The World Bank/WBI’s CBNRM Initiative
Case Received: February 5, 1998
Author: Narayan Pd. Dhakal
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Baghmara Community Forestry:
A Community Based Natural Resources
Management Practice in Lowland Nepal
Approximately one third of the total land area of Nepal is covered by forest resources. These forests play an essential role in the economic and social well-being of rural people, who comprises almost 99 percent of Nepal's population. The forest resources provide habitat for several endangered species including one horn rhinoceros and tigers and are the foundation for the tourist industry. The forest provide many basic necessities such as fuel and fodder used by local villagers. The forest also provide environmental services such as flood control and watershed protection. In addition to these direct benefit from forest resources the forestry sector has helped to stimulate both the local and national economy by providing jobs mainly in fuel wood and fodder collection (HMG/Min. of Forestry).
The population increase in Nepal poses a major threat to the forest resources of the country. The increasing demand for fuel wood, fodder and timber has increased pressures on existing forest resources. Most of the Terai (lowland forest and grassland of Nepal) has been encroached by people who have migrated from hilly areas.
In light of the demands on forest resources and threats to their persistence, Nepal's forest were nationalized in 1957 to ensure protection, proper management and wise utilization so as to prevent continued degradation. However, the nationalization of Nepal's forest did not win community support because the traditional utilization of forest resources for fuel wood, fodder and timber were restricted. People living adjacent to the forest became resentful toward officials in charge of implementing national policies. This conflict led to further depletion rather than conservation of forest resources. In 1978, His Majesty's Government of Nepal (HMGN) passed legislation known as the Panchyat Forest Rules and Panchyat Protected Forest Rules which latter known as community forest to ameliorate the situation. These rules were promulgated to provide benefits to local communities so that they would in return support government management decisions and help conserve the remaining forest resources. Under the new guidelines communities may request land owned by Department of Forest and develop community forestry plantations. The plantations are then managed by the local users.
It has been realized during the past decade that nature conservation and the sustainable economic development can not be achieved without local participation. The existing protected areas in Nepal have played an important role in saving endangered animals and their habitat requirements, but the vanishing forest around the national parks has resulted in competition between wildlife and local people for the same resource. Simultaneously, conflicts between parks authorities and the local people increased due to lack of alternative of forest product outside the park.
Aiming to minimize this growing conflict between park and the people and to help local people to manage valuable forest resources in a sustainable manner. In 1989 Nepal Conservation Research and Training Center (NCRTC) one of the field projects of the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation (KMTNC) with funding support from WWF-US has introduced community plantation in Baghmara a highly degraded forest land adjacent to the Royal Chitwan National Park (RCNP), Central Lowland Region of Nepal. I was the Project Manager during 1991-1993 and responsible to implement the community plantation program in the highly degraded land in the buffer zone villages of the RCNP.
Prior to malaria eradication whole low land area of Nepal was almost covered by forest and only local Tharu people were living in this area due to their immunity of malaria. The entire area of Baghmara was also dense forest and it was a prime wildlife habitat for some endangered rhinoceros and tigers. After malaria eradication in the 1950's people from the hills migrated to the terai region clearing forest to make their land for cultivation. This migration was encouraged by the HMGN through its resettlement scheme. During this migration period of nearly three decades, huge area of forest in the lowland was cleared and overgrazed to fulfill the growing need of the people. The Baghmara area also became a victim of this migration policy of the Government of Nepal. Before the intervention took place the Baghmara area of 400 ha. was highly degraded due to heavy grazing, fuel wood and fodder collection. Virtually it was turned as a barren ground the standing trees were hardly counted not more than 20.
In a initial stage 32 ha. of highly degraded land was planted with fast growing fodder and timber species of sisoo (Dalvergia sisoo) and khair (Acacia catechu) and some fodder saplings. In 1994, 400 ha. of highly degraded forest land have been fenced of which 348 ha. have been set aside for the natural regeneration area. The entire area of 400 ha. Is already handed over to the Local User's Group Committee (UGC) for its management and utilization. In the first year of implementation, NCRTC faced various problems, because the local people were against the forestry program in a fear that the park will extend its area. Similarly, the group of land enchroachers were antagonist to this plantation program because they were working hard to register the land privately. Some people were also thought that they would deprived of their cattle grazing area. However, some local people who realized the importance of the afforestation program to derive both environmental and economic benefits supported the afforestation program.
If the intervention was not taken at that time it would have been great loss to the neighboring subsistence farmers who were heavily dependent on this forest resources. There may have been scarcity of the forest to harness daily requirement of fuel wood, fodder and other minor forest products. The land would have been captured by local elite who have nothing to do with the local development and environmental conservation of the area. Ultimately, the poor people would have been suffer more by falling into the trap of poverty.
The Change Process
After the three months of the plantation program the local people realized the benefit of the afforestation program. They were allowed to collect fodder with in the plantation area without charging any cost. They were quite relief that they could get such benefit next to their door rather than to travel a long distance. After three years of plantation villagers get direct benefits by collecting fuel wood while pruning the forest. It has been noted that they could meet their three month supply of fuel wood from the afforestation program. These benefits have motivated local people to support more plantation program. In the latter case they came with proposals to extend the afforestation program in wider area with participation of more people who are the actual beneficiaries of the forest. In 1994 KMTNC/NCRTC with the funding support from Biodiversity Conservation Network (BCN) a consortium of WWF-US, Nature Conservancy and World Resource Institute (WRI) has been able to expand the community plantation area up to 400 ha. Besides, fuel wood and fodder some economic benefits through micro enterprises have also been introduced.