 2015

Insights into how nature and people benefit from community forestry in Nepal

There are many benefits to the community of sustainably-managed forests. Photo: David Thomas / BirdLife
There are many benefits to the community of sustainably-managed forests. Photo: David Thomas / BirdLife
By Billy Fairburn

Nepal is blessed with a rich diversity of wildlife – a consequence of the varied landscapes in the country, from high mountain meadows, to mid-hills forests to the plains of the Terai. This diversity of nature is also what underpins much of the economy: at household level, for the millions of people dependent on natural resources for food and fuel-wood; to the income the country earns from international tourists coming to see their rhinos, tigers and red pandas.

This project aims to ensure communities reap the full</br>potential benefits from community forests</br>well-managed for biodiversity.</br>Photo: David Thomas / BirdLifeWith ample justification, Nepal is well known around the world for its pioneering work on community forestry, which has helped restore degraded land and improve the livelihoods of communities. Now, in the latest national plan for biodiversity, the Government of Nepal has committed to integrating biodiversity conservation into its community forestry program – to create a strategy that is good for people and good for nature.

Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN – the BirdLife International Partner in Nepal), in collaboration with the Department of Forests (DoF) and Federation of Community Forestry Users Nepal (FECOFUN), organised a two-day workshop on 4th & 5th August to launch the project Mainstreaming Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services into Community Forestry in Nepal”. Funded by the UK’s Darwin Initiative, this three year project aims to ensure that communities reap the full potential benefits from biodiversity within community forests.

"These benefits are far-reaching and connected to the health of the forest, including: preserving cultural values, creating employment and incomes, maintaining water supplies, enhancing resilience to climate change and conserving traditional medicine", said Billy Fairburn, Project Officer - Partnership, Capacity and Communities, BirdLife International.

During the workshop, 20 participants from a range of government and non-governmental organisations presented papers which provided important insights into how biodiversity is being conserved through community forestry, the benefits that biodiversity has brought for communities, but also the challenges that many communities face.

Important insights

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Well-managed Nepalese forests</br>provide fresh drinking water.</br>Photo: David Thomas / BirdLifeFor example, Pragyajan Yalamber Rai (Presenter, United Nations Development Programme, UNDP) described how communities at Chihaan Danda Community Forest User Group (CFUG) are restoring degraded land by planting a diverse mix of multiple-use tree species, as a measure to increase resilience to climate change.

Arati Khadagi (Program Officer, World Wildlife Fund) described how communities upstream of Jagdishpur reservoir are conserving their forests and managing land in ways which reduce the siltation of the reservoir – benefitting downstream users of irrigation water. These downstream users are paying the upstream CFUGs (with so-called ‘Payments for Ecosystem Services’) to manage their forests in this way.

K P Yadav (Project Officer, UNDP) presented a case study which described how the Kalika CFUG of Dang District is benefitting from the conservation of vultures and their roosting and nesting habitat. Tourists are willing to pay to come to see flocks of vultures feeding at so-called ‘vulture restaurants’.

“We have seen that in each of these cases, local communities are benefitting from the management and conservation of biodiversity within their community forests,”

said David Thomas, Head of Communities and Livelihoods, BirdLife International.

Learning the lessons from ‘good practice’ examples such as these provides a promising opportunity to introduce biodiversity conservation more directly into the management of community forests – creating forests that are ‘Good for People and Good for Nature’.

Very positively, the Mr. Krishna Prasad Pokharel, DDG from Department of Forests reaffirmed the government’s resolution of mainstreaming biodiversity and ecosystem services in community forests, and outlined the opportunities and challenges ahead. The workshop was concluded with influential remarks by Dr. Udayraj Sharma, former Secretary Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation and Forest and Environment Expert, who supported the significance of the project in further developing the contribution of community forests in Nepal to equitable, sustainable development and to the conservation of nature.

As you have read, community forestry means much more than a sign and a set of guidelines. Photo: David Thomas / BirdLife

BirdLife is working with Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN, BirdLife in Nepal), the Federation of Community Forestry Users Nepal (FECOFUN) and the Department of Forests’ Community Forestry Division to tackle a number of problems currently faced by the unsustainable management of Nepal’s community forests.

The project “Mainstreaming biodiversity and ecosystem services into community forestry in Nepal” is part of BirdLife’s Local Engagement and Empowerment Programme in the Asia region and funded by the Darwin Initiative.

More project information in this story: Community forestry to benefit nature and people