Bhutan, a tiny Himalayan kingdom in the Himalayas has pledge to remain carbon neutral not because the country’s natural resources is so vast but because the developmental goals and pledge, commitments and plans are guided by good principles of our farsighted kings. One of which is the environment conservation. Environment conservation is in fact the pivotal place in any developmental activities, without environment and forestry clearance the developments are never undertaken. The commitments of environment conservation have endeavored far enough and reach to the remote, uneducated and isolated simple peasants who now have a great role towards environment conservation. Community forest has now reached in every corner of the country. A forest managed by the local stakeholders for sustainable utilization, conservation, poverty reduction and good governance.
The forest coverage in Bhutan accounts to 81.81% with 71% tree coverage and 10.81% shrub cover, of which 19750.57 sq.km is protected as parks, wildlife sanctuaries and strict nature reserve (Dofps, 2017). Furthermore, with the establishment of community forest in 1990s the community’s participation towards conservation boost up later in 2007 with more community forest establishment. Today 682 numbers of CFs were handed over covering 75,705 hectares of the total forest cover which accounts to 2.8%. Moreover the community forest in Bhutan is managed by 28,453 household which accounts 34.1% of total rural household (National Community Forestry conference, 2017).
Nichula, one of the “remotest geog” in Dagana is now in the peak of establishing community forest. As a village challenged by climatic issues, human wildlife conflict and poachers from outside have successfully completed the first stage of inventory and drawing management plans. Though in slow pace yet the people now are happy with the sense of belonging they now possesses. Earlier, people keep everything to be done by the government; plantation, habitat management, land management and sustainable utilization were never of their interest only if instructed but now we could hear them with proactive talks. They are now aware to pass their resources sustainably to younger generation with good management plans.
Why Community Forestry in Nichula?
a. Strength and Opportunities
- Effective Utilization and Conservation: The community forest will help to manage the resources sustainably as per their management plans and harvesting limits. The loss of resources to outside poachers will be reduced due to patrolling and sense of belonging developed in them. Successes of plantation are more likely as they are now able to work under the bylaws they agreed. The department must technically guide the local people to meet their conservation goals and demands. Helping them for effective plantation and selection of trees as per silviculture system would manage resources effectively.
- Faster and Comprehensive Service Delivery: With their own management plans, people will be able to avail service quicker and in comprehensive way since they are aware of their own management plans. People often get confused with forestry rules and service and most are still unaware of it. CF establishment would implement and avail their desired service in short duration.
- Human Wildlife Conflict Reduction and Habitat Management: Human wildlife conflict especially the conflict with elephant is the most common, hardest and challenging conflict of the village. Almost half of their produce is being lost to wildlife every year which made them to dislike wildlife. The habitat management work like salt lick enrichment, fodder plantation and beekeeping promotion sounds absolute to the illiterate. In fact, people are busy with works which compel them to give less importance to such initiatives. The CF establishment would help them to cope up with such initiatives as the conservation becomes their part of activities. They have reflected their commitments and set up bylaws which would guide them in implementing.
- Scope for Tourism and Income Generation: Nichula has very good diversity of wildlife. The establishment of CF would further help in habitat management through community participation. The area would attract wildlife lovers and birders which would help to generate income. Moreover, the place being connected by Sunkosh River have good site for rafting which will be another source of income generation. If managed as per the management plans and guidelines, the CF will be source of income generation in the future when the village gets connected with good road condition. The NWFPs will attract good market value as Pipla is demanded in market.
b. Weakness and Threats
- Less profit generation and contribution to poverty reduction: CF establishment have contributed to poverty reduction through sale of excess forest produce. In the 10th five year plan, the government focused on poverty reduction and took CF as important measure for it. CF establishment then help to generate income from sale of produce like Non-wood forest products (NWFP) and excess timber. The income generation through sale of excess timber in Nichula would be less likely though the area have very good forest coverage. Transportation will be the shortcoming for their profit generation. Though NWFP like Pipla is plenty, due to transportation and market problem, the people are less interested to it.
- Inconsistency follow-up with conservation management plan: With the likely of less income generation without proper market, people may be inconsistent in managing the forest with the management plans in the earlier stage. They may get bog-down with repeated CF related works unless otherwise they think well of their future generation.
- Pressure on Timber: after the approval people have right for availing service as per their management plans and bylaws. The pressure on timber is more likely as everyone in village are in demand for quality timber.
Challenges and Experience Gained
Within that enchanting environment, climbing the hill exploring the rugged terrain and soaking in the sunbeams of glorious winter days, I with my team had explored the beauty of nature beyond our limits of exploration. Though challenging yet we are able to get the required data enough to generate the information we desired of. Establishing a CF isn’t a picnic, to climb the slope with compass and materials for collecting data, one should have energy of youth. Nevertheless, with good conservation guidelines and plans, everything is possible though it was challenging. I personally enjoyed exploring the beauty of biodiversity the first day of my entry to forest.