Government to expand community forest coverage

- PRAGATI SHAHI, Kathmandu
Government to expand community forest coverage

Sep 16, 2014-

The government plans to expand the coverage of community forest from the existing 29 to 40 percent by next ten years.

The community forest covers 1.7 million hectares of total forest area at present. By 2024, the government aims to bring 2.3 million hectares of total forest area under the community forestry regime, according to the Forestry Sector Strategy for Nepal (2014-2024). Currently, forest area covers about 5.83 million hectares (39.6 percent of the total land area) in the country.

Since the inception in the late 70s, the community forestry programme has been hailed as one of the best forest management models at the national as well as global level for its approach in encouraging local people’s ownership in managing forest resources. Local communities are the key stakeholders in forest management, conservation and as beneficiaries. Experts said the new strategy will seeks ways to enable communities to benefit more from active and sustainable forest management through the provision of forest products and environmental services.

“It is very encouraging move despite the regressing efforts taken by the government towards community forestry,” said Apsara Chapagain of the Federation of Community Forest Users Nepal (FECOFUN). She said the implementation of the programmes and policies would be crucial to determine whether or not the government is encouraging community forests. “The government has been reluctant to hand over hundreds of community forests in Tarai,” Chapagain said. At present, 18,133 community forest users groups across the country are registered under the FECOFUN.

According to Annapurna Nand Das, joint-secretary at the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, the community forest programme has been developed and promoted to harness the productive potential of forests--with a focus on local people’s benefit.

However, in the recent years, the community forest management has come under scrutiny of the government for the lack of transparency, corruption and political infringement. While the reports prepared by the government in 2011 and the following years blamed the community forests for promoting deforestation and encroachment, forest users have instead blamed government for trying to curtail their role in forest management.

Similarly, the growing differences between the FECOFUN, the umbrella organisation of community forest users, and the government regarding the formation of Rastrapati Tarai Madhesi Chure Conservation Development Committee and the plan to declare the Chure region a conservation area has also affected the Chure conservation programme.

Meanwhile, the strategy has also encouraged various other community-based forest management modalities, including collaborative forestry, pro-poor leasehold forest management, buffer zone management, public land management and urban forestry, with the involvement of local people in planning, implementation and benefit sharing process.

Published: 17-09-2014 09:07

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