Managing Invasive Species in Community Forests for Forest Restoration and Sustainable Agriculture

Biodiversity Integration in Community Forest Operation Plan Training for Forestry Officials

In a bid to safeguard the ecological integrity of Nepal’s prized Barandabhar forest corridor, government officials from various districts convened a training event aimed at integrating biodiversity conservation and invasive species management into community forest operation plans and regulatory frameworks. Organized by Forest Action Nepal (FAN) with support from the International Climate Initiative and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, the event saw participation from key stakeholders including Division Forest Offices, the Ministry of Forest and Environment (MoFE) Bagmati Province, and conservation organizations. Technical sessions led by experts underscored the urgency of addressing invasive alien plant species (IAPS) threats, emphasizing the need for concrete policy measures and proactive management strategies. Notable presentations highlighted the ecological significance of the forest corridor and showcased successful interventions from ongoing projects. Driven by a collective recognition of the looming challenges posed by invasive species and anthropogenic activities, government officials vowed to prioritize biodiversity conservation and implement targeted measures for sustainable forest management. With a commitment to integrating valuable insights from the event into forthcoming regulations and action plans, stakeholders are poised to reinforce the resilience of Nepal’s natural ecosystems for generations to come.

Community forestry at a crossroads

It is often believed that crises open up avenues for opportunities. The whole world witnessed the global health crises of Covid-19 that triggered widespread panic and resulted in loss of lives, while businesses closed down due to the economic downturn. Yet, several governments and people learnt and developed strategies to cope with such situations, and many of them worked well. On the positive side, there is a realization that we need a certain strategy to cope with a certain crisis. This is because crises often trigger a sense of urgency, thus actuating solutions. And when crises mitigation strategies are explored through collaborative deliberations, that would certainly cultivate perspectives for change. A perfect example of this was the International Community Forestry Conference held on March 4-5 in Kathmandu.

The conference was conceived to not only bring together national and international researchers, practitioners, activists and policy-makers, but also to reflect on the achievements and emerging challenges facing the community forestry in Nepal.

An innovative program

Nepal’s community forestry has witnessed four decades of experimentation, adaptive management and expansion across the country. Not only has it evolved into a robust system of devolving management and resource use rights to local communities through legally-recognized and perpetually self-governed institutions, it has also functioned to sustain and improve the lives of those who rely on forests. More than 22,000 registered groups operate across the country, and have benefited 16.6m people through the management of over 1.8m hectares of forests. With decades of experimentation and institutionalization, there is a wider consensus on the positive contributions of community forestry in Nepal. Yet, with fundamental shifts in the socioeconomic context of the country, due mainly to increasing outmigration, demographic changes, shifts in agricultural practices, whether people-forest relations still remain the same is a moot question. One of the central highlights of the conference was that Nepal’s community forestry is at a crossroads, while some emphasized that it is struggling to overcome ‘crises’.

At a crossroads

In recent years, there is a growing concern over efficacy and impact of community forestry, mainly in terms of its economic rationale. In fact, a large body of research has emerged, confirming that community forestry’s contribution to the livelihoods of people is currently much less than its actual potential. Most of the problems have been attributed to arbitrary policy decisions and lack of institutional capacity, both on the part of the government agency as well as the community forest groups themselves. Nevertheless, the problem does not end there.
The community groups seem to lack enthusiasm to capitalize on the legal space that has been progressive in the last few years, especially following a federal restructuring of the country. Several presenters at the conference argued that we are battling with a crisis, and most importantly the crisis of dwindling ‘collective action’, the fundamental pillar that community forestry of Nepal stood up on four decades ago.

While some presenters underlined the successful contribution of community forestry and ongoing shifts in the priority, others accentuated the factors leading to shifting forest-people relations. Most importantly, the outmigration and remittance economy has dominated the subsistence use of community forests, emerging livelihood opportunities in the domestic market are allowing people to shift their interests to city centers. On the grim side, economic returns from community forests have not been able to compensate for the people’s efforts in managing their forests. One of the presenters stated, the normative shift in people’s priority from “when will the forest open” to “no one comes to the forest these days” is an illustration of changing preferences in engaging with the forest. That has taken a toll on the traditional farming practices that we had for decades, including a decline in the number and type of livestock in rural areas. Several other presentations foregrounded proximate and underlying factors responsible for this, including increasing instances of human-wildlife conflict resulting in economic losses to rural households, forest fires, expanding invasive species within the forests and many more. All these factors, compounded by expired operational plans and lack of local capacity and support for their renewal, have resulted in a declining interest in community forestry.

The legacy

The narrative on the theory of Himalayan Degradation, popularized by Eckholm in 1975, sparked a global concern about the impact of environmental degradation in Nepal. This in fact drew wider attention of the donors, giving rise to a sense of urgency to revert deforestation and forest degradation. This brought the donors, namely the Swiss, Australian and the British, among others, to provide support for addressing the environmental problem, and thus we witnessed the advent of community forestry in Nepal. With support from various donors, the interventions have had a remarkable impact on environmental, social and economic fronts of community forestry.

Four decades down the line, community forestry is still considered relevant, but rather from a broader perspective of climate change adaptation, biodiversity management and other dominant global environmental agendas that have evolved in recent years. However, the fundamental principles of community forestry that have bound the collective action among forest user groups has remained in the shadows. One of the persistent supporters of community forestry in Nepal is the Australian government. Launched in 2013, the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research’s forestry project has mainly focused on contributing to the food security and livelihoods of community forest user groups through research in Kavre, Sindhupalchowk, and Lamjung districts, in pursuit of innovative options to silviculture management as well as have developmental impact through better policy outcomes.

The fundamental question is on whether the legacy of supporting core values and principles of community forestry still continues. Not only would this be important in terms of continuing the legacy, but also in terms of revitalizing one of the well-established local institutions of global reputation. So, community forestry is at a cross-roads of crises both in terms of intertwined problems facing it as well as the continuing support that would be supportive in addressing them.

This article was originally published in Annapurna express on March 19, 2024 (https://theannapurnaexpress.com/story/47999/)
 

 

Economics of forest promotion in private land: A comprehensive enumerator training for survey

For many years, forests have been losing their ecological integrity, biodiversity, and capacity to instate ecological processes and ecosystem services. In this age of such ubiquitous threats and challenges, the restoration of private forests stands out as an effective method for forest management. Forest restoration is an inclusive method that involves the deliberate and systematic process of rejuvenating and revitalizing forests that have been degraded over time. In other terms, it can be called a modified form of reforestation that emphasizes ecological functionality and enhances human well-being in degraded areas. Forest restoration in the private land aligns with sustainable development goals, promoting economic growth, environmental sustainability, and social equity in Nepal. In the case of private land, the implementation of forest restoration supports carbon removal and biodiversity conservation and implies environmental justice.

ForestAction Nepal, in collaboration with SANDEE – IDRC embarked on a research initiative entitled “Economics of forest restoration in the Chure region of Nepal” in May 2023. The study seems to be a crucial step towards implementing effective nature-based climate solutions and accessing financial resources to support forest restoration in the Chure region of Nepal. So, under this, a team of researchers have been performing farm plot-based household surveys to analyze the economics of forest promotion in private land in Madhesh Province. To facilitate this research, a comprehensive training session was conducted on February 10-11, 2024 for eight enumerators participating in the survey in Chandranigahapur, Rautahat. The training focused on equipping participants with the necessary skills in GPS and mapping techniques and the KOBO collect app.

Enumerators participating in the training

Global Positioning System (GPS), relies on a network of satellites orbiting the Earth to pinpoint your location with remarkable accuracy. By receiving signals from multiple satellites and performing complex calculations, GPS determines the precise coordinates of the plots. Whereas, KOBO Collect is an Android application used for collecting data through a form on mobile devices, facilitating efficient data collection during the surveys. Once the data has been configured to connect to the author’s Kobo Toolbox account, forms can be downloaded into the application and ready for data collection of different plots. For generating these location sample plots, the systematic sampling technique was opted by establishing center grids at 10-kilometer intervals and generating 24 points, distributed within 1 km, 2 km, and 3 km radii around each primary center point grid. Then the private forest, orchard, and croplands were identified by hovering over their plots time series of Google Earth imageries. These plots that do not belong to any of the above-mentioned groups were removed from the generated samples. The GPS receiver collects signals from multiple sample plots and enumerators can be tracked with the help of a GPS tracker.

Learning to navigate the coordinates of sample plots through GPS

In the interactive sessions during the training, enumerators were actively engaged in entire learning process regarding the objectives of the project and survey along with the way of reaching the mentioned sample plot through GPS, and the proper technique of surveying with Kobo. Through this, participants had the opportunity to practice sample plot identification and enhance communication skills through role-playing scenarios. Enumerators enriched the learning experience by sharing real-life examples and case studies illustrating effective communication techniques and their impact on workplace dynamics. They were engaged and interested in their work with a sense of fulfillment. Enumerators, even assured us about the confidentiality and security of the data they will be collecting.

General plot outline of one of the sample plots in Parsa

We believe this training will offer a transformative journey to every enumerator as well, for seeking to enhance knowledge and skill in the respective field. Such interactive sessions not only grab students’ attention compared to passive learning methods but also demonstrate practical relevance in the real world. Practical use of GPS activities provides enumerators with hands-on experience with technology and equipment. This experiential learning can foster their understanding and retention of knowledge.

Moreover, open dialogue and knowledge-sharing among participants cultivated a collaborative learning environment, enabling mutual support and collective growth. One of the participants shared his enthusiasm for incorporating GPS devices into training sessions. “GPS devices revolutionize fieldwork,” he remarked. “With precise location tracking and mapping capabilities, they streamline data collection processes and enhance overall efficiency.” echoed by another participant. Participants unanimously agreed on the transformative impact of integrating GPS devices and Kobo tools into training sessions.

Engaging in the demonstration of household survey

We as a trainer feel grateful for the opportunity to share knowledge, expertise, and insights with participants Reflecting on participant feedback and insights gained during the training can aid in our future training approaches. It was a collective effort instrumental in progressing the goals of our research and promoting sustainable and economic practices for forest restoration in the Chure region of Nepal. Moving forward, we remain committed to harnessing the collective wisdom and expertise of all stakeholders to realize our shared vision of a resilient and thriving ecosystem in the Chure region and beyond.
 

 

International Conference on Revitalising Community Forestry in the Era of Socio-Environmental Crisis

The International Conference on ‘Revitalizing Community Forestry in the Era of Socio-environmental Crisis’ convened in Kathmandu, Nepal, on March 4th and 5th, 2024. The conference was a joint collaboration of the Ministry of Forest and Environment, Government of Nepal, and the Australian Government (through ACIAR) along with partners including EnLiFT2 project, Institute of Forestry, Federation of Community Forest Users Nepal, and Agriculture and Forestry University. The primary aim of the conference was to discuss and address challenges and opportunities facing community forestry in Nepal.

Over 211 participants from 11 countries actively participated in diverse presentations and panel discussions led by esteemed speakers including Dr. David Ganz, Prof. Tapan Kumar Nath, Dr. Bimala Rai Paudyal, and Popular Gentle. Diverse themes including governance, silviculture/forest management, enterprise, among others, focusing on integrating policy, practice, and science to revitalize community forestry were discussed.

Keynote presentations by experts like Dr. Mary Hobley, Prof. Carsten Smith-Hall and Dr. Maheshwar Dhakal delivered insightful presentations highlighting the issues and challenges surrounding community forestry in the changing socio-economic scenario.


 

 

Training of Trainers (TOT) on Sustainable Forest Management

Forests play a crucial role in supporting ecological balance, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable development. With increasing pressure on forest resources mainly attributed to factors such as deforestation, illegal logging, and climate change, there is a pressing need to empower individuals with the expertise to promote responsible forest management practices.

With an aim to provide concepts on different areas of forest management including forest certification, forest inventory, silvicultural systems, harvesting techniques, and forest governance, EnLiFT2 organized a training of trainers (TOT) on sustainable forest management in Hetauda on 6-9 February, 2024. About 30 individuals representing Division Forest Offices including forest officers and technical staff, academia, NGOs, and practitioners, participated in the training.

The TOT involved a comprehensive program designed to equip participants with the knowledge, skills, and tools necessary to become effective trainers in the field of forest management. This training aims to address the growing need for capacity building in sustainable forest management to promote sustainable practices, enhance forest conservation efforts, and mitigate environmental degradation.

The training covered a wide range of topics with a blend of theoretical insights, practical exercises, and interactive discussions on sustainable forest management.

International Women’s Day 2024

If we are dreaming beyond the confines of the present and striving for a prosperous future then, there should be equity and equality among men and women across the globe. In commemoration of International Women’s Day 2024, ‘Investment in women: Accelerate the progress’, ForestAction Nepal came together in a special celebration of Women’s Day on March 8, 2024. The event revolved around the theme “Inspire Inclusion” for women empowerment and gender equality addressing the fact about investment in women and its achievements.

Every staff member expressed their thoughts and opinion on the role of women in shaping our society. Our members shared powerful success stories of empowerment and investment in women’s lives who have defied odds, overcome challenges, and achieved remarkable success in different fields. This was followed by highlighting the importance of investment on women for their capacity, leadership development, and building professional networks

Exposure visit: Cross project learnings and sharing on women-led enterprises

The EnLiFT2 project in Nepal’s Kavrepalanchok and Sindhupalchok districts has been actively engaging in actions to improve forest management and promote gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) within community forestry. As part of these efforts, an exposure visit was organized from January 24th to 27th, 2024, targeting women leaders from various Community Forest User Groups (CFUGs), Local Government (LG), and the Federation of Community Forests Users in Nepal (FECOFUN). The visit aimed to enhance participants’ understanding of women’s empowerment opportunities through community forestry, particularly focusing on income-generating interventions and collaborative efforts between CFUGs and LGs.

A total of 24 women leaders participated, representing different CFUGs and local government bodies. The objectives of the visit included observing Non-Timber Forest Product (NTFP) based women-led enterprises in project sites of Economic Empowerment of Women through Forest Solutions in Nawalparasi, sharing and learning from cross-project experiences, and understanding the potential for collaboration between LGs and CFUGs in fostering forest and NTFP-based enterprises for women’s economic empowerment.

The visits  centered on various women-led enterprises, including Thakal and broom enterprise in Namuna CFUG, bio cups and plates enterprise in Amarjyoti CFUG, and Triphala enterprise in Shankhadev CFUG, among others. Participants engaged in discussions with entrepreneurs, CFUG members, and local government representatives, exploring topics such as entrepreneurship development, resource management, market access, and sustainability.

Key reflections from participants highlighted the importance of realizing the economic potential of forest resources, the need for skills development training, and the significance of selecting enterprises based on available resources and community interests for sustainable operation. Participants also emphasized the importance of connecting women’s enterprises with CFUGs, ensuring a rigorous beneficiary selection process, and enhancing awareness among community members about resource availability and market potential.

Overall, the exposure visit provided valuable insights into successful women-led enterprises, collaborative efforts between stakeholders, and the potential for replicating such models in participants’ respective communities. It also underscored the importance of continuous learning, capacity building, and strategic partnerships in promoting women’s economic empowerment and sustainable forest management within community forestry contexts.

   

   

   

   

Second cohort of Youth leadership training

ForestAction Nepal successfully organized a week-long (07-11 March 2024) leadership training on Environment and Biodiversity Conservation. The training was organized in the midst of biodiversity rich forest of Barandabhar corridor of Chitwan and in an indigenous Tharu settlement. The primary objective was to support leadership development on environmental issues among youth. The training focused on proximate and underlying causes and socio-ecological consequences of the most pressing environmental problems of our time- biodiversity loss, climate crises and environmental pollution. Participants engaged in reflective activities which aimed in building a holistic perspective on the complex relationship among economic growth, development, biodiversity conservation, human rights and environmental crises.

The training was provided by over of dozen of different experts, both national and international, representing academia, environmental activists and conservation organizations and consisted of a mixed approach with blend of interactive lectures, engaging project work, learning oriented exposure visits, panel discussion, book reviews and in-depth discussion on how the modern development leaves its footprints on the environment. Participants were also familiarized around the dominant narratives and pervasive myths around environment and development.

The training was held in Bhimawoli HomeStay, a recently initiated services by indigenous Tharu community. Participants enjoyed Tharu foods, cultures, customs and traditions. Participants provided very good remarks on the learning outcomes of the program, making it a productive event. The training involved 27 participants, between age of 20-30 coming from a diverse cultural and educational backgrounds from various geographic region of Nepal.  Nearly a two thirds of the participants were girls.  The program was part of Darwin Initiative UK funded project “Linking Science to Management: Restoring Community Forests in Nepal (Ref, 29-028)”.

  

“Another world is possible” – World Social Forum, 2024

This year, Nepal hosted the 16th edition of the World Social Forum in Kathmandu from February 15th to 19th. During the forum, ForestAction Nepal, the secretariat of the Alliance of Agriculture for Food, collaborated with allied organizations to create a significant presence by organizing various events focusing on themes such as food, agroecology, agrobiodiversity, and climate change.

ForestAction Nepal actively participated in the rally held during the opening ceremony on February 15th, showcasing banners and placards that highlighted the importance and challenges related to food, agroecology, biodiversity, agroforestry, and climate change.

In addition, ForestAction Nepal had an exhibition stall throughout the event, showcasing local and indigenous crops, technologies, photographs, and posters illustrating the unique farming systems in the Himalayas, Hills, Chure, and plains. This exhibition also highlighted the crucial contributions of women in agriculture within local communities through the display of photographs. The stall attracted a significant number of visitors who appreciated the displays and information presented.

On February 17th, a regional discussion forum titled “Food Justice” was organized to discuss the global food crisis, emphasize the necessity of food democracy, raise concerns about food security, and establish networks for broader solidarity. On the same day, a drama called “Sattapatta” was showcased to convey a message about the impact of the modern farming system on our indigenous and traditional knowledge, technologies, soil, seed, and including human health.

On February 18th, an excursion tour to Nalinchwok, Bhaktapur, was organized aiming to foster meaningful networks and partnerships for future collaborations on campaigns addressing social, economic, and environmental challenges. This excursion was followed by the theatrical performance “Hiuko Prithivi Yatra,” a narrative focusing on environmental destruction, presented at the Shiplee Theatre in Battisputali.