Dhangadi, February 26:

Dhana Bahadur Gharti Magar, a member of Shri Bhageshwori Community Forest Users’ Group in Dodhara of Kailali, has witnessed some significant changes in his living standards, thanks to the community forest users’ group (CFUG) that has focussed its activities on uplifting the living standards of economically backward members.

The group has categorised 114 households affiliated with in into four groups — well off, medium, backward and most backward — based on their economic activities and land holding size.

Dhan Bahadur was recently promoted from the last category to the second last. The group gives bigger priority to economically deprived members. The benefits offered to such members range from subsidy in membership fee to subsidy in forest products and fodders.

After Dhan Bahadur was promoted to backward category from the most backward one, he now pays Rs 1,901 annual membership fee to the group. The fee for the members from

the most backward group is only Rs 1,501.

“I benefited a lot from the group. Two years ago, I received a loan of Rs 2,500 with which I grew vegetables and paid back the loan within six months,” said Gharti Magar, adding that he was now planning to invest more on his farm by taking a loan of Rs 10,000 from the group.

Shri Bhageshwori CFUG is supported by Strengthened Actions for Governance in Utilisation of Natural Resources (SAGUN) project funded by USAID and implemented by CARE Nepal, WWF Nepal and FECOFUN. The project covers areas in Kailali, Banke, Bardia, Lamjung, Gorkha, Dhading, Shey-Phoksundo National Park, Langtang National Park and Kanchenjunga Conservation Area.

According to SAGUN officials, the number of CFUGs has increased from 427 in 2002 to 1,174 in 2008 in its command areas. It also informed that the area of community forests had increased from 23,153 hectares in 2002 to 190,566 hectares in 2008.

Dr Maksha Maharjan, programme coordinator of CARE Nepal, said the programme was aimed at ensuring equal distribution of natural resources to uplift the economically backward groups and improve their livelihoods.