, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 97-113
Date: 21 Sep 2010

Social Heterogeneity and Community Forestry Processes: Reflections from Forest Users of Dhading District, Nepal

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Abstract

Community forestry has been characterized as a successful model of community-based forest governance in Nepal that shifts forest management and use rights to local users, often socially heterogeneous in caste, gender and wealth status. This heterogeneity forms the basis of social groups, which differ in their needs, priorities and perceptions regarding community forestry implementation processes. This paper explores the dynamics of three community forestry processes—users’ participation, institutional development, and decision-making and benefit-sharing—among forest user groups as perceived by three social groups of forest users—elite, women and disadvantaged—from eight community forests of Dhading district, Nepal, using qualitative and quantitative techniques. It is found that social groups have differing levels of perception about community forestry processes occurring in their user groups. In particular, social elites differ from women and disadvantaged members of the group in users’ participation in community forestry activities and institutional development of forest user groups. An important policy implication of the findings is that social inclusiveness is central to the effective implementation of community forestry processes, not only to safeguard its past successes but also to internalize the economic opportunities it poses through reducing deforestation and forest degradation in the future.