Community forestry is associated with the successful approach of the local people in managing and conserving the forest, thereby making decisions on the land use by themselves. 

Community forestry is very successful in nature conservation throughout the world, basically in the countries such as Nepal, India, North America, Columbia, Brazil, Indonesia, and many more.

The marginalized, indigenous, and privileged communities do have a significant contribution to forest management and protection sustainably.

Through the local people’s participatory approach, the forest is managed so that the forest resources benefit the people, continuing and protecting the indigenous culture and traditions besides ensuring the long-term health of the forest.

For the successful implementation of community forestry, numerous aspects have been identified so far, which entails community empowerment, equitable sharing of the benefits, enhancing the technical capacities, and promotion of the nationally set finance programs regarding forest management.

Scenario of the community forestry

It has been estimated that approximately 450 million local people in the Asia-Pacific region rely on the forest to sustain their daily livelihood. 

The Food and Agricultural Organisation depicted that some form of community management covers approximately one-third of the world’s forest.

It is a clear indication of the flourishing community forestry management in conserving natural resources and nature. 

Stakeholders’ role is crucial to implement the community forestry approach successfully. 

The stakeholder’s involvement may vary following the community forestry projects being launched throughout the globe.

The fundamental stakeholders involved in succeeding the community forestry programs entail local communities such as community forest user groups, community representatives, forest department, agriculture, environment, several NGOs and INGOs, and commercial forestry industries. 

It also involves numerous groups targeting environment conservation, the tourism industry, flora and fauna conservation groups, and many more.

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable development held in Rio De Janeiro (Rio 20+) in 2012 recognized Nepal as one of the best countries to implement the community forestry goals.

Several Community Forest User Groups (CFUGs) have been formed so far, aiming to protect natural resources. 

The implementation of community forestry has possessed successful stories in several countries across the globe.

Successful stories

Most of the crucial natural resources belong to the rural parts of the country, where the communities struggle with food insecurity, unequal access to discrimination, poverty, and unemployment. 

Without the local people participating in decision-making and implementing it in reality, it’s sure that the natural resources won’t get preserved.

Below are some countries which have rapidly succeeded in the implementation of community forestry programs for nature conservation as mentioned below:

1. Namuna buffer zone community forest, Nepal

Due to the threats imposed by forest encroachment, overgrazing, resource exploitation, plant species invasion, and pollution, our forest land, and water resources are degrading daily. 

Considering the dire situation, establishing the Namuna buffer zone community forest in Amaltari, Nawalparasi, Nepal, led to the new era of forest and land conservation.

This community forest critically targeted their activities in the alluvial tall flooded riverine grassland management and the wetland conservation since they are vital for the humans, hog deer, and rhinos. 

Namuna buffer zone community forest reflected the best community forest through several targeted activities that entail clearing the water hyacinth and the water cabbage growth and balancing the ecological harmony for the long term. 

The indigenous and excluded Mushahar caste resides in the buffer zone. It assures the excellent implementation of the biodiversity conservation principles. 

Since this community forest harbors Bengal Florican, the world’s rare bird species, it targets to conserve the swampy area and the pastures.

Besides this, the community forestry programs involved saving the spotted deer rhinos, barking deer, and peacocks. From the touristic point of view too it seems vital in conservation.

The grassland in this community forest sequesters the carbon and assists in the reduction of the greenhouse gases that are emitted into the atmosphere. 

Hence, it looks pretty fruitful in conserving the native plant species, wildlife, grasslands, wetlands, and the overall landscape at a glance.

2. Mcintosh SEEDS community forest, Georgia

The working forest fund, land conservations loan programs, and the creative community’s programs in the coastal Flatwoods of Georgia, in coordination with the Mcintosh SEEDS and the community members, have assisted hugely in implementing the community forestry programs. 

Upon purchasing the land by the working forest fund, it protected 1149 acres of the land. The land conservation loan programs provided Mcintosh SEEDS community forest capital for buying the land.

Once there was coordination between all these, the community forest, later on, managed the forest sustainably with making progress in the economic benefits.

It benefited the local people since they got wise access to the natural forest resources equally and participation in decision-making. The forest resources were well preserved.

This community forest conveyed a massive message to the globe that upon the effective coordination between the numerous organizations, one could undoubtedly lead success in conserving nature through effective community forestry programs.

3. Hoke community forest, United States

Hoke community forest in the United States is inferred as the first community-owned management forest in North Carolina. 

The conservation fund has highly supported the county to purchase the property of 532-acre of forest land. 

This community was set as an example since there is the designation of the sustainable forest management plan by several forestry experts, thereby protecting the significant habitat of the wildlife and the water resources. 

It succeeded in educating the community about the importance of community forestry in nature conservation.

It might be surprising that the first public horseback riding trails have been established so far from the logging roads. 

Thus, it promotes the tourism industry and highly contributes to the increment of revenue of the country.

Upon implementing community forestry plans and objectives, this community forest successfully conserved the forest products and addressed local issues in gaining benefits from the forest resources.

Role of community forestry

Sustainable Community forestry roles | Infographics Credit: International Tree Foundation
  • Local people greatly benefit from implementing the community forestry projects because it does conserve and protect natural resources, including land, water, forest products, flora, fauna, and many more. 
  • It secures the long-term rights of the marginalised and the indigenous community and maximises local livelihoods sustainably.
  • The implementation of the management of community forestry has not only conserved the single forest ecosystems. Instead, it does preserve the aquatic and grassland ecosystems as well. 
  • The establishment of community forestry mechanisms in most countries across the globe has undoubtedly increased the forest cover, thereby boosting the forest resources.
  • The community forest approach throughout the globe has re-established the habitat of flora and fauna. 
  • They revive the wildlife and the native plant species with protection of its habitat in a sustainable way. Thus, it balances the ecosystem and the Biogeochemical Cycle (BGCC). Additionally, once the flora and fauna get revived back in their natural habitat, of course, it leads to overall biodiversity conservation.
  • The community forest has been proving a successful model in most countries in addressing the issues regarding forest degradation.
  • It also plays a significant contribution in the reduction of poverty issues and addressing social exclusion. 
  • It promotes rural tourism that increases the revenue within the country. The increase in wildlife species and flora undoubtedly contributes to the food chain and food web
  • Community forest covers not only the forest resources such as Non-timber forest products (NTFPs), agroforestry, and recreation; instead, it does contribute to the Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) as well.

It should be bear in mind that once the forest resources are managed sustainably, it operates the forest, grassland, and aquatic ecosystem. 

Overall, the implementation of the community forestry programs entails several pros, including water resource management, Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES), sustainable harvesting of the Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs), aromatic and medicinal plants, and the timber, carbon sequestration in large amounts, air quality management, greenery enhancement and many more.

Challenges of the community forestry

Despite successful stories of the implementation of community forestry in nature conservation, numerous challenges do limit the conservation activities at the local level. 

It entails gender inequality, political instability, lack of technical and administrative capacity, insecure land tenure, etc.

Moreover, the legal management issues, capital, and the devoid of market access can create a severe challenge in implementing the target of community forestry in saving and protecting nature.

Conclusion

Like protected areas, community forestry looks pretty crucial for nature conservation. 

Through the community forest approach in the present context, several countries have succeeded so far in restoring the original degraded forest lands by the activities of local participation. 

The threats in the forest ecosystem have been minimized, and the habitats of the floral-faunal diversity have been ensured.

Therefore, community forest programs should be extended widely across the globe to conserve our forests and natural resources.

Kalpana Ghimire holds a post-graduate degree in Environmental Science from Nepal. She possesses numerous research experiences working in water pollution, community forestry, environment conservation status, and wildlife ecology. She was an internee in the Department of Environment (EIA monitoring and auditing section) under the Government of Nepal. Kalpana Ghimire is an avid traveler, an enthusiastic wildlife researcher, and has a huge passion for working in the environment sector. She loves far traveling to the natural areas, conducting field wildlife research and reading the novels.