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Are Village Common Forests (VCFs) a Model for Sustainable Natural Resources Management in Uplands of Bangladesh?

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Misbahuzzaman, K.; Ghosh, S.; Alam, M.
Conference: Governing Shared Resources: Connecting Local Experience to Global Challenges, the Twelfth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Commons
Location: Cheltenham, England
Conf. Date: July 14-18, 2008
Date: 2008
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/1921
Sector: General & Multiple Resources
Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: Middle East & South Asia
Subject(s): ecosystems
watersheds
indigenous knowledge
resource management
IASC
Abstract: "Over the last several decades, the once highly productive natural forest ecosystem in the upland watersheds of Chittagong Hill Tracts in south-eastern Bangladesh has been destroyed through clear-felling of trees by government agencies for the establishment of monoculture plantations. The process has jeopardized the livelihoods of the indigenous communities living in the region by affecting their customary rights over forest resources and subsistence farming practices. In a highly degraded forest landscape, a few community-managed Village Common Forests (VCFs) or mouza-ban occurring in smaller watersheds demonstrate excellent models of ecosystem management as they contain headwaters of streams, natural springs and other aquifers, and represent large repositories of biodiversity. However, their strategic importance and potential for sustainable natural resources management has not been given due attention. The objectives of the study were to examine the resource use culture of the VCF communities and to evaluate the role of their indigenous knowledge systems in the conservation of natural resources and community livelihoods. In the present study a structured questionnaire was administered with 140 households from 13 villages in the mouza-ban areas of Rangamati and Banderban Districts. The analysis suggests community potential for conserving resources by: making greater use of bamboos thereby conserving timber species; more judicious use of medicinal and culinary herbs and wildlife; and better maintenance of the perennial water sources as compared to the neighbouring non-mouza-ban communities. Income earned from cultivating paddy rice in the valley bottoms of the VCF hills, growing a wide variety of vegetables and horticultural crops, and rearing livestock in their homesteads was also important. The traditional indigenous knowledge systems maintained in the VCF institutions are very important for understanding the multi-functionality of the upland watersheds and has broader implications for natural resources management in the region."

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