Community forestry in Nepal evolved through an interaction of multiplicity of factors. This stems from a sense of collective spirit embodied in Nepalese society through generations. There were frequent cases, particularly in the hills, of communities having been involved in the conservation of forests and regulating of forest resources. Earlier experiences with different political turmoil, population growth, regulatory enforcement and adjustments, excessive dependence of the people over forest resources, and a paradigmatic shift in global development thinking are some of the other factors that contributed to evolve it to the present scenario of decentralization and devolution.
Earlier statutes have been specifically harmful to the development and conservation of the Nepalese forests. Their main shortcomings stem from their indifference to, or failure to address, the needs and aspirations of the people who continued to depend on forest products for their very subsistence. The Private Forests Nationalization Act 1957 brought forests, which were earlier perceived to be private, under state jurisdiction. Forest Act 1961 and Forest Protection Special Arrangement Act 1967 failed to democratize the regulation of forests. Coupled with population growth and government's continued inability towards effective protection, and misappropriations all led to consistent decline in the forest cover. As such, community forestry could have been adopted also as an ad hoc approach to timely halt the deforestation process.
The National Forestry Plan 1976 listed the major constraints and proposed policies to tackle them. It recognized the critical forestry situation of the time and laid down as objectives for forest management the restoration of the balance of nature, economic mobilization, practices of scientific management, development of technology and promotion of public cooperation. However, the Plan was partly implemented. The community forestry thrust followed the formulation of Panchayat forest Rules and Panchayat Protected Forest Rules 1978.
The community forestry project was introduced in 29 hill districts with assistance from the World Bank. Community forestry was also promoted with bilateral assistance. Later community forestry was also tried in fourteen Terai districts with World Bank assistance.
Community forestry started in one village Panchayat in Sindhupalchowk district with the naming of a forest committee by the District Forest Officer (DFO). The forest committee, having been noinated by the DFO was given authority to decide on the use of forest allotments, which were protected or newly planted by its members.