Advances in participatory forest management in South Asia: learning from field experience in Bhutan, India and Nepal
Community participation in natural resource management and ecosystem conservation has been widely practised during the last two decades in countries of the Himalayan region, particularly in Nepal, India, and Bhutan. However, success and growth has brought with it new issues of governance, forest management, marketing, and equity. This publication presents lessons learned from a study of participatory natural resources management projects completed by the German Institute for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) in collaboration with local partners in Bhutan, India, and Nepal.
The case studies represent three different methodologies being used for community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) and test varied institutional arrangements. They affirm the capacity of CBNRM to succeed in a variety of circumstances and highlight a number of factors that have led to successful innovations. These include:
- an effective institutional framework developed to embrace a multi-sectoral approach to decisionmaking
- enabling policies, legislation, and implementation arrangements at both national and local levels
- a high degree of awareness among the people and communities involved
- provision of economic and institutional incentives for meaningful people’s participation.
However, the studies also identify several factors that have slowed progress, including:
- the existence of vested interests
- lack of facilitating and enabling institutional mechanisms
- lack of a regular policy review and reform mechanisms to address emerging issues like marketing and enterprise development
- neglect of issues related to gender and social equity in planning and implementation.
The paper concludes with a number of policy recommendations that may help in designing future programmes and projects for promoting participatory forest management in the Himalayan region. These include:
- devolve power to local communities
- develop and strengthen effective community-based institutions
- take positive action for disadvantaged groups
- promote a move from protection to active management, and subsistence to