At a time when Nepal’s community forestry has successfully maintained forest resources, Federation of Community Forestry Users Nepal has been launching a major program for sustainable forest management under the support from Asia-Pacific Network for Forest Management and Rehabilitation (APFNet). Suvas Chandra Devkota, project director of APFNet, spoke to New Spotlight on various issues related to APFNet. Excerpts:
What is the Asia Pacific Network for Forest Management and Rehabilitation (APFNet)?
Asia-Pacific Network for Forests Management and Rehabilitation (APFNet) was established in 2007. Proposed by China and co-sponsored by Australia and the United States, it was agreed by the 15th APEC economic leaders meeting in September 2007 in Sydney. It was incorporated in the Sydney APEC leaders declaration on climate change, energy security and clean development to enhance capacity building and strengthen information sharing on sustainable forest management in the forestry sector in the region.
For how long has APFNet been supporting Nepal?
APFNet has been supporting Nepal since 2010 for a project. The host country of this project is China government. This net is managed by Chinese government. It has been supporting Nepal in three different themes. They include sustainable forest management and bio-diversity conservation, forest governance at local level and green enterprise at local level to generate the green employment. The projects use all tools and technologies for biodiversity conservation and sustainable forest management. This will help maintain the supply of forest products. The good governance promotes the governance concept at the community level and also encourages democratization of the user groups. The forests can generate the human resources, forest product resources and economic resources. With this the community level enterprises will be established that can ultimately generate the green employment.
What is the status of the project at this juncture?
We are now implementing it in 21 districts across the country. The districts include eastern, central, western, mid-western and far western region. We are monitoring mid-western region with the center in Kathmandu. The district includes Sindhupalchwok, Bhaktapur, Kathmandu and Kavre, Dolakha and Sindhuli. This is the center of these districts. Biratnagar is the center of the eastern region. The eastern region covers Morang, Sunsari, Dhankuta and Ilam. Dang is the center for mid-western region which covers Dang, Pyuthan, Salayan, Rolpa and Jumla. Dadeldhura is based in the far western region. Dadeldhura covers Darchula, Dadeldhura, Baitadi,Bajhang and Accham.
How is the program doing?
We are successfully launching the project in the country. Our experiences have shown that this APFNet model will help to transform Nepal’s community forest movement. We have already made progress in protection and now we want to learn sustainable management for the economic uplift of the people involved in conservation. APFNet is very useful for us.
What is the coverage like?
We have not been covering all user groups in the district as we have targeted five community forests. We have 105 community forests all over the country. In these community forests, we have been launching programs like how to manage the forests sustainably, bio-diversity conservation, etc. We have been organizing training, workshop as well as helping them to restructure their organizational status to accommodate the issues like bio-diversity conservation and sustainable forest management. As long as the user groups do not follow the practice of good governance making their transactions transparent and their programs do not target the marginalized and poor population, sustainable forest management is impossible. We have applied various tools of good governance including public hearing and public auditing. We have invited all stake holders. We have also the criteria and indicators for good governance.
What is the difficulty?
Due to lack of financial and forest resources, we cannot establish only one forest enterprise for all the user groups in the district. We are working to build a cooperative among the user groups. By this, we are pulling the financial and forest resources in one place to establish the forest enterprise. We have already completed the business plan and we will establish at least 10 enterprises by end of February.
What is the main thrust of APFNet?
One forest and one enterprise is the slogan. This is tied up with APFNet. We cannot practice a sustainable forest management without optimally utilizing the community forests. I don’t think the livelihood of the people can be uplifted without commercialization of forests. If one forest one enterprise is impossible, we can make enterprises pulling many forests in one place. This is our thrust. FECOFUN is a pioneer organization which introduced the concept of green employment. Nobody wanted to listen to this in the early days. Now everyone is chanting the slogan of green employment. It is a pride for us. We have now 17,685 User Groups. This is just a pilot project. What we want is the sustainability of green employment. Many concepts die once projects wrap up. But APFNet’s concept is different as it aims for longer and sustainable schemes in green employment.
What are your working models?
We are not imposing user groups to follow us: what we have been doing is proposing to them various models. It is up to user groups to decide what they want. Our support will be to enhance the capacity building and strengthening information sharing on sustainable forest management. It is the user groups that have to take the decision whether they want to follow the cooperative model, the company model or another model. User groups have to take a decision looking at their own situations. This is just a small pilot project and we cannot support them in all the aspects. As long as user groups do not take the initiative, the project cannot do anything. We have identified 12 enterprises. Out of this 75 percent of the investment will be user groups. Our support will be for the technical capabilities for those marginalized and poor. If this pilot project is picked up at the national level, it will really generate green employment throughout the country.
What is your experience so far?
We have visited some parts in China under the program. We saw bamboo plantation in the community level. The user group sold this bamboo through national level cooperatives. Even our user groups can form a national network among the forest enterprises. The tragedy is that the government mechanism has not been supporting us. Last year more than 100 million rupees, which was allocated for green employment, froze. APFNet is stressing for cooperation among all different sectors including community, private sector, donors and government. We cannot sell the products without the help of private sector as they have the expertise and know the market.