Hills leasehold forestry for the poor

A completely new approach to managing forest lands and addressing poverty through forest management by groups of people living below the poverty line is being developed by the Hills Leasehold Forestry and Forage Development Project in Nepal for which the Government of the Netherlands and IFAD provide external funding. The project aims to improve the living conditions of the poor and simultaneously to rehabilitate lands in the hills of Nepal by handing over degraded land to small groups through a lease agreement with a maximum duration of 40 years. Under this agreement, the groups have exclusive user rights on the basis of a management plan.

The project started in early 1993 in two districts of the Central Development Region of Nepal. At present the project is operating in ten districts of the Central and Western Development Regions. It is the first attempt to bring together the Department of Forest and Livestock services in a joint operation, and the Agricultural Development Bank of Nepal is one of the project partners and provides credit for livestock and income generation. The project is also undertaking research to address the problem of the degraded lands through the Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC). Special emphasis is given in the project to include small and marginal farmers, the landless, women and ethnic groups such as Magar, Thami, Praja and Tamang.

By the end of July 1998, the project had formed 959 leasehold groups involving 6 424 households out of which 1 626 are female members. The groups have received 4 268 ha of forest lands on which 445 forest nurseries have been established by the beneficiaries, producing 5.5 million seedlings for planting on the leased and on private land. About 36 860 kg of forage seeds have been sown on the leased land and 57 332 fruit-tree saplings have been planted by the farmers. Vegetable seeds, rhizomes, cardamom, bamboo and herbal plants have been provided to the leaseholders. A total of 305 977 animals were provided as well as animal health services. A sum of NRs 10 771 million was disbursed as loans to the leasehold group members for livestock, land development and other income-generating activities. Under the village infrastructure development programme, construction of culverts, maintenance of foot trails, operation of small drinking-water projects and renovation of schools have been carried out.

This project has come a long way in institutionalizing the leasehold forestry programme in Nepal. Consequently, overgrazed areas surrounding villages, shifting cultivation areas and forest encroachment areas are being successfully protected and developed through small farmer groups. Similarly, district line agencies are able to implement the project activities on their own. Income generation from the leased land in the form of more forage production, fuelwood and forage seed production has already been noticed. Together with the village infrastructure development programme, the community has started to feel the benefits of the leasehold forestry programme. Pilot work on the integration of community and leasehold forestry has shown that both activities can be simultaneously implemented in the area. (Contributed by: Mr J.K. Tamrakar.)

Integration of jatropha system in nepal

In Nepal, the fuel system is inefficient and costly at all stages - import, transport, conversion and end use. Most of the funds allocated are drained into either electricity generation or importing commercial fuels. Taking into consideration the availability of diesel and the distribution system in the hills and mountains, the Research Centre for Applied Science and Technology (RECAST) has launched a new programme on biodiesel development in rural areas with support from the Department of International Development/British Council, the British Embassy in Nepal, University College Northampton and Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom.

A great diversity of non-conventional oil-bearing flora grows on marginal land and is one such renewable resource - currently wasted - but which could be utilized at the village level for energy by small-scale industry and agriculture. Exploration and utilization of this renewable resource is now receiving much attention at various levels within the country. In this regard, there is special interest in evaluating the physic nut (Jatropha curcas L.), and other wild oil-bearing flora, as engine fuels with a view to developing a small engine capable of running on a wide range of indigenous oils to power a robust, small-scale, roving oil-expelling unit in energy-scarce regions. A pilot/demonstration plant will be used to monitor and evaluate the socio-economic, environmental and technical impacts of introducing the technology.

Since the plant is grown on marginal and semi-arid land, as well as being cultivated as a fence in the mid hills with a tropical climate, it enhances rather than competes with the growth of crops for food production. Ricinus communis shows potential for higher altitudes. The economic viability of fuel-producing systems is strongly dependent on the local costs of seed collection and fossil fuels and revenues from oil products and processed by-products. Thus, massive plantings of physic nuts are planned in the community forests, as a mix crop, and in the buffer zones. This will enhance income-generating activities in rural areas and the income would be spread over a much larger number of households. Opportunities would also arise for work in soap production. On a larger scale, the plantation and use of plant oil as a source of energy will balance CO2 levels and minimize global warming and the greenhouse effect. (Contributed by: Mr K.M. Sulpya.)

Green energy mission/nepal

The Green Energy Mission (GEM)/Nepal is an NGO which is committed to building national capability on green energy research and development. Among its activities are the:

GEM/Nepal also publishes the Green Energy Newsletter, a biannual bulletin on its activities.

Icimod and forest energy

The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) was established in 1983 with the dual mandate of contributing to poverty alleviation and environmental conservation in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region (HKH) - a region consisting of all or parts of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan. From its inception, ICIMOD recognized that energy derived from the forest does, and will continue to, play a very important role in meeting the domestic needs of local people in mountain areas as well as having a potential for agroprocessing and other income-generating activities. Within the HKH region, fuelwood contributes more than 80 percent of total energy use in Nepal and Bhutan, 66 percent in India, 52 percent in Pakistan and 29 percent in China. There is increasing evidence that the region is suffering from a severe imbalance between demand and supply, owing to a low level of efficiency in the use of woodfuel, lack of appropriate management practices and institutional mechanisms to harvest and share fuelwood from the forests, lack of alternative options and an overall lack of acknowledgement of, and attention to, the contribution of forest energy in national and decentralized energy planning. Among those who suffer most from these imbalances are the women and children who, in most mountain societies, are responsible for collecting fuelwood.

ICIMOD addresses these issues from the overall perspective of integrated mountain development and focuses in particular on the following.

Governance and participation in the management of common property resources. The realization is emerging in both traditional societies and in government institutions that innovative policies and institutional mechanisms can contribute significantly to the sustainability of forest management and the equitable sharing of its benefits. ICIMOD has facilitated the formation of networks and other mechanisms to act as fora of social learning, advocacy and information sharing. The Federation of Community Forestry Users' Groups in Nepal (FECOFUN), for example, is a unique structure representing more than 6 000 forestry user groups throughout Nepal and, thereby, providing a powerful voice for local people's needs to benefit from community forestry.

At the regional level, ICIMOD facilitated the formation of the
Himalayan Grassroots' Women in Natural Resources' Management Network (HIMAWANTI) to empower women's forestry user groups so that they could be heard in national and international policy dialogues.

Development of sustainable renewable energy systems. ICIMOD has developed a strategy and framework for decentralized and community-based energy planning and management which takes into account the location-specific advantages and disadvantages of such renewable energy technologies as biomass (including wood energy), mini- and micro-hydropower and solar and wind. Together with FAO's Regional Wood Energy Development Programme, ICIMOD organized, for example, a Regional Workshop on Stoves Used for Space Heating and Cooking, which was instrumental in bringing about recognition of the heating needs of mountain communities that tend to be neglected in overall energy planning frameworks.

Further reference information can be obtained from the following ICIMOD documents:

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