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5. CASE STUDY 1 - Community Forestry: Participatory Forest Management in Action

This case study describes the creation of community forestry (CF) as a key programme in the forestry sector of Nepal, one that involves the participation of local people through the innovative mechanism of the community forestry user group (CFUG). The case study details the history of CF, and the reality of its implementation over time. It also describes the roles of various CF actors in recent times, and issues concerning the notion of ‘community’ and the roles of various CF stakeholders. This case study is important given the role that CF plays in Nepal, both historically and currently, as a prototypical group-oriented development programme. What is learned from CF has had major impacts on leasehold forestry, forest user group federation, and entrepreneurial forestry which are the subjects of the three following case studies.

5.1 Introduction

Nepal’s well known community forestry programme derives out of an innovative policy that allows rural communities to access forest resources according to indigenous practices, and to manage them in ways reflecting traditional sustainable livelihood strategies. The evolution of this policy and the expansion of community forestry institutions over the past three decades, is rooted in Nepal’s unique historical, cultural, economic, political and institutional contexts.

Because forestry has provided Nepal with one of the first and most visible and strategic contexts for government involvement and donor assistance in development, and because it boasts the widest available literature, the community forestry (CF) programme conveniently serves as a prototypical model against which the other natural resource case studies can be compared and analysed. The CF development phenomenon has occurred at the macro level, with innovative CF policy and legislation, at the micro level, with the development of local community forest user groups (CFUGs), and at the meso level, with the growing influence of civil society through the establishment of user group federations and NGOS. Overall, the development of CF in Nepal is closely tied to the nation’s goals to decentralize government structures and functions to the local level, to devolve power and authority to manage and utilize forest resources at the local level, and to address the needs of rural communities through enhanced access to resources. In this case study, we look at some of the issues raised in addressing these goals, especially as they relate to access to mountain natural resources, and the policy processes involved in achieving them.

We consider the community forestry programme to be a prototype for yet another reason: CF provides a useful background against which to examine access and management goals within other natural resource sectors. That is, actors in other sectors (e.g., agriculture, rangeland, irrigation and/or drinking water management) have been influenced by the CF experience (and visa versa), including the rise of user group federations. The growth of civil society and establishment of user federations is an extension of the CF phenomenon, and to understand the processes of change in Nepal, CF and user federations should be considered together.[41] (See Case Study 3: CFUG Federation: institutional innovation in practice.)

5.2 Community forestry user groups defined

Community Forestry User Groups (CFUGs) are legally mandated in Nepal as state-sponsored community-based resource management organizations, specifically authorized to manage local forests. They were developed and placed in the legislation during the 1980s and early 1990s, as part of a CF programme promoted by government and donor agencies. The idea of decentralized local level resource management was first described in the Decentralization Act of 1982. User groups specific to community forestry were strongly endorsed and recommended at the First National Community Forestry Workshop of 1987, then formally recognized and defined in the Master Plan for the Forestry Sector, Nepal, 1989. Thereafter, they came to form a dominant element in the Forest Act of 1993 and the Forest Regulations of 1995. Today there are well nearly 13,000 registered CFUGs nationwide, with more several thousand groups awaiting certification. This figure is dramatically up from a only few hundred barely a decade early. Their rise in popularity can be partly attributed to the advent of a more open form of governance fostering active citizen involvement in the political processes of Nepal following the Popular Movement to Restore Democracy in 1990.

A CFUG is a community-based group of individuals (representing households) that forms to manage local forest resources. The group includes a General Assembly of all members, and an Executive Committee that, by law, must include 33% female members. The group writes a Constitution and prepares an Operational Plan based, in part, on a Forest Resource Inventory. The operational plans are most often prepared with the assistance of a ranger from the District Forest Office (DFO). The operations of many CFUGs are based upon pre-existing local practices in forest management and group membership most often reflects the unique constellation of social and economic groupings of the community. There is currently some challenge to CFUGs modelled on indigenous practice, recognizing the often powerfully elite domination that those earlier forms of forest management took. Forest management is governed by an Executive Committee, often dominated by the rural elite; i.e., by wealthier, high caste males.[42] Thus, unlike leasehold forestry that is exclusively focussed on the poor (described in Case Study 2: the case of leasehold forestry), the CF programme is not specifically targeted to any local group other than the community of users at large, wherein all members of a ‘community’ are theoretically eligible to join regardless of social status or economic standing.

When a CFUG’s constitution and operational plan are acceptable and certified by the DFO, the local forest is formally handed over to the group to manage and utilize. Each CFUG is amendable and renewable on a five year basis. All benefits of the forest are theoretically shared by the group, although there is considerable evidence that in some instances (many, according to several recent studies) the local elites tend to realize far more benefits than the poor and powerless. The group has the right to manage the resources, but ownership of the forest land remains vested with the government.

Another issue has arisen concerning the benefits that local CF users can access and utilise. An early assumption in the CF programme was that CF was primarily designed to provide local users with forest resources for ‘subsistence’.[43] This implies that they have access primarily to fodder, fuelwood and alternative forest resources (‘AFRs’, also called non-timber forest products or ‘NTFPs’), with only limited benefits deriving from timber. This issue is especially cogent in the Terai and Churia Hills of Nepal, where high timber has high revenue and rent-seeking values (as discussed in the introduction to this study).

In a mid-1990s survey, the size of CFUGs ranged from 10 to 850, with a mean of about 95. The forest area handed over also varies, from less than one hectare to 750 ha, with a mean of 50 ha.[44] The amount of forestland originally identified as available for CF management was in excess of 3,500,000 ha (or 61% of the total forests of Nepal). By 2003 only 15% of the available forestlands, and over 28% of all lands allocated to be handed over to communities, were under CF management.[45]

By recent count there nearly 13,000 CFUGs registered and operating in Nepal today, with many more awaiting certification.[46] Formation tends to proceed at the rate of about 1,000 CFUGs per year. A CFUG is generally heterogeneous with respect to caste and ethnicity, with a range of economic and socio-cultural backgrounds. All CFUGs have both men and women members. Less than 4% of all CFUGs are all-women’s groups, and in only a few cases do the executive committees include representatives from the most disadvantaged caste groups (the Dalits).

5.3 The history of community forestry in Nepal


The history of forest management and development in Nepal can be conveniently divided into three phases, each of which reflects a different approach to the question of access to natural resources. The first phase was one of privatization, a feudal period lasting for approximately two centuries prior to 1951. The second was focussed on resource nationalization, from 1951 to the mid-1970s. The third phase heralded the emergence of populist (participatory) forestry, from the mid-1970s to the present.[47] Beginning in the nationalization phase, the degrading condition of Nepal’s forests came to the attention of global environmentalists and international development authorities. Since then, attention has also become focused on interlinked concerns for participation and poverty reduction in development and, most recently, on sustainable livelihoods, control of emerging markets for timber and alternative forest resources (AFRs), as well as on access to resources by the poor, the disadvantaged (including women) and minority groups. The environmental and the socio-economic issues, raised during the 1970s, spurred a great influx of donor assistance to Nepal’s natural resource sector, especially in forestry but also in other sectors, including irrigation management, range management and hydropower development. Recently, during the early 2000s, certain so-called ‘second generation’ issues have come to prominence in the policy discourse and development practices of Nepal; namely, empowerment, gender equity, social inclusion, livelihoods and poverty alleviation, all of which relate closely to the issue of access with which this paper is most concerned.[48] Access, as we have defined in the introduction, implies both access to natural resources and to the policy processes that relate to it.

Phase 1. Forest as a tool of state control and private gain

Until the middle of the twentieth century, small, land-locked Nepal was ruled by powerful feudal elites (the Shah and later the Rana families) who had absolute control over the country, its resources and its people’s lives and livelihoods. During the century-long Rana period, until 1951, that family of hereditary prime ministers maintained absolute control over the forests, exploiting them for revenue to support their regime, much as members of the early Shah Dynasty had done before them. During those times, forest resources throughout Nepal were controlled by local landlords, clients to the ruling elite, all of whom extracted compulsory and unpaid labour obligations from the peasantry. To raise revenue, the elites sold timber; they also cleared and converted many forestlands into productive agricultural land. The ruling class rewarded their soldiers (and even enemy traitors who came to their side) with land grants. During Rana times, for example, the practice of rewarding loyal clients with birta, private land grants, often forested lands, was a means of extending patronage and ensuring political and economic control in the rural countryside. By the end of the Rana regime in 1951, it is reported that at least one-third of the forests of Nepal were under birta tenure, and three-quarters of this land belonged to members of the Rana family.[49]

Britt summarizes the conditions of strictly controlled access to resources, compulsory obligations to the elites and restricted development among the poor during the century of Rana hegemony until 1951:

Rana rule was based on an ideology of political isolation and policies of resource extraction that exacerbated conditions of underdevelopment. Under the Ranas the total area covered by land grants increased dramatically.[50]

Strategic designations of land-grants and labor obligations have had deleterious and long-term impacts on productive relations in Nepal. Agricultural production and labor power were absorbed by the government and landowning elites. This meant that very little surplus could be generated for individual material or economic gain and traded in the Nepali economy. Though difficult to assess in quantitative terms... it is clear that the state as well as landlord and service grantees profited greatly, while peasants were in no way adequately compensated.[51]

Looking ahead towards changes in the third phase of forestry development, below, Britt concludes that ‘Given this history of one-way tributary flows of goods and services from the periphery to the center, the devolution of state control over forests to local forest user-groups is a significant departure from past patterns of extraction and state-society relations’.[52]

Forest tenure in Nepal is of three kinds: (a) private, (b) government or state and (c) communal or common property.[53] Under the early phase of forest management, the local people generally had free access to non-commercial AFRs for their primary needs - fodder, fuelwood, pasture, and a few other resources (e.g., herbs, fruits, nuts, medicinals, etc.) harvested in traditional ways for subsistence needs. At the same time, timber extraction was strictly regulated, for timber was (and still is) the great generator of revenues. This dichotomy between government elites controlling forests for their high value timber and allowing commoner access to forests only for harvesting the subsistence value AFRs is still present in the thinking of some who control Nepal’s forest management system today.

Phase 2. The nationalization of forests and centralization of forest management

Following the collapse of the Ranas regime and the restoration of the Shah monarchy in 1951, and during the following decade under Nepal’s first experiment with Democracy, attempts were made by the state to remove vast tracts of forest (and other resources complexes, such as rangelands and irrigation systems) from private hands and mobilize their resources for national development. The Private Forest Nationalization of 1957 and the Birta Abolition Act of 1959 were passed, putting private forests and rangelands back into the pubic sector in the anticipation of three outcomes: (a) more equitable access to and use of the resources, (b) sustainable management of the resources and (c) revenues earned off the harvest and sale of resources (from timber sales and grazing fees). A key element of nationalization was, therefore, to establish a strong basis to exploit and mainstream the nation’s vast forest reserves as a source of revenue for state and local use and, not least, rent-seeking by corrupt officials.

How did private owners and other locals react to nationalization? The fledgling Department of Forests was unprepared until recently to implement major policy decisions; this led to an unregulated situation of ‘open access’.[54] There is ample evidence of some local elites avenging the new laws by destroying forest resources over which they had previously enjoyed exclusive, personal control. Even communal forests felt the brunt of nationalization as some commoners laid waste to them for essentially the same reasons. Many forested lands were cleared and converted to agriculture, a more secure form of tenure, and the timber was cut and sold illegally for personal economic gain (illegal logging still prevails in some areas). Nationalization removed the much of the incentive of private holders and communal forest users, alike, to guard and protect the resource, leading to uncontrolled open access and unregulated abuse of many forest resources.[55] Thus, where there had previously been clear incentives to preserve private and communal forests for local benefit as a logical action, the tendency was not to overexploit them from the standpoint of many individuals and communities facing loss of local control to the state. One observer characterized this as the ‘tragedy of the hills’, after the more well known concept of the ‘tragedy of the commons’.[56] This is one among several competing perceptions of the causes of forest degradation as well as of soil erosion and rangeland mismanagement.[57]

In 1961, with initiation of a nation-wide cadastral survey, the rate of forest destruction further increased as more forested lands were cleared for agricultural purposes, to assure the legal rights of private owners to the converted lands. The government responded by enacting more stringent legislation in the Forest Act of 1961 and the Forest Protection Special Act of 1967, which mandated strict punitive measures against forest and other resource ‘offenders’. It was now, in the midst of the nationalization phase, that outside opinions and influences on Nepal’s forestry management began to be expressed.

International and national response to the ‘Himalayan crisis’

Nepal’s forests suffered considerable degradation from the 1950s onward as a result of factors described above, including rapid population growth that led to increased pressures on the fragile resource base.[58] The government’s inability to check the declining state of the forests (and the increasing population), and the subsequent belief in an impending ‘Himalayan Crisis’ came prominently to worldwide development, academic and general public attention through the publication of several alarmist accounts. One of the first accounts of massive degradation of the Nepal’s forests came in a report in the mid-1950s by a forestry expert from FAO:

Deforestation is the rule, particularly in heavily populated areas where more cropland, grazing land, lumber and fuelwood are needed. Such deforestation frequently assumes disastrous proportions; the shortage of timber results in the use of manure for fuel, so that the unmannered land becomes impoverished, yields shrink, and erosion reduces the cultivable area. All this forms a vicious circle that it appears difficult to break without a radical chance in all such practices.[59]

Statements like this caught the attention of concerned observers, and ultimately led to the conceptualization of a loose construct called the ‘Theory of Himalayan Environmental Degradation’, a scenario of ecological doom.[60] According to this perspective, the Himalayan farmer practicing uncontrolled access for cutting trees in the mountains was blamed, among other things, for the devastating floods frequently experienced downstream in India and Bangladesh. A 1978 World Bank review even predicted that under this scenario Nepal would become a barren, treeless wasteland by the year 2000 (it didn’t happen).[61] Reactions such as these were part of Nepal’s first experience with the modern phenomenon of ‘globalization’ (though, of course, Nepal had been part of a global economy for centuries, given its many important trans-Himalayan trade routes).

The degradation ‘theory’ was widely discussed and roundly criticized in the literature as weak and devoid of solid empirical evidence. It has been thoroughly debunked by in recent publications,[62] though it is still brought up in poorly informed discourse. Despite the failings of the degradation ‘theory’, the eco-doom scenario of impending disaster continued to be perpetuated, especially in a dramatic film, The Fragile Mountain,[63] and through the prominent writings of the global environmentalist Norman Myers.[64] All of these accounts attracted attention of the international donor community, including multilateral aid agencies such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the UNDP and FAO, and the bilateral aid agencies of Australia, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, the U.S., and others. As a result, beginning in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, many donor agencies developed field based projects to assist Nepal in promoting tree plantation and community forestry programmes, primarily to address the cause-and-effect resource degradation paradigm and avert imminent environmental disaster. By the end of the 1980s there were over 50 experimental donor-funded projects underway in Nepal focussed on forestry, or which had forestry components.[65] Most of them, however, were focused on tree planting; the forestry establishment was still ‘tree-centred’. Only in Phase 3 (described below) did attention move on to forest management for local control and access, i.e., to a more ‘people-centred’ forestry.[66]

Phase 3. Populism, participation and the beginnings of community forestry

Beginning in the early 1950s, but more prominently in the mid-1970s, a small number of farsighted Nepalese foresters and government officials were convinced that that the nation faced a nearly impossible task of protecting and sustainably utilizing the nation’s forests without the active involvement of its common citizenry.[67] In fact, the concept of community forestry was first raised a forest policy paper in Nepal as early as 1952/53.[68] but there was no immediate follow through and patterns of access to resources did not change for almost two decades. Along the way, in 1975, a national conference convened by the Department of Forest concluded that there was good grounds for involving local people in forest management.[69] The following year, a Forestry Development Plan was drawn up acknowledging the deterioration of hill forests and advocating the involvement of local people directly in forest resource management. By 1978 forest policy directives and regulations were in place establishing the operational framework for the development of community forestry,[70] undoubtedly influenced by international guidelines for using forestry as a locus for local community development.[71] The new Panchayat Forest and Panchayat Protected Forest Rules of 1978 were, at the time, considered highly progressive; they allowed local elected bodies (village assemblies called panchayats) to take partial control of local forest resource management, although ownership of the forest lands was retained by the government. While this was a step forward towards decentralization, it fell far short of true devolution of power or authority over forest resources to the local level. This new type of forestry has been described as having ‘transferred “responsibility without authority”, [with] emphasis was on protecting new plantations and on “motivating” people from outside, rather than providing livelihood incentives for protection’.[72] Several other observers have called this the ‘naive’ phase of forestry development in Nepal.[73]

The nature of the managerial rights depended upon the quality of the forest at the time of hand-over. Forests of good quality became ‘Panchayat Protected Forests’, to which locals were given controlled access and from which they were entitled to keep 25 percent of the benefits. Degraded forest lands were registered as ‘Panchayat Forests’, planted and managed as tree plantations established by communities, thus affording local users with far more easy access from which the local share was 75 percent of production or profits.[74] This programme was assisted early on by several donor-driven initiatives, including the Nepal-Australia Forestry Project begun in 1979[75] and the Community Forestry Development Project funded by the World Bank and implemented by the Nepal government with technical assistance from UNDP and FAO begun in 1981.[76] These experimental initiatives were later complemented by bilateral projects funded by Switzerland, the UK and USAID.[77] Under these projects (and a few others) the first community-based forest user groups were established, albeit under classical forestry prescriptions on a micro-scale in the form of community nurseries and tree plantations. Chir Pine (Pinus roxburghii) was especially favoured, a species that had high commercial timber value but fostered low biodiversity; hence, it afforded little access to what was considered most important to village people at the time, i.e., fodder and fuelwood, in that order,[78] and other resources for subsistence.

At the time, a DFO named T.B.S. Mahat, who worked in the Nepal-Australia Forestry Project area of Sindhupalchok District, and a few other unnamed field foresters of his time, are credited with setting up the first empirical examples of community forestry under government direction in Nepal.[79] Their efforts promoted people’s participation in the protection of plantation sites, providing one of the first examples of the government (and projects) sharing the management of access to forest resources with the local people.[80] It has been noted, however, that ‘this early initiative was constrained by protectionist directives given by Forest Department officials and donors, with parameters of what should be managed (how and why), and access and control (who) highly circumscribed’.[81]

While these activities constituted important first steps towards devolving forest resource management responsibilities from government to local communities, they were founded, in part, on the notion of collective management on the part of ‘a community’ (often naively conceived of as a benign homogeneous entity).[82] As a result, the hoped-for increased access and livelihood benefits by the majority poor local forest users was only achieved with great difficulty, and often not at all. As the community forestry programme evolved during the early 1980s, regulations were put in place that required preparation of a detailed community forest management plan (the Operational Plan) to be prepared and approved by the Department of Forest (often with donor assistance). This was an exceedingly difficult enterprise given a dire shortage of trained foresters and the incapacity of local villagers in technical forestry. Virtually no attention was paid to implementing legislative provisions for leasing forest lands to provide special access to the very poor (an initiative that was only realized beginning in the 1990s).

At the same time as community forestry was being promoted, so was private forestry. During this time, beginning in the early 1980s, targets for private planting were consistently surpassed in the villages, even after the goals were adjusted substantially upwards.[83] This tells us a great deal about the real needs and incentives of the local people for access to their most important forest resources.[84] Very quickly, however, control over forest benefits of all kinds became vested in local political leaders, the elected officials of the Panchayat system, whose greed and corruption (in forestry and all other potentially profitable spheres of local development) is well documented and ultimately led to their downfall and the collapse of the Panchayat system of government in 1990.[85]

Meanwhile, development of a CF programme was slow. During the 1980s, three assessments were implemented that critically examined progress in community forestry to date. One was a series of ‘special studies’ conducted by all-Nepalese teams to examine results so far in meeting the goals of (a) the Panchayat Forests and Panchayat Protected Forests, private nurseries and leased forests arrangements, (b) livestock control and grazing management, (c) the overall management and utilization of forests, and (d) progress in integrating forestry development within district development plans under the government’s new decentralization policy (described below). ‘The studies provided a sobering assessment of the community forestry programmes and proposed a lengthy list of remedial actions... [They] were remarkable for the candour with which they identified and discussed problems and for their spirit of self-criticism.’ They signalled the willingness by the government and of the foresters actively involved in implementing the programme, ‘to take a hard look at community forestry and to make mid-course corrections. In retrospect, the [special study] reports constitute an important turning point. They opened up debate and set the stage for major changes in the orientation of community forestry programmes, changes which were later to become formalized in the Master Plan for the Forestry Sector’.[86]

The second assessment flowed from important new information on the extent and status of Nepal’s forests, as it became available from the Canadian-funded Land Resources Mapping Project.[87] Among the new information available was clear evidence that government programmes ‘were not on a scale sufficient to tackle the problem, a conviction that the government must put a single-minded priority on improving land management (rather than simply planting trees, for example), and a belief that this could only happen if local people were allowed to manage land (including forest land) for their own benefit’.[88]

The third assessment of CF came out of serious questions being asked on what appeared, on the surface, to be a highly successful donor-funded initiative, the Nepal-Australia Forestry Project (NAFP). The prognosis, based on the work of social scientists delving into the social dynamics of the CF programme, was that ‘all was not going nearly as well as had been thought’.[89] The researchers pointed out, for example, that women and lower castes, in particular, were being excluded.[90] ‘As these findings emerged, the NAFP entered a period of soul-searching centred around the question: What is real, effective community forestry?’[91], upon which additional analyses were pursued and corrective actions taken on such issues as the social dimensions of community forestry; the roles and access of the disadvantaged, especially of women; indigenous forest management systems; and private planting.[92]

At that point, attention was riveted on a set of specific technical, social and institutional issues, including: the nature of forest management plans (too complicated), institutional constraints (e.g., lack of commitment to the CF approach by foresters trained in the technical aspects), species selection and use (focussing on the villagers needs), indigenous systems of forest management (how they could guide CF management by the people), optimum size of forest management units (the best fit given local capacity), subsidies for seedling production (whether they should be applied to assist poor villagers), gender dimensions (how to correct the typical exclusion of women), national parks and protected areas management (and how they fit into the CF scenario, especially where community forests intersected national priorities), and forest revenue sharing (how much, if any should be taken by the state, and how much the user groups should retain).[93]

By the end of the 1980s, only a few hundred CFUGS were officially registered and operative. While the CF programme provided a important experimental opportunity to work out new institutional arrangements for resource management and while the general model of CF was being watched carefully and was beginning to be mimicked in other natural resource sectors, it was becoming clear that there were seriously complex and overlapping problems with the CF model per se. As Taylor puts it, ‘there was much questioning from many quarters’ and a synergism developed that ‘opened the door for proposed changes of a more rapid and radical nature than would have been possible [otherwise]’.[94]

In retrospect, however, it seems that early models of local participation were not yet very convincing means to cope with ongoing forest degradation nor with devolving control and management responsibilities to the local custodians and users of the forests, the ‘common people’. For example, one issue that was consistently raised was that control over many CFs was being usurped by powerful local elites. Another issue was that in light of the problems and inequities involved, many villagers continued following older open access strategies, taking what they needed from communal and government forests, alike, most often by uncontrolled means. All along, donors and progressive foresters continued to raise questions about social inclusion and empowerment of women, and more and better access of the poor to forest resources, although attention to them in the CF discourse as key areas of major concern emerged more prominently only from the mid-1990s onwards.

Master Plan for the Forestry Sector, 1989

Donors’ response to the crisis continued, both in terms of the degradation ‘theory’ and out of a growing concern for improving collective forest resource management as part of a strategy to enhance local participation and alleviate poverty. It was during the 1980s that the concern for poverty alleviation, under the rubric of the ‘basic needs’ approach to development, was popular.[95] As one part of the new strategy, a consortium of donors including the Finnish government and the Asian Development Bank provided technical and financial inputs to develop a comprehensive 20-year Master Plan for the Forestry Sector (MPFS). The MPFS was completed in 1988-89, the first of its kind in Nepal. The plan development process involved both national and international consultants and officials who conducted critical assessments of the forestry situation, and examined the socio-political factors underlying deforestation and poverty/basic needs, alike. For example, the researchers projected huge deficits in forest product supply against a rapidly escalating demand under the existing scenario. In the final plan, they put forward four key development imperatives to enhance forest resource management in Nepal: (a) fulfilment of basic needs of the people, (b) sustainable use of forest resources, (c) devolution of power and participatory access of local people to share decision making and benefits, and (d) mobilization of the forestry sector for socio-economic development.

The previous objectives of nationalization, establishing centralized control and using forests as a major source of state revenue, no longer stood. Now, a more populist, participatory system was put forward, with the bulk of the benefits to remain within the local communities. The forestry Master Plan did not arise out of a vacuum, but was strongly influenced by several other important events of the 1980s. One was passage of the landmark Decentralization Act of 1982 and the Decentralization Rules of 1984, through which the concept of community-based resource user groups was established. Another was a series of recommendations coming out of Nepal’s first National Community Forestry Workshop in 1987, which included formal acceptance of the resource user group concept. This concept was fully integrated into the Master Plan, which was strongly oriented overall towards further development of the community forestry model of local resource management. Clearly, the previous notion of the hapless, ignorant and resource-poor farmer as the major cause of forest degradation was now abandoned, replaced by a model where the farmer and his neighbours, as community members acting collectively, became the model for sustainable local forest management.

Several principle parts of the plan were quite progressive in the quest to increase access of common people to forest resources. The new plan established a system for planning and phased hand-over of accessible forests to local communities; entrusting the community of users with the task of protecting and managing them and reaping the benefits from forest incomes; promoting an extension approach to gain the confidence of villagers, especially women (i.e., those who regularly access the forests and are involved in daily resource management decisions); and, retraining government staff away from their police-like approach under the previous central control of forest access, to becoming advisers, extensionists and facilitators of public access through a participatory mode of resource management.[96] The spirit of this change toward hoped-for new self identity and role changes among forest field staff was summed up at the time in a simple dichotomy between ‘haakim-forester’ behaviour[97] of those who worked to police and restrict access of the people to essential forest resources and benefits, compared with the new style ‘consultant-foresters’ who work to facilitate better access, local control and empowerment.[98]

The last forest minister under the Panchayat system finalized the Master Plan for the Forestry Sector in 1989, and following the demise of the Panchayat system of governance and the restoration of Democracy in 1990 the plan was taken up by the newly elected government. In 1990, during the brief transition period between the old and the new systems of governance, several decisions were taken to accelerate the evolution of community forestry, based on feedback from over a decade of donor-assisted experimentation with community-based forest management. Local institutional arrangements established for Panchayat forests were reformulated to provide more opportunity for local people to craft institutions of their choice, and to exercise their rights in locally controlled forest access and management. For example, the resource user group concept was formally adopted and user groups were allowed to expand their management domains beyond the (previous) Panchayat political boundaries, where appropriate. CFUGs were also allowed to select a chairperson other than the elected village government leader who, in the past, had automatically served (often in highly self-serving ways) as ex-officio chairperson of forest user groups (MFSC 1991).

Experimentation and Sharing

The 12-year period between 1978 and 1990 in Nepal was a time of experimentation in the field and of analysis in the formulation of progressive new policies. Lessons from the field were shared at the national level through frequent formal and informal inter-project and people-project-government-donor interactions. A leasehold forestry experiment was begun in the early 1990s, in tandem with community forestry, designed to more directly address issues of poverty alleviation and access to the poor and disadvantaged to forest resources. (See Case Study 2: The case of leasehold forestry, below.) Another notable event was the establishment of a series of national community forestry workshops beginning in 1988, open to the participation of actors from the community to the central level. At the second national workshop in 1993, representatives of local forest users were encouraged to present their perspectives. In addition, initiation of the leasehold forestry programme at this time was also influential in revising forest legislation under the new Forest Act of 1993 and the Forest Regulations of 1995, two of the most important milestones in the history of community forestry in Nepal.

Some key provisions of the legislation and rules regarding community forestry include establishment and registration of CFUGs and creation of an operational plan, process of the hand-over of local forests to qualified CFUGs, punishment of offences against the operational plan, the collection and selling of forest resources from community forests, and government support through extension programmes on CFUG operations. It is also interesting to note that the Act gave the CF programme precedence over the new leasehold forestry (LHF) programme.

5.4 The reality at implementation

Up to this point in the history of CF development, the donors as key actors in the development of Nepal’s modern approach to forest policy and local management have had considerable input and influence. They were highly involved in over a decade of experimentation with community-managed forestry at the micro (field) level, for example, and in framing the Forest Act and Regulations of the early 1990s at the macro (central) level. And soon, a few of them would also become involved at the meso (civil society) level, encouraging and supporting new initiatives leading towards the federation of CFUGs nationwide and the provision of legal and technical services at the local level. (Development of the civil society around the forestry sector is described in Case Study 3: CFUG Federation: institutional innovation in practice.)

It was naively assumed, however, that implementation of the community forestry programme in the rural communities and districts would proceed smoothly to assure equity, inclusion and access by women, minorities, the very poor, and other disadvantaged groups. In principle, every household in the community is entitled to become a member of a CFUG, and to share the benefits of locally managed access to forest resources. Recent analyses, however, present a mixed and conflicting view of the results. For example, one Nepalese forestry expert has recently concluded that ‘Overall, the community forestry intervention has had limited positive impact on the livelihood of rural households. The evidence suggests that some households, especially the poorer ones, have been affected negatively’.[99] But, while this is a prevailing opinion among many observers close to the CF scene, it is by no means the only perspective. Other observers have concluded that CFUGs have become established local institutions and that while members of the village elites are usually responsible for decision-making in most CFUGs, ‘only about 20% of them [show] evidence of this leading to manipulation of decisions in favour of elite interests. Thus, while one should not be politically naive about the nature of village society, neither should one ignore widespread evidence of social cooperation across wealth groups’.[100] There are, in fact, many remarkable CF success stories and it appears that, generally speaking, local people are satisfied with the formation of CFUGs and that there is widespread local agreement on the basic principles of CF. The author of one recent and extensive case study describes many positive developments under CF, particularly in relation to increasing gender sensitivity and female involvement in local forest management, in reducing ‘elite capture’ of group operations and benefits, and in sincere moves to take the concerns of the poor and disadvantaged into account in operational plans in ways designed to assure them easier access.[101]

In the meantime, once the new Forest Regulation of 1995 were in place and operating, key donor agencies began focussing more attention and assistance at the macro level, with the government agencies that were charged with overseeing the CF programme. They promoted capacity building among bureaucratic staff in both the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation and in the Department of Forests. This change on the part of donor interest continued, as part of a move towards more of a ‘programme’ approach to development, away from the previous ‘project’ paradigm.

But, just as it was naive to assume CF would proceed according to the ideal, it was also naive to assume that various ‘reorientation’ trainings of forest officers and capacity building among the central bureaucratic staff would automatically instil progressive new attitudes, assumptions, behaviours and policy actions in support of a participatory and populist local forest management agenda.[102] Instead, some of the most serious challenges to central level control began to emerge almost immediately, and are continuing. A senior South Asian forester familiar with the Nepal scene has explained the problem as follows. He writes that forest departments (in general) ‘still stand for forest policing. Where the decentralization and devolution processes are implemented, the forest department structures frequently remain unaltered. It is mistakenly assumed that staff training without any change of the main structural edifice of the department is sufficient to deal with decentralized and participatory forest activities.’ Furthermore, he says ‘foresters are very apprehensive and fearful of losing their power’ and only a few of them ‘have faith in the capacities of people to manage forests sustainably. After all, the myth that the poor local people are responsible for deforestation has been indoctrinated into their minds for decades’.[103]

5.5 Community forestry actor and roles[104]

The donors

By examining the extent and quality of documentation coming out of donor-assisted projects during the 1980s and early 1990s, it is evident that the expatriate community at that time was highly motivated in both practical and intellectual ways to seek and try new approaches and solutions to questions of decentralization and devolution of forest management to local people and to enhance empowerment, voice and access of local people to forest resources of all kinds.[105] This is not an insignificant finding, but despite the important contributions of donors in the start-up and promotion of CF in Nepal, their involvement appears to have had limited positive impact on policy processes after 1995. They still have a strong presence in various field projects, attempting to deliver forest management services to communities, to facilitate policy development and enhance livelihood options, but apparently not with the same intensity as before. The typical old project structure, whereby large expatriate technical assistance teams function under direct donor control, has been a consistent style of donor support in Nepal for many years, and continues to a large extent today although, more and more, a programme approach to forestry development is being implemented. The old paradigm permitted only limited opportunity for both government and non-governmental civil society organizations to seek new solutions to old problems and develop their own institutional capacities with which to address them.

Since the mid-1990s, donor assistance has directed a significant portion of their programme funding and technical assistance to reform of the forestry sector at the macro level, including the strengthening the institutional and human capacity. To be sure, some of this occurred earlier, but after 1995 and especially beginning in the 2000s it has accelerated. Many donors working with government organizations tend to presume that government is the single best agency for service delivery, now that CF is on line. With a few notable exceptions (both in forestry and in irrigation management)[106] this strategy has often served to reinforce existing patron-client dependency relationships between local citizens and government. This, in turn, has served to make governmental decision-making systems and policy processes relatively inaccessible to local people, especially the poor.[107] As a result, some observers feel that neither the old project modalities nor the new programmatic focus have succeeded in promoting people’s institutions as true partners in development; i.e., in ways that will yield more significant impacts for progressive people-centred change in government organizations. Some who are critical of donor forestry projects and programmes argue that the donors tend to patronize the Nepali civil service at the central level, instead of striving to promote self-entrepreneurship, civic polity, and policy inputs from below. These observers doubt that the enhanced institutional capacity of the forest department has been effective in promoting and supporting the great potential of civil society. They feel, furthermore, that some recent donor-induced policy initiatives (such as the Forest Inventory Guidelines of 2000) have actually worked against what should have been achieved - i.e., strengthening community institutions for forest management.[108]

To be sure, many civil society institutions have been positively impacted, and encouraged, and the growth of Nepal’s civil society largely with donor support has been remarkable.[109] Some key organizations have flourished under donor assistance and guidance. What is missing is a fuller commitment by some government agencies and actors to accept civil society inputs to governance, especially their participation in policy dialogue, and of the role of local governing bodies, especially concerning their involvement in contemporary forest management. Some progress has been made in this regard, but more is desired. Thus, despite NGO and other civil society growth during the decade of the 1990s, local CFUGs and their allies and federations in the civil society have had to make forceful claims against government in order to preserve a number of gains made earlier regarding citizen roles and their fundamental rights in resource management control and access.

Another criticism of donor assistance in forestry (and others sectors) is an apparent lack of monitoring and evaluation of their impacts over the years. This appears especially true as regards issues of equity, social inclusion, empowerment and access to resources by the poor. This includes the impact of participatory training at the higher levels of governance and resource management as an attempt to change attitudes and behaviours to become more favourable to CF and related people-centred programmes.[110]

Civil society

The decade of the 1990s, following the restoration of democracy, ushered in an era of relative pluralism and openness enabling the development of an active civil society,[111] although there is still a certain lack of consensus by government over its legitimacy and roles in development. The role of civil society is particularly contested in the forestry sector, in which key state organizations (i.e., ministry and departments) have been the policy makers, owners, managers and facilitators of natural resource management, all in one. The role of local non-governmental organizations (LNGOs) is also being questioned, especially regarding accountability, as most are directly dependent on donor support and funding. An organized and active civil society in Nepal has a history of barely more than one decade, though its roots are deeply embedded in traditional systems of social responsibility and civic action.[112] Despite the rapid proliferation of national and local NGOs, and federations, working in various development sectors since 1990, only a few (such as ForestAction and NORMS, FECOFUN and NEFUG)[113] work exclusively in forestry and, in particular, CF. As the scope of community forestry has gradually expanded from an emphasis on plantations and conservation to sustainable local management, access and rural livelihoods, and as many user group priorities have shifted from concern with resource management to community development more broadly, the interests and involvement of LNGOs in this sector have increased.

After 1995, following establishment of the Forestry Regulations, a number of difficulties in implementing community forestry began to emerge. Many users and their advocates felt that the new regulations were not being fully implemented and, in some cases, were being subverted to the demands of a central civil service still enacting non-participatory, top-down forms of development.[114] In short, while the government espoused decentralization, actual devolution of powers to local user groups has been limited. These concerns led to the founding in 1995 of the Federation of Community Forestry User Groups, Nepal (FECOFUN, discussed in Case Study 3) and a few other forestry-oriented organizations. Their goal has been to develop a stronger civil force in the forestry sector, to encourage and promote local people’s awareness of and involvement in policy dialogue at the centre and the sustainable practice of community forestry locally. The growing civil society movement in Nepal is also a potential source of technical forestry expertise to meet some of the pressing needs of local CFUGs as the number of non-government professional foresters working with NGOs and as private consultants has increased.

Although Nepal’s NGOs have a legal basis for their existence, and must register with the national Social Welfare Council, the formal space provided them within the state policy framework is limited.[115] For example, representation from the civil society is very weak on the Forestry Sector Coordination Committee, an apex level semi-formal forum (primarily of government and donor representatives) that steers forestry sector development. CFUGs also need a wide range of other services and technical support, at the local level. The case study about handmade paper from lokta, an AFR (discussed in Case Study 4 - Entrepreneurship and access: handmade paper from lokta bark), shows how a private industry is leading the way in adopting socially responsible entrepreneurship and development.

In addition, some very positive NGO/civil society impacts on the enhancement of local empowerment and access of women and disadvantaged groups at the local level have also been noted in the literature. Experiences from hill districts supported by the Nepal-Swiss Community Forestry Project, for example, are notable in this regard.[116] Nonetheless, many government officials seem unwilling to address local forestry development needs that could be supported by civil society and/or by private (consultant) involvement and entrepreneurship. The government insists on addressing forest inventory needs, for example, exclusively from its own sources, but it is unable to meet local CFUG needs and demands alone, due to acute manpower and financial shortfalls. There are currently thousands of CFUGs in need of technical support to complete their mandatory forest inventories. These inventories are a prerequisite to the effective functioning of forest user groups and are an essential input to CFUG operational plans. Because neither the central nor the district forestry officials are keen on allowing local NGOs and private foresters to conduct certified inventories, the service potential of competent non-government forestry expertise remains largely untapped.

There seems to be a significant dichotomy emerging from our examination of the literature and from first-hand observations, that while there are some serious gaps at the macro level between expectations based on the letter and spirit of the CF legislation, at the meso level regarding the role and place of civil society institutions and organizations, and at the micro level in the districts and village communities regarding the devolution of power and authority to manage resources, there are nonetheless some highly motivated DFOs and rangers who have managed to bring some of the contentious issues involving all three levels out of the fire, so to speak. There are many government field workers who take the issues of equity, empowerment, access and poverty alleviation very seriously, for example, and are working hard to accomplish them, often with the help of civil society and project actors. Thus, there is room for optimism.

Local government bodies

Local government bodies in Nepal include the nation’s 75 District Development Committees (DDCs) and several thousand Village Development Committees (VDCs), one level beneath the DDCs. Government investment in and support of these local bodies is found in progressive legislation encouraging local participation in governance under the Local Self Governance Act of 1998. This Act builds directly on the Decentralization Act of 1983 and effectively describes the much sought-for decentralization of governance and the devolution of governing authority to these bodies. True devolution of power and responsibility, however, is still difficult to effect.[117]

The main actors working in support of the DDCs and VDCs are the Ministry of Local Development (MLD) and its local line agency representative, the Local Development Officer (LDO). The DDCs have sub-committees dedicated to oversee environmental and natural resource management issues, including local forestry. In many instances, the DDCs and VDCs work closely with local CFUGs, and with other actors in the civil society such as FECOFUN and LNGOs, to deal with forestry and broader community development initiatives. Some CFUGs, in fact, are financially better off (from membership dues and the sale of forest resources and products) than their VDCs, and are able to complement the VDC’s community development activities, a fact that brings a certain dynamism to the notion of participatory local development.

In several districts of the hills and Terai, a new level of coordination between the line agencies (forestry and others) and the local governing bodies is being experimented with, in the form of District Forestry Coordination Committees (DFCCs).[118] These bodies perform advisory services only, as a forum for discussion of development initiatives in the forestry sector. DFCC membership includes representatives of the line agencies, civil society organizations and political parties. The LDO chairs the committee, and the DFO is the member secretary. In some instances, the DFCC members perceive CFUGs to be the key local unit of group-oriented development, with which other user groups (in livestock and agriculture, for example) associate, giving credence to the notion of CFUGs as a prototype unit of group action. The DFCCs are, however, quite new and still experimental, and their roles have not been fully worked out. One weakness of the DFCCs appears to be a largely elite membership, with insufficient representation of the poor through civil society representatives, and their role in policy processes and dialogue is still unclear.

Ultimately, acute funding problems within government and, in 2002-2003, the temporary closing down of local governance units and cancelling the roles of locally elected leaders (due to problems associated with the Maoist insurgency) have, together, effectively weakened the positive impact of decentralization and moves towards devolution of power and authority to local governing bodies. Even in normal times, in the forest policy discourse, the issues of division of rights and responsibilities between central government, local government units and the power of local control afforded to CFUGs have been contentious. Conflicts between forest user groups, the local government units and the central government over the ultimate control of local forest resources continue unabated. In addition, it is evident from recent field studies that the forestry sector lags behind (compared with other sectors) in fully supporting the initiatives and strengthening the potential of the local governing bodies. A serious tension and some contradiction exists between the mandate of foresters under the Forestry Act of 1993 and the Local Self Governance Act of 1998, the clarification of which is yet to be settled.[119]

International NGOs

International NGOs (INGOs), which have a mix of donor and civil society attributes, are also important actors in Nepal’s forestry sector. INGOs tend to fall into three camps, discernible in their approach to development and their political positioning.

One set of INGOs, closely allied with the civil society, advocates for the rights of local forest users in forest access, use, management and benefit sharing. In recent years, LNGO alliances with user groups have assisted in mobilizing dozens of local groups and people to resist some of what are perceived to be regressive government policy moves (described below). Some of these policies have come down as government orders and ministerial directives,[120] but often lacking consultation with local institutions and non-government constituent stakeholders and contrary to expectations under the law.

A second set of INGOs, more closely allied with government, focuses mainly on technical aspects and inputs to forestry development (such as forest inventory and forest management), and engage in a modicum of technical forestry research. They consider resource management to be largely a technical and apolitical process, and do not involve in stakeholder discourse on forest resource governance. Among them are several large and influential INGOs and several small grassroots LNGOs supported by government and/or by bilateral projects.

The third set of INGOs appears to straddle the fence, so to speak, between the other two. This set tends to be more concerned with their own existence rather than holding to any specific political or socially responsible worldview to guide their actions. They tend to be more opportunist as regards contracting for projects but tend to be limited by concern for their own survival in the service provider marketplace.

Each of these sets of INGOs has important roles to play, and provided that participation and consultation with the affected citizenry is imbedded in their agendas, following the spirit of decentralization, devolution and the legitimate expectations of common people and user groups, they can have significant impacts on community forestry development.

5.6 Community heterogeneity and stake of the poor

The ‘community’ stake in forest management was greatly strengthened with passage of the Forest Act of 1993, and all the more so under the Local Self Governance Act of 1998. The Forest Act fully recognizes forest user groups as independent, self-governed community-based organizations (CBOs). Yet, despite an impressive number of registered FUGs (nearly 13,000), the impact of CF on the livelihoods of the very poor, in particular, is limited. Lack of access by the poor, women and other powerless and disadvantaged groups to community forest resources, management and benefits has become an important second-generation issue now under considerable debate and contestation. Unfortunately, while this issue has come to the forefront of current concern, recognition of the problem and acceptance of central agency responsibilities to address it are weak. During the 1995-2000 period, major forestry donors in Nepal also appear not to have monitored these aspects of their programmes.

Some CFUGs practicing innovative approaches, often with support from civil society organizations and from projects, have devised various ways for the poor to realize more equitable access both to decision-making and to the actual resources. Progress has been achieved in commendable cases. For example, some CFUGs have provided patches of forestland to the poor for cash crop cultivation. Some have provided low-interest or subsidized loans to the poor. Some have worked to raise member awareness and have instituted capacity-building activities. Some have worked out ways to reduce investment costs (both of labour and fees) for the very poor. But, these new dynamics remain few, small, scattered and poorly monitored or evaluated. Nonetheless, they indicate potential for creating more access to local forest resources for many who, until now, have remained disenfranchised by an inequitable system.

The issues of effective monitoring, and of learning from successful experience and ‘best practices’, have so far not been effectively addressed at any level of the community forestry enterprise. To be accurate, some monitoring has occurred, of two types: (a) self-monitoring by CFUGs and (b) collaborative monitoring involving CFUGs, government, donor field projects, INGOs and civil society (INGOs). But it does not help that the definition of ‘monitoring’ in Nepal is ambiguous and confused, and that many stakeholder groups perceive monitoring as ‘the tool or means of controlling the people and processes rather [than] facilitating learning’.[121],[122] Overall monitoring in the forestry sector should improve in the near future, however, under initiatives of the Monitoring and Evaluation Division of the MFSC.[123]

Since enhancing equity is a political process involving the devolution of power and the redistribution of benefits, efforts to promote it should be informed by a broad understanding of social and political processes, including who contributes positively and who contributes negatively, and why. The forestry administration in Nepal still appears to make many policy decisions based on old models of top-down control, with minimal consultation, little or no monitoring and poor analysis of the issues.

For example, the advocates of equitable community forestry have viewed the recent imposition of a 40 percent tax on surplus forest resource sales from community forests, by a Government Order in 2000 (more recently restated under a Ministerial Directive in 2002), and an example of a repressive measure handed down from the top to retain control over forest resources by the state, rather than facilitating benefits for CFUGs, access for the poor and moving beyond the apparent continuation of elite domination. The issue is not so much one of paying taxes, but of three other issues: the size of the tax (on top of other taxes already in place), lack of local consultation and disagreement over ownership and utilization and sale of timber from CFUGs.[124] Many civil society efforts, including federation building among resource user groups, have not been able to go much beyond this sort of elite divide between state and community to address more important resource access issues among the poor and the marginalized.[125]

5.7 Inconsistent Government moves

In 1998, Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation imposed an amendment to the Forest Act of 1993 that gave district forest officers (DFOs) the power to take action against CFUG leaders. Supporters of community forestry considered this and several other more recent moves by the government, such as the 40 percent tax on surplus forest products sales and imposition of technical forest inventory guidelines, to be regressive and contrary to the spirit of decentralization and to the rights given to user groups under existing community forestry legislation.[126] Such moves have heightened tensions between the government, user group federations and user groups. Consequently, the government as the key policy making actor faces a serious dilemma, one that puts into question how far government agents trusts local communities and groups to manage, and over how much external control it can exercise over local actions.

5.8 Markets and entrepreneurship

The increasing market demand for several alternative forest resources (AFRs, in this case largely, but not exclusively, non-timber forest products, or NTFPs) has provided an opportunity for some business stakeholders to emerge and operate at various positions in the production-to-consumption ‘value chain’. Groups relying on AFRs include community-based poor collectors and harvesters, local traders in the communities, at road heads or in small market centres, urban-based large traders, manufactures, and exporters. Studies indicate that the share of benefits that community-based AFR harvesters get is significantly lower than those of other business participants operating downstream.[127] This difference arises because of the interactive effect of imperfect market structures, restrictive policies and complex socio-economic structures.[128] Many problems still exist due to poor knowledge about how market-based opportunities can be harnessed for the benefit of the poor who depend on a wide range of forest resources, timber and other.

5.9 Conclusions

This case study of the evolution of community forestry in Nepal tells us many things. In the context of access to natural resources, however, it well demonstrates that government has played a critical role in passing suitable legislation to empower forest user groups to manage forest resources. It was often the behaviour of donor agencies, NGOs, and others, however, that helped determine the actual outcomes of this legislation. Significantly, neither government agencies nor donors appear to have monitored the outcomes of this policy practice in regards to access to natural resources, poverty reduction and social inclusion.

[41] Note that while the contemporary literature is most heavily weighted towards studies of CF user group development in Nepal as a modern phenomenon, the user group approach as a form of civic action has deep historic roots in collective action at the community level. The oldest documented resource user groups are, however, not in forestry but in the irrigation sector (B.K. Shrestha 1999, Martin and Yoder 1983).
[42] Malla 2002, Paudel 1999.
[43] See the main report: §2.1 Competing Narratives: Alternative Forest Resources for a definition and discussion of the important distinctions between AFRs and NTFPs (non-timber forest products).
[44] Malla 2002, after Roche 1996.
[45] Springate-Baginski et al 2003:13, after DOF 2003. Note that some observers note that the statistics in the forestry sector are inaccurate for many districts, hence unreliable, and need to be revised downward by re-surveying. For a succinct recent discussion of the current situation regarding the CF programme in Nepal see Springate-Baginski ibid.
[46] DOF 2003 indicates a total of 12,291 as counted early that year.
[47] These three phases are described in Hobley and Malla 1996 who provide additional descriptions of each period and implications regarding access to forest resources by government, elites and commoners. For other, similar, discussions of the history of community forestry in Nepal, see Bajracharya 1983, Malla 2001 and Britt 2002.
[48] The ‘second generation issues’ are described in Winrock 2002 and JTRC 2000.
[49] Hobley and Malla 1996, after Regmi 1978.
[50] For further description of the inequities of the times, see Regmi 1978.
[51] Britt 2002:102-103.
[52] Britt ibid.
[53] Subedi, Das and Messerschmidt 1993.
[54] Soussan et al 1995.
[55] See Rieger 1978/79.
[56] Rieger ibid., after Hardin 1968.
[57] See also Blaikie and Brookfield 1987.
[58] Since 1960 the population of Nepal has tripled, to approximately 24 million today.
[59] Robbe 1954, quoted in Taylor 1993. George Taylor was a forestry officer working with USAID in Nepal from 1984 to 1989, during the formative period of Nepal’s community forestry development programme.
[60] See Eckholm 1975 and 1976, Sterling 1976 and Rieger 1978/79. For a retrospective view, see Arnold 1992.
[61] World Bank 1978.
[62] Ives and Messerli 1989 and Ives 2004; see also Guthman 1997 and Messerschmidt 1984, 1987 and 1995.
[63] Nichols 1982.
[64] Myers 1986.
[65] George Taylor, personal communication 1989.
[66] See Gilmour, King and Hobley 1989, also Taylor 1993.
[67] It is unclear how much the Nepalese forestry establishment bought into the imminent disaster scenario, but it served the useful purpose of rallying international support for national efforts to enhance sustainable management of the nation’s forest and other resources under more equitable and participatory means.
[68] See Gilmour and Fisher 1991: 11.
[69] See Hobley 1996, Springate-Baginski et al 2003.
[70] Manandhar 1980, 1982.
[71] FAO 1978.
[72] Springate-Baginski 2003:11.
[73] Gilmour and Fisher 1998, Britt 2002.
[74] Two other categories of forest were also established at the time: Religious Forests and Contract Forests, neither of which played much part in the subsequent development of Community Forestry. Later, in the forestry Master Plan of 1989, and in the forestry legislation of the early 1990s, the concept of Leasehold Forests, in conjunction with Community Forestry, was also added to the list.
[75] Griffin 1988.
[76] Arnold and Campbell 1986.
[77] On USAID, see Campbell 1978.
[78] Wyatt-Smith 1982.
[79] Malla 1992:38, Britt 2002:130; see also Mahat 1985 and Mahat et al 1986-87.
[80] Prior to this, of course, there were many models of indigenous (non-government involved) forest management following traditional styles of collective action that provided useful models on which the national community forestry approach ultimately proceeded; see Fox 1983, Messerschmidt 1986 and 1987, Fisher 1989 and 1992.
[81] Britt 2002:130.
[82] For discussions of the ‘myth of community’ as conceived and operated upon in many development projects, see Guijt and Shah 1999.
[83] Campbell and Bhattarai 1983, in Taylor 1993.
[84] A later report by Carter and Gilmour 1989 tells a great deal more of the story about access to forest resources through private planting.
[85] There is a large literature on the demise of Nepal’s corrupt Panchayat system and the restoration of democracy; for a succinct overview see Hoftun, Raeper and Whelpton 1999.
[86] Taylor 1993, citing HMGN 1986.
[87] HMGN/WECS 1986.
[88] Taylor 1993, after Nield 1985, 1986. For related studies at the time, on the broad questions being raised land degradation and resource development in the Himalayas, see Blaikie, Cameron and Seddon 1980, Carson 1985, Thompson, Warburton and Hatley 1989, Ives and Messerli 1989, and Blaikie 1985 and 1992. While some of these studies dealt in considerable detail with environment conditions pertaining to land, soil erosion and forestry, each of them provides valuable perspectives on the social and political factors associated with people’s access, management and use of natural resources.
[89] Taylor 1993.
[90] As Mary Hobley noted about this time, one women told her: ‘We are only invited to [forest user group] meetings when foreigners will be present, otherwise we are completely excluded’; Hobley 1987: 9, quoted in Taylor 1993.
[91] Taylor 1993.
[92] The results of these studies are discussed in Gilmour and Fisher 1991.
[93] After Taylor 1993. The latter issue of revenues has remerged recently as a critical and contentious issue within the larger forest resource management context.
[94] Taylor 1993.
[95] Guthman 1997.
[96] These important events in the evolution of forestry sector policy and the practice of community forestry in Nepal are well described in Hobley and Malla 1986:79-82, Gronow and Shrestha 1990 and Shrestha and Gronow 1992.
[97] A haakim is someone with overall authority, or ‘boss’.
[98] Messerschmidt 1995:18.
[99] Malla 2000: 44.
[100] Springate-Baginski et al 2003:17.
[101] Upreti 2002; see also Paudel 1997, 1999, Sinha et al 1996, Tembe 1998 and Dev et al 2003.
[102] This conclusion is not restricted to the forestry sector, but has been drawn in many other areas of natural resource development and agriculture (Horton et al 2000). Thus, one may question if donor and government development agents and other actors in the development scene have learned any lessons from the past and changed behaviours as a result.
[103] Banerjee 2000. For a case from India, where a hierarchical structure has changed, where senior management led the change in institutional culture and ‘participatory’ trainings were effective in altering actor behaviours (see Jeffery, Sundar and Khanna 1998).
[104] In this section of the case study, we examine four sets of actors: donors, civil society, local government bodies, and international NGOs. It is beyond the scope of the study to look at the relationships between Nepalese actors concerned with policy processes and development practices, and international forestry institutes. It is significant to note, however, that donors and sponsors of their institutes are increasingly asking to be shown evidence that their research and other activities are having an effect on poverty reduction, social inclusion and access to natural resources.
[105] There is a voluminous literature on these attempts in community forestry from the 1980s and early 1990; e.g., see Hobley 1986, Griffin 1988, Gilmour, King and Hobley 1989, and Gilmour and Fisher 1991.
[106] See Messerschmidt 2002a.
[107] Malla 2001.
[108] Dhital, Paudel and Ojha 2003.
[109] Donor support to civil society institutions in Nepal, especially to local and national NGOs, is the subject of considerable discussion and debate, and some controversy; see Chand 1999, Maskey 1998 and 2000, Panday 2001 and A.P. Shrestha et al 1998.
[110] One of the authors of this study recently commented to a donor-funded project team leader that a recent review of his project’s initiatives regarding such issues as gender equity, communications, transparency, poverty alleviation and access by the poor to natural resources. The team leader affirmed the project ‘hadn’t got it right, yet’. What is striking is that neither the consultant who authored the report nor the team leader suggested any new, creative or inspiring ways with which to address the issues raised. It is as if development agents and agencies never learn (monitoring and evaluation is generally poor) and have difficulty moving ahead to address glaring problems (analysis and reconceptualization of the problems are lacking).
[111] Yadama and Messerschmidt (2002 and n.d.) point out that during the Panchayat era (1961-1990) civil society was not very active but that during the 1990s, since the restoration of democracy, ‘civic space’ in Nepal has opened up significantly, with development of civil society institutions (especially local NGOs) in many sectors including the natural resources.
[112] Yadama and Messerschmidt 2002 and n.d.
[113] See more on the ForestAction, a new Nepalese NGO focused on CF, in a separate case study on civil society.
[114] Britt 2001 and 2002, N.K. Shrestha 2001.
[115] It is important to note that the Nepal government does not suppress NGOs, but allows them and in some ways even encourages them, although this often results in uneasy relationships. As extensive studies in the 1980s and 1990s have shown, however, this ‘messy’ relationship is generally the nature of NGO/government relationships (Biggs and Neame 1995, Farrington et al 1993, Hulme and Edwards 1997).
[116] Nurse and Paudel 2003, Upreti 2002
[117] At the time this study was being written, the DDCs and VDCs were not functioning, their operations held in abeyance due to the nation-wide Maoist insurgency. Rejuvenation of the local governing bodies, including fresh elections, are being planned by the central government for sometime in the near future. Meanwhile, they remain non-functioning entities.
[118] DFCCs are very new, and are only found in three Terai districts operating under the SNV-supported Biodiversity Sector Programme for Siwaliks and Terai (BISEP-ST; Siwaliks is another name for the Churia Hills) and in three Terai districts and 7 hill districts under the DFID-supported Livelihoods and Forestry Programme (LFP).
[119] Messerschmidt, from field notes from the Output to Purpose Review (OPR) of the Livelihoods and Forestry Programme, DFID/Nepal, 2003.
[120] A Government Order is a binding instruction from the government with little recourse regarding modification or re-interpretation, while a Ministerial Directive provides guidance on the performance of an activity, which has some flexibility of interpretation (by a DFO, for example) according to local conditions.
[121] ForestAction and CIFOR 2002
[122] Monitoring is generally defined as a process of review, reflection and learning that, in the context of community forestry, has a potential to enhance the effectiveness of local level forest management. The monitoring process should capitalize on opportunities to learn, through testing assumptions and both reflecting and acting upon outcomes and processes. A precondition of effective monitoring is that it requires debate and deliberation among stakeholders (ForestAction and CIFOR 2002).
[123] MFSC 2002b.
[124] In 2003, the Nepalese Supreme Court reversed the 40% tax order, declaring it unconstitutional, in a case brought on behalf of local CFUGs by FECOFUN.
[125] Timsina and Paudel 2003.
[126] See Britt 2002, Malla 2001, N.K. Shrestha 2001.
[127] Subedi and Ojha 2001 and Edwards 1995.
[128] Ohja 2001.

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