Investment in Community-Managed Forestry in Nepal: Scoping Opportunities for Poverty Reduction and Environmental Sustainability

In Nepal, local communities have come a long way in conserving forest ecosystems and nurturing local institutions for democracy and social justice in Nepal. Although they date back to pre-modern social institutions before the emergence of the nation-state, community institutions have reinvented themselves as the most dynamic and resilient actors articulating both modern and traditional wisdom in advancing the cause of human
development and environmental sustainability. Nepal’s forest sector has come to the forefront of community actions and innovations.
Amidst global challenges of climate change and national historic political changes,1 community forestry groups and other community organizations have come to the centre stage of development innovation in Nepal. Most notably, Nepal’s community forestry is considered a global innovation in participatory environmental governance that encompasses well-defined policies and institutions and a wide variety of practices. Going beyond the
stipulated objectives of state policy,2 Community Forest User Groups (CFUGs) have mobilized tremendous amount of institutional capacity and resources to enhance livelihood opportunities of some of the World’s poorest groups. Most notably, CFUGs and other formal and informal community organizations have revived once degraded slopes of Nepal Himalaya that drew serious international attention in the late seventies.3

However, despite such achievements, the potential of local communities is not being fully achieved and recognized by state and development agencies. Local communities are still considered as the passive recipient of development industry, which has performed very poorly in the past 50 years of existence in Nepal.4 Likewise, wider policy environment is still not enabling for community action, and rather continues to create techno-bureaucratic hurdles to communities as they manage and market forest products and services.