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Community Participation in Natural Resource Management: A Case Study of Community Forestry in Nepal Report

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Updated: Aug 19th, 2019


For a long time, policymakers have been considering that governments have overall responsibility of managing natural resources. However, with the advent of ardent environmentalists, governments have realized that community participation is central to the management of natural resources because community members form an integral part of natural resources.

According to Mutamba (2004), since communities benefit from natural resources, community participations enable community members to take responsibility and manage natural resources. In most developing countries, case studies of community participation in the administration of natural resources have shown that community participation promotes governance and enhances effective management of natural resources.

For a community to participate effectively in the management of natural resources, the government needs to provide appropriate policies and framework, which offer a favorable and legitimate platform where a community can use in the management of natural resources that are within their jurisdiction.

In this view, this report examines community participation in the management of natural resources by studying a case study of community forestry in Nepal.

Case Study

Decentralization of forestry management in Nepal is a product of political discourses. Given that decentralization of forest management empowers local communities, political leaders enacted legislation and policies that strengthened and streamlined the process of devolution.

In 1982, political leaders passed the Decentralization Act, which gives ward committees and village leaders (Panchayats) the mandate to formulate local institutions that link-local and national governments. Forest Regulation of 1995 and the Forest Act of 1993 do provide new legislations that allow the local communities to participate in the management of forests in Nepal.

Since the Act of 1982 led to minimal decentralization, in 1998, political leaders further enacted Master Plan for Forestry Sector. The plan “aims to mobilize, conserve, and sustainably manage forest resources, and thereby maintain a balance in the demand for and supply of forest products, create income and employment opportunities for the poor and marginalized households” (Dabal & Chapagain 2010, p. 66).

The plan enhanced participation of the local people in the management of forests in Nepal. Hence, political issues surround Acts, regulations, and implementation of the community forestry is facing decentralization of forest management in Nepal.

The presence of the caste system among Indians is a social factor that influences the decentralization of forest management in Nepal. Caste system ranks members of a given community in India according to their social and religious statuses. Since the caste system classifies individuals into low and high social classes, it influences the management of forest in Nepal.

According to Adhikari (2008), “households belonging to lower caste groups are disproportionately represented in decision-making authority and in benefit-sharing, which results in marginalization and social exclusion” (p. 4). This means that people who belong to upper caste have more privileges than the people who belong to lower ranks.

Although the government has formulated policies and legislations to reduce marginalization and discrimination, the caste system remains a social factor that hinders effective decentralization of forest management and prevents the equal distribution of resources among community members in Nepal.

Since decentralization of forest management encompasses many stakeholders, conflict of interests exist. The conservation programs have enabled Nepal’s community to utilize resources from the forests sustainably. Comparatively, external funders seek to benefit from the decentralization of forest management. The funding programs have enhanced participation of community members in the conservation of forests in Nepal.

In 2000, the government did formulate Forest Sector Policy, which compelled community forest to remit 40% of the revenue to the national government (Dabal & Chapagain 2010). As the government demanded 40% of revenue, it means that the local community only remains with 60%, which is insufficient to the city because of the management responsibilities.

Moreover, the Federation of Community Forestry Users of Nepal, which has the mandate of institutionalizing and implementing community forestry, is an interested party that is facing challenges of representation.

The Nepalese community has the knowledge, which has enabled local communities to manage and conserve forests in a sustainable manner. Given that the Nepal community practices agroforestry in their farming, community members have sufficient knowledge that is essential in the management of forests. For example, a city that lives in Terai-Bhaber region practices agroforestry in the management and conservation of forests.

Also, the community that lives in the Bardiya District has immense knowledge about non-timber products (Mutamba 2004). The community harvests several non-timber products such as medicines, fragrance, and oils.

The indigenous knowledge of non-timber products benefits the community in the utilization and conservation of forest resources. Taxonomic classification of plants is also an essential knowledge that the population in Nepal uses in identifying plants. Hence, the Nepalese community has indigenous culture, which community members apply in the management and conservation of forests in India.

Community Forestry

Establishment of community forestry in Nepal intended to address the issue of environmental degradation and improve livelihood opportunities through the expanded supply of forest products, income generation, and strengthening of the timber in the subordinate communities.

The driving idea is that an individual’s access to forest and their contribution are essential in influencing the exploitation of resources and improvement of livelihoods. In spite of the fact that the community forestry approach in Nepal exhibits marked development, it has experienced significant challenges that range from administration to exploitation of natural resources (Koontz & Subedi 1998).

Analysis of the Nepal’s community forestry program shows that it has helped to improve the lives of community members in local areas. Forest condition, community user groups, access to assets, and dissemination of profits are some of the factors that influence individuals’ livelihoods to community forestry.

Forests form an indispensable section of the subsistence horticulture practiced by local communities in Nepal. Individuals use forest assets for energy, animal fodder, development material, agricultural parts, crude material for forest-based businesses, and fertilizer composts within agribusiness fields.

An enormous number of families rely on non-timber products in Nepal as their chief sources of medicines and nourishment (Sikor & Stahl 2011). Moreover, non-timber products provide sources of income.

Forests also create water-catchment areas that preserve and conserve clean water that serve many communities. Hence, the government supports a community forestry program in Nepal to enhance management and use of forest resources.

Types of Forest Policies in Nepal

One could view community forestry policies in Nepal from two scientific levels:

  • Collective decision policies: Collective decision policies refer to those approaches, which establish the capability of a group to act as a whole in settling the choices that are common to the group. These policies determine who has the right over the legislation of group forest.
  • Operational level strategies: Operational level strategies refer to the regular management and utilization of community forests. These are the standards that the Community Forestry User Groups have made and employed in the allocation of forest products and services from the community forests.

The discussion of corporate decision policies and operational level strategies should incorporate:

  • Regulatory policies: Regulatory policies refer to the statutory procurements of acts and regulations. These norms depict what people can do and what they cannot do in community forestry in terms of the rights over the utilization of forest products, and procedures of exploitation of natural resources.
  • Fiscal policies: Fiscal policies refer to the charges imposed and subsidies given in the management of community forests in Nepal. It is not merely the duty that checks in sales and marketing of forest products because transaction expenses of operating together in forestry are vast and complex

The Initiation of the Government’s Efforts

When Nepalese Sixth Plan was in place, organizers assessed an annual evacuation of approximately 50 million tons of forest materials as cow’s grains. From 1979 to1985, over-exploitation of forests in Nepal reduced forest cover by about one third, which was quite alarming. The government then predicted that the decimation of forests would eventually lead to depletion of forests in Nepal.

Following the decimation of forests, the government could do very little in the absence of people’s interest in preserving community assets. Nepalese development organizers felt that community participation was an effective way of reducing the rate of depletion of forests in Nepal (Salafsky, Cauley, Balach, Cordes, Russell, & Margoluis 2001).

In the mid 1980s, the government launched the Forest Resource Management, a venture with the help of the World Bank, and pointed out at the foundation, protection, and management of more than 56,000 hectares of locally managed forests, out of which the groups secured and supervised 46,700 hectares (Sikor and Stahl 2011).

Enactment of legislation such as the Forest Act of 1993 and Forestry Sector Master Plan of 1988 allowed communities to participate in the management of forests as social sustainability.

Legal and Institutional Frameworks

According to the Forest Act of 1993, through community forestry, government decentralizes management of natural resources as communities get the privileges of exploiting and conserving forests in a sustainable way. The enactment of the Forestry Act of 1993 encouraged communities to form user groups so that they can create productive community forestry and benefit from resources in the forests.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, international organizations such as the International Development Association supported community forestry by providing funds for the conservation and management of forests in Nepal.

The funds enabled the government to allocate 400,000 hectares of forest to be under community forestry, where community members had the opportunity to contribute to the exploitation and conservation of natural resources (Paudel, & Branney 2011). As the funding of forestry replicated across the nation, a noteworthy change in forestry management in Nepal was evident after the implementation of the program.

Since over-exploitation of forests threatened their existence, the government and local communities expanded forests by planting forests through National Forest and Panchayat protected forests. Moreover, the expanded project concentrated on regular forest recovery. By 1994, cities focused on protecting the woods in their zones, which eventually surpassed the expectations by more than double.

At that point, the governments of Australia, Switzerland, Finland, the United Kingdom, and Germany joined the endeavors in ensuring protection and conservation of Nepalese natural resources (Paudel, & Brunei 2011).

Public cooperation in the conservation and management of forests eased pressure placed on natural forests and the process of recovery begun. The conservation and preservation efforts increased forest cover by 37%, which is about 54,240 square kilometers.

Institutional Provisions

The community forestry provides the local communities or groups with permission to exploit resources in forests in a sustainable manner. Successfully administration of community forests includes the management of forests in a sustainable way for the benefit of all stakeholders.

The guidelines of the operation plan stipulate that communities should use some of the income that they generate in the preservation and conservation of natural resources. As the evacuation of forests created about 100 hectares, the community forestry found it efficient to divide forests into sections of approximately 17-28 hectares to ease management (Salafsky, Cauley, Balach, Cordes, Russell, & Margoluis 2001).

Owing to the division of community forestry, some management teams performed poorly in the management of their assigned sections. Moreover, lack of interest in some communities compelled the management of community forests under the direction of the District Forest Office to take responsibility.

The district management formed user groups, recruited members, and trained them. At that point, district management launched the arrangement of the operation plan. The operation plan compelled foresters to educate communities on how to manage their forests and exploit resources without depleting them.

Historically, from 1992, communities steadily began to preserve forests in their zones. In 1993, the administration commenced to hand over the management of forests to the cities. Community forestry leaders recruited guards and other officers who provided expertise and guided the community members in the management of forests in Nepal.
Salafsky, Cauley, Balach, Cordes, Russell, and Margoluis (2001) perceive that communities can manage forests on their own because they generate a great deal of income from their forests. Thus, sustainable utilization of forest resources due to community forestry is a remarkable achievement that Nepalese community has attained.

The Change Process

In 1994, ATI and ANSAB commenced planning for community forestry with the community members of Nepalese community forestry and Biodiversity Conservation Network Project (BCN). According to BCN program, “if communities are given control over their assets and access to specialize and managerial assistance, then they will work to save their mutual assets” (Acharya 2004, p. 56).

The process of organizing community participation confirms that a significant number of community members have interests in non-timber products. Hence, diversification of the natural resources was essential for all community members to reap benefits from the forests.

Chhetri, Johnsen, Konoshima, and Yoshimoto (2013) argue that the incorporation of institutional changes is necessary to prevent discrimination in the management and exploitation of natural resources for the benefit of all community members. In this view, the government, through the department of forest, recognized that non-timber products are invaluable resources in the woods of Nepal.

The community forestry in Nepal is at an advanced stage when compared to many developing countries because of improved conservation, the satisfaction of essential forestry needs of the community, enactment of crucial legislations, and decentralization of management duties.

The positive changes that are evident in Nepalese community forestry have proved that community members can effectively manage natural resources that are in their jurisdictions.

Sunam, Paudel, and Paudel (2013) state that the decentralization of natural resource management does not only benefit local communities but also enhance the management and conservation of natural resources for posterity. Hence, for community members to participate effectively in the management of forests, they must know about saving and sustainable use of natural resources.

The first change is the establishment of Humla Oils Ltd; the company retrieves oils from sweet-smelling plants. The second change is the encouragement of stakeholders to perform research studies and advance monitoring programs to enhance biodiversity. The government assists communities in structuring community forestry by encouraging and providing essential legislations.

Formulation of legislation and institutions that support community forestry has enabled community members to participate actively in the management of natural resources in Nepal. The third change is the incorporation of groups such as non-governmental organizations in community forestry management as a means of enhancing community participation.

For example, community leaders formed the Humla Conservation and Development Association (HCDA) as a group that helps in the management. Creation of a nationwide organization (Non-timber Forest Product Network), which has enabled communities to harvest non-timber products, is integral in community forestry.


In conclusion, community forestry is an effective way of encouraging local communities to participate in the conservation of forests. Nepalese community forestry is a classic case study that depicts how community participation is central to the management of forests across the world.

The diminishing investment of individuals in the community forestry in some regions and changing conditions of families demand an equalized approach to community forestry management. In Nepal, forest products such as timber and non-timber products generate a great deal of income, which helps in improving the living standards of the local communities that take part in the management of forests.


Adhikari, B 2008, Social Inequality, and Collective Action: An Empirical Study of Forest Commons. Web.

Acharya, K 2004, Participatory research in community forestry in Nepal, Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, Nepal.

Chhetri, B, Johnsen, F, Konoshima, M & Yoshimoto, A 2013, ‘Community forestry in the hills of Nepal: Determinants of user participation in forest management’, Forest Policy and Economics, vol. 2 no. 1, pp. 1-13.

Dabal, G & Chapagain, A 2010, . Web.

Koontz, A & Subedi, B 1998, Community Based Natural Resource Management in Nepal Nontimber Forest Products and Biodiversity Conservation. Web.

Mutamba, E 2004, ‘Community participation in natural resources management: Reality or Rhetoric? Lessons learnt from the Kasanka Game Management Area (GMA) communities, Serenje District, Zambia’, Environmental Monitoring Assessment, vol. 99. no. 3, pp.105-113.

Paudel, D, & Branney, P 2011, Transparency in Nepal’s Forest Sector: A Baseline Assessment of Legal Indicators, Provisions, and Practices, Livelihoods and Forestry Programme (LFP), Nepal.

Salafsky, N, Cauley, H, Balach, G, Cordes, B, Russell, D & Margoluis, R 2001, ‘A Systematic Test of an Enterprise Strategy for Community-Based Biodiversity Conservation’, Conservation Biology, vol. 15. no. 6, pp. 1585-1595.

Sikor, T & Stahl, J 2011, Forests and people, Earthscan, London.

Sunam, R, Paudel, N & Paudel, G 2013, ‘Community Forestry and the Threat of Recentralization in Nepal: Contesting the Bureaucratic Hegemony in Policy Process’, Society & Natural Resources, vol. 4. no. 5, pp. 1-15.

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IvyPanda. "Community Participation in Natural Resource Management: A Case Study of Community Forestry in Nepal." August 19, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/community-participation-in-natural-resource-management-a-case-study-of-community-forestry-in-nepal/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Community Participation in Natural Resource Management: A Case Study of Community Forestry in Nepal." August 19, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/community-participation-in-natural-resource-management-a-case-study-of-community-forestry-in-nepal/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Community Participation in Natural Resource Management: A Case Study of Community Forestry in Nepal'. 19 August.

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