Climate & Environment
Community-managed forests reduce deforestation and poverty: StudyStudy suggests areas with community forests saw 37 percent reduction in deforestation and 4.3 percent reduction in poverty from 2002-2012.
Chandan Kumar Mandal
Nepal’s community-managed forestry, which has earned global praise for conserving forest and increasing the green cover, has also contributed in poverty reduction, a latest study has found.
The study “Reductions in deforestation and poverty from decentralized forest management in Nepal” conducted by a team of international ecologists, economists and political scientists, led by the University of Manchester, has shown that community forestry has contributed to a 37 percent relative reduction in deforestation and a 4.3 percent reduction in poverty.
Published in the Nature Sustainability journal last month, the study has produced further evidence proving how handing over forests to local communities not only helps in conservation but also in alleviating poverty in Nepal.
“We all know the important role of community-based forest management in forest conservation. Through this study, we wanted to know its contribution in the reduction of deforestation and poverty in the country,” Birendra Kumar Karna, one of the co-authors of the study and executive director with the Forest Action Nepal, told the Post.
The research findings concluded that between 2000 and 2012, simultaneous reduction in deforestation and poverty—deforestation was prevented on 1.7 hectares and 14 households were lifted out of poverty in one local unit.
“When the local communities were given the responsibility to manage the forest resources, they took the ownership. Such proximity in conserving the forest lead to deforestation,” said Karna. “When the deforestation was stopped, the forest wealth improved. It supported their cattle rearing, increased their access to forest produces ultimately supporting their livelihood”
According to the study, in the mid-hill regions of the country, where forests are mostly managed by local communities, the benefits in the form of reduced deforestation and poverty were reported higher.
Likewise, areas with community forest management were 51 percent more likely to witness simultaneous reductions in deforestation and poverty, reported the study.
The benefits received in lower deforestation and poverty level were greater when areas dedicated to community forests were larger and existed for longer.
The study, said to be the biggest of its kind, compared changes in forest cover and poverty from 2000 to 2012 for sub-districts with or without community forest arrangements.
The researchers calculated the average impact of community forest management for the whole of the country using information from more than 18,000 community forests user groups which currently bring together nearly 300,000 families.
These details were then combined with the poverty measures derived from the national census (1.36 million households) and high-resolution forest cover change satellite image.
Lastly, as multiple drivers that could influence deforestation and poverty reduction, impacts of community forestry were separated from other potential socioeconomic and biophysical factors which could also affect forest cover and poverty outcomes.
“Our study demonstrates that community forest management has achieved a clear win-win for people and the environment across an entire country,” Johan Oldekop, the lead author from the University of Manchester, is quoted on the university website as saying. “Nepal proves that with secure rights to land, local communities can conserve resources and prevent environmental degradation.”
The decentralised form of forest management, in which the local communities are primarily responsible for day-to-day forest management decisions, started in the 1980s in the country.
Currently, a total of 22,266 community forest user groups are associated under the Federation of Community Forestry Users Nepal (FECOFUN) are conserving 2,236,270 hectares of forest in almost all the districts of the country.
“Nepal has adopted various models of forest conservations. However, community forest management model is the best one for its defined boundaries, rules and regulations and responsibilities among stakeholders,” added Karna. “If other countries can replicate Nepal’s success, community forest management could play an even greater role in achieving multiple Sustainable Development Goals.”