Community Forestry is a collective action of local communities in forest management to secure their livelihoods. Since the late 1970s, many countries have been practicing such a forest management system and Nepal is a pioneer example where such a system began in the late 1970s, and was established in its present form in the 1990s. The Master Plan for Forest Sector 1988, Forest Act 1993 and Forest Regulation 1995 are the legal instruments, which provide the legal basis to hand over the state owned forest, as a Community Forest, to local communities in the form of Community Forest Users' Groups (CFUGs).
For this study, four Community Forest Users’ Groups were selected for the case study and 235 members of CFUGs were interviewed from the Kailali and the Dadeldhura districts of Far-West Nepal. Of the interviewees, 60 percent were female and 40 percent were male. The field study was conducted in between February and July 2004.
Forest Resources play a crucial role in rural livelihoods in Nepal and elsewhere in developing countries. The forest resources directly fulfil the forest related subsistence needs of women, poor and disadvantaged people as well as commercial needs of well-off people. Community Forestry in Nepal has contributed to the rural livelihoods mainly in two ways: (1) through the change in the levels and security of forest products and benefit flows, and (2) through the formation of livelihoods assets in rural communities. Community Forestry is oriented towards the development of natural capital, physical capital, financial capital, human capital, and social capital at the rural level. These capitals or assets produced by Community Forestry are playing a crucial role in rural development and development of the livelihoods of the rural people.
The Nepalese social structure is mostly heterogeneous in nature and the large number of people who are involved in collective action as CFUGs are not homogeneous in terms of caste, ethnicity, religion, gender and class. The impact of heterogeneity on the capacity of individuals to self-organize and sustain a common property regime is highly contested. Differing cultural values, social norms and sanctions, connected to the access to, the use and management of forest resources result in conflicts.
People everywhere compete for natural resources they need or want to ensure their livelihoods. However; social exclusion of users in a CFUG and in a users' committee, benefits sharing, participation on various Community Forestry activities, lack of communication among the stakeholders, investment of group funds, lack of transparency, leadership, personnel behaviours and perceptions, levy collection, decision implementation, and caste and culture are the observed issues of conflict in this study. These conflicts are observed mainly on two levels: at the CFUG's level and at the policy level.
This dissertation mainly focuses on analysing the impact of Community Forestry on rural livelihoods and the conflicts, which arise in Community Forest management. Additionally, the study also viewed the impact of the Maoist's war on Community Forestry and the customary practises of conflict management at the CFUGs' level.