Equity and Heterogeneity: Issues in Community Forestry in Nepal

Thesis by Kalpana Giri

Community forestry of Nepal represents a type of “Common Property Resources” where use rights to a forest are conferred to a community through a legalized institution called as “Community Forest User Group” (CFUG). The national forest policies broadly determine the legal structure and functioning of (CFUG). These legal rules are designed to accomplish certain goals such as conservation of forests as well as distribution of benefits to local people. People live within a socio-cultural context, and practice many other customary rules in addition to the legal rules. Nepalese society is very heterogeneous and hierarchical in terms of caste/ethnicity, economic conditions and gender. This research was conducted to assess and analyze whether prevalent heterogeneity (caste/ethnicity, economic conditions and gender) in Nepalese societies influences the equitable management of CFUG. Equity in community forestry is associated with how people of diverse economic and social groups participate in and how fairly the costs and benefits are distributed among them. I addition, this research also aimed to identify the factors associated with success or failure of equitable community forest management. Two CFUGs were selected as case studies. In –depth interviews and focus group discussion were major tools used to collect data. These case studies have shown that heterogeneity related to user’s economic condition is one of the most determining factors associated with equity in CFUG management. The economic setting of a household decides whether the family members opt to engage in livelihood activities rather than participating in community forest meetings. No variation was found amidst different castes of users about their access to forest products and knowledge and awareness level amidst users. Participation and representation of poor and women were found to be compromised. The existing system of equal benefits from community forestry. In addition, the initial design and delivery phase of community forestry also failed to encompass the issues of local heterogeneities into account. This was found as one of the major causes for the existing inequities in community forestry. Despite such limitations, the dynamic counterpart within CFUGs can determine the extent to which equity problems can be mitigated or exacerbated. Since local people can design their strategies in CFUG, there is a great potential in CFUG in incorporating the existing heterogeneity into the institutional design and deliver it in such a way that it minimizes the adverse effects of social heterogeneity into community forest management. This has to be facilitated and monitored by some external bodies such as Department of Forest to ensure that dynamic strategies are designed and also implemented.

Key words: Common property resources, community forest user groups, Caste/ethnicity, institutions local resource management.