More than 80% of the population in Nepal are rural smallholders, a large percentage of whom live below the poverty line. Forest products are an integral part of their subsistence living. They use the forest for fuel, food, fodder, and timber.
In Nepal, about 45% of the land area is covered by forests. About 40% of the total forested area is managed by Community Forest User Groups (CFUGs), engaging 2.9 million households. Under this community forest management structure, the government gives rights to local communities to manage state forests.
Overall, community forestry has been widely supported and promoted across Nepal, both by the government and the international development sector. It is recognized as a success and has had a positive benefit for both the environment and rural communities.
Within the CFUG structure, DFE has been promoting women and investing in women enterprises. The focus area has been in the southern plains, the Terai, where forest degradation is most critical in Nepal.
The women cultivate Non-Timber-Forest-Products (NTFPs) in form of medicinal plants such as lemongrass, palmarosa, and citronella. They sell these plants to local businesses that have access to the international market. This way, they gain economic benefit from their community forest, without further degrading it.
Private forest owners
Unlike the community forestry model, smallholder forest owners have been largely neglected by the government. Even though private forestry is given equal weight in policy documents programs to support private forestry is not implemented in practice. f (what do you mean by equal weight?).
In stark contrast to the 2,9 million organized community forest members, only 3,753 out of the 1,3 million smallholder forest owners, are formally registered with only a total of 2,902 ha of forest lands.
Since 2015, DFE has been supporting the newly established local organization, the Association of Family Forest Owners Nepal (AFFON), who give a voice to millions of smallholders.
The goal of AFFON is to support programs that will invest in these smallholders, so that they gain the skills to manage their forest lands and gain economic benefit from them. One important part of the work is advocacy to improve the legal, institutional, and technical issues related private forestry.
There is a great potential in family forestry to bring economic development to the rural communities that is based on growing and managing trees in an environmentally responsible way.