Nepal’s experiences with community forestry programs have shown how forests serve the people by offering all kinds of services and helping to reduce poverty by providing firewood and fodders. Despite all successful years of protection and preservatio

May 29, 2011, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.: 04 No.-23 May 27 -2011 (Jestha 13,2068)

Population of Dhugen Village of Lalitpur, 10 kilometers east of capital Kathmandu, has seen a drastic change in their locality. The local people have turned barren mountains with small bushes into green dense forests reviving watershed as well as making it the main supplier of wood and fodders.

Baghmara Community Forestry in Chitwan National Park is another example where the local communities have been taking a lot of benefits out of it.

From generating financial resources to producing firewood and fodder, farmers produce everything from the Baghmara Community Forestry to meet the needs.

Baghmara Community Forest has become a model of sustainable community forest conservation in Nepal. Baghmara Community Forest is located on the northeast boundary of Royal Chitwan National Park in Bachhauli Village Development Committee (VDC).

The Baghmara was once a dense forest and a famous hunting ground for the tiger, and hence given the name Baghmara (Bagh-Tiger, mara-kill). Over the last 20 years, due to lack of attention from government authorities and increasing needs of the local people, the forest has been degraded and overgrazed.

Established in 1990 in an area of 32 ha, community managed ecotourism in Baghmara has been able to generate local guardianship in the conservation of the biological diversity of the area. The community forest has also increased the animal habitats, while still meeting a large percentage of the villager’s demand for fuel wood and fodder.

Why Forest Matters

Forests support in climate change mitigation, help secure water quality and decrease the impacts of storms and floods while helping control erosion. Forests are the home of more than half of terrestrial species and forests also provide homes, security and livelihoods of millions people.

In Nepal, more than 60 percent of total energy consumed by people and industry derives from forests such as fuel wood and charcoal. Nepal generates over a billion rupees in revenue from it. Nepal’s forests are the home of world’s many endangered species and provide home to tens and thousands of living things.

The conservation of forest has qualitatively changed the livelihood of people. Because of revival of water shed, women do not have to go a long way to fetch the water and feed their cattle. Similarly, the availability of fire wood also helps local community.

When Nepal is celebrating the World Environment Day on June 5 with a slogan showing the importance of forest in livelihood, the country has a reason to rejoice. The Ministry of Environment has already formulated programs up to the district level.

Along with announcing the awards to persons involved in environment conservation areas, the Ministry will also organize rallies at the district levels with an objective to raise the awareness about the environment.

“Unlike in the past, we will focus our programs at the district levels and grass root level where problems related to environment degradation are more pronounced,” said Purushootam Ghimire. “This year’s slogan is very relevant to our country as Nepal has made a good progress in forest conservation.”

World Environment Day and Forests

According to United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), beyond supporting the natural habitat, forests sustain economic growth. In 2004, trade in forest products was estimated at $327 billion. Continued and uncontrolled deforestation not only has devastating consequences for the environment, the wildlife and communities, but for economies around the world.

Rather shockingly, 36 million acres of natural forest are lost each year. World Environment Day (WED) chose this year’s theme, ‘Forests: Nature at Your Service’, to encourage forest conservation and sustainable consumption for green growth, and in support of the UN International Year of Forests Initiative. Preserving forests throughout the world has to be in our collective consciousness so as to change our lifestyles.

Standing forests also conserve carbon while supporting the livelihoods of a large number of Indigenous Peoples and forest-dependent communities as well, providing essential ecosystem services such as habitat for biodiversity and provisioning clean water supplies.

UNEP urges governments should develop and implement policies that encourage sustainable use of forests. They should consider cordoning off areas inhabited by endangered species and promote forest restoration where they have been depleted.

Nepal’s State

Dhungen of Lalitpur and Baghmara are not only two villages to see drastic changes due to preservation of forests. There are more than 14,000 user groups who are enjoying the fruit of forest conservation in Nepal tangibly contributing to improve the livelihood of people.

According to the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation, since 1980, about 14,000 CFUGs have been formed. About one-fourth of Nepal’s national forest is now managed by more than 35 percent of the total population. Community forestry is now the second-largest forests management regime after government-managed forests. Currently, forest accounts 40 percent land of the country. Nepal’s forest decreases at the rate of 1.9 percent and annual increase of 1.3 percent.

This year’s World Environment Day’s message has also a lot to say to Nepal where, otherwise, the coming generation may have to lose.

Unlike in the past, the WED will be celebrated around the country highlighting the importance of the environment in the day to day life of common people. From capital Kathmandu to district headquarters, various groups will celebrate the WED by organizing different programs.

“We want to utilize the WED as a day to generate awareness about the nature and environment. Realizing the need to generate awareness at rural parts of the country where the people have to suffer a lot due to degrading environment, we are focusing our program targeting the rural Nepal,” said Purushottam Ghimire, joint secretary and chief of Environment Division of Ministry of Environment.

Forestry is an extensive land use system in Nepal. The forest and trees provide a vast array of goods and services to human beings. Forest and tree resources provide the basic commodities such as fuel wood, timber and fodder to the people and serve as an important ecological function such as biodiversity conservation, erosion control, and carbon dioxide consumption.

Agriculture is the mainstay of economy in the country as agriculture and forestry together have a 32% contribution in total gross domestic product of the country. Nearly two-thirds of the country's total population depends on agriculture profession for sustaining their livelihoods.

The rate of forest depletion was significantly high up to nineties due to political, socioeconomic and administrative reasons.

The last National Forest Inventory (NFI) was carried out in early nineties in Nepal. According to that inventory, forest and shrub together cover about 5.83 million ha, which is 39.6% of the total land area of the country.  The rate of forest area decreasing was 1.7% per annum during 1978/79 to 1994, whereas rate of forest and shrub depleting rate was 0.5% per annum during the same period. Since then NFI has not been done to update data on forest cover change.

Community Forestry (CF) policy has been implemented from the early eighties. Handover started to make it entirely accessible for the local people to manage and use national forests. The 90’s was the decade of community forestry in Nepal and the policy and program also extended to the whole parts of the country. This policy has brought significant positive changes to restore denuded mountain landscape. Recent studies from 20 Terai districts (southern most districts) revealed that the rate of forest cover change was at an annual rate of 0.06% during the period of 1990/91 to 2000/2001.

If you ever wondered how it would be possible for you to save an entire forest then look no further than making simple lifestyle changes. Forests play multiple roles in our lives, including providing a source of livelihood, refuge for many species, and clean air for all.

As a result of the growing global pollution levels forests have often come to be referred to as the ‘lungs of the earth’. This is particularly because deforestation and forest degradation account for nearly 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which forests would absorb if carefully managed.

Broadly, there are three main sources of forest degradation: commercial logging, fires, and gathering wood for fuel. Insects and pests also cause considerable forest degradation.

Forests cover 31 percent of total area in Nepal and the livelihood of over 20 million people depends on it. Nepal generates huge amounts of revenue from forests.

WWF-Nepal’s Support

Various donor countries are also supporting Nepal’s forest programs. According to WWF, ever since WWF started working in Nepal, one of its priorities has been forest conservation.

To address the problems and issues of habitat loss, WWF Nepal Program has been working with local communities for the restoration and natural regeneration of forests and biological corridors through community forestry.

Majority of the poor people living in the fringe areas depend on subsistence agriculture and forest products for their livelihoods. The WWF Nepal initiated community forestry programs are aimed at enhancing community ownership of their forests while meeting their subsistence needs of forests products.

This, in turn, is aimed at winning their stewardship and support in biodiversity conservation. The restoration and regeneration programs have succeeded in reviving the once degraded biological corridors.

The success of the program could be seen from the increased wildlife movement in the critical biological corridors such as the Khata Corridor that links Bardia National Park with India's Katarnia Ghat Wildlife Sanctuary.

Community forest program in the mountain areas is very important as the growth rate of vegetation is rather slow owing to harsh environmental conditions.

Apart from fulfilling the needs of forest products of local people, new community forestry programs in the mountain protected areas are aimed at facilitating livestock grazing in a regulated way and helping them to produce non-timber forest products and medicinal plants for income generation.

Importance of WED

WED celebration began in 1972 and has grown to become one of the main vehicles through which the UN stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political attention and action.

Through WED, the UN Environment Program is able to personalize environmental issues and enable everyone to realize not only their responsibility, but also their power to become agents for change in support of sustainable and equitable development.

WED is also a day for people from all walks of life to come together to ensure a cleaner, greener and brighter outlook for themselves and future generations.

“Everyone counts in this initiative and WED relies on you to make this happen! We call for action –  organize a neighborhood clean-up, stop using plastic bags and get your community to do the same, plant a tree or better yet organize a collective tree planting effort, walk to work, start a recycling drive . . . the possibilities are endless,” note experts.

As a resource, forests provide many important natural resources, such as timber, fuel, rubber, paper and medicinal plants. Forests also help sustain the quality and availability of freshwater supplies. More than three quarters of the worlds accessible freshwater comes from forested catchments.

Water quality declines with decreases in forest condition and cover, and natural hazards such as floods, landslides  and soil erosion have larger impacts.

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