Curtailing CFUGs rights will result in loss of forest covers and hugely impact poverty reduction efforts
Nepal’s community forestry management is one of the successful stories in the world. The community-managed forestry in the hills, mountains and Tarai has not only helped protect forests, promote forest covers and prevent soil erosions but also contributed a lot to livelihood supports to the communities. It has also helped reduce greenhouse gas emission. Nepal has the prospect of earning around Rs 5.5 billion in the next seven years between 2017 and 2024 for selling carbon stored in forests. In June, Nepal reached a deal with the World Bank to sell 10 million tonnes of carbon not emitted into atmosphere at the rate of $5 per tonne under the Emissions Reduction Programme. This amount will be earned only from 13 districts from Kanchanpur to Rautahat under the carbon emission trading. If the entire country is covered under the WB programme, the prospect of earning from carbon emission trading will be much higher. Nepal’s total carbon emission in 2009 stood at 3.44 million tonnes. However, compared to other developed nations Nepal’s carbon emission in atmosphere is quite negligible. Nepal’s total forest cover currently stands at around 44 per cent which is quite encouraging compared to other countries, including neighbouring India’s 20 per cent. During the decade long insurgency from 1996 to 2006, the country’s forest cover had declined to around 39 per cent due to poor monitoring of the government-run forests. However, it bounced back thanks to rigorous efforts of Community Forest User Groups (CFUGs) across the country. It all became possible after the government handed a large swath of forests over to CFUGs which comprise about 35 per cent of the total population. A total of 19,361 CFUGs have been effectively managing a total of 1,813,478 hectares of national forests. Over 2.4 million households are benefiting from this world renowned plan launched in 1993. Although CFUGs have earned name and fame in successfully protecting forests and helping in poverty alleviation, the government has drafted a new forest bill curtailing their rights in what is against its own strategy of gradually handing over national forests to communities. The umbrella draft bill, prepared by bureaucrats, bans CFUGs from selling “extra forest products” from protected forests. They need to seek permission from the federal government to sell the extra forest products. It only aims at tightening the federal government’s grip on forest resources. It also violates the principle of federalism. Under the existing law, CFUGs can sell the forest products independently and can use the products for their use. This is the only reason that has prompted CFUGs to protect the forests. If this incentive is taken away by the central government, no communities will be willing to protect the natural resources that have fetched billions of rupees for controlling carbon emission. The CFUGs have proven they do not need any more draconian law to manage local resources. Elinor Ostrom, affiliated to Indiana University at the time of winning Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009, rightly said in her research, “Local property can be successfully managed by local commons without any regulation by central authorities or privatisation”.
Take care of carers National Female Community Health Volunteers Day was observed across the country on Wednesday. The Day is observed to recognise the Female Community Health Volunteers (FCHVs) and their contributions. The FCHV programme was started in the country in 1988 and a decade later the government announced free health services to all FCHVs. But they are yet to get the services. Such a delay in fulfilling the commitment shows the country is yet to recognise the contributions the FCHVs have made. FCHVs link the community and health facilities and are an integral part of many community-based health programmes. Their roles are instrumental in raising awareness about family planning and helping reduce child and maternal mortality rates. They are actively engaged in vitamin A and nutrition campaigns. The government must recognise the contributions the FCHVs make and ensure that they get the facilities that have been promised. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health Upendra Yadav has announced that the government would provide health insurance to all female health volunteers. This must be translated into action.