7. Unlocking the Value of Pine Forests for Sustainable Livelihoods: A Case Study from Hile Jaljale “Ka” Community Forest in Kabhre Palanchok District of Nepal

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3 SECTION : Economic issues.

7. Unlocking the Value of Pine Forests for Sustainable Livelihoods: A Case Study from Hile Jaljale “Ka” Community Forest in Kabhre Palanchok District of Nepal




Community-based natural resources management has become an important strategy in Nepal since the Government of Nepal (GoN) originally introduced the concept of community forestry (CF). Under this system, the government hands over areas of national forests to local communities known as community forest user groups1 (CFUGs), who take over the responsibility for forest protection, management, and utilization of the area allocated as community forest. Community Forestry in Nepal is an institutional innovation for empowering local communities in managing forest resources for their own benefit. So far, 1,187,200 ha of community forest have been handed over to the 14,260 community forest user groups, benefiting 1,640,000 households (Department of Forest 2006).

Although CF has been widely acknowledged as a success, various challenges have emerged over time. Community Forestry is now facing second-generation issues, related to sustainable forest management, livelihood development, and governance issues (MFSC 2004). These issues could be addressed through provisions made in the community forest Operational Plan2 (OP), which would allow poor households to be reached through pro-poor program approaches.

Despite the successes of the community forestry program in the conservation and improvement of forest resources, past reviews show that the forest management approach adopted has largely been protection-oriented and has remained passive in terms of utilization of forest resources. Most community forests have, thus far, been managed for protection and basic needs and not for surplus production or poverty alleviation (Shrestha 2001).

Pine plantations are a potentially valuable asset for the communities that have invested in plantation establishment and protection for over two and half decades. Most of the plantations are overstocked and in need of active management. Communities are currently gaining only a fraction of the benefits that could flow from these forests. The costs of not actively managing the community forests are substantial. According to Hill (1999), the World Bank has estimated the cost to the country of not having active forest management and silvicultural operations to be Nepalese Rupees (NRs.) 560 per household per year (approximately US$ 7.503).

The management of these plantations thus far has been very basic: little silviculture or harvesting has been undertaken. A study done by Hunt et al. (2001) shows that there is an inverse relationship between stocking density and growth, i.e. as stocking increases, growth decreases. Delaying thinning results is a significant loss in opportunity costs, between NRs.15,000 and 20,000 (US$ 203–270) per ha every year. Kanel (2004) suggests that there is also a substantial potential for further generating income from the better management of community forests, and the funds generated can be better utilized to benefit the poor and marginalized groups.

1 CFUG is an autonomous and corporate body with perpetual succession for the conservation, management and utilization of the CF.
2 The operational plan (OP) is a community forest management scheme developed and agreed by the CFUG and approved by the District Forest Officer. It is a legal document which empowers CFUG to manage, conserve and utilize the allocated community forest.
3 Based on conversion rate of NRs 74 to US$ 1.

Pine plantation management and issues

According to Acharya (2001), active forest management in community forestry involves four essential factors. They are: (i) existence of supportive policy and legal environment; (ii) clear forest management objectives of the users; (iii) the capacity of CFUGs and District Forest Office (DFO) staff; and (iv) the condition of forest resources.

In this regard, initiatives have already begun in Kabhre Palanchok and Sindhupalchok districts for the active management of the pine plantation forests. Through an integrated approach, all the factors mentioned above are present: an empowering legal environment through the pro-community Forest Act and subsidiary regulations and guidelines; thinning guidelines for technical management prescriptions that match with the people's interest; revision of OPs by CFUGs incorporating thinning prescriptions; approval of these OPs by the DFOs; and the availability of pine plantation forests as a potential resource. However, due to lack of established tradition of plantation forest management in Nepal, the following broad issues still prevail and hamper the scaling up process:

In Kabhre Palanchok and Sindhupalchok districts, early plantations were established during the 1970s, but the bulk of the planting was undertaken during the 1980s, with the majority of existing plantations between 14 and 27 years old. Three pine species are used in these plantations: Pinus roxburghii, P. patula, and P. wallichiana. Of these, P. patula is an exotic species (Gautam and Webb 2001). Initially, pine was favored for plantation development as it is less vulnerable than other species to damage by grazing animals and can grow in degraded areas with poor soils.

According to DFO records, there are more than 22,000 ha of pine plantations in Kabhre Palanchok and Sindhupalchok districts. However, initial assessment of these plantations done by Nepal Australia Community Resource Management and Livelihood Project (NACRMLP) show that there are effectively 15,500 ha of pine plantation in these two districts, as provided in Table 1. Out of these, 75% are community forest, with the rest located in government forests. There are also some mixed forests with pine trees. Thus, about 20,000 ha of forest are stocked with pine trees in these two districts.

Table 1: Initial assessment of pine plantations in Sindhupalchok and Kabhre Palanchok Districts



Area in both districts (ha)


Pine plantations in community forest



Pine plantations in government forest



Total pine plantations (a+b)



Mixed pine and broadleaf forest



Effective area of pine forest resources within the mixed forest



Total effective pine plantation forest (c+e)



Total area of forest with pine trees (c+d)


Source: Pine Profile of Kabhre Palanchok and Sindhupalchok districts, 2005

Potential productivity and revenue generating capacity of pine plantations

Assuming an 8 m3 per hectare per year mean annual increment (MAI), total potential annual log volume production of these pine forests is approximately 124,000 m3 per year, and the potential annual average harvest of sawn logs during the second half of rotation is 248,000 m3 per year. Assuming a sawmill gate value of NRs 4,590 per m3 (US$ 62 per m3), the estimated average annual sawmill gate sales value of sawn log production over the next two decades is NRs.1.15 million (US$ 15.5 million). Thus, according to these calculations, the potential annual income from pine plantation management for just two districts is nearly double the total allocated development budget of NRs. 640 million (US$ 8.6 million) for the entire forestry sector in the country for the current fiscal year (GoN 2006).

This scenario indicates that the potential sales value of plantation produce through thinning is substantial, working out to more than NRs. 25,000 (US$ 340) per household per year. These numbers show that the commercial approach to pine plantation utilization and management, especially for the direct benefit of poor people and for rural development activities, has a significant yet largely untapped potential.

Thinning guidelines: a scientific basis for pine plantation management

As CF now embraces a new paradigm, focusing on forest management rather than protection, new challenges are emerging. More than 450 community forests in these two districts, particularly those with successful pine plantations, are overstocked and in need of technical forestry intervention in scientific forest management. Therefore, thinning4 guidelines were developed for implementation by the CFUGs. Orientation was given to CFUGs, DFO staff, local facilitators, and other stakeholders about how to incorporate thinning prescriptions in the revised OPs. They were also given training to apply thinning regimes in the field during forest management training.

Thinning is a forest management practice generally performed at various points in time during the course of the growth and development of both natural and planted stands. It is defined as “a felling made in an immature stand for the purpose of improving the growth and form of the trees that remain without permanently breaking the canopy.”

These thinning guidelines are based on decades of international research as brought together by Evans and Turnbull (2004), local research in Sindhupalchok and Kabhre Palanchok districts undertaken during the last two phases of Australian assistance to the forestry sector in Nepal (Hunt, et al. 2001), and special studies conducted by NACRMLP (2006) for the purpose of these guidelines.

The guidelines have been endorsed by the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation and are being piloted in 20 CFUGs of Sindhupalchok and Kabhre Palanchok districts. For the national-level implementation of these guidelines, the Department of Forest Research and Survey has done field testing with CFUGs and recommended draft guidelines to the MFSC for approval. These guidelines form the basis for prescribing thinning regimes in the OPs by CFUGs during preparation or revision of their plans.

Thinning prescriptions

The thinning prescriptions follow prescribed stocking levels for each stand of a particular species, age, and growth rate. The number of trees to be thinned per hectare at each thinning is stipulated. The prescriptions are remedial in nature, so they are limited in application to the currently overstocked pine plantations as found in the districts.

Age classes

The thinning prescriptions are based on two age categories for both P. patula and P. roxburghii: 15 to 19 years and 20 to 25 years. The final rotation for P. patula is prescribed as 45 years, though it may be as young as 40 years for faster growing stands and as old as 50 years for slower growing stands. For P. roxburghii the rotation age is taken as 55 years, though again, there may be a margin of five years either way depending on the quality of the stand and the growth rate.


As the initial spacing at planting was 2.5 x 2.5m, or 1,600 plants per ha, three existing stocking scenarios have been chosen for the guidelines, assuming varying degrees of thinning and/or mortality:

  • 1,300 to 1,500 stems per ha (no thinning);
  • 1,100 to 1,300 stems per ha (higher mortality or maybe one thinning); and
  • 800 to 1,100 stems per ha (some thinning and/or heavy mortality).

The final stocking varies from 160 to 240 trees per hectare. The low thinning system of selective thinning will be applied where dead, dying, diseased, poorly formed, and suppressed trees will be removed in such a manner as to leave evenly distributed, well-formed vigorous trees that will develop into the final crop with consideration for root and crown competition.

Case study: Hile Jaljale "Ka" community forest gearing towards active pine plantation management

Hile Jaljale "Ka" community forest is located in Tukucha VDC of Kabhre Palanchok district (35 km northeast from Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal). This forest is connected with a fair-weather road linking to Banepa, a nearby town, and Kathmandu City. The total forest area is 118.14 ha, which is divided into seven blocks, 27 sub-blocks and seven working circles. The forest contains highly valuable pine plantations of Pinus patula and Pinus wallichiana species. Sale of pine logs has been identified as the highest priority business opportunity for the CFUG.

This CFUG comprises 242 households with a total population of 1,494 persons, and is relatively homogenous in terms of ethnicity, with 90% belonging to the Brahmin clan (an upper caste group under the Hindu system). The remaining 10% are from occupational castes and ethnic minorities like Kami, Damai, Newar, and Bhujel. The CFUG Executive Committee (EC) was recently reformed and is composed of 11 members including four women and one occupational caste representative.

Agriculture and livestock are the main sources of livelihood for most households. Good road access to the cities of Bhaktapur and Kathmandu allows farmers to profit from growing high-value cash crops such as potato, cauliflower, cabbage, beans, and broad-leaved mustard. Potatoes are the predominant commercial cash crop whereas paddy, maize, wheat, and finger millet are the major food crops. The sale of milk is also a major source of income for most households.

The forest is well protected and some thinning operations were conducted in the past. So far, CFUG has harvested 2,771 pine trees (total volume 596 m3 or 21,088 ft3) and earned more than NRs. 1.72 million (approximately US$ 24,000) which they have invested in physical infrastructure development, including the construction of forest roads, school buildings, drinking water supply systems, and other community development facilities. The income of the CFUG has increased gradually over the last four years.

Income and employment generation opportunities

During the revision of the OP, timber inventories were conducted within each forested sub-block to assess forest condition, determine the need for silvicultural treatment, predict potential yields and regulate actual harvests. Almost all the pine plantations are overstocked from the perspective of commercial production of saw logs and development of under-canopy forage and fodder supplies. These plantations will now be managed for commercial saw log production, with grass and fodder production where possible, as well as for the exploitation of the existing pine crop for saw logs and gradual conversion to broadleaf forest. Provisions were made to manage overstocked pine plantations by applying thinning regimes according to thinning guidelines. This activity will be the major source of funding for the CFUG investment plan.

According to the business plan of Hile Jaljale “Ka” community forest, the CFUG can harvest more than 2,461 m3 (87,000 ft3) of timber from which more than NRs. 14 million (approximately US$ 200,000) can be earned from the sale of pine logs over a five-year period (see Table 2). The CFUG's annual average income currently ranges from NRs. NRs.1.5 million to 3.9 million (US$ 20,000 to 52,702). This shows that the CFUG will earn eight times more than that they earned during the last four years (NRs. 1.73 million or US$ 233,783). Likewise, the total yearly income of the CFUG is three to eight times higher than the total budget of the Village Development Committee (VDC).5 This is a substantial income for a CFUG, as there are 15 CFUGs in the Tukucha VDC and Hile Jaljale "Ka" CF is just one of them.

5 VDC is an autonomous and corporate body at the local level, which executes development and administrative activities with NRs. 500,000 per year budget allocated by the government.

Similarly, the planned forest operations will result in significant labor market development, which will be of particular benefit to the underemployed. More than 17,800 person-days of employment will be generated, with a total income value of NRs. 3 million (US$40,563). Average annual employment generation is more than 3,500 person-days, with an annual average value of employment generation of NRs 600,000 (US$ 8,108, see Table 2). The value of employment generation is in addition to the total income from the sale of pine logs.

Table 2: Anticipated income, expenditure, value of employment (NRs.) and employment generation (in person days)



from log sales to external markets

Expenditure for

marking, harvesting, transportation

Expenditure for

other program activities

Total expenditure

Annual balance

Labour market creation (person days)

Value of employ-ment

















































Total in US$ equiv.







Source: Operational Plan of Hile Jaljale "Ka" Community Forest (2006)

The thinning operations will mostly be undertaken during the agricultural off-season and the associated cash income can guarantee year-round food security for all. Local poor and excluded represent the work force for the harvesting and transportation of the trees in the community forest. This shows that there is substantial potential from active pine plantation management to generate financial capital that can be reinvested for the improvement of local livelihoods, especially for the poor and disadvantaged groups. Moreover, it is projected that there will be a substantial net balance of more than NRs. 2 million (US$ 27,000 – see Table 2) after only five years.

Investment plan Hile Jaljale "Ka" CF

The CFUG has recently revised its OP for a five-year period incorporating thinning prescriptions for the sustainable management of the forest resources. The CFUG has prepared a comprehensive plan with active participation from the community. The plan gives a clear indication of how the CFUG can generate financial capital from its natural capital, and how it can be reinvested for the livelihood improvement of the CFUG members.

The CFUG will first focus on forest thinning to generate income. Receipts from the sale of pine logs removed during silvicultural thinning will finance all program activities. Box 1 gives an overview of the major planned activities for a five-year period (2007 to 2011).

Box 1: Program activities of Hile Jaljale "Ka" CFUG

Natural resource management
  • Pine plantation thinning
  • Harvesting of mixed forest
  • Pruning and shrub land management
  • Nursery establishment and seedling production
  • Plantation in community and private land
  • NTFP management (Taxus baccata, Acorus calamus lichens, Lycopodium species, and Daphne species)
  • Pear grafting to Pyrus species
  • Forage and fodder development
  • Broom grass planting along roadsides
  • Pine plantation management demonstration plot establishment etc.
Social change through CFUG capacity building
  • Inclusion of women, landless and disadvantaged group in executive committee
  • Awareness raising on constitution and OP
  • Public auditing
  • Women's empowerment program
  • Scholarships for children from landless, disadvantaged and poor families
  • Land allocation for poor and disadvantaged groups (DAGs)
  • Women health programs
  • CFUG management
  • Coordination and linkage with other stakeholders, etc.
Physical infrastructure development
  • Construction and maintenance of forest roads and fire lines
  • Construction and maintenance of conservation pond
  • Community building construction
  • Picnic spot development
  • Irrigation canal improvement
  • Drinking water supply improvement
  • Toilet construction
  • Cremation ground construction
  • Temple maintenance, etc.

Income generation

  • Log sale business and entrepreneurship development
  • Improved loading and unloading training
  • Improved log hauling equipment
  • Marketing exposure visits for finding alternative or better markets for furniture and agricultural tool handles
  • Book keeping and record keeping training
  • Revolving fund establishment and management
  • Wintergreen oil promotion
  • Bamboo product promotion business, etc.

Human resource development

  • Community forest management training
  • NTFP management training
  • CF study tour
  • Training for vegetable farming
  • Village animal health care center establishment and village animal health workers (VAHW) training
  • Women health worker training
  • Metal-work training
  • Tailoring training
  • Bamboo skill development training
  • Bio briquette training, etc.

Source: Operational Plan of Hile Jaljale "Ka" Community Forest (2006)

The activities mentioned above in the revised OP for a five-year period clearly demonstrate that villagers are investing in all aspects of livelihood improvement of the local people. A major portion of investment is on the natural resource management sector, which covers about half of the total investment (Box 2). Thinning operations (marking, harvesting, and transportation of the logs) utilize most of the expenditure, followed by the investment in forage and fodder development and seedling production. Cattle and buffaloes are kept for dairy production. Since the local supply of grass and fodder is insufficient, every winter villagers have to purchase about 500 metric tons of paddy straw from outside the community, spending NRs. 2 million (approximately US$ 27,000). Therefore, almost all households want to produce more of their own fodder and forage.

One-third of the investment is allocated to physical infrastructure (see Box 2). A major portion of this is allocated for forest road construction and maintenance. The roads will benefit users considerably as easy access will bring higher prices for forest products and will promote tourism. Water conservation pond construction activity has second priority in relation to budget allocation. Ponds will be used to irrigate vegetable plots during the winter season, benefiting both upstream and downstream farmers. Community buildings will also be a priority, including construction of a multi-purpose community learning center and guest house which will be constructed on the grounds of the school supported by the CFUG.

Figure 1: Budget allocation for different activities with CFUG funds

The rest of the investment is allocated for human resource development, income generation, and social development activities. Human resource development activities are focused on development within the CFUG for carrying out different activities. These activities will contribute to the improvement of livelihoods of the poor people, as they will be involved in training on vegetable farming, animal health, women's health, forest management, metal work, and tailoring. Promotion of income-generation activities, like revolving fund establishment and management, bamboo product promotion business, and market linkage for furniture and agricultural tool handles, will also contribute to livelihood improvement and poverty alleviation. Improved log transportation equipment will be used to reduce log transport costs.

Investment in social change through capacity building programs includes activities related to strengthening governance, women empowerment programs, women’s health programs, and scholarships for children from landless, disadvantaged, and poor families (each of 25 students will receive NRs. 2,000 – US$ 27 – per year). It is hoped that enrollment will increase and the dropout rate will decrease through this program. Likewise, women's health programs will minimize the suffering of women from prolapsed uteruses due to heavy workloads, lack of post-natal health care, and shyness about discussing problems. Land allocation programs for grass plantations and other income-generation activities will directly benefit to the poor and disadvantaged group members. For CFUG management, one full-time forest manager will be appointed to manage all CFUG activities under the direction of the executive committee. The manager will be supported by other part-time and full-time staff.

Equity in forest product distribution

The CFUG has a special subsidy policy for poor and disadvantaged people in forest products distribution. For the landless, poor, and disadvantaged groups, up to 100 ft3 (around 3 m3) of timber is given free of cost, while for others, the rate is NRs. 105 or US$1.40 per m3. 6 Dry firewood is free of cost for all the users, provided that they enter the forest without any equipment to collect it. For green firewood, the rate is NRs. 1 for landless, poor, and disadvantaged groups per backload and NRs. 3 for other groups. All users are allowed to collect leaf litter free of cost. Firewood and stumps will be given free to blacksmiths for making charcoal. Victims of natural calamities will receive up to 150 ft3 (4.3 m3) of timber free of cost. These distribution patterns of the CFUG will also contribute to the livelihoods of the poor and disadvantaged groups, as they will get many forest products free of cost.

Implementation of OP activities

Hile Jaljale "Ka" CFUG is now implementing the program as mentioned in the OP. So far, they have marked the trees in block 2.1 and 2.2 for thinning and have already auctioned the logs at the price of NRs. 110 per ft3 (NRs. 3,880 or US$ 52 per m3) at road head to the contractor. Felling, sectioning, and transporting of the trees will be done by CFUGs using local people. In this way, employment will be generated for the local poor. They have already planted improved varieties of grasses in the block marked for thinning and a demonstration plot has been established to study the impact of different thinning operations.

On the basis of the approved OP, the CFUG is making a detailed annual plan for the investment in different activities. The Hile Jaljale “Ka” CFUG is also affiliated with a recently formed pine plantation forest network intended to make market linkages and get more benefits from the sale of pine logs.

6 Converted from NRs 30 per ft3

Implications for sustainable forest management

This case study is an initial step to demonstrate the potential of active management for the improvement of forest health implementation and increased employment opportunities in rural areas. However, there are challenges to be faced because the resource is managed by a CFUG which does not yet have appropriate silviculture, harvesting, marketing, and governance-related skills adequate for the successful management of pine plantation forests. Therefore, the following recommendations should be considered:

  • CFUGs should use scientific forest management practices like thinning that provide for long-term sustainable use of local forest resources, and they should incorporate silvicultural prescriptions in revised OPs based on thinning guidelines.
  • There is an inadequate understanding of plantation forest management beyond establishment and protection. Hence, there is a need to introduce skills and appropriate technologies relating to thinning, pruning, harvesting, and marketing that can be practiced by the communities.
  • CFUGs should give judicious consideration while setting the management objectives of plantation forests and these should match with the people's needs and interests.
  • There should be separate and clear enabling legal procedures for CFUGs to harvest, transport, and sell their timber and other forest products.
  • Thinning guidelines should be approved by the GoN for national-level implementation.


The pine plantations of Sindhupalchok and Kabhre Palanchok districts have the potential to generate more than NRs. 1 billion (around US$ 15 million) every year, which works out to NRs. 25,000 (US$ 340) per year per household, if scientific management including thinning regimes is introduced. In addition, it will also improve the plantation health and improve employment opportunities in rural areas during the agricultural off-season.

Nepal has substantial areas of pine plantation with significant potential that is largely untapped. With basic management interventions, these plantations could be used to improve rural livelihoods, alleviate poverty, and support the development of wood-processing industries. This has been shown by the case study of Hile Jaljale "Ka" Community Forest, where a CFUG is capable of generating more than NRs. 14 million (around US$189,000) in a five-year period and investing in natural resource management, physical infrastructure development, social capital formation, capacity building, and human resource development activities.

The case of Hile Jaljale “Ka” Community Forest demonstrates that there is a great potential for generating financial capital from the active management of overstocked pine plantations which could be reinvested for the improvement of livelihoods of the rural poor and disadvantaged groups. For this to happen, CFUGs have to unlock the productive value of pine plantation forests.


We are thankful to Mr. Bal Ram Ghimire, Chairperson and Mr. Shiv Ram Ghimire, local facilitator and Secretary of Hile Jaljale “Ka” CFUG, as well as Mr. S. M. Tamrakar and Mr. Arun Sharma, District Forest Officers of Kabhre Palanchok and Sindhupalchok Districts, respectively, for their valuable support and providing necessary information. Mr. Rishi Ram Bastakoti, Director RIMS-Nepal also deserves our sincere thanks for reviewing the manuscript and providing his valuable comments.


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