For around 40 years international aid organisations have promoted community forest management as a way of reversing forest loss and decreasing poverty. Yet, the assumption driving such works remains unproven, as most investigations have relied on case studies and qualitative poverty assessments that are difficult to compare. The EU-funded FORCONEPAL (Forest resource conservation in Nepal) project developed a new approach for assessing community forest management outcomes in Nepal. The team compiled and analysed a sizeable national-level data set. The data combined census-derived poverty estimates, high-resolution forest cover change data and information on Nepal’s community forests, plus socioeconomic and biophysical data sets. Using the data resource, researchers developed a set of new analytical techniques. The team also created a large international network of collaborators. The study revealed drivers of changes to forest cover and rural livelihoods. The new information holds important implications for local stakeholders, national governments and international organisations. Researchers further discovered that benefit is directly proportional to the area and duration of community forest management. Analyses indicated that Nepalese community forest management has reduced both deforestation and poverty. In addition, FORCONEPAL showed that the two outcomes are synergistic. The finding confirms four decades of anecdotal observations and assumptions. Baseline levels of poverty moderate the lower impacts of deforestation that community forest management brings. The finding means that community forests established in poor areas require additional support to reduce socioeconomic trade-offs. In addition, the team discovered that size of community forests and the longevity of community forest management arrangements contribute to the effectiveness of community forests. Modern international migration, which is the largest-ever demographic factor in Nepalese history, is mediated by changes in population density and lower levels of household agriculture. Hence, actions to reach targets for sustainability, biodiversity preservation and emissions reduction can be better designed by taking into account the effects of migration on natural resources and ecosystems. FORCONEPAL work confirmed the value of community forest management in Nepal. This will help reduce poverty and forest loss in similar regions worldwide.
Community forest management, Nepal, poverty, FORCONEPAL, resource conservation