Integrated Management of Water, Forest and Land Resources in Nepal: Opportunities for Improved Livelihood


"This paper is aimed at furthering understanding of if and how communities co-manage forest and irrigation activities with a view to gain insights about integrated natural resource management. The main question addressed is whether the management of these two resources can be better integrated for enhanced livelihood opportunities and for reduced vulnerability of the rural poor. It uses case studies from the hills of Nepal, where both water and forest resources are integral to poor people’s lives. The results of the case studies show that water and forest resources are managed separately. The decision-making processes for the management of these two resources are independent from each other. Importantly though, informal interaction between management groups does exist. The reasons for the separation of the two management groups are that the boundaries and people involved in managing forest and irrigation water resources overlap but do not coincide, and problems and issues in management of both resources are distinctly different. Furthermore, government policy and programs support these different groups separately. Programs to support the forest users group and the irrigation users group have met with a degree of success. For forestry, while there are no infrastructure interventions, there are strong policy and legal interventions providing support for the management of forest resources. Community forest programs directly benefit poor users through improved access and use of forest products, and indirectly through investment of forest user funds in community activities that generate income. Benefit sharing was found to be more equitable in the forest users group than in the irrigation users group. However, women’s participation in formal activities of both forestry and irrigation groups was negligible. The supported irrigation systems showed marked gains in yields, income and employment. Support to irrigation systems include physical infrastructure combined with financial and technical assistance, but there is weaker enforcement of policy and legal provisions. Thus there appears to be ample opportunity to learn and share experiences from one another. The study indicates that there are opportunities for the integration of both activities. Because changes in land use impact the water source for irrigation, a starting point could be resolution of conflicts around water and land, and managing forests to protect catchments. The existing informal contacts, especially where there is an overlap of membership, could serve as a platform for future integration. While the two groups do not need to be combined, better interaction can only be constructive. This is an area for future research and action."



water management, land tenure and use, women, conflict, gender, natural resources, irrigation, forest management, environment