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Can community forestry learn from pro-poor leasehold forestry? A review

  • Baral, J. C.

Background Two types of forestry interventions focussed on groups of local communities [rather than individual households (HHs) or the state machinery] are in vogue in Nepal. One is Community Forestry (CF) and the other is Leasehold Forestry (LHF). Both are actually parts of national forests whose use rights get vested to the concerned groups of people as per agreements reached. The depleting state of forest resources and the livelihoods of the local population are common concerns of both the endeavours. Though both tend to have a common concern about environmental as well as humanitarian issues, LHF may be seen to have slightly higher direct elements of humanitarian concerns than that of the CF. This is because LHF, at least theoretically, focuses exclusively on the people below poverty line. CF, which though is sentimental about equity in benefit sharing amongst the participating HH, does not limit itself to the poor. All populations directly depending on the resource under consideration is the effective area of coverage of the CF. Though the forestry legislation recognises both types of forestry interventions, CF is the policy priority and the forest law stipulates this provision. A number of donor agencies have been providing financial and technical grant support for a number of years to this priority programme. Compared to CF, the support for LHF has been meagre. Probably the only major exception is the Hills Leasehold Forests and Forage Development Project (HLFFDP) that had been implemented in ten districts beginning in 1993 with loan assistance from IFAD and technical assistance from the government of the Netherlands. Other initiatives with similar concerns though in existence , are of much later origin and are yet to be fully implemented. It may be pointed out that LHF or CF interventions are not mutually exclusive for certain districts but tend to overlap under differing project arrangements. Appendix 1, 2 and 3 provide details. This paper is inspired by the idea of exploring whether CF with its long history of intervention experience can learn something meaningful from the LHF endeavour that has been simultaneously run in some districts for a number of years. HLFFDP (HMG/IFAD) has been chosen for the purpose of this work owing to its longer implementation experience and larger number of available documents. This paper reviews the literature, which could form a basis for further fieldwork in Dolakha and Ramechhap, the districts where Nepal Swiss Community Forestry Project (NSCFP) is being implemented. Given that the idea is to learn lessons from the LHF experience, the emphasis of the literature review remains on the LHF rather than the CF. This paper begins by distinguishing the features of both types of interventions for a more detailed perspective. This will then be followed by a literature review that highlights the major strengths and weaknesses of LHF in accomplishing its objectives. Following this, a brief analysis will be carried out to see whether the literature is conclusive enough. Conclusions are drawn at the end to figure out what could be the next step.

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