Can community forestry contribute to climate change mitigation? Examples from Nepal, Cameroon and Bolivia.

By Olivia Tullett

Deforestation and degradation result in around 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Community-based management is considered one of the most successful approaches in climate change mitigation and adaptation.

What is community forestry?

Community forestry (CF) is “any situation which intimately involves local people in a forestry activity” according to the FAO. Generally, the local community will have significant input in the management and decision-making of the forest.

How does CF contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation?

Community forests can store (sequester) large amounts of carbon depending on the type of plant species present. They also help regulate weather patterns such as temperature and rainfall at local levels. This in turn reduces flash floods, landslides, drought, and forest fires because of reduced soil erosion and therefore being able to retain more water. The community feeling of responsibility and ownership over managing the forest results in reduced degradation and more willingness to protect the forest.

Nepal – Success story

The Community Forestry Program in Nepal is seen as a successful model in climate change adaptation. CFs gained popularity in the 1970s and today there are almost 18,000 community forest user groups that manage 1.66 million ha of forest which is almost 9% of the total area of Nepal.

Organisations like CIPRED (Centre for Indigenous Peoples Research and Development) have been working with the Dura and other indigenous communities in Nepal to protect and promote traditional customary practices including sustainable forest management.

The forest areas in Bhimeshwor and Singati have shown to convert thin forest into dense forest by up to ~3.5% per year as well as non-forest area into forest by up to ~2% per year. This data was collected over 20 years of satellite and photographic images. These community forests have resulted in more efficient use of resources, reduced slash-and-burn agriculture and extreme weather events.

Cameroon – Challenges to overcome

In Cameroon, community forestry began in 1992 alongside the new forest policy. In 2016 there were 182 CFs that covered 28,000 ha of forest. Unfortunately, Cameroon faced many challenges including conflict within CF members, marginalisation of local and indigenous communities, and illegal logging resulting in corruption.

Main challenges:No control for local and indigenous communitiesCommunities rarely initiated the processProcess is long, complex, and expensiveDifficulty with governance and revenue management
 Suggested Improvements:More support from NGOs, administration, and private sectorFor collaborators not to act in communities place but allow them to work at their own pace  Increased capacity building and technical support e.g. facilities and equipmentState should reduce procedural delays and have community-appropriate funding schemes

Bolivia – Moving from state to local and indigenous communities

Over half of Bolivia is forested and until the 1990s the state had ownership over all the forest land. Valuable forest products such as mahogany, Brazil nuts and rubber were commercially harvested by private elites. Concerns arose over the sustainability of this forest use and the call from local and indigenous groups to decentralize forest management led to major changes in Bolivia’s land and forest tenure systems. This included handing over forest management to municipal governments where local residents can be elected as well as giving indigenous peoples exclusive access to forest resources within their territories.

80% of forests remain under central government control and they continue to have the power to approve forest management plans for extractive use, although non-commercial use is not required. In 2002, 1 million ha of forest was approved for community forest management by indigenous communities, small logging firms and other local forest users.