Nepal abounds with great natural bounty, and with careful management the benefits be reaped year after year. Nepalâ€™s community forests have been a wealth of resources, from timber to lokta to Lapsis, all waiting to be harvested, not simply to ensure subsistence level survival, but through business for development and to support a dignified quality of life in a just and peaceful society.
For over 40 years, Nepal Australia Forestry and Community Resource Management (NAFCRM) projects have helped villagers build self-reliance. The NAFCRM in association with the government jointly invested over $40 million (Australian) to strengthen human capacity and provide firm technical, social, business, and policy foundations for community forestry.
The NAFCRM and livelihoods project was a bilateral grant aid project operated under an agreement between the governments of Nepal and Australia. The freely expressed wishes of villagers, particularly the poor and the marginalised, was the source of its agenda. Though NACRMLPâ€™s efforts, in its own terms, are a proverbial drop in the ocean, the project aimed to upscale its efforts, not through more field operations, but by feeding into policy systems.
This work has often been regarded as â€˜ahead of its timeâ€™, and has gained an international reputation for producing innovative responses to natural resource management challenges that have now been adapted to local conditions and replicated in many parts of the world.
Project resources were expended to develop the basic mechanisms needed to enable Nepali forest users to manage forests for themselves. It didnâ€™t picture itself giving a man a fish and feeding him for a day or even giving him a fishing rod and feeding him until it broke. To create a self-sustaining community forestry system, NAFCRM adopted a closely integrated, three-pillared approach in order to help people improve their livelihood â€” sustainable natural resource management, business development, and equity and good governance. While data on both the extent and productivity of community forests are still lacking, one estimate suggests that the community forests in Kabhre Palanchok and Sindhu Palchok can yield 100-300 million Nepali rupees per year in log sales alone and the achievements of the project can be replicated elsewhere.
The main benefits for both countries were achieved through a continuation of substantial achievements in community forestry in Nepal to date and in the logical expansion of the concept to include wider resource management issues. In particular, the project developed methodologies for the application of community resource management principles involving consensus and cooperation, to private lands in FUG sub watersheds and in the incorporation of the additional resources of the Department of Soil Conservation and Watershed Management into community resources management. It has also helped the beneficiaries of the project rake in income as a result of sustainable managed forests, including primary incomes resulting directly from the exploitation of forest products, and secondary incomes resulting from improved agricultural production and access to fodder. This has resulted in an improved quality of life especially for women, resulting from reduced time in the collection of forest products needed for subsistence and a greater representation in community decision making.
At the closure of the forestry project on June 28, highlighting the achievements in the forestry sector in Nepal, Australian ambassador to Nepal Graeme Lade said that it was a
remarkable achievement and that it would not have been possible without the close and cooperative cooperation between Australia and Nepal.
â€œOver 40 years the project has helped encourage strong development of the community forest concept, brought infrastructure into remote areas and has now created a basis on which the importance of forests for conservation and for sound commercial utilisation is now firmly established. Even though Australia is ceasing its direct bilateral support for the NCRMLP, Australia will also continue to support emerging humanitarian needs in Nepal,â€ he said.