Thokarpa declared the origin of community forestry

Kathmandu, June 11

The village of Thokarpa in Sindhupalchowk has now been declared as the origin of community forestry, one of the most recognised and successful forest conservation model in the world. The village has been practicing community forest conservation since 1973.

The declaration was made by the government through a cabinet meeting on May 31 this year, solving the long existing debate at both the national and international levels over community forestry’s place of origin.

Joint Secretary at Biodiversity and Environment section of the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation Bijaya Raj Paudyal said the government’s decision would increase world recognition of the community forestry programme and spur development and growth of the sector.

Paudyal said, “The government’s declaration has now opened doors for national and international academic groups to conduct extensive researches in Thokarpa.”

He added that the government plans to develop Thokarpa as a school of community forestry and apply scientific forest Management in the area at the earliest.

In the same declaration, Nil Prasad Bhandari and Tej Bahadur Singh Mahat were declared 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.

Seventy-eight-years old Bhandari was born in Thokarpa in July 8, 1938 and elected as the chairperson of village (Pradhanpancha) in 1962, after which he tried various ideas to protect forests that was then completely destroyed by rampant smuggling after the earthquake of 1935.

In March 11, 1973 Bhandari organised a meeting in the village in which a decision stating that the village would be responsible for the management of the forests for 10 years was taken.

The government would have to take the village’s permission before numbering and cutting down any tree in the forests.

This decision was forwarded to the then District Forest Officer of Sindhupalchock Tej Bahadur Singh Mahat, after which the Ministry of Forest gave the village the authority to manage the forests in August 9, 1973 for a trial period of two years.

The forest was later named Ratuwapati Bajathalo Community Forest. The government has declared August 9 as National Day for Community Forests to mark that date.

Bhandari said, “I am happy to hear that the government has recognised me as an initiator of community forestry in Nepal. Finally, my endeavours to protect forests from a community level has become successful and internationally recognized.”

According to Federation of Community Forestry Users Nepal (FECOFUN), at least 15,000 community forest groups have been registered yet.