Heidelberg University

Research focus

The Political Ecology of Community Forestry in Nepal

  • The objective of this project was to analyse the recent forest policies and legislation in Nepal which introduced controlled utilisation of forests, aiming at securing basic needs for forest products by forming user groups for joint forest management, giving "priority to poorer communities, or to to the poorer people in a comunity" (HMG/MLJ&PA 1988). The focus of the study was to investigate into the implemantation of the recent Forest Act and to analyse whether it is predominantly socially dis-advantaged groups who are included in these user groups.

  • The detailed case studies, carried out in Sindhupalchok, a hill district east of Kathmandu (Central Development Zone) during 1992-94, comprised of a detailed survey of 120 households from seven different ethnic and caste groups. Ths study has shown that it is primarily groups which are economically better-off who become members in forest user groups whereas economically disadvantaged groups, as for instance ethnic minorities and groups of occupational castes are usually not included in these groups. Above all, some of them lose actual access to "common property" forests when these forests are handed over to user groups, as the members exercise a strict control over these forests, denying any type of utilisation to non-members. Thus, this often-praised policy of user group forest management has extremely negative effects upon groups which are excluded from membership. As they are at the same time the ones who heavily depend upon these resources in order to meet their subsistence needs the new policy can not only be seen as a successful development strategy but at the same time it has the extremely negative side-effect of fuelling a marginalisation process for economically-disadvantaged groups.