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REDD+ and community forestry: implications for local communities and forest management--a case study from Nepal/ REDD+ et foresterie communautaire: implications pour les communautes locales et la gestion forestiere, une etude-cas du Nepal/ REDD+ y la silvicultura comunitaria: implicaciones para las comunidades locales y la gestion de los bosques, un estudio de caso de Nepal.


Worldwide, deforestation is one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions, with about 18 percent of emissions (IPCC 2007 SYR' Stern 2006). In response, the world community through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has developed the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) policy (UNFCCC 2007). REDD is a carbon financing program which aims to reduce carbon emissions from forests by providing financial incentives to developing countries to conserve forests (Phelps et al. 2010). REDD was broadened into REDD+ during the 14th meeting of parties in Poznan in 2008 (UNFCCC COP14) with the objective of exploring options to include forest conservation, sustainable management of forests and the enhancement of forest carbon stocks (Acharya et al. 2009, Cuypers et al. 2011).

REDD+ has been portrayed as a win-win approach to deal with climate change, sustainable forestry and poverty reduction, providing large-scale carbon emissions reduction at comparatively low abatement costs (Stern 2006) while also promoting sustainable forest sector development, enhancing rural livelihoods and protecting biodiversity (Angelsen 2009). In order to develop an enabling policy framework based on experiences, REDD+ has been piloted in various tropical countries.

However, there are a range of unresolved issues about REDD+, such as how REDD+ will deliver multiple outcomes. Considerable uncertainty remains about the implementation, effectiveness and comparability of REDD+ schemes, not only at international level but also more significantly at national and local levels (Corbera and Schroeder 2011, Hajek et al. 2011).

As the perceived role of forests is broadening in society, there is an increasing involvement of local communities in forest management. Community forestry (CF) has been increasingly recognized as one promising approach to achieve sustainable management of forests and improve livelihoods, mostly in developing countries (Alam et al. 2008, Neupane and Shrestha 2012). CF has shown promising results on ecological, economic and social fronts and is contributing to the sustainability of local forest management (Acharya et al. 2009, Agrawal and Angelsen 2009, Banskota et al. 2007, Poudel 2002). Although CF approaches vary widely in different countries and contexts, embedded principles of its management include rights, rules, and benefits (Agrawal and Gibson 1999, Charnley and Poe 2007). In general, Community Forest User Groups (CFUGs) have rights to access and use forest and forest resources, and develop their own management rules and benefit sharing mechanisms.

According to Chhatre and Agrawal (2009), more than 10 percent of global forests are community owned and managed, and the extent of forests used by local communities is close to 18 percent. Development agencies estimate that community managed forests provide livelihood benefits to more than half a billion poor people (Chhatre and Agrawal 2009). In addition to supporting livelihoods and ecological resilience, CF has also been recognized for its potential for carbon sequestration (Viana et al. 2012). Based on research in Brazil, Viana et al. (2012) argue that CF can be an effective and efficient strategic option for REDD+ to generate multiple outcomes. Acharya et al. (2009), Agrawal (2008), Corbera et al. (2011), and Skutsch et al. (2011) also argue that CF provides an effective policy environment for the implementation of REDD+.

Despite this, some have argued that financial incentives provided by REDD+ can lead to forest management that prioritises forest conservation over the use of forest products, and that REDD+ could pose a potential threat to decentralized forest governance and may diminish its contributions to local autonomy and community development (Phelps et al. 2010, Sikor et al. 2010). Implementation of REDD+ is likely to seek changes in local approaches to CF management with little consideration of local priorities in decision making. Local approaches to CF management for subsistence may not necessarily comply with approaches that seek reduced emissions (Bluffstone and Robinson 2012, Neupane and Shrestha 2012). Thus, locally designed systems for forest monitoring, rulemaking and enforcement are likely to be influenced, compromising the objective to meet local needs and potentially demanding external assistance. Hence the whole paradigm of CF in which local communities are seen as better and more efficient managers than centralized agencies in term of forest conservation, is challenged (Neupane and Shrestha 2012).

Despite the growing debates in international and national fora, and the global focus of REDD+ pilots on CF systems, little has been published exploring the implications of REDD+ for local CF (Bluffstone and Robinson 2012). Hence, this research seeks to explore the influence of REDD+ pilots being implemented in Nepal on local approaches to CF, including the likelihood of future implications for decentralised forest governance. These issues are addressed by answering three research questions including: (i) how does REDD+ pilot influence local approaches to CF in Nepal? (ii) what are the likely future implications of REDD+ for decentralized forest governance? and (iii) how REDD+ interventions can avoid destabilizing existing local CF approaches.


Nepal possesses a strong community based forest management system which has been found to not only support local livelihoods, but also to enhance the resource base along with addressing cross-cutting issues such as social exclusion, gender equity and other types of discrimination (Acharya et al. 2009, Karky and Skutsch 2010, McNally et al. 2009, Pokharel and Byrne 2009). Though community management of forests has been practiced for many generations, it was addressed by state policy for the first time in the 1970s. After promulgation of the Master Plan for the Forestry Sector (MPFS) in 1988, followed by the Forest Act 1993 and Forest Regulation 1995, CF in Nepal emerged as a mainstream forestry program. In its early implementation, CF in Nepal was primarily protection-oriented. But now, after more than 25 years, it encompasses broader-based strategies for forest use, enterprise development, and livelihood improvement (Kanel and Dahal 2008, Ojha et al. 2009).

Based on the legal provision (i.e. Forest Act 1993 and Forest Regulation 1995), the CF process in Nepal begins when customary users express interest to the District Forest Office (DFO) for their forest to become a Community Forest. A CFUG is formed and members elect an executive committee which, with technical support from DFO, develops a constitution to regulate community use of the forest, and a five or ten year operational plan to manage forest resources. While the land remains state owned, once the operational plan is approved by the DFO, Nepal's CF policy provides for the delegation of state powers to CFUGs securing their rights to resources. Table 1 highlights major features of Nepal's CF policy.

CF in Nepal has generated multiple outcomes, including: (a) legally empowered local communities to manage forests (Ojha et al. 2009); (b) development and establishment of appropriate institutional structures at different levels, from very local level to national (Thomas 2008); (c) providing subsistence income for poor families (Poudel 2007); (d) local employment and income by establishment of forest based enterprises (Subedi 2006); (e) empowerment of rural people through more inclusive governance (Luintel et al. 2009) and provision of technical skills and training (Pokharel et al. 2007)); (f) improvement of forest conditions (Kanel and Kandel 2004); (g) other social welfare activities such as school buildings, scholarships for poor children and road networks (Gautam 2009).

By the end of June 2012, CF in Nepal covered approximately 25 percent of Nepal's land area (i.e. 63% of designated forests). About 1.66 million hectares of forestland is managed by over 17,685 communities comprising 1.45 million households or 35 percent of the population across the country (DOF 2012).


Nepal has embraced REDD+ as a potential solution and source of funding for the persistent and linked problems of climate change, deforestation, biodiversity loss, and rural poverty (MFSC 2010). Nepal is a partner country of World Bank's Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and joined the UN-REDD program as an observer country in October 2009 (Acharya et al. 2009). After approval of its REDD+ Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP) by the FCPF, Nepal is preparing its strategy for REDD+ implementation which is expected to be ready by the end of 2013 (MFSC 2010).

With support from World Bank's FCPF, UN-REDD and other Overseas Development Assistances (ODAs), Nepal REDD+ readiness process includes five different initiatives, underway by the end of 2012 (MFSC 2012). Most of these initiatives are being implemented through community forestry with the aim of developing methodologies for forest carbon measurement, benefit sharing, and technical capacity building (MFSC 2012, WOCAN 2012). Experiences and learnings from these initiatives are expected to provide a basis to develop REDD+ policies and an institutional framework for the implementation of REDD+ in the future.

The active involvement of forest dependent communities is fundamental to implementing REDD+ effectively, as without such involvement, underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation cannot be fully addressed (Pokharel and Byrne 2009). According to Nepal's Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP) for REDD+, the CF network is the right mechanism to implement REDD+ because it has not only contributed to reducing deforestation and forest degradation, but also significantly contributes to forest conservation and enhancement of carbon stocks (MFSC 2010). Hence, a demonstrated capacity by communities to sustainably manage and monitor forests, a strong CF network, and a supportive legal and policy framework in Nepal reveal a supportive foundation for the successful implementation of REDD+ (Bluffstone and Robinson 2012, RECOFTC 2008).

Despite reported outstanding performance in livelihood support and conservation, CF in Nepal has been criticized for its donor driven approach to policy implementation, lack of consistent outcomes across the country and inability to control corruption. Most CFUGs perpetuate local power imbalances and corruption involving community elites and third parties (Bushley 2010). Despite having statutory rights, decisions regarding harvesting of resources cannot be made independently by users, but require approval from a government officer (Ojha et al. 2009, Paudel et al. 2009, Pokharel and Byrne 2009). Moreover, there is uncertainty over carbon rights arising from absence of clear government policy covering people's entitlements to carbon credits (Ojha et al. 2009), associated with the previously mentioned issue that under CF in Nepal the land remains state-owned.

Bushley and Khatri (2011) have raised questions about the compatibility of REDD+ with the established CF system in Nepal based on the evolving nature of REDD+, shortcommings of current governance, and uncertain outcomes for resource tenure. Yet, potential implications of REDD+ for forest governance, local institutions and wellbeing of forest dependent communities, have not been closely examined. Further, scholars in Nepal have indicated that local people don't believe that existing CF approach will be compatible with the REDD+ mechanism, or that their contributions will be recognized and rewarded (Bushley 2010, Ojha et al. 2009, Pokharel and Byrne 2009). Concerns have also been raised that imposing REDD+ over existing CF approaches could generate huge complexities regarding equity and efficiency in benefit distribution (Bushley 2010, Gurung 2009, Kanowski et al. 2011, Karky 2008, Karki et al. 2009, Kotru 2009, Laake et al. 2009, LFP 2009, MFSC 2008 2010, Ojha et al. 2009). REDD+ success through CF in Nepal will, therefore, largely be contingent on: its capacity to fully integrate a broad range of stakeholders; its compatibility to local institutional, social and cultural situation; its support for decentralized forest governance; and its ability to meet needs and interests of forest dependent communities from the beginning of the project design process (Adhakari 2009, Agrawal and Angelsen 2009, McNally et al. 2009, Pokharel and Byrne 2009, Skutsch et al. 2011). This research seeks to analyse these issues in CFUGs engaged in REDD+ piloting.


This research was undertaken in three CFUGs, two of which are experiencing a REDD+ pilot intervention in the Ludhikhola watershed in western Nepal, and one immediately neighbouring the watershed without the REDD+ pilot intervention. Ludhikhola is one of three piloting sites (1) in Nepal, jointly implemented since 2009 by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), the Asian Network for Sustainable Agriculture and Bio-resources (ANSAB) and the Federation of Community Forestry Users Nepal (FECOFUN) with financial support from Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD).

The main objectives of the Ludhikhola pilot project are to demonstrate the effectiveness of REDD+ benefit-sharing mechanisms among Nepal's CFUGs, and to develop a REDD+ payment mechanism at the national scale. To meet these objectives, the project has funded CFUGs to provide seed grants for different activities that directly or indirectly support emissions reduction including forest enhancement, capacity building, and income generation based on some social as well as biophysical criteria (ICIMOD et al. 2011). Each CFUG receives annual REDD+ payments based on four criteria (i.e. carbon enhancement--40%, ethnic diversity--15%, proportion of women, Dalit (marginalized caste) and indigenous people--15%, and proportion of poor people--20%) assessed by a district level monitoring committee (ICIMOD et al. 2011). CFUGs received their first payment in 2011, while the pilot is due to be completed with the third payment in 2013.

The Ludhikhola project site is in a hilly physiographic region in the Gorkha district about 150 km west of Kathmandu (Map 1). The area is characterized by remoteness and poverty but also diversity in culture, ethnicity, and natural resources. Most people are subsistence farmers with high dependency on forest resources. To sustain their livelihoods over the last 30 years, local people have engaged in forest resource management through 31 CFUGs of different sizes across the watershed incorporating 3800 households.

This research was guided by an inductive approach to social research (Walter, 2006) involving the collection of qualitative data that seeks to understand the complexity of social relationships and actions, and asks direct questions of informants to explore the meanings and drivers for different behaviours and activities (Neuman, 2006). Qualitative data was collected in the field in 2012 through in-depth interviews and focus group discussions, as well as document review and observations. Some supporting data including demographic information was also collected through household surveys combining both structured and semi-structured questioning.

At the beginning of the field program, a multi-stakeholder meeting was organised to consider the selection of case study sites from the 31 CFUGs in the Ludhikhola watershed. Based on CFUG performance criteria such as program planning and implementation, user participation, benefit distribution, record keeping and reporting drawn from a 2011 REDD+ pilot project report, the stakeholders identified two preferred case study CFUGs for data collection: Birenchok (relatively high level of success against performance criteria); and Gangate Bahune (low level).

To assist in understanding the role of REDD+ pilot intervention in driving changes such as in CF management approach, user awareness and understanding of climate change, a third site was selected from a neighbouring CFUG (Archale Pakha) outside the REDD+ pilot project area, but with the nearest possible similarities in socio-economic and biophysical conditions. While it is not suggested that this provides an exact 'control' sample for this study, it is assumed that apart from the REDD+ pilot intervention, the drivers experienced in the three CFUGs are largely similar. However, it is important to understand that rather than depending on correlating outcomes from these different sites according to statistical analysis, the qualitative method adopted allows for direct questioning of local informants as to the causes and drivers of described or observed similarities and differences between the sites.

Across these sites, a total of 38 in-depth interviews were undertaken with key informants purposively selected for their relevant experience and knowledge. These included local forest users, CFUG committee members, and policy level stakeholders (2). Six focus group discussions were also undertaken with different social groups in the CFUGs, including women, poor people and Dalits (marginalised caste), as per the attached Table 2. As well, a total of 91 households (at least 30 from each CFUG) were randomly surveyed using a semi-structured survey, gathering not only demographic data, but also experiences and perceptions about REDD+ and its influence to existing management approaches of community forestry, including basic knowledge about community forestry and its role on climatic issues.


The research has found that the REDD+ pilot has resulted in a range of changes in local approaches to CF. These can be described under two primary themes: changes in group management, dealing with activities related to human resource management including decision making and benefit sharing; and changes in forest management, describing activities related to protection, development, and utilisation of forest resources (Figure 1).

Changes in group management approach

Each CFUG has its own governance approach that involves decision making, benefit sharing and capacity building. These group approaches have been derived from traditional management and leadership structures. Such traditional structures have been formalised through the process of CFUG formation involving development of a constitution by a leadership elite and approval of that constitution by government forest authority that then formalises group leadership and structures through the CFUG Executive Committees.

Although the pilot of REDD+ has been applied under the same governance approach that was framed by the CFUG constitutions developed before the pilot intervention, the following paragraphs indicate that local approaches to CFUG governance are likely to change because of REDD+. The operational guideline for the pilot project (ICIMOD et al. 2011) reveals that the pilot of REDD+ seeks to improve CFUG governance by providing equitable opportunity to disadvantaged groups including women, poor and marginalized in decision making, benefit sharing, and capacity building and harness the learnings from this experience into REDD+ policy in the future.

Decision making: access and process

As autonomous institutions managing CF, CFUGs make many decisions to administer users and the forests. Information from the CFUG executive committees indicates that since the pilot of REDD+ started in 2009, the CFUGs have been more active, largely because of additional decisions required for implementation of REDD+. The Birenchok CFUG has increased its annual meeting frequency by 12 percent whilst the Gangate Bahune has increased its meetings by 36 percent. Average meeting frequency before (based on 2006, 2007 & 2008) and after (based on 2010, 2011 & 2012) the REDD+ pilot were 12.6 to 14 per year in Birenchok and 10 to 14.3 in Gangate Bahune respectively. Although the Archale Pakha has also increased its average meeting frequency from 6 times (before 2009) to 10 times (after 2009) a year, it has yet to meet the minimum number of 12 meetings per year as required by the Nepal's CF guidelines.

In addition, the general impression among users in the pilot CFUGs was that villagers, committee members in particular, have been busy dealing with frequent visitors from outside, attending workshops, and reporting progress frequently. Office bearers (i.e. secretaries) from both pilot CFUGs reported that they have been working more since the beginning of the REDD+ pilot. District and policy level informants also confirmed that activities have increased in pilot CFUGs.

Office records from pilot CFUGs reveal a change of focus, with most decisions taken after 2009 related to REDD+ (e.g. selection of Local Resource Persons (LRPs), seed grant allocation for different activities and individuals, forest protection, and carbon measurement). Such issues received little attention prior to the REDD+ pilot intervention, or in the non-pilot CFUG (Archale Pakha), which has focused on harvesting and distribution procedures, review of forest protection, and possible CFUG contributions to local development such as school supports. Committee documents, observations, and interview responses indicate differences between REDD+ pilot and non-pilot CFUGs with improved processes and outcomes in pilot CFUGs in terms of making timely decisions, organizing participatory events and performing other administrative activities such as record keeping, and reporting. The record keeping and accounting systems in REDD+ pilot CFUGs are more systematic, transparent and up to date than in the non-pilot CFUG. For example, the Gangate Bahune CFUG started a banking and auditing system after the pilot intervention of REDD+, but the Archale Pakha CFUG has no bank account and has never performed a public audit. Similarly, regular annual reports are approved by CFUG assemblies in pilot CFUGs but not in the non-pilot CFUG.

Nepal's CF guidelines (DOF, 2006) state that CF committee membership should be inclusive; proposing that 50 percent of committee positions and at least one key leadership position (chair or secretary) should be a woman. REDD+ also seeks to promote the participation of marginalised people as described above. Despite some years working under CF guidelines, and substantial efforts to implement REDD+ policies at local level, CFUGs data reveal that exclusion (e.g. of gender or marginalized groups) from the decision making process continues. Data provided by CFUGs (documents review) suggest that executive committees are not inclusive and women and marginalised groups are deprived of equitable access to decision making (Table 3).

For example female representation on executive committees is low (33% in Birenchok, 30% in Archale Pakha and 22% in Gangate Bahune) and none of the key leadership positions in these committees is held by women. The situation remains even worse in the case of Dalit, who are not only deprived of key positions but are also poorly represented in committees. Based on committees' composition, as Table 3 reveals, there are no clear differences between pilot and non-pilot CFUGs. However, Birenchok CFUG appears comparatively better than other two. In addition to better inclusion in the committee, participants from the Birenchok CFUG reported that disadvantaged groups (i.e. women, Dalit and poor) have regularly been encouraged to take part in regular meetings. Participants from this CFUG also said that the decision making process is more inclusive than previously, and that in recent years general users (non-committee members) have been increasingly taking part in regular meetings. However no such changes were reported from Gangate Bahune CFUG, suggesting positive changes in Birenchok might not be only because of REDD+. These findings support previous research into outcomes of REDD+ for more inclusive decision making. For example, in relation to gender, a study by ICIMOD (2012) in three sites in Nepal undertaking REDD+ projects, including the 31 CFUGs in the Ludhikhola watershed, reveals that involvement of women in the decision making process is poor. Gurung and Setyowati (2012) and Gurung et al. (2011) have reported that institutions implementing and/ or supporting REDD+ projects across the Asia and Pacific region are not systematically incorporating gender considerations. REDD+, as it appears in the piloting CFUGs, may not adequately empower traditionally disempowered groups including women and enhance their access to CFUG decision making forum (i.e. executive committee).

Benefit sharing: issues of equity

The issue of equitable (3) benefit sharing arises in both pilot and non-pilot CFUGs. CF policy in Nepal recognizes household wellbeing and gender as important criteria to assist with equitable benefit sharing within CFUGs, and requires CFUGs to undertake wellbeing ranking exercises to inform decision making. However, interview informants indicated that positive discrimination based on wellbeing ranking, gender and ethnicity has occurred only since the start of the REDD+ pilot. Almost all the research participants from both pilot CFUGs reported that REDD+ has given preference to poor and marginalised households in the distribution of benefits, particularly financial benefits, though implementation of policies was found to be substantially different in the two CFUGs. In the non-pilot CFUG, informants indicated that there was no positive discrimination towards marginalised groups in decision making.

One member of the Birenchok CFUG committee reported that poorer wellbeing ranked households were in first priority while distributing seed grants and other benefits:

".... based on wellbeing ranking, we (the committee) have applied equitable approach of benefit distribution. In addition to priority for IGA [income generating activity] seed grant, poorest households get forest products for lowest price; they get subsidy on improvised cooking stoves; and are also focused for skill development trainings....." (PB12).

Similar views were expressed by research informants from women's focus groups, poor and marginalized households in the Birenchok CFUG; and these views were substantiated by CFUG office records also. For example, 58 percent of the total seed grant received by the CFUG in 2011 and 2012 was distributed to poorer households for income generating activities.

Despite the Gangate Bahune CFUG adopting similar policies, these policies appear not to be effectively implemented to deliver benefits to target households. While executive members reported that the CFUG has policies to prioritise the poor, Dalit (marginalised caste--'untouchables') and women participants were unaware about REDD+ seed grants and other benefits. Users participating in the Dalit focus group meeting had never come across any Dalit focused activities arising from CF or REDD+, and they were unhappy that the implementation of REDD+ had not led to changes in traditional approaches to distribution of benefits, which they considered to be discriminatory and inequitable. Chhatre, et al. (2012) and Leggett and Lovell (2011) reported similar findings that poor and marginalised communities / households, who lack knowledge and negotiating skills, are likely to be overlooked in the REDD+ process. Nevertheless, participants in the women and poor focus group discussions in Gangate Bahune remained optimistic that they will receive benefits from REDD+ soon. One of the interviewed committee members provided assurance that the seed grant will be distributed soon, and poor, Dalit and single women will be the first to benefit. Referring to recent committee decisions, he commented:

".... 20% seed grant has been allocated for IGA, which will be spent for fish farming, goat raising and small business. The committee has called people to come up with their plans for IGA and we (the committee) are still waiting more people to come. Poor, single women and disabled are in the first priority...." (PG5).

However, the quota system of benefit allocation, ethnicity criteria in particular, appears to be contentious. One very poor user from Gangate Bahune CFUG, who was neither indigenous nor Dalit, sought justification for discrimination among users based on ethnicity, asking "why don't I have the same rights as my Magar (indigenous) neighbour?" He was not the only participant to hold this concern, with a majority of interviewees from Gangate Bahune reporting their disagreement over the 10 percent fund allocation for indigenous population, though they agreed with the 15 percent reservation for Dalit. Such disagreement seems valid in the context of the study CFUGs as indigenous people are not only in the majority in the area, but also hold key decision making positions (with 5 of 6 key posts in the three study CFUGs).

Benefit sharing mechanisms in the non-piloting CFUG (Archale Pakha) appeared to be unchanged over the last decade. Without support from REDD+, this CFUG has not offered IGA seed grants. Although the CFUG constitution proposes the wellbeing ranking of households to support equitable benefit sharing, such ranking has never been implemented. Poor households generally lacked access to CFUG funds, and one informant from the Archale Pakha CFUG reported that the CFUG committee has used their funds to provide loans to local businessmen able to pay a higher interest rate, but poor households are deprived of this opportunity because they cannot afford the high interest rate. The present research has found that Archale Pakha CFUG without REDD+ project support has not changed its benefit distribution practices to support poor and marginalised households, rather, activities have been identified which reinforce inequities, supporting the dominant position of the existing elite. However, in relation to the REDD+ pilot CFUGs, benefits are being delivered to poor and marginalised households in Birenchok CFUG, and are expected to soon be delivered in Gangate Bahune CFUG.

Capacity building: awareness, skills and networking

Capacity building involves activities that enhance individual as well as institutional capacity (UNDP 2006) to understand and address problems they have been dealing with. Capacity building is believed to be one of the important social factors to achieve effective decentralised forest governance (Agrawal 2001), and this research finds that REDD+ has contributed to capacity building in CFUGs by enhancing users' awareness level, diversifying skills and developing social networks.

It has been widely acknowledged that in resource dependent communities engaging in activities that contribute to emissions, knowledge of environment, climate change and related issues is an important factor for REDD+ success. Jordon (2010) argues that environmental inequalities could be moderated by providing vulnerable groups with the information needed to protect their rights and enable them to prevent further exploitation. Sunderlin et al. (2011) highlight local knowledge of climate change and the REDD+ policy as an important precondition for meaningful community participation in REDD+, while Mahanty et al. (2013) highlight the importance of forest users' understanding "why forests are important in the context of climate change", "how REDD+ projects will be organised and administered as a means to achieve climate mitigation", and "how the intervention will affect their lives". Resosudarmo et al. (2012) argue that if local people do not properly understand issues and contexts of a REDD+ project, they may not only be able to negatively influence project implementation but could also be influenced negatively by the project. The likelihood of REDD+ success, therefore, depends on the local communities' understanding and effective participation throughout the REDD+ process including design and implementation of benefit sharing and safeguarding equitable rights of poor and marginalised groups.

This research finds that REDD+ has enhanced local capacity to understand and communicate environmental issues including climate change. Forest users in the pilot CFUGs were comparatively more aware of climate change and REDD+ related issues than users from non-pilot CFUG. In response to questions related to basic concepts on climate change, carbon dynamics and why CF is important for adapting and mitigating climate change, survey participants from REDD+ pilot CFUGs have shown better understanding than the participants from the non-pilot CFUG. 55 percent of users in the pilot sites (n = 61) showed some understanding and ability to answer such questions, in comparison to 6 percent from the non-pilot CFUG (n=30). In addition, almost all interviewees in pilot sites acknowledged that REDD+ has enhanced users' awareness level on climate change, REDD+ and decentralized governance issues as a result of organizing different activities, workshops and trainings in particular.

Skills to generate income, considered by Agrawal (2001) as an important human asset for sustainable management of common resources, also appear better in pilot CFUGs than in non-pilot CFUGs. The pilot project has trained a number of Local Resource Persons (LRPs) from pilot CFUGs. Both Birenchok and Gangate Bahune CFUGs have provided training for LRPs to not only enhance the skills of general users for IGAs, but also to facilitate the more efficient use of resources, particularly reducing firewood use. However, there were different levels of skill and awareness in the two pilot CFUGs. Birenchok CFUG has trained LRPs in more diverse areas (e.g. Improved Cooking Stoves (ICS), carbon monitoring and fire management) than the Gangate Bahune CFUG, and has also generated local employment for them. One LRP for carbon monitoring from the Birenchok CFUG reported that she is engaged in carbon monitoring activities for at least a couple of weeks once each year, and that there are other LRPs working in the community. Two female LRPs trained in ICS technology are very busy, even able to sell their skills outside the CFUG. Confirming REDD+ efforts to enhance skills and increase income, she explained that

"... last year the committee organised two trainings, only for women. Trainings were about how women can support REDD+, while collecting forest products..." (PB3).

Gangate Bahune CFUG has not organised such skills (i.e. ICS & fire management) development trainings in the village, and thus has fewer LRPs than Birenchok CFUG. However, the Archale Pakha CFUG not only lacks training programs and LRPs but also has no plans to build such capacity in the future.

The pilot of REDD+ has also enhanced human capacity of CFUGs by developing stronger social networks in the pilot area. The Ludhikhola REDD+ network, for example, covers CFUGs within the project boundary offering opportunities not only to share ideas and experiences but also to safeguard users' customary rights including decentralised decision making. Because of the network, CFUGs in the pilot area have better access and interactions with external stakeholders such as local forest authority and the local CFUG network. However, the non-pilot CFUG has limited interaction and coordination with external stakeholders. An executive committee member from Archale Pakha reported that the CFUG had never submitted an annual report to the District Forest Office (DFO) and rarely communicated with local range post. However, committee members from Birenchok and Gangate Bahune CFUGs reported that since the REDD+ pilot started these CFUGs have regularly submitted annual reports, and received technical assistance from government agencies and NGOs. Interviewees from pilot CFUGs as well as from district and policy level also acknowledged that REDD+ has not only enhanced local capacity to understand problems (related to climate change, REDD+ and forestry dynamics in particular), but also has enhanced skills to tackle with those problems by developing LRPs and strong social networks.

Changes in forest management approach

Forest management activities through CFUGs in Nepal are governed by operational plans approved by the DFO. Key themes for CF management in the context of REDD+ identified in this research include forest protection, harvesting utilisation practices and forest development activities. The following findings reveal that the pilot of REDD+ has focused on forest protection but has largely overlooked the need of sustainable harvesting (i.e. yield regulation).

Forest protection: access, fire and grazing control

This research finds that the pilot of REDD+ has focused on forest protection by tightening users' access. Research participants including interviewees, focus groups and survey respondents from both pilot CFUGs acknowledged that strict rules have been imposed to regulate access to forests and forest resources since the pilot of REDD+ started. Given its emissions reduction objective, the pilot of REDD+ has adopted a strategic approach not only to minimize access and use of forest products but also to minimize risks of carbon displacement (leakage) by offering alternative arrangements (more detail in next section). The non-pilot CFUG follows a more traditional approach to forest protection offering regular access for individuals to access forest resources (firewood and fodder in particular).

REDD+ has also focused on fire control to enhance forest protection. Although fire incidence has reportedly decreased in both pilot and non pilot CFUGs in recent years, pilot CFUGs seem to be better prepared to avoid fire outbreak and also for fighting forest fire that might occur. Interviewed committee members from both pilot CFUGs including project staffs working in the Ludhikhola site reported that in each pilot CFUG, a fire alarm network has been developed and a small number of fire-fighters have been trained on behalf of the project as part of the REDD+ pilot. Archale Pakha CFUG lacks such fire precautionary approaches.

To enhance forest protection, the pilot of REDD+ has also regulated grazing in the forests. Although all CFUGs reported an increase in emigration of youth for study and employment resulting in reduced livestock numbers and forest grazing, the pilot of REDD+ has introduced a rotational or controlled grazing system. The farmers with goats, who rely heavily on forest grazing, appear to be the most heavily affected. One goat farmer from Birenchok CFUG reported that he is likely to stop goat farming because the forest near to his house was declared as a grazing control block in 2010. He has already reduced his herd by 50 percent (from 18 goats to 9) as a result. Similarly, traditional blacksmiths also appear to be affected as their access for charcoal burning is limited. One blacksmith from Gangate Bahune CFUG reported that he is about to give-up his traditional occupation because of lacking access to charcoal burning in nearby forests. Referring to recently imposed forest protection activities including grazing control, one elderly farmer from the Gangate Bahune CFUG commented that

".... we (farmers) have been deprived of our traditional use rights to forests; some blocks in the forest have been restricted for grazing and fodder collection...." (PG2)

This research finds no evidence for a difference between pilot and non-pilot CFUGs in terms of fire incidence or cases of illegal cutting and other violations of rules. However, REDD+ has increased forest protection in pilot CFUGs by driving improvements to fire precautionary measures and imposing restrictions on access to forests and forest resources. To reduce carbon leakage, some alternative arrangements such as ICS and biogas stoves have been supported by REDD+, though grazing restrictions have resulted in loss for some individuals as alternatives have not been provided.

Production: harvesting and utilizing

Access to forests and forest resources to meet daily requirements of users is a major objective of CF (Chhatre and Agrawal, 2009). However, the protection focused approach of REDD+ not only discourages individual access to forests, but also influences CFUG production systems, regardless of needs and interests of forest users.

Local livelihoods are often highly dependent on access to timber and firewood from the community forest. In response to questions on access to timber from CF, all participants in interviews and focus group discussions from both pilot CFUGs reported that committees have not only controlled timber harvesting but also reduced the amount available to harvest since the pilot of REDD+ started. Previously, committees used to issue harvesting permits, mark trees available for felling and monitor harvesting operations being conducted by permit-holding households. Now, no individual harvesting is allowed. The committee conducts all logging operations once a year, and distributes allocated timber to users. However, the committee controlled harvesting was not limited to the REDD+ piloting sites. Archale Pakha CFUG also adopted this system in 2010. According to the chair person from Archale Pakha, the committee controlled harvesting system was initiated by the REDD+ piloting CFUGs, but now almost all CFUGs in the district have adopted this system. He believed that committee controlled harvesting not only avoids over harvesting but also minimize damage to the forest arising from individual access. As he said: "monitoring each individual during harvesting time is almost impossible".

Access to firewood is another important resource issue for local people that has changed as a result of REDD+ pilot. The pilot CFUGs have adopted a 'once in a year' approach where access is granted to the forest for 'thinning, pruning and cleaning operations. While users are allowed regular access to the forest to collect fallen branches and twigs without the use of tools, household survey data for the pilot CFUGs indicates that 87 percent of users within these sites have experienced a reduction in supply of firewood from CF. In contrast, Archale Pakha allows more frequent and convenient access to the forest with a 'once in a month' system. One of the committee members from non-pilot CFUG (Archale Pakha) during interview reported that the "once in a month" system that allows users to collect firewood only from dead and fallen trees has been beneficial for poor and marginalised households because they lack alternative sources of firewood and need to access forest frequently.

To compensate for the reduced firewood supply, and reduce 'leakage' resulting from people accessing firewood from alternative sources, REDD+ has introduced alternative schemes such as promoting and supporting construction of Improved Cooking Stoves (ICS) and providing a biogas subsidy. While available to a limited number of households each year, these schemes are effective in reducing firewood consumption. According to a committee member from Birenchok CFUG, an ICS can reduce firewood consumption by 50 percent, while a biogas plant can provide up to 80 percent saving. At the time of field research (May 2012) 25 percent of households in Birenchok CFUG were using ICS, but the program was in the process of being established in Gangate Bahune. In addition to ICS, largely because of the reduced supply of firewood some households have started using husk/kerosene stoves in recent years, which may also reduce firewood demand. So, while the research finds that production and utilization systems have changed over time in all three study CFUGs, customary rights of access to forests to meet individual subsistence requirements have often been overlooked in REDD+ pilot CFUGs.

Forest based development

In addition to contributing to the sustainability of forests, CF in Nepal has also been widely acknowledged for its contribution to development in rural communities (Charnley and Poe 2007). Development efforts by CF in Nepal include scholarships for poor children, school buildings (Kanel 2004), establishment of small forest based enterprises (Subedi 2006), road construction, small hydro power, and drinking water supplies (Luintel et al. 2009). Contrary to these recognised contributions of CF, the REDD+ pilot CFUGs do not emphasise such development activities. Some infrastructure development activities, such as road construction, have been actively discouraged since the pilot of REDD+started. The project has not allowed CFUGs to spend REDD+ money, provided as seed grant, for development activities that may not necessarily contribute to emissions reduction, such as road construction. According to the projects fund regulating guidelines (i.e. FCTF), there are nine (4) recommended activities where REDD+ money can be spent, but development activities are not included in these activities (ICIMOD et al. 2011). REDD+ has also ignored forest development activities such as plantations on public lands and promoting agroforestry on private lands. Private forestry is overlooked, regardless of its considerable contribution to reducing demand-supply gaps from community forests. The CFUG operational plan (OP) in Birenchok reveals that 30 percent of timber demand, 40 percent of firewood demand and 65 percent of demand for leafy vegegtation are met from private tree resources. In Gangate Bahune CFUG, the contribution of private forestry for timber, firewood and leaves is 22, 47 and 75 percent respectively.

Overall, this research finds that the pilot of REDD+ seeks carbon enhancement in CF by influencing local approaches to CFUG management mainly through two thematic areas: group management (i.e. social aspects) and forest management (forest protection, utilization and development aspect). Despite an emphasis on inclusive decision making, the REDD+ pilot has had little success in bringing disadvantaged groups (i.e. poor, marginalized and women) into key decision making posts. However, REDD+ has applied positive discrimination in benefit sharing, and disadvantaged groups in pilot CFUGs have had greater access to CF benefits than in the non-pilot CFUGs. REDD+ has also enhanced local capacity to understand climate change and forestry related issues including additional skills to generate income. In regard to forest management, REDD+ has tightened access to forests and reduced resource supply overlooking local peoples' customary rights to meet their resource requirements. REDD+ has limited CF activities to those associated with related to protection and emissions reduction rather than supporting sustainable harvesting and other local development activities.


REDD+: an opportunity for strengthening CFUGs' governance

Findings discussed in the previous section suggest that REDD+ offers opportunities for strengthening group governance, institutional networks and human capacity of local approaches to community forestry.

Group governance in CF system has been characterised by accountability, devolution of power, equity and local collective action (Charnley and Poe 2007). By providing the right to make decisions to group leaders, they are accountable for the implications of those decisions for the needs and interests of their members. Increased frequency of meetings, general assemblies, workshops and training sessions, awareness and sensitizing campaigns indicate enhanced accountability of CFUGs arising from the REDD+ pilots. The devolution of power over rule making, decision making and implementation (Casse and Milh0j 2011) is also seen to have been enhanced through the expanded activities of executive committees following REDD+ intervention in CF. Enhanced activities also suggest that CFUG leaders are enthusiastic and committed to implement REDD+ pilot activities through existing CF mechanisms believing that REDD+ and the existing approaches of CF can go together.

The pilot of REDD+ has enhanced CFUG governance by applying equitable (i.e. positive discrimination) policy while delivering benefits to users. Peskett et al. (2011) argue that in order to ensure poor, women and marginalized groups are not affected more than others, equitable benefit sharing is essential. Poor focused activities such as the distribution of IGA seed grants to poorer households, subsidies for ICS, and subsidised timber prices for poorer households in pilot CFUGs suggest that CFUGs under REDD+ are applying the 'equitable' approach of benefit distribution. In addition to poor, findings of this research also reveal preference to women and marginalized users while delivering benefits. While participants in pilot CFUGs described the equity provisions as a result of REDD+ intervention, the role of REDD+ is confirmed by the lack of any such provisions in the non-pilot CFUG. Some previous studies such as Peskett (2011), Paudel et al. (2013) and Khatri et al. (2012) have also claimed that REDD+ has encouraged CFUGs to be more focused on poor, women, and marginalized users. In addition to benefit sharing, equitable access of different social groups to the decision making process has implications for CFUG governance. Nepali society is characterised by a hierarchical structure based on economic status, gender, caste and ethnicity. While women carry out most forest protection and management activities, they are usually excluded from decision making (Khadka 2010). Upper-caste men from wealthier families dominate the institutions and influence decisions resulting in unfair benefits flowing to few families. Consequently, there are persistent problems of elite capture in decision making and benefit-sharing even in community forestry (Thoms 2008). Although this research supports the findings of Khadka (2010) and Thoms (2008) in general, concerns of exclusion and inequity to women and Dalit are being addressed in the REDD+ piloting CFUGs. Despite lacking key decision making positions (i.e. chair and secretary) in committees, women were becoming increasingly involved in CFUG activities including IGAs. A majority of LRPs (across both Birenchok and Gangate Bahune CFUGs) trained under the pilot of REDD+ were women. The comparative enhancement of women's engagement, awareness and confidence in pilot CFUGs compared to the non-pilot CFUG also supports the argument that REDD+ is likely to enhance equitable participation of disadvantaged groups. However, not all pilot CFUGs have applied equitable and fair governance equally, suggesting that context specific power dynamics and attitudes of leadership also play an important role in determining governance. For example, women and Dalit users in the Birenchok CFUG were more aware, and enjoyed greater participation in decision making compared to those in Gangate Bahune CFUG. Dalit women in the Gangate Bahune CFUG lacked basic information on piloting activities, their rights, and ways to access benefits such as IGA seed grants. So, policy and provisions for delivering good governance as in the pilot of REDD+ may not necessarily ensure good governance. Local contexts such as elite domination and socio economic marginalization, may determine internal governance of CFUGs.

Further, in addition to trained LRPs and more aware users, the existence of a strong CFUG network (i.e. REDD+ network) within the project boundary also suggests that REDD+ has enhanced institutional networks that ultimately empower CFUGs not only to safeguard their rights but also to minimise carbon displacement and ensure additionality in the long run. For example, the rapid fire fighting team in each CFUG and their communicating mechanism with each other was acknowledged as a very effective approach for avoiding forest fire. This research supports the finding of Khatri et al. (2012) that establishment of a REDD network under the REDD+ pilot in Nepal is an innovative outcome that strengthens cooperation among CFUGs and empowers human capacity by organizing different capacity building activities including idea sharing workshops, trainings and exposure visits.

REDD+: generates hopes for enhanced livelihoods but fails to compensate adequately

This research supports the view of Phelps et al. (2012) that protection can be complementary to emissions reduction functions of CFUGs, and the results of other research (Corbera et al. 2011, Skutsch et al. 2011) that REDD+ has added an additional value (i.e. carbon) to livelihoods and environmental services values arising from CF. The seed grant delivered to each CFUGs has been considered as an additional value to locally managed forests. Despite a low awareness of potential trade-offs between REDD+ and local livelihood outcomes, local communities display a strong desire for financial reward for their long term forest management efforts. CFUGs' active involvement in piloting activities, as this research shows, is mainly because of their hope to get additional financial benefits in the long run.

To achieve an increase in forest carbon, REDD+ has focused on protecting forests. However, better protection may have implications for forest dependent communities, such as losing customary rights to access and use forest products. To avoid such trade-offs, the pilot of REDD+ has emphasized alternative sources of energy including use of firewood efficient stoves. This is consistent with Corbera and Schroeder (2011) and Rana et al. (2012) who have argued that prevailing traditional resource consumption practices in most rural areas are inefficient, and suggested that REDD+ should replace such inefficient practices in order to reduce resource demand.

This research argues that through the subsidisation of ICS and biogas, the pilot of REDD+ has attempted to change the traditional approach of firewood burning in rural households, hence is likely to reduce firewood demand. While the estimate offered by local users that the use of ICS may reduce firewood consumption by 50 percent may require verification, it reveals that local people, who have changed their traditional open stoves to ICS, have experienced a dramatic reduction in firewood consumption. However, extensive adoption of ICS may depend on size of cooking vessels. Khatri et al. (2012) have argued that ICS is most efficient for smaller cooking vessels, and thus may not be preferred in households with a bigger family where food is cooked in larger vessels. This research also finds that open fire stoves may not be completely replaced by ICS in households where cattle feed is regularly cooked (i.e. warmed) which also requires a larger vessel.

Nepal et al. (2010) found that ICS may not reduce firewood consumption, arguing that due to improved design and smoke free cooking, household members may feel better in terms of health benefits and comfort, thus keeping the stove burning for longer hours and as a consequence consume more firewood. This argument assumes an unlimited supply of firewood. In the context of a reduced supply of firewood, this research finds that ICS is very popular, particularly among poor and marginalised households, because it is cheap, uses limited local resources efficiently and local resource persons to construct and maintain it. Biogas stoves, which are more expensive and receive negligible subsidy (< 4% of total cost), are found to be popular among well-off and medium wellbeing ranked households, as they reduce reliance on firewood.

However, REDD+ has not changed the traditional approach to consumption of fodder, recognised by Thoms (2008) as an important resource generated by CF in Nepal. While access to forest for grazing and cutting fodder has been restricted, alternative arrangements such as stall feeding have not been supported or promoted, with greatest impact for the poor and marginalised forest users who are most reliant on community forests to meet their needs for livestock feeding. Grazing regulation has forced goat farmers to reduce the size of their herds with no offer of compensation or alternative arrangements. A focus on poverty, caste or gender in benefit distribution may not necessarily cover concerns of other users like livestock herders. Goat farmers, who have been forced to reduce number of goats, for example, may not be adequately compensated unless they are trained for stall rearing of goats along with alternative arrangement of feeds. The essence of compensation is that affected households are addressed adequately and equitably. Consistently with some authors (AIPP and IWGIA 2012, Naughton-Traves and Day 2012, Paudel et al. 2013, Robinson et al. 2013) this research argues that compensation and or incentives if not provided adequately and equitably, risk of REDD+ failure will continue to exist including community forestry. Despite being deprived of equitable access to benefits, the Dalit focus group's support for REDD+ in the Gangate Bahune CFUG suggest that REDD+ could be successfully implemented through local CF if forests-livelihoods dynamics are adequately addressed and social justice maintained as argued by different scholars including Angelsen et al. (2012), Bluffstone and Robinson (2012), and Phelps et al. (2012).

REDD+: a risk for decentralized governance and customary rights

Despite hopes that CF can be instrumental in the implementation of REDD+, particularly in forests with a relatively low timber resource value (Skutsch and McCall 2010), this research reveals that REDD+ may threaten decentralized forest governance by bundling CFUGs under a national or sub-national level network and imposing network-wide rules on all CFUGs. A number of authors (e.g. Phelps et al. 2010, Sikor et al. 2010) have speculated that REDD+ could pose a threat to decentralized forest governance, diminishing CF's contribution to local autonomy and community development. The fund mobilizing guideline (FCTF) (ICIMOD et al. 2011) imposed by the REDD+ pilot project in Nepal is an example of how decentralized governance of CF is likely to be neglected. The previously described restriction that FCTF places, such as on CFUG investment activities, jeopardises the autonomous rights of individual CFUGs to make independent decisions based on contextual needs and interests. The bundling of CFUGs from different contexts and with different capacities into a REDD+ network may also result in marginalisation of some CFUGs as more powerful (socially, politically, economically) CFUGs influence the common decisions of the network.

In addition to the bundling effects at community level, customary rights to access and utilize forest resources by households have also been shifted towards a centralized system. Committee controlled harvesting, for example, has limited individual household rights to access resources whenever they need. In the traditional approach, community managed forest is considered like a common store where each member household can access and meet their requirements under some traditional and self guided norms. The committee controlled harvesting system is likely to detach households from forests and the forest is likely to be seen as the committee's forest rather than the users'.

Despite the potential to address traditionally existing social marginalization, the fund distribution criteria applied by the project could potentially hamper social harmony. The issue raised by a non-indigenous, non-Dalit very poor from Gangate Bahune, regarding his rights to access REDD+ benefits compared to his Magar neighbour, was recognised by other participants and could turn into a wider political dispute if a reasonable solution is not provided. Bushley (2010) and ICIMOD (2012) similarly reported that while users have a high expectation of financial benefit from REDD+, there is uncertainty emerging across Nepal around the actual implementation mechanisms including potential financial benefits and distribution mechanism. ICIMOD (2012) further argues that frustration among forest users is likely if their expectations are not met. The research also reveals the potential for internal conflict within CFUGs resulting from funding allocations. The preferential allocation of seed grants based on ethnicity identified in one case study site has been criticised by Khatri et al. (2012) for being a politically influenced agenda. This research suggests that internal conflict is possible if such discrimination is not reconsidered and new social criteria are developed that incorporate all poor and marginalised users. Further, addressing social inequity based on ethnicity may divert REDD+ away from its fundamental objective of addressing drivers of deforestation and forest degradation. It may even be counter productive in contexts where forest dependency is not entirely correlated with ethnicity and caste.


This paper has analysed how the REDD+ pilot in Nepal has influenced the local approach to community forestry, and has synthesized potential policy implications based on evidence from the case study sites. Although, a robust policy, effective legal and institutional foundation and well-functioning institutions (i.e. CFUGs) provide ground for optimism that community forestry in Nepal can provide an effective policy environment for the implementation of REDD+, this research shows both positive as well as negative influences of REDD+ on the established identity (i.e. managed by local people to meet their needs), and governance pattern (i.e. participatory and decentralized) of community forestry in Nepal.

On the positive side, REDD+ has enhanced forest protection by not only tightening access, but also by regulating grazing and harvesting operations in community forests. Forest protection has also been promoted through distribution of subsidised ICS and biogas. Practices of regular meetings, transparent record keeping, auditing, and reporting system observed in REDD+ pilot CFUGs suggest that REDD+ has strengthened institutional capacity of CFUGs. REDD+ has changed traditionally practiced "equal for all" approach of benefit sharing. Priority to poorer, women and marginalized households for different opportunities, such as IGAs, skills development trainings (i.e. LRPs), and subsidised ICS distribution, can be considered as equitable governance that REDD+ has brought in local approaches to community forestry. Synthesising these findings, in the light of the literature, this paper concludes that REDD+ has the potential to strengthen local approaches to community forestry by improving internal governance of CFUGs, and by adding financial value (carbon money) to locally managed forests.

On the other hand, REDD+ has threatened the decentralized power of decision making at community level by imposing externally developed terms and conditions. For example, CFUGs are not allowed to spend received seed grant beyond those activities framed by the project's fund regulating guideline (i.e. FCTF). Despite highlighting free, prior and informed consent, REDD+ may overlook users' rights to access information. For example, Dalit women in the Gangate Bahune CFUG lack basic information about the project and the benefits it has offered. While application of customary rules has always been an important characteristic of community forestry in Nepal, REDD+ has put local approaches to community forestry at risk by overlooking customary rights to access and use forest resources. Considering the introduction of controlled grazing, controlled and customized harvesting, as well as limited access to charcoal burning reported from REDD+ pilot CFUGs but not from the non-pilot CFUG, this research concludes that REDD+ is likely to change customarily managed community forestry approaches into carbon focus community protection forest, suggesting the risk that existing well functioning livelihood supporting community forestry approaches will be destabilised.

In the face of these potential positive as well as negative outcomes, stakeholder participants in this research, including CFUGs, service providers and policy developers seem not only optimistic that positive outcomes can be enhanced but also determined to intensify efforts through financial, technical and governance means to minimise the negative outcomes In order to minimise potential risks to locally established community forestry approaches and also to optimise positive outcomes, this research suggests that REDD+ should (i) ensure that CFUGs' rights to make autonomous decisions are not overlooked; (ii) ensure customary rights to access and use forests and forest resources to meet subsistence needs of forest dependent people are continued; (iii) ensure that adequate compensation is provided to those who have lost their traditional occupations due to implementation of REDD+; (iv) provide alternative options when resource access and supply is reduced; (v) ensure women, Dalit and disadvantaged groups have equitable access to decision making while removing preferential access based on ethnicity that takes no regard of level of disadvantage; and (vi) build leadership capacity to deliver efficient services and establish good governance including equity and fairness in every step of REDD+ process from planning to benefit sharing.


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(1) Ludhikhola, Kayarkhola and Charnwati are three watersheds undertaking REDD+ pilots in Nepal. Ludhikhola was selected for this research as it is the only one of these three to have never been the recipient of other forestry projects likely to influence CFUG governance.

(2) Policy level stakeholders included senior forestry officials involving REDD+ policy development, members of REDD+ multi-stakeholder policy forum, related senior staffs from project's partner agencies, researchers, and leaders from Federation of Community Forests Users, Nepal (FECOFUN).

(3) In relation to this research, equity is understood as a concern for the welfare of those in the community, who are the least advantaged by, and the most vulnerable to, the changes that REDD+ seeks through local approaches to community forestry; as described by Strassburg (2012).

(4) The nine activities include: reducing forest degradation and deforestation; conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks and biodiversity; livelihood improvement; Monitoring, Reporting and verification (MRV); capacity building; and alternative energy promotion.

M. POUDEL [1], R. THWAITES [1], D. RACE [2] and G. RAM DAHAL [3]

[1] School of Environmental sciences, Charles Sturt University, Australia

[2] The Fenner School, Australian National University, Australia

[3] Rights and Resources Initiatives (RRI)


TABLE 1 Features of CF policy securing users' rights in Nepal

--Communities have rights to form a Community Forest User Group
(CFUG) as per their willingness, capacity, and customary rights.

--CFUGs can elect, select or change executive committee anytime.

--CFUGs can punish members who break their rules.

--CFUGs can amend or revise their constitution & operational plan
any time.

--CFUGs can make optimal use of their forests by growing cash
crops together with forest crops.

--CFUGs can mortgage their standing forest products with financial
institutions to obtain loans.

--CFUGs can utilize their funds for any purpose (but 25% of income
from forest must be spent for forest development)

--CFUGs can freely fix prices and market their forest produce.

--CFUGs can establish enterprises and make profits.

--CFUGs can seek support from any organization.

--CFUGs can raise funds by various forestry and non-forestry means
with all income going to group funds with no requirement for
sharing financial revenues with government.

--CFUGs can invest in any areas, persons or development activities
according to the decision of CFUG assembly.

--Community forest boundaries will not be restricted to existing
political boundaries.

--Government can dismantle the CFUG if the latter is found to
engage in large scale deforestation.

Sources: Nepal Forest Act 1993, Nepal Forest Regulation 1995, Ojha
et al. 2009.

TABLE 2 Research participants involved in different data
collection techniques

Participants                  Interviews
                 Users (f/m) *   Committee members

Birenchok           8 (4/4)           4 (2/2)
Gangate Bahune      5 (2/3)           3 (1/2)
Archale Pakha          0              2 (0/2)
District level      7 (0/7)
Policy level        9 (0/9)
Total              38 (9/29)

Participants             Focus groups   Survey
from                                                Total
                 Women   Poor   Dalit   Household

Birenchok           7     10       6          31      66
Gangate Bahune      7      7      11          30      63
Archale Pakha      **     **      **          30      32
District level     **     **      **          **       7
Policy level       **     **      **          **       9
Total              14     17      17          91     177

* f/m: female/male; **: not conducted.

TABLE 3 Composition of executive committees in study CFUGs

                              Committee members

CFUGs                      Female               Male
                 Key * post   Other   Key posts    Other

Birenchok            0          5         2          8      15
Gangate Bahune       0          2         2          5       9
Archale Pakha        0          4         2          7      13

                              Committee members

CFUGs                      Dalit                Poor

                 Key posts    Other   Key posts    Other

Birenchok            0          4         0          5
Gangate Bahune       0          1         0          3
Archale Pakha        0          0         0          4

* Key post refers to chair person and secretary.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation
Author:Poudel, M.; Thwaites, R.; Race, D.; Dahal, G. Ram
Publication:International Forestry Review
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9NEPA
Date:Mar 1, 2014
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