Tsirang hails first as independent CF manager
In sync with the government’s vision to have Community Forests managed independently in all aspects by members without government support, three Community Forests (CF) in Tsirang recently made the successful transition to manage and plan all on their own with minimal government support.
Community Forests Management group members of Dangraybu CF under Doonglagang Gewog, Chirphen CF under Mendrelgang gewog, Darjeling CF under Rangthangling gewog in Tsirang Dzongkhag not only personally contributed money for the CF activities but also took the lead to execute the activities.
The members contributed certain amounts to meet the expenditures incurred in management planning and ownership certificate handing-over which conventionally is sponsored by the government.
The section head of Social Forestry and Extension Division (SFED), KJ Temphel said this is the vision of the government in the long run.
“This is the ultimate way forward for CF programs in the Country,” he said. “Through enabling plans and policies, the government is trying to encourage such model of CF management in the country.”
An official of the SFED said a time will come when the CF members have to pay the foresters for provision of technical backstopping and other services related to CF. This means that the CF programs in the country should slowly mature and function independently. The government currently provides most of the supports since the program is in its infant stage.
Tsirang Dzongkhag Forest Officer, Pema Tshewang said he was overwhelmed and encouraged when the CF members came forward with such the proposal. “We know this has to happen one day and someone should initiate and take the step forward,” he said.
On the flipside many CF Management groups in the country are still largely dependent on government support.
Community Forestry Programs in Bhutan is about handing over a chunk of Government Reserved Forests with sustainable management, utilization and ownership rights to a group of communities. The program aims to enable these beneficiaries to generate income through sale of excess timbers and other income sources and help reduce poverty which predominantly is a rural phenomenon.
The program is incepted with the belief that the forests and natural resources within the proximity of the community are best managed by themselves and benefits should also flow to the communities themselves. “When the communities are entrusted with the responsibilities and the power to protect, utilize and manage certain portion of forests, the overall health of the forests improves,” said an SFED official.
SFED is putting up concerted efforts toward creation of enabling environments for CF establishment. They have developed a CF strategy in Bhutan which is being implemented, while the CF Action Plan is under finalization. The training of 45 foresters on CF management planning, sponsoring of study tour to 22 CFMG members to Nepal, provision of training package on record and book keeping, seminar on CF for poverty reduction, economic analysis and market chain of timber products within CFs have been carried out.
Already major positive impacts have been witnessed since the program started. For instance, there has been drastic reduction of illegal activities while the number of forest fire incidences has also dwindled significantly. Officials claim that such programs have also helped bring degraded land under plantation.
Tsirang Dzongkhag currently has 24 approved CFs with 10 more in the offing. While at the national level, at the end of March this year, there are 382 numbers of CFs which comprise 17,000 households (CFMG members) which is almost 34 percent of rural households. These totals to one-sixth of all rural households while 43,000 hectares or 1.5%of the overall forests areas in Bhutan have been handed over as CF.
Government targets to establish minimum of 400 CFs and hand-over at least 4% of government reserved forest land as CFs by the end of 10th five year plan.