Nepal’s 2015 Constitution restructured the country as a federal republic, completing a process of thorough-going reform that followed a decade of civil war and the abolishment of the monarchy along with the remnants of historical feudalism. In many ways, this has been greatly to the benefit of landless and disadvantaged groups, especially thanks to the creation of a Land Reform Commission. The new order faces continuing challenges, however, in maintaining the hard-won peace and delivering equal development in such a geographically, socially and ethnically diverse country. Nepal is a low-income economy dependent on agriculture, which means there is constant pressure to clear land for crops, grazing and human settlement. Nevertheless, the country’s successful community-based forest management programme, which enjoys the active participation of around 22,000 Community Forest User Groups, is credited with increasing arboreal territory by 5% in recent years and reversing environmental degradation.
Proponents: Federation of Community Forest Users Nepal (FECOFUN)
Green Foundation Nepal (GFN)
Centre for Indigenous Peoples Research and Development (CIPRED)
Beneficiaries: Community Forest User Groups (CFUGs) which include Indigenous Peoples.
Community Forest User Groups protect a third of Nepal’s forested land – more than 2.2 million hectares – and the government intends this proportion to rise to 40% by 2025. However, although established in law as far back as 1993, the legal rights of community forestry groups remain tenuous and the designation ‘community forest’ can be withdrawn at any time by forestry officials. Local communities have no automatic authority to draw up and put into practice forest maintenance plans; harvest timber or make use of it; or to market forest products. This puts communities in a precarious position and is a substantial impediment to improving livelihoods through forest enterprises.
However, the new constitution’s devolution of power has fuelled a shift in jurisdiction to local governments, in which many community forest user groups are represented at a high level. This creates new opportunities for the recognition of forest rights and the deregulation of onerous sector bureaucracy.
The Federation of Community Forest Users Nepal (FECOFUN) and its allied organisations are at the forefront of work to ensure that the rights of community forest groups are recognised and protected during this transition to decentralised power – and to new legal frameworks with which to support it.
To read a brief overview of Nepal, click here.
For a timeline of land and forest rights in Nepal, click here.