Tree and Land Tenure in the Eastern Terai, Nepal: A Case Study from the Siraha and Saptari Districts, Nepal
by Bhishma P. Subedi, Chintamani L. Das and Donald A.Messerschmidt
Edited by Daniel Shallon





The methods of rapid appraisal (RA) were used to conduct the tree and land tenure research. One of the objectives of this study was to use and evaluate rapid appraisal in the field, assess its value as a tool for community forestry research and development and to recommend adaptations, specifically to the methodological guidelines by J.W. Bruce in Rapid Appraisal of Tree and Land Tenure (1989).

Concepts and principles

Rapid appraisal (sometimes called rapid rural appraisal, or RRA) is a relatively new tool, developed during the 1980s, for assessing the socio-economic situation of a given context in a limited period of time. In some ways it is a powerful tool, but it has its limits.

Rapid appraisal is neither the only answer nor the last word in development research needs. It is only the first, a beginning. RAs are designed, in part, to replace the more conventional, formal, often highly quantitative "traditional" surveys and structured questionnaires. Molnar (1989:2) notes four problems with formal surveys:1

RA techniques are designed for specific and usually limited purposes, frequently to satisfy decision makers who need relevant, accurate and usable information quickly. "The challenge is to find ways for outsiders to learn about rural conditions which are more cost-effective - which lead to information and understanding which are closer to the optimal in trade-offs between cost of collection and learning, and relevance, timeliness, accuracy, and actual beneficial use" (Chambers 1987:33).

Many RAs are exploratory, addressing key questions and hypotheses. Others are highly topical, sometimes based on the findings of an earlier exploratory RA. RAs are also used for monitoring and evaluation, and some are participatory in nature, closely involving villagers and local officials in the process (McCracken et al 1988). Often RAs are used to identify key issues and topics for future research, or for planning research requiring more detailed, longer, more conventional methods of analysis.

Good RA process stresses rapid and progressive learning and the selective use of secondary data to frame initial hypotheses, topics, sub-topics and questions. Researchers then use semi-structured interviews with key informants and groups following prearranged protocols or rules of procedure. Team members make careful observations in the field to supplement the interviews. The process concludes each day with review and analysis of the day's results and adjustment of plans for the continuation of the appraisal. RAs are ideally conducted by interdisciplinary teams whose members rely on their own and their informants' perceptive observations of what is happening, what is important, what makes sense.

An important characteristic of RAs is their reliance on local technical knowledge which can be defined as "the sum of experience and knowledge of a given ethnic group that forms the basis for decision making in the face of familiar and unfamiliar problems and challenges" (Warren and Cashman 1988:3). For RA purposes, this refers to the body of local cultural knowledge about the rural environment, including farm and forest ecosystems, based on years of trial and error experience in subsistence and survival.

Conventional research vs. rapid appraisal

A frequent question concerns the difference between conventional development research (e.g., surveys and structured questionnaires) and rapid appraisal. Table 7 outlines some fundamental distinctions.

Fieldwork and analysis

Some comments on the rapid appraisal guidelines

Team composition: In his guidelines to the rapid appraisal of tree and land tenure, J.W. Bruce (1989) is unspecific about the composition or preferred disciplinary expertise of team members. He assumes that researchers will have a high level of experience in the region, speak the relevant local language, be knowledgeable in the principles of tenure and conversant in forestry. This, unfortunately, is not always the case. Rarely does one find such a constellation of prime qualifications in one individual, let alone in all members of a team. It is more likely that each team member will be well qualified in some subject, but will have prepare in others before embarking on the appraisal.

Techniques Employed Conventional Research Rapid Appraisal
Statistical analysis Often a major part Little or none, use of triangulation
Formal questionnaires Often included Avoided
Interviews with local farmers and key informants Through formal questionnaire if at all A major component, semi-structured interviewing
Qualitative descriptions and diagrams Not as important as the 'hard data' Considered at least as important as statistical data
Sampling Statistically acceptable sample regarded as necessary. Usually random sampling Often small sample size, selecting 'key' areas, farms, households, etc. 'Statistical' requirements not always adhered to
Consulting of secondary data sources Yes Yes
Measurements Detailed, accurate Qualitative indicators used
Group discussion Informal unstructured sessions Via semi-structured workshops and brain-storming
Adapted with modifications from McCracken et al 1988:11.
The discussion in text is keyed to the seven topics.

Custom and rule: In studying the tenure of scarce resources, Bruce proposes a fundamental methodological rule: fieldwork should concentrate first and foremost on custom or behaviour, i.e., on what people actually and traditionally do. The rule of law - what people can and cannot legally do, own or use - is in the realm of book work, and serves best as background to the larger enterprise, well away from the field. Where questions about rules must be asked, Bruce advises caution. There is no more certain way to arouse suspicions and undermine the reliability and validity of the data than by asking insensitive questions about law and ownership ahead of custom and use. Thus, in the present study, work proceeded from custom (chalan) to rule (niyam), being especially careful with issues of legality and illegality concerning villagers' use of government reserve forest in the Churia Hills. Following Bruce's advice, investigation began "with questions about people's use of trees, working from behaviour to tenure" (1989:22).

Using checklists and questionnaire schedules: Bruce's guidelines provide several examples of checklists and interview questionnaire schedules for data gathering. One checklist deals with rights to use of trees on commons, another is designed to elicit relative labour requirements and benefits for species on a commons (1989:67-68). Similarly, Bruce proposes a simple field question schedule with columns to be filled in, regarding economic value of trees to households, typical labour requirements, various use of tree products, access and ownership, etc. (1989:36-37).

An attempt was made to adapt some of these checklists and questionnaire schedules by adjusting them to fit the local situation. Under field interview conditions, however, it proved difficult to keep the conversation flowing along the logic of such lists. Good RA process works best when informants are allowed the freedom to elaborate what is to them a salient point, whether it is on the topical checklist or not. Since most informants were illiterate, they showed little interest in the checklist as a tool to focus conversation. Indeed, many found it confusing, even when mediated by careful and simple questioning. While villagers would begin answering the first checklist questions, they would soon deviate from the topic at hand to elaborate on a subject that a particular question had elicited, a subject that was obviously important to them, and hence to the study.

The forest ranger assistants, on the other hand, being unskilled in semi-structured interviewing techniques, preferred to follow a checklist or questionnaire. To them, it was a familiar and useful crutch in an otherwise difficult situation. Even they, however, soon became frustrated when informants drifted away from the topic. In response to the rangers' apparent need for more structure, it was suggested that they ask six basic questions to further the interview conversations: Who? When? What? Where? Why? How? (Limpinuntana 1987:170). To this, a seventh was added: So What? The "so what" question helped to assess the meaning and significance of the data being gathered. Bruce also uses the six questions, but in the form of more specific sample questions to be asked in relation to use rights and tree species on private holdings, commons and government reserves.

Household interviews and user group observation: Bruce stresses both a wide approach to data gathering through observing the whole village context, and a narrower, more focused approach through conducting specific household interviews and observations. The experience of this study suggests that this important indication could be further enlarged upon by adding the third aspect of user group observation. By accompanying the Musahars into the Churia Forest, for example, many useful insights were obtained regarding resource scarcity, equity and benefits on both legal and illegal, regulated and unregulated tenures. The combination of household observation techniques with observations of such user groups is a highly recommended strategy.

Using sketch maps: This is one of the principal methods of data gathering described in Bruce's guidelines. Sketch mapping is a potentially effective way to elicit local knowledge about resources and tenure circumstances. In order to determine rules of access to forests and rights to various tree resources on private holdings, commons and in the forest reserve, an attempt was made to engage villagers in sketch mapping.

Asking villagers themselves to draw the maps, however, did not work. The majority of informants, being illiterate, were unfamiliar and, hence, uncomfortable with pencil and paper. A modified approach was tried, assigning one researcher to sit with informants and start drawing a map. First, he would make a line on the paper and identify it verbally and visually as the nearby lane or cart track. Next, the researcher sketched in a house or another nearby and visible structure. Then an informant would be asked to point out the location of his or her home compound in relation to what was already drawn. This was followed by questions about location and the size of fields, orchards, sources of fuelwood, common lands, village forests, etc., including distance between home and these sites. In this way, the detail of the map was gradually filled in (see Figure 3). Sketch mapping served two distinct purposes: first, it was a useful tool for collecting certain kinds of information on tenure that are better understood when viewed graphically. Second, it served as a sort of "ice-breaker" and rapport-builder, because villagers are readily attracted to graphic media (both maps and photographs) and the mapping activity usually attracted small crowds.

Analysing the data: The critical process of rapid appraisal analysis requires further study. While Bruce outlines some useful assessment tools, more detailed descriptions of analytical concepts, tools and methodologies for use after the fieldwork need to be elaborated. It cannot be assumed that analysis flows naturally from good RA process and practice. On the contrary, the complex nature of the questions being examined (resource scarcity, equity and policy to address landlessness and treelessness) can make the analytical portion of the study far from "rapid." In the end, several techniques were used to enhance the analysis of data in order to make it the most useful. To complete the task of preparing a comprehensive final report, the following analytical strategies were used, both in and out of the field:

Figure 3: Village Sketch Map


  1. See Stone and Campbell 1984 for a very salient critique of poor survey methods, based on a study of cases from Nepal.


The Research Area - Comparative Tables


Total area 1 188 sq km 1 363 sq km
Elevation 76 m to 895 m 61 m to 305 m
Hills/plains 28% / 72% 32% / 68%
Length (N-S) 28.8 km 43 km
Breadth (E-W) 28.8 km 24 km
Longitude 86o 6' - 86º 27' E. 86º 28' - 87º 7' E.
Latitude 26o 33' - 26º 55' N. 26º 25' - 26º 47' N.
Main rivers Kamla, Mainabati, Gagan, Khutti, Balan Koshi, Triyuga, Balan, Mahuli, Khando
Climate Tropical/Subtropical Tropical/Subtropical
Temp. (max/min) 36 / 17º C 38 / 16º C
Annual rainfall 1 442 mm 1 717.5 mm
Population/total 411 336 379 055
Male 212 707 194 376
Female 198 629 184 679
Density 346/sq km 278.1/sq km
Male/female 52% / 48% 51% / 49%
Households 74 788 68 919
Hh size 5.5 5.5
Literacy 12% 15.1%
Occupation (averaged for both districts):
Agriculture 90%
Commerce 3%
Social services 2%
Production base 1%
Other 4%
First Language
Maithili 90% 93%
Nepali 6% 4%
Tharu 1% -
Other (from hills) 3% 3%
Primary 162 168
Lower secondary 47 53
Secondary 12 17
Colleges 2 (Siraha and Lahan) (local campuses of Tribhuvan University) 1 (Rajbiraj)
Land and Agriculture
Land under cultivation 108 551 ha 95 607 ha
Per capita landholding 1.4 ha 0.3 ha
No. of landowners 75 431 41 876
No. of tenants 49 916 11 876
Landholding (1986)
More than 5 ha 2 618 families -
16 880 persons -
1-5 ha 21 780 families -
140 060 persons -
Less than 5 ha 13 200 families -
85 800 persons -
Landless 4 003 families -
40 075 persons -
Land Use Patterns
Total Area
Churia Hills 27 800 ha 44 100 ha
Terai Plains 97 400 ha 94 100 ha
Total 125 200 ha 138 200 ha
Churia Hills 1 500 ha 800 ha
Terai Plains 82 000 ha 81 700 ha
Total 83 500 ha 82 500 ha
Churia Hills 200 ha 100 ha
Terai Plains 7 600 ha 6 700 ha
Total 7 800 ha 6 800 ha
Churia Hills - -
Terai Plains 1 400 ha 2 800 ha
Total 1 400 ha 2 800 ha
Churia Hills 25 300 ha 30 100 ha
Terai Plains 1 300 ha 1 900 ha
Total 26 600 ha 32 000 ha
Churia Hills 400 ha 400 ha
Terai Plains 500 ha 800 ha
Total 900 ha 1 200 ha
Churia Hills 400 ha 12 700 ha
Terai Plains 4 600 ha 200 ha
Total 5 000 ha 12 900 ha
Timber/Firewood Demand (1986)
Fuelwood Demand 334 400 metric tons (mt) 342 200 mt
Supply 209 800 mt 212 500 mt
Deficit 124 600 mt 129 700 mt
Timber Demand 17 000 cu.m. 17 500 cu.m.
Supply 11 200 cu.m. 11 400 cu.m.
Deficit 5 800 cu.m. 6 100 cu.m.
Major occupation farming farming
Pop. engaged in agriculture 95% 92%
Major crops grains, legumes and pulses, oil seeds, vegetables, fruits, misc. cash crops (tobacco, sugar cane, potato, jute) grains, legumes and pulses, oil seeds, vegetables, fruits, misc. cash crops (tobacco, sugar cane, potato)
Major fruit trees mango, leechy, papaya, guava, custard apple, jackfruit mango, leechy, papaya, guava, custard apple, jackfruit
Industries cotton textiles, bricks and tiles, bidi (cigarette), mills (rice, oil, flour, sugar), leather tanning, cement match factory, bricks and tile, bidi (cigarette), mills (rice, oil and flour), sawmill, bakery, solvents, textiles
District Headquarters Siraha Rajbiraj
Communities (former Village Panchayats) 111 113
Towns (former Town Panchayats) 1 (Lahan) 1 (Rajbiraj)
Medical General hospital (Siraha), 15 beds; Eye Hospital (Lahan), 15 beds General hospital (Rajbiraj) 50 beds; 11 health posts
Development Activities
Projects Sagarmatha Integrated Rural Development Project; telephone, drinking water, irrigation, roads irrigation, road, post office, electrification, drinking water, hospital construction
Forestry DIECF Project Sagarmatha Integrated Rural Development Project DIECF Project
Irrigation coverage by canal or channel 32 894 ha 13 812 ha
coverage by pumping unit 700 ha 9 000 ha

Note:The figures in this table are adapted from district and national sources. They are not always consistent, not all for the same years and they are of varying reliability. The demographic data for Siraha are more recent and appear to be more reliable than those for Saptari. We have tried to use the most current sources (e.g., Aryal et al 1982, Nepal 1987, Joshi and Moorkha 1987), but in the area of demography, for example, with dated statistics up against a population growth rate conservatively estimated at 2.6%/yr, the figures given here should be considered low, viewed with skepticism and used with extreme caution.


Population 2 342 4 258
Households 486 916
Household Size 4.8 persons 4.6 persons
Est. landlessness 40% 20%
Dominant caste and Ethnic groups (% of Total hhs) Chaudhary (34%) Musahar (26%) Mahato (14%) Chamar (8%) (11 others, 18%) Chaudhary (25%) Bahun/Chhetri (15%) Yadav (15%) Musahar (11%) Miya (Muslim) (10%) (10 others, 24%)
Mean elevation 100 m 108 m
Soil type loamy haplaquepts (aeric) loamy haplaquepts (aeric) and ustochrepts
Main crops paddy, wheat, maize, millet and misc. cash crops paddy, wheat, maize, millet and misc. cash crops
Fruits mango, leechy, papaya, guava, custard apple, jackfruit and others mango, leechy, papaya, guava, custard apple, jackfruit and others
Access to government reserve difficult easy
Community forest 6 ha 1 444 ha
Forest land per capita 0.0025 ha (25 sq m) 0.34 ha
Population: 2 342 / Hhs: 486 Approx. Individuals/Hh: 4.8
Community Forest: 6.0 ha Forest Land per Capita: 0.0025 ha
Source: District Forest Office records

HAMLET and Ward Numbers

Malhanwa (1,2,3) Hari-Nagar (4,5,6) Bramahan (7,8) Gorchhaari (8,9)

Hhs %
MUSAHAR (Sadaay, Earthworker) 40 125 - - 165 34.0%
CHAUDHARY (Tharu, usually farmers) 25 75 17 12 129 26.6%
MAHATO (Koiri, Vegetable Grower) 20 12 - 39 71 14.6%
CHAMAR (Sarki, Cobbler) - - 28 11 39 8.0%
TELI (Oilman) - 25 - - 25 5.1%
TATMA (Weaver) - 15 - - 15 3.1%
SUNDI (Oiltrader) - 12 - - 12 2.5%
PASMAN (Leather-worker) 10 - - - 10 2.1%
BANIYA (Merchant) 1 4 - - 5 1.0%
BADAHI (Carpenter) - - - 4 4 0.8%
MIYA (Mussalman, Muslim) - - - 3 3 0.6%
YADAV (Milkman) 3 - - - 3 0.6%
MIJHAR (Kami, Blacksmith) 2 - - - 2 0.4%
THAKUR (Barber) - 2 - - 2 0.4%
MANDAL (Guwar, Milkman) 1 - - - 1 0.2%
Totals 102 270 45 69 486 100.0%
Population: 4 258 / Hhs 916 Approx. Individuals/Hh: 4.6
Community Forest: 1 444.38 ha Forest Land per Capita: 0.34 ha
Source: District Forest Office records

HAMLET and Ward Numbers

Chhapki (1,2) Bhimar (3,4,5) Bakdhuwaa (6) Mohanpur (7) Basantapur (8) Ratwada (8,9)

Hhs %
CHAUDHARY (Tharu, usually farmers) - - 150 - - 80 230 25.0%
BAHUN/CHHETRI*(Brahmin, Priest Warrior) 3 - - 65 40 30 138 15.1%
YADAV(Milkman) 35 55 - - - 45 135 15.0%
MUSAHAR (Earthworker) 30 60 15 - - - 105 11.5%
MIYA (Mussalman, Muslim) 70 22 - - - - 92 10.0%
SAH (Teli, Oilman) 6 18 - - - 22 46 5.0%
KHATWE (Leatherworker) 32 - - - - - 32 3.5%
BADAHI (Carpenter) - - 11 - - 16 27 3.0%
MAHATO 25 - - - - - 25 2.7%
MANDAL (Guwar, Milkman) 6 - 19 - - - 25 2.7%
MAGAR* - - - 6 12 - 18 2.0%
AMAT (Rai)* 15 - - - - - 15 1.6%
DOM (Basketmaker) 1 12 - - - - 13 1.4%
PARIYAR (Damai, Tailor) - - - 4 6 - 10 1.0%
OTHER 5 - - - - - 5 0.5%
Totals: 228 167 195 75 58 193 916 100.0%

* Recent migrants from the hills



Some Products of the Churia Forest

Collection labour is gender/age specific, as indicated by:

M Male Adult
F Female Adult
m male child
f female child
c children of either sex

Products consumed during foraging trips while in the forest are marked: "#".

The list gives two product classes: "trees" (gaachh), which in the local taxonomy includes non-tree species, and thatch grass (ghaans). It is not entirely complete, but represents the most common major and minor forest products taken and used or sold in the market by the villagers. Other products (not listed) include birds, animals, reptiles and insects.

Maithili Term Labour Species - Description - Use
kaath M Many species, mainly -
Macaranga denticulata
Shorea robusta
Albizzia lebbek
Ougenia oojeinensis
asnaa, saaj
Terminalia tomentosa (or T.alata)
Acacia catechu
jarnaa, jaarain MFc Many species - branches and main stems split and cut into 2 to 5-foot lengths for carrying.
Several species; various parts used include -

M The culm, for making thatched huts, baskets, posts, mats, etc.

F Branches - for making dry fences.
kharh MF Fragmites, Saccharum, Erianthus and other species; cut flush to the ground and tied into bundles for carrying; used to roof houses, sheds and stalls
saabe M Eulaliopsis binata; cut flush to the ground, spread to dry for several days, collected and tied into bundles (or braided into plaits) for carrying; for making rope and sold in the market (used by paper mills for making good quality paper). Work groups often live deep in the forest, sleeping under temporary leaf shelters.
bel Fc Aegle marmelos; ripe fruit pulp eaten and made into sarbat (a cool drink); sold in market.
kusum # c Schleichera oleosa; for pickles; ripe fruit eaten.
khurur # MFc Ficus semecordata; ripe fruit eaten. In emergency cases, the plant collectors subsist on this fruit for several days.
jaaum, jaamun # Fc Syzgium cumini; ripe fruit eaten and sold in market.
gudbheli # Fc Buchnania lanzan; ripe fruit eaten.
bonbang c Sterculia villosa; fruit eaten.
sanpath c Oroxylum indicum; capsule for native medicine and religious rites.
amlesh MF Thysanolaena maxima; spike for making brooms.
rikhia # Fc Emblica officinalis; for sauce, pickles and a sweet called murabba (M); sold in market. Main ingredient in chyavan-prash (N) a renowned ayurvedic medicine.
dhorahi # Fc Dillenia pentagyna; pickles.
chhoichh, banglaahi c Capparis zeylaneca; fruit eaten.
khajoor # c Phoenix acaulis; fruit eaten ripe.
banglori, arghon MF Cassia fistula; for ayurvedic medicines (specific for constipation); an alcoholic drink is distilled from the fermented pod pulp.
karonaa Fc Carissa spinarum; fruit eaten as pickle or ripe; branches for dry fencing.
fuldhab Fc Woodfordia fruticosa; flowers sold in market for traditional medicine.
baniaan # FMf Gardenia turgida; fruit and flower eaten as vegetable.
mainhar # FMf Xeromphis spinosa; flower eaten in pakoras, a salty recipe; fruit eaten as a vegetable.
pidaar # FMf Xeromphis uliginosa; flower eaten as pakora; fruit eaten as a vegetable.
korraiya # FMf Holarrhena antidysenterica; flower eaten as vegetable; seeds sold in market under the name Indra Jao, used in ayurvedic medicines for dysentery.
amati # M Antedesma acidium; eaten by thirsty labourers, also made into chatni (a sour paste for pickle).
huddu M Cycade spp.; the rachis for making house brooms.
malhaan MF Bauhinia vahlii; leaves are attached to make plates for feasts; bark for rope.
goirh latti M Ichnocarpus frutescens; for making baskets used by the Musahar caste during earth work.
koilaar Mm Ficus virens; young shoots for pickles.
isargat M Rauwolfia serpentina; sold in market, renowned for its anti-hypertension properties.
dat karor # M Smilax spp.; a vegetable.
khamhaaur # M Dioscorea belophylla; a vegetable.
sataabar, sataabari M Asparagus adscendens; sold in the market; used in traditional medicines to aid lactating mothers, also to increase lactation of cows and buffaloes.
jangali karela # M Phlogacanthus thyrsiflours; green fruit for emergency vegetable for those living temporarily in the forest collecting forest products.


Tree Species of the Eastern Terai

These 107 species were recorded in the two villages of the tree and land tenure study. The list includes several species of shrub, plantain, climber and bamboo which are classified by Maithili-speakers along with trees (gaachh). See also Appendix B for details about tree use, and C: for other forest species.

The list is in alphabetical order by botanical (latin) name. Common names are given in English (E), Nepali (N) and Maithili (M), followed by Key letters noting the following information:

Frequency: Common, Occasional or Rare
Source: Natural or Planted, Indigenous or Exotic
Location: Forest or Village (incl. home compound & farmstead)
Villages: Bg = Bramahan-Gorchhaari, Bd = Bakdhuwaa

Common uses are noted in priority by villager preference.

1.Acacia auriculiformis
Wattle or Acacia (E)
Fuelwood; recently introduced fast growing exotic species
2.Acacia catechu
Khair (N), Khaair (M)
House posts, dry fencing, implements (plough shares, tool handles); wood chips boiled down for tannin and for the red paste eaten with betel leaf
3.Acacia nilotica
Acacia (E), Babul (N), Babur (M)
Poles for house posts; dry fencing; implements (ploughs, tool handles); fuelwood.
4.Adina cordifolia
Karma or Haldu (N), Karmain (M)
Furniture, implements (tool handles, plough shares), fuelwood
5.Aegle marmelos
Bael (E), Bel (N,M)
Sacred species for Hindus, therefore not generally used for fuelwood; leaves for Hindu religious worship; wood for making necklace (garland) for religious purposes; edible fruits for cold drink (sarbat N,M); dry fencing (thorny stem); fuelwood (Muslims); implements (plough shares)
6.Albizzia procera
Seto Siris (N), Sirith (M)
Furniture, implements (tool handles, plough beams), fuelwood
7.Annona reticulata
Custard Apple (E), Sitaphal (N), Aantaa (M)
Edible fruits; leaves as insecticide against body lice; fuelwood
8.Anthocephalus chinensis
Kadamb (N,M), Kadam (M)
Edible fruits (pickled green or eaten ripe) furniture, implements (tool handles), fuelwood
9. Areca catechu
Areca Nut (E), Supadi (N), Supari (M)
Edible nuts; stems for ridge pieces in huts and gabled roofs
10. Artocarpus heterophyllus
Jackfruit (E), Rukh-katahar (N), Katahar (M)
Edible fruit (ripe and cooked); implements (plough handles); musical drums; furniture
11.Artocarpus lakoocha
Badahar (N, M)
Edible fruits; goat fodder (monsoon); fuelwood and implements (tool handles); fodder by recent settlers from the hills
12.Azadirachta indica
Margosa Tree (E), Nim (N,M)
Toothbrush (from twigs); leafy brush used to fan measles victim; fuelwood; implements (cart/wagon wheels)
13.Bauhinia variegata
Kachnaar (N,M)
Edible flower buds (cooked or pickled); leaves for goat fodder; implements (tool handles), fuelwood
14.Bombax ceiba
Silk Cotton Tree (E), Simal (N,M)
Seed floss used for pillow filling; wood used for making minor furniture; flowers sometimes used for making pickle
15.Borassus flabellifer
Palmyra Palm (E), Taad (N,M)
Edible fruit; leaves made into fans; juice taped from stem made into alcohol (taadi wine)
16.Bridelia squamosa
Gayo (N), Gaaja or Kaanji (M)
Edible fruit; goat fodder (leaves); implements (plough shares), fuelwood
17.Butea monosperma
Palaans (N), Palaas (M)
Aesthetic value (at time of flowering); fuelwood
18. Butea parviflora
Parsa Latti (M)
Goat fodder; seed for oil. (A large climber)
19. Caesalpinia spp.
Thornbush (E), Kandaa (N), Kaant (M)
Dry, thorny fencing
20. Capparis zeylanica
Banglaahi (M)
Goat fodder
21. Careya arborea
Kumbhi (N), Kumhi (M)
Bark for making rope; stem as fuelwood and implements (tool handles)
22. Carica papaya
Papaya (E), Mewa (N), Ararnewa (M)
Edible fruit (eaten ripe or cooked)
23. Carissa spinarum
Karonda (N), Karona (M)
Edible fruit (eaten ripe or pickled); dry fencing, fuelwood
24. Casearia elliptica
Deri (M)
25. Cassia fistula
Rajbriksha (N), Arghon or Banglori (M)
Fruit as traditional medicine (cash crop); leaves for goat fodder; implements (tool handles), fuelwood
26. Cassia occidentalis
Tapre (N), Chakorhiya (M)
Fuelwood for the poor (collected from waysides)
27.Cephalanthus occidentalis
Bais (M)
Fuelwood (a woody shrub in swampy ponds; extremely rare)
28. Citrus spp.
Lemon (E), Nibua (N), Nemo or Nebo (M), Lime (E), Kagati (N,M), Pomelo (E), Thulo Nibua (N), Sankha Drab (M), Citron (E), Jyamire (N), Jameri nebo (M)
Edible fruits (eaten ripe, or pickled or juiced for vinegar)
29. Clerodendrum viscosum
Bhaaint (M)
Twigs as tooth brush; tender leaves as anthelmintic drug
30. Cocos nucifera
Coconut Palm (E), Nariwal (N), Narial (M)
Edible fruits and nuts; palm leaves used for making hand brooms and burned as cooking fuel; stem as fuelwood
31. Cordia wallichii
Lasphasia (M)
Implements (tool handles), fuelwood
32. Dalbergia sissoo
Sisam or Sissoo (E), Sisau or Sisam(N), Siso (M)
Timber for construction, furniture, fuelwood, implements (ploughs, yoke, cart wheels); fodder for goats (rarely); lopped branches for fuelwood; trees sometimes planted as savings or security against future contingencies
33.Delonix regia
Gulmohar (N), Bansibat (M)
Ornamental flowers and foliage; shade tree; fuelwood
34. Dendrocalamus strictus and other spp. & genera.
Bamboo (E), Baans (N,M)
Culm used in house construction, for posts and for making stall feeding racks, or split and woven into mats and baskets (e.g., grain storage bins; dry leaves for cooking fuel and in potters' kilns (but not brick kilns); branches for dry fencing
35.Duranta repens
Nilkaant (M)
Live hedges, dry fencing, fuelwood
36.Ehretia laevis
Datingal (N)
Implements (tool handles), fuelwood
37. Erythrina glabrescens
Coral Tree (E), Phaledo (N), Pharhad (M)
Wooden boxes, fuelwood (low quality); ornamental flowers
38. Eucalyptus camaldulensis
Eucalyptus (E), Masla (N,M)
Fuelwood, light furniture
39.Euphorbia royleana
Sihundi (N), Lohejam (M)
Thorny plant used as live fence
40. Ficus auriculata
Nimaro (N)
Planted for fodder by recent settlers from the hills
41. Ficus bengalensis
Banyan Tree (E), Bar (N), Bad (M)
Sacred to Hindus; shade tree for resting platforms (chautaraa N,M, chabutaraa M); fuelwood (due to fuel shortage, esp. in brick kilns, despite traditional prohibition); a "male" tree planted beside "female" Ficus religiosa (Peepul)
42.Ficus racemosa
Dumri (N), Dumair or Gulair (M)
Edible fruit (eaten ripe or cooked); goat fodder; fuelwood, implements (plough shares)
43. Ficus religiosa
Peepul (E), Pipal (N), Pipair (M)
Sacred to Hindus; shade tree for resting platforms; fuelwood (due to fuel shortage, esp. in brick kilns, despite traditional prohibition); a "female" tree planted beside "male" Ficus bengalensis (Banyan)
44. Flacourtia indica
Kaant (M)
Implements (plough shares, tool handles), fuelwood; goat fodder; dry fencing
45. Gardenia turgida
Kant (M)
Dry fencing, fuelwood
46. Garuga pinnata
Dabdabe or Ramsinghe (N), Banjimhar (M)
Poles for building huts and houses; leaves for goat fodder (esp. by recent settlers from the hills)
47. Glycosmis pentaphylla
Chhatneri (M)
Fuelwood for the very poor (a weed along roadsides, etc.)
48. Gmelina arborea
Gamhari (N), Gamhaair (M)
Implements (tool handles), furniture, musical drums
49. Gossypium arboreum
Cotton Plant (E), Kapas (N), Baang (M)
Planted around house compound for cotton wool
50. Grewia oppositifolia
Bhimal (N), Chichodhi (M)
Fuelwood; fodder; implements (plough beams)
51.Hibiscus rosa-chinensis
Adhul (M)
Flowers for ornamental use and religious worship
52. Ichnocarpus frutescens
Goirh Latti (M)
A climber for making baskets by the Musahar caste (earthworkers in road construction and new cultivation)
53. Ipomoea carnea
Saruwa, Beyaa or Behaya (N), Karmi (M)
Live fencing; fuelwood
54. Jatropha curcas
Sajiwan (N), Baghandi (M)
Live fencing; thin branches used for tooth brushes
55. Lagerstroemia parviflora
Bot Dhangero (N), Bajhia (M)
Implements (cart planks), fuelwood, furniture
56. Lannea coromandelica
Hallunde or Hallendo (N), Jimhar, Jiyal (M)
Poles for house posts; leaves as goat fodder
57. Lantana camara
Lantana (E), Sutkeri Phul (N), Narangia (M)
58. Lawsonia alba
Henna Plant (E), Mehandi (N,M)
Leaves used for decorative coloring of women's hands and feet
59. Leucaena leucocephala
Leucaena or Ipil-ipil (E), Ipil-ipil (N), Chah (M)
Goat fodder; fuelwood, poles
60. Litchi chinensis
Leechy (E), Lichi (N,M)
Edible fruits; fuelwood
61. Litsaea glutinosa
Dardmaida (M)
Bark used as poultice for sprains and bruises; fuelwood
62. Litsaea salicifolia
Mehsan (M)
63. Madhuca indica
Mahuwa (N,M)
Flowers used in making alcohol (raksi); furniture, implements (tool handles, ploughs); fuelwood
64. Malvaviscus arboreus
Orhul (M)
Planted in flower gardens for show
65. Mangifera indica
Mango (E), Aanp (N), Aam (M)
Edible fruits (eaten ripe or pickled green); furniture, construction materials; fuelwood (esp. for brick kilns); trees sometimes planted as savings or security against future contingencies; leaves in religious worship
66. Manilkara hexandra
Khiriya Puriya (M)
Edible fruits; fuelwood
67. Melia azedarach
Bakaino (N), Bakaain (M)
Fuelwood, cheap furniture; also used as fodder by recent settlers from the hills
68. Mellotus philippinensis
Sindure (N), Sunri (M)
69. Miliusa velutina
Kaande (M)
Implements (tool handles), fuelwood
70. Mimosa himalayana
Areli Kaant (M)
Dry fencing, fuelwood
71. Mimusops elingi
Maulsari (N), Bhaalsari (M)
Edible fruits, fragrant flowers for garlands;shade tree; fuelwood
72. Mitragyna parvifolia
Tikul (N), Tikuli (M)
Furniture; fuelwood
73. Moringa oleifera
Horseradish Tree (E), Sahajan or Sitalchini (N), Munaga, Munga or Sohijan (M)
Edible fruits (eaten as vegetables); fuelwood; goat fodder
74. Musa paradisica
Banana (E), Keraa (N, M)
Edible fruit (eaten raw ripe or cooked as vegetable); leaves used for plates during village feasts, goat fodder
75. Nerium indicum
Karbir (M)
Planted in flower gardens for show
76. Nyctanthes arbortristis
Night Jasmine (E), Parijaat (N), Singhar (M)
Fragrant flowers for worship; fuelwood
77. Ocimum sanctum
Sacred Basil (E), Tulasi (N, M)
Planted by Hindus in home area for worship and for use on funeral pyres; leaves used on funeral pyres and treating of colds and other ailments
78. Phoenix sylvestris
Wild Date Palm (E), Khajur (N, M)
Edible fruits, toddy wine; leaves made into mats
79. Phyllanthus acidus
Harfaa (M)
Acidic fruits are pickled (chatni, achar N, M)
80. Phyllanthus reticulatus
Sikaith (M)
Scandent woody perennial, collected by poor people for fuelwood
81. Pithecolobium dulce
Jilebi (M)
Edible fruit (children); fuelwood, live or dry fencing, implements (ploughs); the seed pod resembles jilebi sweet
82. Plumeria rubra
Pagoda Tree (E), Motiphul (M)
Grown in flower gardens for show
83. Polyalthia longifolia
Ashok (N,M)
Ornamental, grown for shade and showy crown (leaves almost evergreen); wood for house posts and making minor furniture
84. Premna herbacea
Gineri (N), Ganhiaair (M)
Goat fodder; fuelwood
85. Psidium guajava
Guava (E), Amba or Belauti (N), Lataam (M)
Edible fruits; fuelwood
86. Putranjiva roxburghii (Syn. Drypetes roxburghii)
Pitaunjhia (M)
Ornamental leaves (almost evergreen); seeds for beads of necklaces worn by parents to foil child mortality (sympathetic magic); the name is from Sanskrit putranjiva, literally "may the son have a long life"
87. Ricinus communis
Castor (E), Allind (N), Andi or Arari (M)
Seed oil, cart lubricant; medicinal leaves for compress on sprain and painful muscles
88. Sesbania grandiflora
Agasta (N), Akas (M)
Edible flowers cooked in vegetable pakoras; ornmental plant around houses
89. Shorea robusta
Sal (E), Saal or Agraakh (N), Sakhuwa (M)
Timber for house beams, poles, door and window frames, furniture, implements (plough shares, carts); fuelwood; leaves for plates at feasts; also used for ritually-erected pond posts (jaaith M; see also Syzygium cumini); oleoresin used as incense in Hindu religious ceremonies
90. Smilax Zeylanica
Kukurdaino (N), Raamdataun (M)
Twigs used for toothbrushes
91. Sterculia villosa
Odal (N), Baalkundi (M)
Edible fruit; fuelwood
92. Stereospermum suaveolens
Panchpati or Paadri (N), Paandair (M)
As fodder tree by recent settlers from the hills; wood for tool handles and fuel
93. Streblus asper
Khaksi (N), Saahor or Sahoraa (M)
Thin branches for tooth brushes; fuelwood, implements (plough shares, tool handles); leaves for cattle and goat fodder
94. Symplocos chinensis
Lodro or Hakulal (N), Lod (M)
Goat fodder (leaves); wood for implements (tool handles); fuelwood
95. Syzygium cerasoides
Kyamuna (N), Banjaamun (M)
Edible fruits; fuelwood, implements (plough shares)
96. Syzygium cumini
Jaamun (N), Jaaum or Jaamun (M)
Edible fruits; timber for house beams and pond posts(jaaith M), erected amidst a great Hindu ritual (see also Shorea robusta)
97. Tamarindus indica
Tamarind (E), Imili (N), Tetair or Imali (M)
Edible fruit, pickled; fuelwood, furniture; shade tree
98. Tectona grandis
Teak (E), Tik (N,M)
Timber for construction and making furniture; very rare in the study area
99. Thevetia peruviana
Jahar Kanel (M)
Ornamental flowers grown for show; fruit is highly poisonous but the sweet nectar of the flower is sucked by children
100. Tinospora cordifolia
Gurju (N), Gurich or Gurj (M)
Large climber, stem used in traditional medicine
101. Trewia nudiflora
Gutel (N), Pithari (M)
Implements (tool handles), fuelwood
102. Urena lobata
Bajhaandi (M)
Fuelwood (a wayside woody plant used mainly by the poor)
103. Vitex negundo
Simli (N), Sinuaair (M)
Live fencing, hedges
104. Xeromphis spinosa
Maindal (N), Mainhar Kaant (M)
Edible fruit, fish poison; implements (plough), dry fencing
105. Xeromphis uliginosa
Pidaar (M)
Edible flower and fruit (eaten as a vegetable); fuelwood
106.Zizyphus mauritiana
Bayar (N), Bair (M)
Edible fruits; dry fencing, fuelwood, implements (ploughs)
107. Zizyphus nummularia
Amati Kaant (M)
Edible fruit (eaten by children); fuelwood, dry fencing


* Paraal (rice straw) is believed to be chokho ("pure" in the ritual sense). Sukhal gobar ("dried dung") made with paraal is used for making fires for religious purposes, i.e., at times when a priest is called to perform Hindu religious rites (as for a funeral pyre).

** Karsi ("leftovers") burns smokey and hot; used in cattle sheds in summer as an insect repellent, in winter for warmth.


Glossary of Nepali and Maithili terms

Throughout this report, local Nepali (N or Nep) and Maithili (M or Mtl) terms are used. The system of transliteration from devanagri to roman script is based on Turner (1965) with slight modification. According to Turner's orthography, for example, the c is pronounced like the English "ch" and his ch is pronounced slightly more aspirated, as "chh". To aid the reader we have opted to spell relevant terms more like they are pronounced, hence: our chalan (custom) instead of Turner's calan, and our chhetri (a caste) instead of his chetri. Short and long vowels are shown by single and double letters, respectively, as in dhani (wealthy; short vowel) as opposed to dhaan (paddy rice; long vowel).

See also the dictionaries by Meerendonk (1960) and Carter et al (1989). Many terms (especially Maithili) do not appear in these dictionaries. Many spellings reflect local dialect, and many definitions reflect local usage.

agahanic Winter paddy variety.
angnai A 6-10 m space, surrounding the talau or pond, which is never planted.
aniyamit Unregulated tenure.
apan jot Landowner.
aputali Private land acquired through legacy.
arjit Acquired ownership of private land.
atikraman Private or government land acquired through encroachment.
auns Summer rice variety.
awwal Highest quality agricultural land.
baabaa Local holy man.
baas bitti Bamboo clumps.
baas dith Home compound.
Bahun (Chhetri) Brahmin priest and warrior caste.
baksha patra Private land acquired through gift.
bhabar Lowland, characterized by porous soil, gravel and boulders.
bhitt pakho Drier field, unsuitable for paddy.
bhurra Finely-ground tobacco dust for smoking.
bighas Upper limit of landholding in the Teria, imposed in the national land reform programme of 1960s. Approximately 17 has.
chahaar Fourth-quality land and the poorest, rarely under cultivation.
chalan Land management according to local custom.
chamchaa Spoon (used in slang to denote a lackey).
Chaudhary Second-largest caste, usually farmers.
chautaraas Raised stone resting place and a common village meeting area.
chilim Hand-pipe, often made of pottery.
daan patra Private land acquired through gift.
dagar Road or path.
dhanhar Paddy field.
doyam Second quality land.
gaachh Generic term for trees, vines, creepers and bamboo.
gaachhi Any tree field, though not always containing fruit-bearing trees.
gaddair Summer rice variety.
gamhari Summer rice variety.
ghee Clarified butter.
gocharan Land set aside for grazing.
graam ban Community forest.
guthi Hindu temple lands.
haal aabaadi Private or government land acquired through encroachment.
idgaah Muslim prayer ground or cemetery.
inaar Well.
jaaith Round wooden post, always consecrated, found in the centre of the talau.
jangal Forest commons, where villagers are allowed to graze cattle and collect fallen wood, but in which cutting is forbidden.
kharhoir Land under thatch grass.
kinal Private land acquired through purchase.
kirti Conversion of private land to commons through meritorious gift.
Mahato Vegetable grower caste, the third largest in the study region.
maund Measure of 40 kg.
minaahi Conversion of private land to commons through tax exemption.
minaahi-jamin Previously cultivated property that has been degraded through natural causes, or which the owner no longer wishes to maintain.
mohaar Outermost perimeter of talau, built of soil excavated from basin.
mohi (mohiyaani) Tenant.
Musahar Earthworker caste, the lowest but largest in the Terai. Usually employed as agricultural labourers or in construction.
nadi Stream.
nahar Irrigation canal.
niji ban Private forest.
niyamit Regulated tenure.
nyam Land management according to the legal code.
pahar Middle hills.
painjhaau Central portion of a talau in which water gathers.
paitrik Private land acquired through patrilineal inheritance.
panchayat Administrative region comprising a number of communities.
parti Wasteland.
pradhan pancha Elected chairman of community council.
purdah Veiling of women.
rajmarg Highway.
sadak Road or pathway.
sarkaari ban Government forest.
sarkaari jamin Government reserve.
seer One fourtieth of a maund ( 0.876 kg).
sim Third quality land.
sumpieko Conversion of government land to commons by 'handing over'.
talau A sacred pond of the cleanest water, usually dug as the devotional act of a wealthy sponsor.
tarhia gocharan Mound-shaped grazing land.

Abbreviations and Acronyms

APO Associate Professional Officer, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Bd Bakdhuwaa Community, Saptari District
Bg Bramahan-Gorchhaari Community, Siraha District
CFDD Community Forestry Development Division
CFDP Community Forestry Development Project
cu m cubic metre
DFO District Forest Office
DIECF Development of Income and Employment through Community Forestry Project
DOF Department of Forests
E or Eng English language
FAO Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
FLCD Forestry for Local Community Development Progamme, FAO
FTP, FTPP Forests, Trees and People Programme, FAO/SIDA
GCP Government Cooperative Programme
GON Government of Nepal
ha hectare; equiv. to 10 000 sq m, or 2.741 acres
hh, hhs household(s)
Hnd Hindi language
IOF Institute of Forestry (Tribhuvan University)
IOF/P Institute of Forestry Project
KKU Khon Kaen University (Thailand)
km kilometre
LTK Local Technical Knowledge
m metre
M or Mtl Maithili language
MOF Ministry of Forests
N or Nep Nepali language
NEP Nepal
RA Rapid Appraisal
RRA Rapid Rural Appraisal
SIDA Swedish International Development Authority
Skt Sanskrit language
sq square
sq m square metre
SWE Sweden
TCFDP Terai Community Forestry Development Project
Thr Tharu language
UN United Nations
UNDP United Nations Development Programme


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