7th National Workshop on Community Forestry

The aim of this workshop is to review the five decades of CF, develop a common understanding on its achievements, lessons, challenges and opportunities especially in the changing biophysical and socio-political contexts.

Advancing community forestry in the new era of socio-economic change

Forty years ago, the emergence of community forestry in Nepal proved to be the solution to subsistence livelihood and ecological conservation. Community efforts in restoring the degraded landscape was fundamental in achieving the intended goals. The advent of community forestry in the 1980s witnessed a massive mobilization of communities in reforesting the hills. Back then, the entire orientation of rural communities, and that of foresters and forestry bureaucrats was in favor of promoting community forestry, which gained a global acclamation. Initiated through few handovers, community forestry spread across as a popular policy movement in the country. Gradually, organizations apart from the government responded to the trend by supporting local communities in strengthening the institution. After forty years, apparently, community forestry is at the cross roads where the spirit of the user groups is languishing.

During my visit to one of the community forest user groups in Kavrepalanchowk, I had an interaction with an elderly, perhaps in his early 70s, who was more skeptical about the future of community forest. His persuasion on declining interest of people over forests was evident through growing number of youths leaving the village. Kavre is not an exception to this. Community forests across Nepal has seen passive management, and the socio-environmental foundations based on which community forestry was introduced have observed many changes. The contribution of community forest in socio-economic and ecological changes in Nepal is not debatable. However, Nepal has witnessed several changes in the socio-economic and political context, wherein demographic dynamics, income levels, agricultural practices, and aspirations of the youths have changed substantially. This has largely met with a mismatch between benefits that community forests can deliver versus what local communities expect from it. Foresters, practitioners, and scholars debate on whether the current model of community forestry is still valid and whether it can accommodate the changing preferences of rural communities in the changing socio-economic context of Nepal.

In 1991, Don Gilmour and R.J. Fisher, both Australians, attempted to share their rich insights on community forestry of Nepal in their book entitled ‘Villagers, Forests, and Foresters: The Philosophy, Process, and Practice of Community Forestry in Nepal’. This book was a dynamo that has been keeping the energy flowing among the foresters, academics, forestry officials, and community forestry practitioners. A collaboration between a forester, and an anthropologist provides a pragmatic approach to technical and social issues circumventing community forestry program in Nepal. Back in the 1980s, the authors were working for the Nepal-Australia Community Forestry Program, a major forestry program in Nepal at the time, where any intervention pertinent to community forest would be an experimentation. 30 years down the line, community forestry has witnessed a transformational shift which is largely attributed to the changing socio-economic, and socio-political context of the country.

Achievements and new challenges

Nepal has been globally acknowledged as a pioneer country in showcasing successful practice of community-based resource management through community forestry. The advent of community forestry was viewed as a huge shift in reversing denuded areas and stabilizing fragile mountain slopes. But most importantly, it generated livelihoods and employment to millions of rural populations, where back then, jobs merely existed in urban centers. Today over two million hectares of forests are being managed as community forests by over 22,000 community forest user groups, across the country. As a recent paper by Ojha and Hall entitled ‘Transformation as system innovation: insights from Nepal’s five decades of community forestry development’ shows, Nepal’s community forestry demonstrates a system wide innovation in governance.

With such an expansion and the systemic change which happened in course of four decades, community forestry now faces a multitude of issues in the environmental, social, economic, and political fronts. In a recent webinar, early advocate of community forestry, Dr Don Gilmour stressed that ‘the socio-economic context of community forestry during its inception and now has changed’. I had an important take away message from the webinar – many forestry enthusiasts who have witnessed the long trajectory of community forestry have noted the fact that the socio-economic changes have driven it to a different direction, and thus requires readjustments. In my own experience, I believe there is a need for readjustments in both policy and forest management fronts. In other words, there is a compelling need to revisit and refine community forestry to make it fully attuned to the changing context, and hence would make it more relevant in the future.

A new collaborative assessment to explore revitalization options

In an attempt to pull together the knowledge in assessing the relevance of current modality of community forestry, a collaborative effort of experts, based in Nepal and Australia, started investigating the areas of (re)adjustments in community forests. In doing so, an editorial team led by Dr Naya Sharma Paudel of ForestAction Nepal, convened a group of over 40 experts specializing on diverse aspects of community forestry to work on this collaborative effort of producing a report. The editorial team members are a part of the Australian supported project EnLiFT2 (Enhancing livelihoods from improved forest management in Nepal) and this report is part of its production.

Following thorough review and reiterations with the group of authors, which took almost a year, the editorial team finally produced this report entitled ‘Revitalising community forestry in the changing socio-economic context of Nepal’. With nine chapters written on diverse themes encompassing policy and institutions, biodiversity, climate change, silviculture, enterprise, and gender, this report largely investigates different areas of community forestry that require adjustment. Moreover, it has also made strategic recommendations, that would allow it to adapt in the new context.

In course of my engagement with these authors and experts, I got an impression of having a consensus on at least one aspect – community forestry in Nepal needs revitalization. In other words, the contextual factors that might have worked for community forestry 40 years ago, perhaps may not be valid now. Our societies have evolved and so have the livelihood priorities of people. So certain future direction to drive community forestry has been imperative, and this assessment reinforces the foundation to this new discourse.

Initiating new discourse based on collaborative assessment

Citing its relevance, the Secretary of the Ministry of Forests and Environment affirmed the idea of formally launching the report. Finally, on 15 March 2022, the report was launched during an event in Kathmandu. The report was jointly launched by the secretary of the Ministry and HE Ambassador of Australia to Nepal in the presence of over 35 participants representing various institutions including joint secretaries from the Ministry, Divisional Forest Officers, Under Secretaries, Dean of Institute of Forestry, University Professors, Chair and representatives of FECOFUN, and representatives from NGOs and INGOs. There was an overwhelming appreciation of the collaborative work wherein the report was lauded for being timely and offering a strong basis to framing community forestry policies.

Beyond this, a scholarly attempt of publishing a book on community forestry is underway. An editorial team led by Dr Hemant Ojha from the University of Canberra, is working on a book that would offer critical insights into how community forestry systems can be better governed and managed in the light of changing contexts and new drivers impacting forest and people relationship in the country. This book will be unique in the sense that it would bring high quality research and deeply engaged experiential reflections of those involved in promoting community forestry at different stages of its evolution in Nepal.

Mainstreaming Biodiversity in Community Forests: Issues, Challenges, and Strategies

A half-day workshop on “Mainstreaming Biodiversity in Community Forests: Issues, Challenges, and Strategies” was successfully held in Hotel Himalaya on 24th March 2022. The program was jointly organized by the Department of Plant Resources, ForestAction Nepal, and Kathmandu Forestry College. The workshop was attended by officials from Ministry of Forest and Environment, NGOs, Academia and members of local communities working on biodiversity and forest management in Nepal. The participants represented a total of 25 different institutions.

The presentations, discussions and comments highlighted biodiversity significance of community forest, policy environment around community forest and status of invasive alien species in Nepal. Officials, researchers and participants discussed on challenges of integrating biodiversity conservation in community forests.  The participants suggested developing a minimum requirement for biodiversity inventory in community forests. Biodiversity significance was demonstrated through case of a DI UK funded project.

Dr Lila Nath Sharma, Prof Ambika Gautam and Kalpana Sharma Dhakal presented papers and Prof Bharat Babu Shrestha of TU and Dr. Rajendra KC, Director General of the Department of Forest and Soil Conservation commented on the presentation. Shiva Kumar Wagle, Chief of Planning and Monitoring Division, Ministry of Forest and Soil conservation, Dr Buddi Sagar Paudel, Director General of Department of Plant resources and Dr Mark Watson of Royal Botanical Garden Edinburg provided their remarks and highlighted need for scientific research on biodiversity and conservation in community forests.

 

Report Launch: Revitalising community forestry in the changing socioeconomic context of Nepal

‘Revitalising community forestry in the changing socioeconomic context of Nepal’ report launch event was successfully held at Hotel Himalaya on 15 March 2022.

The report was jointly launched by the Secretary of MoFE, Dr Pem Kandel, and HE Felicity Volk, Australian Ambassador to Nepal. There were over 35 participants from various institutions including joint secretaries from the MoFE, Divisional Forest Officers, Under Secretaries, Dean of Institute of Forestry, University Professors, Chair and representatives of FECOFUN, and representatives from NGOs and INGOs.

Secretary of the MoFE and HE the Ambassador, highlighted that the report is very timely and gives a strong basis to framing community forestry policies in the days to come and would provide crucial direction to strengthen the sector. They also acknowledged the collaborative effort of both Australian and Nepalese researchers on this report.

 

Origins and early development of community forestry in Nepal

A webinar on ‘Origins and early development of community forestry in Nepal’ was organized on 14 March 2022. The speakers involved pioneers and early advocates of community forestry in Nepal. The experiential insights of the four pioneers (Dr Don Gilmour, Mr. Stephen Midgley, Dr TBS Mahat, Dr Narayan Kaji Shrestha) threw light on the historical context of community forestry in Nepal, and provided footing to advance community based natural resources management in the challenging time and rapidly changing contexts.

The webinar was jointly organized by the EnLiFT2 project and the Nepalese Association of Agriculture, Forestry, and Environment in Australia. The full video to the webinar is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbIBuPsIg5w&t=23s

Click here to download the transcription of the webinar

 

Celebration of the International Women’s Day (IWD)-2022 at ForestAction Nepal

On 8th of March, 2022, ForestAction team celebrated the “Break the Bias” and “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow” to mark the International Women’s Day 2022. The program started with a brief presentation about IWD, followed by a group learning on “my organization, my pride” through a participatory group work, cutting an “IWD 2022” cake and felicitating two women support staff in the organization.

Among other issues, the origin, history, the journey of women’s advancement throughout various international conventions, treaties and national commitments of the Government of Nepal, was highlighted during the gathering. Moreover, the importance of IWD 2022 motto on the need of today to break the bias to achieve equality was underlined. Subsequently, one of our female staff members recited a poem on, “Naari” (woman). It was followed by cutting the “IWD 2022” cake and celebration among the entire team. Likewise, two of our women support staff were felicitated in recognition of their support to the ForestAction team.

Ms. Kanchan Lama led a group work involving a participatory exercise to work out on the image, champions/villains, rituals and culture of ForestAction in regard to equity and equality. The staff were given colorful cards to write one answer in one card only, then to paste them in the sketch of a half cut onion. The objective of the exercise was to motivate the ForestAction team members towards their self-responsibilities to shape an “equality for creativity” type of organizational culture by contributing to building an enabling environment for all.  The ForestAction team members appreciated the efforts to achieve gender equality.

Feminist Approaches to Action Research: Transformational Dimensions

A two days training on “Feminist Approaches to Action Research: Transformational Dimensions” was conducted on 13-14 February, 2022 at Kathmandu. The training event was a capacity building initiative within the IDRC funded project “Economic Empowerment of Women through Forest Solutions”. The training was attended by 20 participants from ForestAction Nepal, HIMAWANTI, AFFON, FenFIT and SIAS. The key objective of the training was to develop understanding and internalizing feminist epistemology in women economic empowerment (WEE). The training comprised of eight sessions.

Dr. Bimala Rai Paudyal, Member of the National Assembly, was the key note speaker in the event and delivered her speech on- addressing women economic empowerment by national development plans. She shared that the women economic empowerment is a pre-condition for poverty eradication and inclusive growth. She explained by WEE components are embedded in the Constitution of Nepal, Development plans and Sustainable Development Goals. She informed the participants about affirmative measures adopted by government to promote women economic empowerment. She highlighted that property right, descent, participation and justice as the pillars of women empowerment.

The session on Feminist Epistemology was presented by Prof. Dr. Mira Mishra. She explained the theoretical perspective of feminist epistemology- Liberal, Marxist and Radical. She briefly shared the historical developments in the feminist theories starting from 1960s when the women’s experiences were largely omitted, distorted and trivialized in the knowledge production system. She further shared the key methods in feminist research as: feminist standpoint, intersectionality perspective and reflectivity.

Third session focused on the climate and pandemic resilience and its impacts on women economic empowerment. The session was undertaken by Ms. Srijana Shrestha, Under Secretary, Ministry of Forests and Environment. She explained how climate change affects the women disproportionally. She explained that the socialization, stereotypes, implicit bias, gender privilege and marginalization as factors hindering women empowerment.

Ms. Sabita Dhakhwa, trained the participants on scopes for forest based enterprise- women in timber. She shared several policy provisions related to forest based enterprises. She described the MED model and its significance in enterprise development. She shared opportunities and constraints for women led timber business. Ms. Manorama Adhikari trained the participants on GESI integrated monitoring, evaluation and learning. Project monitoring indicators were revisited during her session.

Ms. Kanchan Lama enlightened the participants through transformative approaches to women’s leadership. Giving example of transformational leaders at national and global level, Ms. Lama inspired the participants to adopt transformative approaches to women’s economic empowerment.

Two session were focused on research methods. Dr. Mani Ram Banjade, took session on research methods and tools. He explained about philosophical basis for knowledge generation. Different theoretical perspectives and research paradigms were discussed. He shared the differences and significances of constructivism, positivism and pragmatism. The importance of qualitative and quantitative methods was discussed. Dr. Naya Sharma Paudel trained the participants on the theory and practices of action research. He explained about the key elements of action research, forest policy actor landscape and critical perspective adopted in action researches.

The training closed after the Institutional heads of the Consortium Partner’s expressed their opinion.

 

 

41st International World Food Day

41st International World Food Day was celebrated with a month-long event during September-October 2021. The celebration started with a press meet on 10th September and the closing event on 2nd November 2021. Alliance of Agriculture for Food/ForestAction Nepal collaborated with 24 different networks/alliances and organizations. With the objective of creating public awareness on the issues of food and agriculture to realize the importance of agriculture for food in the context of agriculture development in Nepal, we have been celebrating Food Day for the last 5 years. Over the years it has been established as a forum to raise the collective voices of the general public, farmers, and farming communities to create pressure on policy shapers/makers for formulating effective policy measures.

The debates and discussions around issues of agroecology and close issues were organized mainly virtually with 20 virtual thematic sessions. These sessions were organized by different collaborators depending on their subject area and expertise. An awareness-raising video song, jingles, and publications were also prepared and distributed.

National Inception Workshop – Economic Empowerment of Women through Forest Solutions

A National Inception Workshop for “Economic Empowerment of Women through Forest Solutions”- an Action Research Project funded by IDRC Canada and implemented by a consortium of ForestAction Nepal, The Himalayan Grassroots Women’s Natural Resource Management Association (HIMAWANTI), Association of Family Forest Owner’s, Nepal (AFFON) and Federation of Forest-based Industry and Trade, Nepal (FenFIT-Nepal) was held on 2nd January 2022. The workshop aimed at further refining the methodology, strengthening the research-policy linkage, and building synergy among the stakeholders.

The workshop was participated by 38 members representing Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation, Department of Forest, Department of Forest Research and Training Center, Universities, Research-based organizations, Civil Society Organizations, journalists, and other organizations.  The program was designed to introduce the project among stakeholders and break-out sessions to discuss existing practices, barriers/issues/challenges, and opportunities around the project themes i.e. Women’s economic empowerment and women agency; Sustainable forest management, and Forest-based enterprises.

The program was successful in obtaining insights on the project components, approaches, including developing a consensus among stakeholders on importance of women’s economic empowerment through low carbon solutions. Majority of the participants highlighted the “forest as a means to prosperity” as envisioned by the Ministry of Forest and Environment.  The stakeholders expressed strong commitments to make the program successful.

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40th World Food Day

This year, the 40th World Food Day was celebrated with a slogan “Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together”, throughout the world. ForestAction Nepal, the secretariat of Alliance of Agriculture for Food (AAF), in collaboration with Department of Agriculture/GoN and other likeminded organizations (Helvetas Nepal, ActionAid Nepal, DCA, Im Sweden, Fastenopfer, LiBIRD, CSRC, NFGF, NLRF, FIAN, CAED, CEPP, Samriddha Karnali Abhiyan, NPG, and ANAJ) celebrated the world food day by distributing paid souvenir bag with local foods, providing free local food to people at Khulamanch, and organizing virtual discussions in different themes for a week (11-16th October).

The major event organized on the occasion of World Food Day was virtual seminar. Virtual seminars on different themes were organized/led by the partner organizations. 12 Seminars were held in total. Around 600 people attended the seminars. More than 100 people shared their experiences on the related topics. The online events were also broadcasted live through the Facebook page of one of our media partners HaloKhaber.com.

Similarly, around 400 bags which included a local foods (Marshe Rice/Prosomillet , Jumli beans, Flaxseeds/sesame, Cardamom and Sichuan Pepper), as a souvenir, were delivered to the influential persons like political leaders, policy makers, government officials, public figures, media persons, farmers , activists and representatives from different organizations. The idea behind providing this souvenir was to promote the local and indigenous foods from different parts of the country and make people aware about the importance of local foods. Along with the food, food day appeal had been distributed.

Apart from this, in collaboration with 100 S group (the volunteer group which has been feeding/providing food to the homeless people in Khulamunch, Kathmandu since the starting of Lockdown, imposed by government due to COVID 19), nearly about 200 people were served with organic foods in Khullamunch Kathmandu.

 

Nursery Management and Development Training

A three-day Nursery management and development training commenced on 23rd Feb 2020 at Patlepani Nursery, Chautara Sangachowk has been accomplished. Eight nursery caretakers (3 female, 5 male) participated in the training. The objective of this training was to strengthen the capacity of the existing nursery caretakers from six EnLiFT-2 clusters on high-value forest nursery and green enterprise development.

In the training sessions, the participants identified their knowledge gap on nursery techniques of selected species. Dr. Bishnu Hari Pandit facilitated to address the gaps through practical and theoretical nursery practice. All the participants developed their action plan to be implemented this year. The training was closed with nursery equipment distribution, certificate distribution, and followed by closing remarks delivered by Divisional Forest Officer, Sindhupalchok (Mr. Devi Chandra Pokhrel) as well as EnLiFT-2 Nepal team leader Dr. Naya Sharma Paudel.

Biodiversity Assessment of Jalthal Forest Accomplished

ForestAction Nepal recently completed a comprehensive assessment of Jalthal forest biodiversity. Jalthal forest is a biodiversity rich remnant forest in Jhapa district and is an important habitat for Elephant. The assessment included floral diversity, forest status, tree inventory, and forest disturbance and conservation status. The survey involved 25 local people (80 man-days work), three MSc students, one forester and an ecologist. The fieldwork was led by ForestAction researcher Dr. Lila Nath Sharma. Data entry is in progress while the preliminary analysis of the second stage sampling will be conducted.