Cross-Country Learning: Myanmar Delegates Visit Sustainably and Scientifically Managed Forests in Nepal

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For over six years, scientific approaches have guided sustainable forest management in Nepal. Kapilvastu and Nawalparasi are two of 40 districts in Nepal where sustainable forest management is currently practised. This system includes the application of silviculture systems and the principles of forestry science, measurement-based decisions, analysis of financial and economic efficiency, and the promotion of good governance. 

The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (UN-FAO) defines sustainable forest management as the sustainable use and conservation of forest with the aim of maintaining and enhancing multiple forest values through human interventions. The Community Forest Development Guidelines and the Sustainable Forestry Management Guidelines are the two major policy documents that constitute the key resources for those involved in the preparation of the Sustainable Forestry Management Operation Plans for local forest groups in Nepal.

This natural teak forest (Tectona grandis) in Tikaurakot Collaborative Forest, Kapilvastu, is sustainably and scientifically managed
Photo: Jitendra Bajracharya/ICIMOD

In September 2017, the regional REDD+ Initiative at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) organized an exposure visit for delegates from the Forest Research Institute, Myanmar to Nepal to facilitate the sharing of knowledge regarding scientific approaches to sustainable forest management practices. The REDD+ Initiative represents countries’ efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and foster the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries. During their visit in September, the Myanmar delegates and the ICIMOD team visited Tilaurkakot Collaborative Forest and Shree Hariyali Community Forest.

Vijay Raj Subedi, District Forest Officer, Nawalparasi District, talks about sustainable forest management in Nepal
Photo: Jitendra Bajracharya/ICIMOD

Vijaya Raj Subedi, District Forest Officer, Nawalparasi, gave the visitors a comprehensive account of the emergence of sustainable forest management in Nepal. Subedi, who is among a pioneering group of foresters who introduced sustainable forest management in the country, said that for several years, poor growth and regeneration led to low timber production in Nepal. This was despite the fact that forests in Nepal have the potential to produce 60–90 million cubic feet of timber every year. Sustainable forest management was introduced in the forest management system of Nepal to ensure proper management and use of forests. He said, “For sustainable management of forests, three components need to be in balance: old trees are to be cut, young trees are to be allowed to grow, and village user groups are to be convinced that doing so is ultimately beneficial to them.”  The scientific management of forest ensures all three components. Subedi added, “In order to achieve sustainable management of forests, science should be applied to the management system itself.”

Bhimsen Rayamajhi, Chairman of the Shree Hariyali Community Forest in Nawalparasi explains the benefits of SFM
Photo: Jitendra Bajracharya/ICIMOD

Shree Hariyali Community Forest in Nawalparasi spans 215.18 hectares. It has 703 households and a population of 2,459. Bhimsen Rayamajhi, Chairman of the community forest, says, “Before sustainable forest management was introduced, we would often harvest trees only to discover that they were hollow inside because they were very old and left uncut. This was a waste, and the trees also occupied precious land on which others could have been planted. With a scientific approach to sustainable forest management, only a fixed number of trees are harvested and the forest is not depleted. The system is time-consuming, but a good forest is worth the long wait.”

Site visit to Tilaurakot Collaborative Forest in Kapilvastu with Myanmar delegates, the ICIMOD team, and forest officials from the District Forest Office
Photo: Jitendra Bajracharya/ICIMOD

Kapilvastu’s Tilaurakot Collaborative Forest spans 6,612.60 hectares and supports 22,622 households with a total population of 148,631. Sal (Shorea robusta) and teak (Tectona grandis) are dominant species in this forest. Madan Mohan, Area Forest Officer, gave the visitors insight into collaborative forest management. He explained, “The forest covers a large area and distant users also benefit from this forest. The communities are actively involved and illegal logging has reduced. Many villages are part this collaborative forest which means the monitoring is done by community members themselves.” He added “Besides improving monitoring, the scientific approach to sustainable forest management has really improved the quality of our forest. The compartment system, and the stem mapping and rotation systems have played a big part in this. With scientific approaches in place, see a sustainable future for our forest.”   

One of the challenges to achieving scientific sustainable management in Nepal’s different forest regimes is the lengthy government process related to distributing forest products to local communities. Often, wood and timber decay by the time the community members can access them. Locals say that if the process could be monitored and implemented well, they would be able to benefit more from the system.

Every tree in a sustainably management forest is marked so as to identify its status
Photo: Jitendra Bajracharya/ICIMOD

The implementation of scientific techniques for sustainable forest management started in the Terai, but the approach is expanding to other potential areas in different forest management regimes and ecological zones in Nepal. Foresters’ understanding of forest management has also evolved: from focusing on not cutting trees to practising scientific forest management as a tool to ensure sustainable forest management. The advanced sivicultural systems used in the management of forests in the Nepal Terai highlight the paradigm shift associated with forest management systems in Nepal and its elevation to a higher technical level. The pilot sites have shown good results and now the system is spreading throughout the country’s different forest regimes.

Subedi talking about the community’s efforts to scientifically manage Sri Hariyali Community Forest
Photo: Jitendra Bajracharya/ICIMOD

Thaung Naing Oo, Director of the Forest Research Institute, Myanmar, said, “During this visit, we saw, first hand, how scientific forest management is a tool for achieving sustainable forest management.” He added that the active involvement of communities in Nepal’s collaborative forests is impressive. As is the way in which benefits are shared with all users of collaborative forests. He said, “Myanmar, which is working to establish good community forest management practices, can learn from all of this.”

The regional REDD+ Initiative at ICIMOD will organize similar cross-country exposure visits for institutions from other partner countries to demonstrate successful interventions and innovative approaches in relation to scientific and sustainable forest management.