Management in the Central Himalayan Region of Nepal: A Preliminary Analysis of Follow-Up of Community Forest Case Studies in Central and Western Hills of Nepal

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"1. In decades of efforts to develop community forestry in Nepal, nearly one tenth (0.502 Mha.) of forest area (5.52 Mha.) has been formally handed over to more than seven thousand forest user groups (7041 FUGs as of Mar. 1999). Of the total area handed over, 21.9% area is managed by 1512 FUGs (21.5%) in the central development region. Similarly, some 2115 FUGs (30 %) manage 18.9% of the total handed-over CF area in the western development region. Average FUG size in the CDR and WDR are 121.2 and 110.7 households respectively. Likewise, average forest area per FUG in the CDR and WDR are 72.5 and 44.3 ha. (DoF, 1999) respectively. Per capita accessible forest area is 0.18 in the CDR and 0.23 ha. in the WDR which is less than corresponding national average of 0.27 ha. per capita (MPFSN, 1988). The current paper draws on preliminary findings of a follow-up study of some forty percent of 47 community forest case studies initially carried out by Campbell, J,G; Shrestha, R.P and Euphrat , Forest in 1986-87 in the districts of Dhading (in CDR) and Kaski, Parbat and Baglung (in WDR) (Map 1). The two year study initiated in 1998 took the selective sample of 8 cases in Dhading, five in Kaski, one in Parbat and 3 in Baglung districts. Most of these case studies (15) lie in the Mid Hills (500-1500 m elevation) and two in the high Mountains (1500- 2300 m. elevation). The study used adapted version of IFRI v.8.1 (January 1996) research instruments by incorporating information of our earlier study's questions not included in the IFRI coding forms. Additionally, a household interview schedule was also used to survey nearly 10 percent sample households (AFORDA, 1998). "2. A sample plot survey of 31 forests was carried out using circular plots of 10m, 3m and 1m radii for trees, shrubs/saplings and ground cover respectively. A total of 61 tree species (147 out of 6685 plants are yet to be identified) were recorded in the canopy layer. Most important canopy tree species include Shorea robusta, Schima wallichii, Pinus roxburghii, Castanopsis indica, and Alnus nepalensis. Other important valuable tree species recorded are Acacia catechu and Cythea spinulosa. Similarly, 57 tree species and 31 shrub species were recorded in the subcanopy layer with 447 plants remained to be identified. Important Sub canopy species are Shorea robusta, Castanopsis indica, Schima wallichii, Lyonia ovalifolia, and Pinus roxburghii. Likewise, in the ground cover, a total of 163 plant species were recorded in a plant population of 8058 (here nearly 2000 plants are being identified). Major seedlings regenerating in ground cover include Shorea robusta, Schima wallichii, Castanopsis indica, Phyllanthus emblica. Other important ground cover species are Acacia catechu, Cythea spinulosa, Rhododendron arboreum. The forests under study are distributed between elevations of 630m to 2300m. "3. 3607 HHs (Population 21705) which organised into 31 forest user groups ha is managing thirty-one forests with total area of 1332.1. Of these forests nearly one-sixth of the forests have not been formally handed over to the FUGs. Per capita forest area is only 0.06 ha., which is far below the corresponding national figure of 0.27 ha. "4. General conditions of the forests seem to have improved over-time period of last 12 years. However, in some cases, owing to over-emphasis placed on species like Alnus nepalensis for slope stabilisation in areas such as Andherikhola forest (AF ID No. 4011371), there is no natural regeneration of this species in subcanopy and ground cover layers. Being located in high rainfall zone (>5000 mm annual rainfall) coupled with fragile slope having light soil, mature Alnus trees are uprooted easily thus exposing ground to more landslides. More action research in this area is called for in this area to protect the Fewatal catchment area. "5. More vested interests and laxity in supervision/monitoring, a few elite members with vested interest are using democratic functioning system of FUG, thereby deciding to allow selective harvesting of trees without giving due consideration to standing tree population in Okhale CF (AF ID No 4011361) in Kaski. As a result, renewal of its operational plan has been held up by the DFO. Such incidents could have been prevented/avoided by closely monitoring functioning of FUGs by the DFO staff. "6. A common concern for upkeeping in the forest (probably of religious value) the users seem to actively participate in protection and development (e.g., in Machhindranath CF in Dhading) and Jaykot CF in Pokhara). In these forests the users are actively participating and contributing in development of access road in both cases and of temples and site development in the Jaykot CF. "7. Incidences of as many as 244 tree stumps in all 17 but two sites (Machhindranath CF in Dhading and Singana in Baglung) indicates tree cutting a general rule rather than an exception. An average of 16 tree stumps per forest was recorded with Baglung cases having higher incidence of 25.5-stumps/ forest and 11 in Parbat. "8. Sense of ownership: Some FUGs tend to guard their forest so jealously thus restricting eligible user's admission to their supposedly kinship forest e.g. Jaykot CF (the Karki clan claim to be the original owners of this forest under grant received from then rulers are jealously guarding this forest by not-allowing admission of new eligible residents to the FUG). "9. Risk of fragility (sustainability): Potential risk of unsustainability in fragile slopes brought the communities together to protect/conserve their forest e.g. Andherikhola site in Fewatal catchment and Dhampus site. In both these cases the communities seem to be managing their forests irrespective of how much benefit they are getting from forests. "10. Entrepreneurship: activities such as nursery activities where they are producing plants of Rhodedendron, Cinnamomum, bamboo cane, large cardamom in Anderikhola CF, and sal leaf-plate making in Torikhet CF and Chhatre Deurali site need to be explored and encouraged to accrue economic benefits. "Detailed analysis of data will hopefully provide more insight into strengths and weaknesses of the emerging CF management systems, which may provide directions for streamlining functional operational (management) plan for FUGs to meet challenges of the new millennium."
IASC, common pool resources, forest management--case studies, community forestry--case studies, forests, monitoring and sanctioning, surveys