Kathmandu, August 25
The Nepali government had declared Thokarpa village of Sindhupalchowk district the place of origin of community forestry about three months ago.
The village has been practising community forest conservation since 1973.
The government’s decision has now created conflict between community forests in Nepal.
While the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation and the Federation of Community Forestry Users Nepal, among others stakeholders welcomed and celebrated the government’s decision, a Kavrepalanchowk-based community forest claimed that it was the first community forest of Nepal.
A month ago, the Sano Ban Community Forest Users group, better known as the Pande Community Forest of Tukucha Nala VDC -1 of Kavrepalanchowk, filed papers at the District Forest Office, Kavre, FECOFUN, and the Department of Forest demanding justice and recognition as the place of origin of community forestry.
Sano Ban claimed it was originally formed on March 24, 1963 and was officially handed over to the community from the District Forest Office, Kavre on July 12, 1988 as per the decision of the then cabinet meeting.
“Sano Ban is the first community forest in Nepal, and was handed over on July 12, 1988 as per the decision of the then government,” Shambhu Pandey, chair of the forest user group told The Himalayan Times, adding, “But the government overlooked the real history of community forestry, so we are demanding justice.”
Pandey said that on March 24, 1963, a 19-member committee was formed under the chairmanship of Ganesh Bahadur Pande, which decided that the community should protect the forest themselves.
According to the Ministry of Forest, the decision was taken after checking all the documents and going through due process.
“The Ministry is aware of the claim registered by Sano Ban, and the concerned authority will verify the claim,” Bijaya Paudyal, chief of the Biodiversity and Environment Division at the ministry said.
A ministerial level meeting of the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation held in May this year had declared August 9 as the National Day for Community Forests. The meeting had also declared Nil Prasad Bhandari and Tej Bahadur Singh Mahat as the initiators of community forestry.
Nil Prasad Bhandari is a local of Thokarpa village who had taken the first step to protect its forests in 1962.
The village of Thokarpa was declared the place of origin of community forestry in the same ministerial meeting.
Community forestry is one of the most recognised and successful forest conservation models in the world.
Though the decision of the meeting appeared to resolve the longstanding debate at both national and international levels over the place of origin of community forestry, the claim of another community forest group has resulted in conflict once again.
Earlier, authorities claimed that the decision would increase world recognition of the community forestry programme, spur development and growth of the sector, and open doors for national and international academic groups to conduct extensive researches in Thokarpa.
The government plans to develop Thokarpa as a school of community forestry and apply scientific forest Management in the area at the earliest.
According to Federation of Community Forestry Users Nepal, at least 15,000 community forest groups have been registered till now.
A version of this article appears in print on August 26, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.