Changing Forestry Governance in Nepal Himalaya. Interactions of Community Forestry with REDD+ and Traditional Institution
Not peer reviewed
MetadataShow full item record
Although traditional institutions remained involved in the management of local forests in some areas of Nepal Himalaya, Community Forestry (CF) is now a well-established formal forest management institution of the country. The emergence of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) in 2008 brings a new dimension to CF. Given that CF has been successfully implemented and adopted by many local communities, with one third of the nation's population being involved in various types of CF institutions, it has been used as an institutional platform to pilot REDD+ since 2010. Since then, the responsibility of CF has been extended from its initially national concerns such as meeting locals’ subsistence needs and promoting local biodiversity conservation, and has now moved towards more global concerns such as curbing climate change. Nepal’s preparation to reform its forestry governance warrants a study of the interactions between existing forestry institutions and emerging frameworks of forestry governance like REDD+, as such a study may provide valuable policy insights. This study therefore aims to examine the interactions of CF with both emerging forestry governance and traditional institutions. By specifically applying political ecology and discourse analysis approaches, the study analyses the effectiveness of the REDD+ pilot project in CF, the disjunctions and conjunctions between formal and traditional forestry institutions, and lastly the reasons of local variations in acceptance of CF models. Two cases of CF models were selected for this study - the Community Forestry User Group (CFUG) of Dolakha District and the Conservation Area Management Committee (CAMC) of Mustang District.
The study found that after the implementation of the REDD+ pilot project in Dolakha, the CFUGs tightened the rules regarding forest use and banned livestock grazing in order to help sequester more carbon in the forest, both of which negatively affected the existing agroforestrydependent communities. Consequently, the villagers tended to have a negative perception of REDD+ intervention in local forests. REDD+ is not an ordinary type of management framework; it pays money to protect the forest and conserve the environment. The distribution of the REDD+ benefits was found to be a sensitive issue in the study areas where it is primarily determined on the basis of individuals’ caste and ethnic affiliation. Although the pilot project advocates forest protection, increases environmental protection awareness and supplies income to the CFUGs, it is concluded that ignoring the subsistence users, REDD+ cannot achieve sustainable environmental goals.
The traditional institutions of Mustang – known as the village councils – still hold the right to decide who should use the forest and who should not. The formal institutions, that is, CAMCs, select their representatives from the same villages where the village councils have executed traditional rules. The CAMCs’ members and supporters still need to follow the traditional practices and cannot simply ignore the councils’ norms. However, the village councils have also started to relinquish their management authority to the CAMCs. One of the study villages has recently started to collaborate with the CAMC. When distributing timber from the local forests and implementing development projects in the villages, the two institutions work conjointly. However, a disjunction regarding traditional and formal forest boundaries was found. A CAMC regulates the forests of a Village Development Committee (VDC), which comprises several villages. However, each village of Mustang occupies some forestland which the respective village councils consider to be the property of their village. The village council prohibits any outsiders from using the forest, even other villages of the same VDC. These interactions between institutions should be understood prior to implementing any new forestry governance.
The study also found that the CF models (i.e., CFUGs & CAMCs) were accepted to varying degree by the local communities. Three potential reasons were discussed. Firstly, it was found that an acceptance of or resistance to a CF model cannot be determined solely by migration of the local forest users and their decreasing dependency on the forest. Besides reducing active leadership within communities, out-migration can limit local participation in the design and implementation of new institutions and thereby increase institutional vulnerability. Secondly, an institution that has wider institutional flexibility in terms of rules and rights can better succeed in incorporating villagers' priorities and can thus enjoy a greater level of acceptance. Thirdly, the persistence of traditional institutions and their ability to sanction forest uses can lead to the resistance of a formally designed forestry institution. It is suggested that knowledge of these local variations in acceptance can help to inform policy makers and facilitate future reforms of local forestry governance.
Two conclusions are drawn from this study. Firstly, the success of any emerging forestry governance framework relies on how easily it allows communities to access and use local forests. Secondly, in order to achieve the desired success, the emerging forestry governance system has to allocate space for traditional institutions. The success or failure of a forestry institution can therefore be largely determined by the flexibility of its rules and whether it is accepted or resisted by traditional institutions.