Creating Agro-Forestry Commons for the Landless and Socially Marginalized: A Case Study from Nepal's Terai Region

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"This paper examines the emergence, present status and potential of agro-forestry commons, which have been initiated by the landless and marginalized section of the society in the southern Terai region of Nepal. In the Terai, lush forests lie in the northern side mainly along the outer Himalya called Siwalik range contrasting with the southern part with almost no forests but densely populated settlements. How existing common forest institutions initiated by the government are not sufficient to address the access of the people living in southern Terai is analyzed. This study argues that new ecological landscape and subsequent politico-economic changes are emerging in the southern Terai with the creation of agro-forestry commons in response to defective state policies and semi-feudal production relations therein. Taking three Terai districts for the samples, outcomes of the new agro-forestry commons include emergence of new commons, increased livelihood assets, diversity in agro-forestry commons and increased ecosystem services. These new commons face a number of first and second generation issues as well. The first generation issues include the scale of the commons, conflicts with the local elites, legitimization, choice of management models and equitable benefit sharing. Tenure security, unpaid ecosystem services and forest regeneration versus livelihoods of the poor are some prominent second generation issues. The paper concludes that policy formulation for the agro-forestry commons, conversion of public land commons to community forests until their explicit policy, expansion to larger scale and recognition of ecosystem services are some points to be considered to address the issues."
community forestry, agroforestry, commons, exclusion