Forests in developing countries are under tremendous pressure because of increasing dependence of human communities on timber, fodder, non-timber forest products, and fuelwood. Nepal’s forests approximately cover 40% of its total geographical area, which experiences very high human dependence. In the present study, we propose an innovative approach of coupling socio-ecological attributes in Kayarkhola watershed in Churia hills of Nepal using remote sensing datasets and field observations to understand the patterns of fuelwood dynamics. Using multi-temporal moderate resolution satellite datasets, we have analyzed the patterns of land use and land cover change from 1990 to 2010 and assessed the effectiveness of community forestry management. The socio-ecological coupling provided quantification of most significant drivers of fuelwood dynamics. We observed low forest loss in community forests in comparison with those falling outside community forests. We conclude that family size, income levels, and percentage of illiterate persons are the most significant individual factors, whereas these factors along with the availability of agricultural land, supply of alternative energy sources are significantly inversely related drivers controlling the fuelwood dynamics. The scenarios developed in this study can be extrapolated in different landscapes to quantify the fuelwood dynamics, which will help in better forest cover management and conservation. © 2020, International Society for Tropical Ecology.