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19. Nepal

Country data

Total land area 1996 (thousand ha)


Total forest area 1999(thousand ha)/% of total land area *)


Natural forest 1999 (thousand ha)


Total change in forest cover 1990-95 (thousand ha)/annual change (%)


Population total 1997 (million)/Annual rate of change 1995-2000 (%)


Rural population in 1977


GNP per person 1995 in US$


Source of data: FAO - State of the World's Forest 1999
*) - Government Inventory Report, 1999

General information

Nepal is a relatively small and landlocked country. Nepal is distinctive for its rectangular shape and being the location of Mount Everest-the highest peak in the world. More than 80% of its land is covered by rugged hills and mountainous terrain, with a narrow belt of flat land in the southern part of the country known as the Terai. Because of its varied topography and elevation, it possesses a wide diversity of geo-ecological conditions. Precipitation varies from one place to another with an average that ranges from 225 to 4,500 mm. The vegetation ranges from tropical hardwood forests in the Terai to tundra vegetation in the North.

The economy is predominantly agrarian. Agriculture provides a livelihood to over 90% of the population. About two-thirds of the households in Nepal own less than 1 ha of cultivated land. About 21% of the total land area of the country is under cultivation. Decentralisation is a basic policy of the Government development administration. The objective is to mobilise all local resources for development.

So far, no commercial deposits of oil, coal, or gas have been found. Thus, fuel wood from forests as well as from the private lands is the major source of energy for domestic consumption. The fuelwood comes from forests, shrub lands, and lands adjacent to farms in the form of agriculture residue. According to Government statistics, it was estimated that 80% of fuel wood for domestic consumption is obtained from forests, with the rest coming from the private plantations. With a view to reduce the pressure on forests, the government has launched plans and programmes to develop alternative sources of energy such as biogas, turbines, solar, wind, and hydro-power energy. Some reports indicated that almost 90% of the people of Nepal are estimated to depend on forest resources for their livelihoods. Forest resources are critical to sustaining farming system that provide fodder, fertiliser, provision of energy supplies, building materials, medicinal plants, other income earning opportunities, and indirect benefits such as soil and conservation and eco-tourism.

Forests have been deforested and degraded for the last 50 years or so. Officially, it has been reported that the forest area has been decreased at an annual rate of 1.3% in the Terai and 2.3% in the hills from 1978/9 to 1990/91. For the whole country, from 1978/79 to 1994, forest area has decreased an annual rate of 1.7%. As forests and shrubs together decreased at an annual rate of 0.5%. The major causes are over-cutting for fuel wood and heavy harvesting for fodder. Fodder from forestland provides more than 40% of livestock nutrition. In the Terai, the cause of forest degradation is the illicit felling of timber for smuggling across the border. The annual planting by the government and community was 5,260 ha between 1992-96. Reliable figures for private planting are not available.

The major non-wood forest products (NWFP) are medicinal and aromatic plants, lokta paper, pine resin and sabai grass. The collection, trade, and processing of NWFPs have contributed substantially to the socio-economic development of the country. However, this contribution has suffered as a result of diminishing resources.

The protected areas play an important role in the tourism industry as a recreation destination. They are popular for trekking, mountain activities, and wildlife watching, particularly in the Terai. There are five categories of protected areas:

· National Parks are areas set aside for the conservation, management, and utilisation of flora and fauna together with the natural environment;

· Strict Nature Reserves are areas of ecological significance set aside for scientific study;

· Wildlife reserves are areas set aside for the conservation of animals and bird resources and their habitats;

· Hunting Reserves are areas set aside for the management of animal and bird resources for hunting purposes;

· Conservation areas are areas managed for the sustainable development of human and natural resources.

At the moment, 2,670 thousand ha, or 18.14% of the total land area, have been selected as protected areas consisting of eight National Parks, four Wildlife Reserves, one Hunting Reserve, and two Conservation Areas.

Forest resources

Forest is the main natural resource of Nepal. Due to the wide range of climatic and topographic conditions across the country, almost every known forest type, except tropical forest, is available in Nepal. In the natural forests, hardwood species dominate the stock with 59%; another 24% are mixed, and 17% are conifer species. Details information concerning forest resources in Nepal is presented in the FAO Home Page: (click forestry, subject, forest resource assessment, and publications).

The Government has enacted and implemented the Forest Act, 1993 and the Forest Regulation, 1995. According to the Act, the National Forests have been classified into five categories i.e. production forest, community forests, leasehold forests, protective forests, and religious forests.

About 69% of the country's energy needs come from forest for mainly cooking and heating. Tree leaves are equally important to feed the domestic animals. Leaf litter has significant value for animal bedding and compost preparation. According to an overview of supply and demand of fuel wood and timber made by the Master Plan for the Forestry Sector, the demand has been significantly above the supply. However, people are collecting timber and fuel wood from several sources, including government managed forests, community forests and the private lands. The supply and demand situation of fuel wood and timber is presented in Table 1.

Table 1. Demand and supply for timber and fuel wood

Fiscal year

Timber (m3)

Fuel wood (ton)



































Master Plan for the Forestry Sector (MPFS)

In 1984, national authorities and foreign and international donors met in order to initiate planning of the MPFS. Its objective was to activate forestry operations within clearly defined development programmes. The MPFS final document was available in early 1988 and the International Round Table meeting was organised in May 1988. The national lead institution was the Department of Forest, Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation. The overall forest policy strategy is to improve the management of the country's forest resources, with a sustainable balance between people's needs, the production systems, and the environment.

The plan has four long-term objectives:

· to meet people's basic needs for fuel wood, timber, fodder, and other forest products on a sustainable basis and to contribute to food production through effective interaction between forestry and farming practices;

· to protect the land against degradation by soil erosion, floods, landslides, desertification, and other effects of ecological imbalance;

· to conserve the ecosystem and genetic resources; and

· to contribute to the growth of local and national economies by managing forest resources, forest-based industries, and by creating opportunities for income generation and employment.

The medium-term objectives of the plan are to:

· promote people's participation in forest resource development, management, and conservation;

· develop the legal framework needed to enhance the contribution of individuals, communities, and institutions for forest resource development, management, and conservation;

· strengthen the organisational framework and develop the institutions of the forestry sector to enable them to carry out their mission.

In order to meet long- and medium-term objectives, the MPFS has formulated six primary and six supportive programmes as follows:

1) Primary Forest Development Programmes

· Community and private forestry;

· National and leasehold forestry;

· Wood based industries;

· Medicinal and aromatic plants;

· Soil conservation and watershed management;

· Conservation of ecosystems and genetic resources;

2) Supportive Development Programmes

· Policy and legal reform;

· Institutional reform;

· Human resources development;

· Research and extension;

· Forest resource information and management planning;

· Monitoring and evaluation;

In order to pave the way for the successful implementation of the MPFS, the Government had taken the following steps:

· approval of the proposed forestry sector policy along with the MPFS, in April 1989;

· revision of legislation and preparation/circulation of a new Forestry Bill;

· implementation of organisational reform in the MPFS;

· a Forestry Sector Co-ordinating Committee was formed and meetings held to oversee implementation of programmes and donor co-ordination;

· reformulation of on-going projects to fit into the MPFS framework; and

· creation of 65 new posts in accordance with the Human Resources Development Plan of the MPFS.

The Ninth Five Year Plan (1997-2002) followed the Master Plan for the Forestry Sector Policy in order to continue its main thrust of people's participation in forest management practices. The main objective of the Ninth Five Year Plan is poverty alleviation through providing economic opportunities for poor people and encouraging their participation in development activities.

The main objectives of the Ninth Five Year Plan for the forestry sector include a) mobilise, conserve and manage forest resources to reduce the gap between demand and supply; b) create income generating and employment opportunities for poor and marginal families; c) mobilise local people to enhance productivity; d) adopt proper land use practices.

The main policies and strategies to achieve the above objectives include: a) Local users will be supported in their efforts to fulfil their day to day needs for timber, fuel wood, fodder and other forest products. A regular supply will be ensured through community forestry development; b) Support to poverty alleviation will be provided by promoting and establishing participatory forest management and by implementing community based development activities; c) Conservation of the Siwalik area will be carried out in order to maintain the renewal capacity of the groundwater reserve by giving priority to soil and water conservation programmes; d) The management, marketing, industrial development, processing and export of herbs and forest products will be supported; and e) The private sector will be encouraged by providing the opportunity for the commercial management of government owned forests in potential areas.

In regard to the implementation of the Master Plan for the Forestry Sector Development, a Forestry Sector Co-ordination Committee (FSCC) has been established as a forum for the discussion of policy analysis, planning, and programme implementation on a priority basis among forestry sector donors and officials of the His Majesty's Government of Nepal. At the 9th FSCC meeting held on 18 and 19 September 2000, the Revised Forestry Sector Policy, 2000 was discussed.

Special programme of the Government

His Majesty's Government has now implemented two major forest development programmes through the Department of Forests, i.e. the Community Forestry Programme (CF) and the Leasehold Forestry Programme. Community forestry, a legally supported programme by the Forest Act, 1993 and the Forest Regulation, 1995, is now being implemented with great success throughout the country. The community forestry concept, which is active involvement of local people based upon the user group approach, is the key of the programme. The forest will be handed over to the community through a specific set of arrangements. This programme attracted support from donor agencies like DANIDA, USAID, GTZ, DFID, SIDA, EEC, JICA, Australia, CARE-Nepal, ICIMOD, CECI, and JICA. In addition to major donors, there are various NGOs, organised ad hoc groups, and individuals, providing support to small-scale projects and campaigns.

The CF has achieved remarkable results, especially in terms of sustainability, equity, and self-reliance. The quality of forest has also improved. It was reported that the number of wild animals has been increasing, for example local people are facing problems from leopard in the hills. More forest user groups (FUGs) are being formed and similarly more national forests are being handled over to the real users. However, it was reported that the co-ordination aspect is still poor and 80% of the development budget for community forestry is donor-funded so the sustainability of the programme after the termination of the donor-funded projects should be looked into more carefully.

It was also reported that some FUGs are sustainable in terms of protection of the resources, thereby delivering improved biodiversity and watershed management benefits. But self sustainability of equity and income factor has not yet been demonstrated. Achievements of the programme for the last two years is presented in Table 2.

An in-depth analysis of the community forestry programme recommended that there is a need to move focus away from community forestry in isolation to transformation of the forest sector as a whole. There are indications that the recent modification of policies may be circumscribing the rights of FUGs. In the high value forests of the Terai, there are substantial conflicts over the resources, policy is less well formed, and marketing is distorted. In regard to institutional appraisal, it was reported that as more areas of forest are protected, the benefits to FUG members decrease as they lose access to previously neighbouring areas. Therefore, it is a major rationale for accelerating the switch from passive to active management.

Table 2: Achievement of community forestry programme 1996-1999

Fiscal year

Number of FUGs

Forest area handed over as CFs (ha)

Number of households benefited

Till 1996/97




















Source: Department of Forests

The Leasehold Forestry Programme was started in 1992/93 under the technical assistance of UNDP/FAO and a programme loan by IFAD. It is now being implemented in the twelve Hill Districts. Community-based leasehold forestry is conceptually different from community forestry, as it provides exclusive rights of forestlands to the marginal people, who are relatively small leasehold groups in the community, to increase their livelihood through different income generating activities. However, the approach is considered to be complementary to community forestry as it focuses on key issues such as poor people and poor soil. Section 31 of the Forest Act 1993 stated that the Government has the authority to grant any part of a national forest in the form of leasehold forest. It creates interest among the people to increase rehabilitation of the degraded forestland to sustain more productive livestock. The community, which consists of people living below the poverty line, should be given priority. This provides exclusive right of 40 years to the products of the forestlands to the marginal people of the relatively small leasehold groups. Achievements of the Leasehold Forestry Programme for the last two years is presented in Table 3. The purposes of the programme are to:

· produce raw materials required by forest products based-industries;

· plant trees and increase the production for sale, distribution, or for use;

· operate the tourism industry in a manner conducive to the conservation of the forest; and operate farms of insects, butterflies, and wildlife in a manner conducive to the conservation of the forests

Table 3. Achievement of leasehold forestry programme 1996-1999

Fiscal year

Number of group formed

No. of forest are handed over (ha)

No. of poor Family benefited

Till 1996/97
















Note: 1 family = 6.72 person

Revised forestry sector policy, 2000

The Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation realised that to implement the forestry programmes efficiently and effectively requires a clear-cut policy. Therefore, the Revised Forestry Sector Policy, 2000 has been formulated. It is an updated version of the Forestry Master Plan Policy and subsequent amendments to that document. The formulation of the Revised Forestry Sector Policy, 2000 is based on the analysis of the status of forests, the previous policies and legislation, including the previous policies stipulated in the 7th, 8th and 9th Five Year Plans and the Master Plan for the Forestry Sector.

The basis for the formulation of the new policy includes: a) the land use criteria recently approved by His Majesty's Government (which still lacks appropriate institutions and mechanisms to ensure their implementation); b) the Local Self-Governance Act (LSGA) of 1998 that empowers District Development Committees (DDCs) and Village Development Committee (VDCs) to collect revenues and calls on each local government unit to draw up a development plan of their own (unfortunately the institutional capability to enforce and monitor the implementation of this legislation appears quite limited); c) after a recent survey (1998) estimated that the annual depletion rate of forests in Terai is 1.3 % and in the mountain is 0.2% (together with forest and the shrublands), His Majesty's Government introduced a new concept in managing the forests of Terai, Churia on 1 May 2000, in order to check the depletion of forest resources, to improve conservation, and to manage it in a sustainable way.

The Forestry Sector Policy, 2000 contains development imperatives, outlines, strategies, programmes, and summaries of the investment required to prepare plans and programmes, to formulate legislation and to develop a mechanism that fosters co-operation with supporting partners.

Because of the complexity of the forestry sector, a holistic approach is needed to translate the policy into administrative and management actions. The Policy issues are multidimensional and interrelated, therefore requiring a mixture of strategies. The Forestry Sector Policy, 2000 identified several strategies on the following aspects; a) land use planning; b) production and utilisation; c) effective harvesting and distribution; d) reducing consumption; d) improved pasture and livestock management; e) conservation of biodiversity, ecosystems and genetic resources; f) social aspects of land and forestry resources; g) providing a livelihood to poor and landless people in forestry related activities; h) promoting private investment in forestry development; i) investment in the forestry sector; and j) creating an environment conducive to investment.

In regard to programme structure, the Forestry Sector Policy, 2000 keeps the programmes structure that was crafted by the Master Plan for the Forestry Sector i.e. six priority programmes and six supportive programmes. Some of the important strategies crafted in the Forestry Sector Policy, 2000 include the following:

· Continue the forestry master planning process;

· Continue the Forestry Sector Co-ordination Committee (FSCC) as a forum for the discussion of policy analysis, planning, and programme implementation on a priority basis; and reorient the FSCC to better co-ordinate forest programme activities;

· Promote commercial plantations;

· Promote the involvement of the private sector;

· Pay a just income to the rural poor who collect raw materials for forest products based industries;

· Reduce the land tax on private land used for tree plantations;

· Make parastatal organisations compete with private enterprise; and

· Accept loan assistance for only those productive forestry programmes which are economically and financially feasible.

Table 4: Ongoing project supported by donors






Natural Resources Management Sector Assistance Programme Watershed Management



Environment and Forest Enterprise Activity



Hill Leasehold Forestry & Forage Development Project Phase II



Community Resource Management Project



Churia Forestry Development Project



Nepal Swiss Community Forestry Project



Nepal-UK Community Forestry Project



Bhutanese Refugee Programme



Bagmati Watershed Project



Community Development and Forest/Watershed Construction Project Phase II



Park and People Project Phase II



Bardia Integrated Conservation Project
Northern Mountain Conservation Project
Institutional Support



Upper Andhikhola Watershed Management Project
Buffer Zone Development Project



Wildlife and Domestic Veterinary Programme in Royal Chitwan National Park

Legislation and institutions

The Forest Act of 1961 was re-amended and published as the Forest Act, 1993. The Forest Act 1993 has categorised the forest into two broad classes: national forest and private forest. For the sustainable development of forests, the Government has further categorised the national forest into five sub-categories as follows:

· Community forest;

· Leasehold forest;

· Government-managed forest;

· Religious forest; and

· Protected forest.

The basic system in community forestry is to hand over nearby national forest land to local communities. Under the community programme, user group formation and handing over of forest have been more emphasised. All the activities are carried out with the approach of “for the people, by the people”. The users group concept will be used as the basis for sustainable forest management. Users group means a group of local people who are authorised to manage and utilise nearby forests. The users group should form a user's committee by themselves and they will prepare the operational plan for the forest. The users group can freely sell the forest products to the local markets.

Collaboration with partners

Many donor agencies have been assisting the country in the forestry sector development. They include DANIDA, USAID, FINNIDA, ADB, IFAD, AusAID, GTZ, SDC, DFID, UNHCR, EEC, JICA, UNDP, WWF, FAO, the Netherlands, WB, CARE, The country has also received support from several regional/sub-Regional projects.

In 2000, there are a number of on-going projects supported by donors, as presented in Table 4. The total project cost amounted to US$69,542.75 thousand. Due to some issues, there was an idea towards sector wide approach to reduce transaction cost, avoid lengthy approval process and duplication activities, and promoting more joined approach, which will avoid stakeholder working in isolation and micro management.

The Sustainable Development - Agenda 21 and the National Biodiversity Action Plan are being drafted. In addition, there are a number of national policy reforms have been made, including the Local Self-Governance Act, 199 (or Decentralisation). Harmonisation and synchronisation of these plans with the other international initiatives needs to be made.

A Forest Se1ctor Co-ordination Committee (FSCC) was established, of which the 9th meeting was organised in September 2000. In addition, a Donors Sub-group on Forestry has also been established, of which the third meeting was organised on 21 August 2000. It was noted that there are substantial results and recommendations had been made at these meetings. Several partners are of the view that the Master Plan for the Forestry Sector Development, which was launched in 1988, needs to be reviewed.

Focal point
D.D. Bhatta
Director General of Forest
Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation
Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel 9771- 227574/- 221231/256227
Fax 9771- 227374


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Character leads to destiny.
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Count your blessing.
Not your troubles
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