People Participation in Forest and Environment Conservation
16, March 2018
The issue on climate change adaptation and REDD+ was new to the people of Ilam. Mr Dhruba Shrestha was no exception to it, though he had heard about the terminologies in interaction programs with the District Forest Office and FECOFUN. In 2011, he got an opportunity to take part in the training of trainers on REDD+ organized by RECOFTC in Kabulgadi, Jhapa. Though the importance of forests was little known to him, following the training, he realized the wider benefits of forests beyond timber and fuelwood.
Located 600 km east to Kathmandu, the district of Ilam lies in Province 1 and extends from tropical to alpine climatic zones. The district covers a total area of 1,703 KM2 with 2,90,254 populations. Around 44% land area in Ilam is covered by forest (DFO Ilam 2017). The history of community forestry inception in Ilam dates back to 1998. Till date, there are 235 community forest user groups managing their forest in the district (MoFSc 2017). During the initial days of community forest handover, identification of users, needs assessments, conflict resolution among the users and handing over the CF to the users were some of the dominant issues. However, after 2000, issues on conservation, income generation and social inclusion were introduced. Gradually, agenda on climate change adaptation and mitigation, indigenous rights, sustainable forest management, carbon protection and stock increment, soil and water conservation after dominated the community forestry agenda.
Mr. Dhurba Shrestha is the resident of Mai Municipality ward no. 2 Sitali Bazzar of Ilam District. He is the user of Sayapatri Community Forestry User Group (CFUG) Gorkhe, which was handed over to community as community forest in 1998. This CF is extended on 60 ha. of land and comprising 235 households. The ethnic composition of the users are Khas, Janjati and Dalit communities. Mr. Shrestha is affiliated in this CFUG as member since the beginning. According to him, he had opportunities to learn about the forest laws, forest acts, bylaws, master plans and community forest by the interactions with the community members and forest officers. His CFUG became the member of the FECOFUN and Mr. Shrestha represented in the FECOFUN on 2004 as a member. Mr. Shrestha has introduced fruits trees in his kitchen garden and inspired other members to take the multiple benefits from the fruit trees. He believes, the fruit trees are helpful to stock the carbon and to supply the nutritional values as well.
The issue on climate change adaptation and REDD+ was new to the people of Ilam. Mr Dhruba Shrestha was no exception to it, though he had heard about the terminologies in interaction programs with the District Forest Office and FECOFUN. In 2011, he got an opportunity to take part in the training of trainers on REDD+ organized by RECOFTC in Kabulgadi, Jhapa. Though the importance of forests was little known to him, following the training, he realized the wider benefits of forests beyond timber and fuelwood. He also got an opportunity to participate in the refreshers training on REDD+ organized by RECOFTC. This was an added value for him to deepen his knowledge on the importance of forests, particularly in terms of climate change mitigation and adaptation. After his participation in those trainings, Dhruba organized an orientation training targeted at the CFUG members of Ilam. The positive impact of these trainings was that the CFUG members regularly discussed on the issues related to climate change and REDD+ during their monthly meetings and annual general assemblies.
So far, following his participation in the TOTs, Dhurba has conducted orientation trainings on REDD+ in 45 VDCs involving 1800 persons in Ilam. So far, he has conducted orientation trainings to the frontline social leaders of Janajati community of Mai Pokhari Village Development Committee, school students, community members among others. The DFO has provided technical support to the CFUGs for revision and renewal of their operational plans, while FECOFUN has been sensitizing the CFUGs on issues related to climate change adaptation and mitigation. As a result, the CFUGs have incorporated issues related climate change and REDD+ in their operational plans.
Forest and Climate Change
Prior to the inception of REDD+ in community forestry, priorities were laid on forest management, conservation, and utilization of forest products. However, the CFUG members were not adequately aware on carrying out forest conservation. According to an Assistant Forest Officer, “lack of awareness on forest conservation and protection led to illegal logging and deforestation in the Chure range of Ilam”. This triggered soil erosion within the forest and surrounding areas. Likewise, forest fire and forest land encroachment in Chure region put additional pressure on forest. Though the operational plans had provisions on forest management related activities, it was completely silent on climate change and REDD+. Women participation in the executive committee was merely a formality.
In the past couple of years, the residents of Ilam have been experiencing rise in the temperature. Moreover, people cite changes in the weather patterns, alterations in plants and animal behaviors. Likewise, locals have witnessed the decline in water discharge in Dhobi Dhara over the past couple of years. Sandakpur, a high altitude region of Ilam has snowfall every winter. However, that has changed over the last two years with no snowfall. Unprecedented events of floods and drought were observed in 2013 and 2014. There has also been a shift in the flowering period of Bhaunia purpuria where it has shifted from April to February. Farmers of Ilam have experienced changes in monsoon pattern where the amount of rainfall has been declining over the last few years. The rainfall on 2009 July was recorded to be 681.16 mm and on 2017 July was 418.3mm. Climate change has been making the lives of the people harder due to the sudden alterations in natural phenomenon.
Changes in Policies and Practice
In the past couple of years, there has been a significant change in practices, particularly around the preparation and renewal of operational plans of CFUGs, in Ilam. The CFUGs have been renewing their operational plans every five years following the guidelines provided by the DFO. In Ilam, about 99% of the CFUGs have revised and renewed their constitution and operational plan. Issues of climate change have been closely considered in the revised operational plans where special provisions on climate change adaptation and mitigation have been incorporated. The operational plans have provisions on removal of dead, dying, disease and matured trees from the community forest and promote the natural regeneration (or plantation) in barren land. This has been helpful in enhancing productivity and carbon sinks. Awareness on climate change mitigation and adaptation practices among the farmers has enabled them to carry out better farming practices and follow cropping calendars to maintain the productivity.
In Ilam, about 99% of the CFUGs have revised and renewed their constitution and operational plan. Issues of climate change have been closely considered in the revised operational plans where special provisions on climate change adaptation and mitigation have been incorporated.
CFUGs have engaged themselves in diverse activities that have allowed them to address both economic and environmental issues. They have planted Broom grass, Bamboo, Teak (Tectona Grandsis), Amla (Philanthus emblica), Khair (Acacia Catechu) inside CF. This has supported them in generating livelihoods. Some of the CFUGs, mainly situated in the Chure region of Ilam have constructed water ponds inside of CF to restore and recharge water during the dry seasons. This has also served as a drinking water source for the wild animals. In addition, two CFUGs have constructed fire line inside the CF to reduce the incidents of forest fire.
Some of the CFUGs have been providing support to the marginalized groups. For instance, Sayapatri CFUG has started providing loans to 15 families for goat keeping. Likewise, support has been laid in installation of solar panels and bio-gas plants in individual households. As a result of agroforestry practices, human pressure on community forest has been reduced Indigenous knowledge and practices have been promoted to protect water sources within the forest.
Institutional development activities have been taking a pace in Ilam district. All CFUGs have their bank accounts and maintain a clear and transparent audit reports. Besides, CFUGs of Ilam have been promoting gender equality and social inclusion in CF. There is a provision of 50% representation of women in the executive committee and participation during general assemblies. CFUGs also regularly revisit the provisions during the general assemblies and adjust the changes as per their need.
The CFUG members have been leading the community based organizations, cooperatives, School Management Committees. Moreover, a total of total 5 CFUG members have been elected in the various positions in the local government. These elected representatives have been facilitating the integration of CF priorities in local government planning.
Why this change is important for stakeholders
Local Communities: Local communities are the most affected groups due to the impact of climate change. The impacts of climate change have been unfolding in the region as a result of which local communities have been facing hardship in tackling it. However, awareness on climate change and strategies in minimizing its effects has helped the people to addressing the issue. Climate adaptive practices and hazard mitigation practices adopted in the region has had positive results in terms of reducing the vulnerability of the people. Moreover, incorporation of such provisions in the operational plans has helped in institutionalizing the initiatives. Neighboring CFUGs have been adopting similar practices and have benefited out of it.
Government: Government is an important actor with regard to implementing activities and projects to address climate change. There is an ample opportunity for the Government to scale out learnings from Ilam and draw out some of the lessons into national policies, strategies and planning. Simiarly, based on the lessons learnt, Government can prepare tools and manuals targeting local communities, development practitioners, and policy makers in addressing the issues of climate change.
Neighboring Villages: Villages directly benefit from the activities implemented in their neighboring CFUGs. This is particularly important in scaling out the lessons learnt from other CFUGs.