Family forest for prosperity
Forest is considered a great ornament of nature. The role of family forest in biodiversity conservation and generating income is vital. In contemporary context, promoting family forest plays an important role for conserving forest covers. In Nepal, nature has provided great wealth in the form of the forest and there is high potential of promoting family forest for conserving wildlife and ecosystem. It also helps to generate income and employment.
For a long period of time, countries have been preserving and promoting family forest for tourist attraction, wildlife conservation and for fun. Take the US. The Americans have given the responsibility of preserving and promoting family forest to the new generation and the term “generation for forest” is popular. The main objectives of this programme are managing home forest for income generation and to realise the importance of greenery and peace for the next generation.
The situation in Nepal, however, is different. Due to low income and lack of awareness among farmers, the importance of forest is not fully realised and recognised. But Nepali people have been preserving the forest from ancient times. The process of preserving forests is continuously gaining momentum.
If Forest Act 2018 is effectively implemented it will generate hope for farmers and uplift their life economically. According to Pitambar Sigdel, General Secretary at Association of Family Forest Owners Nepal (AFFON), the new Act regarding the forest has significantly increased hopes and enthusiasm among the farmers connected with family forest. In rural areas, people’s livelihood directly depends on the forest but due to the lack of effective policies and awareness farmers associated with home forest are unable to motivate and encourage new generation for preserving and managing family forest.
The major problem of farmers is that they are deprived of the benefit and advantage of utilising family forest. Nepal is rich in natural herbs and Ayurvedic herbs which can be economically beneficial to the locals. But due to lack of knowledge and guidance they are unable to take benefits from it. Most of the developed countries like the US, Canada and Denmark are highly preserving the family forest and farmers have benefited by utilising the forest. Unfortunately, in our country farmers have been unable to utilise the family forest for economic benefit.
According to the new Act, policy-specific priority has been given to the farmers who can utilise forest for their economic gains. The new law has made a provision for easy selling and utilisation of family forest for betterment of farmers and to lift them economically. So, farmers should be encouraged to cultivate plants that will grow faster so that they do not have to wait for a long time to get the economic benefit from the forest. According to the new Act, Nepal has given positive hope for providing security to family forest owners and increasing their access to local resources.
After the new policy of the government regarding forest in places like Butwal, farmers are excited about growing forest. As family forest contributes to conservation of biodiversity and can play a greater role to sequestrate carbon from the atmosphere. Similarly, family forest can generate income and employment opportunities; thereby helping in improvement of the livelihood of the people. So, it is very important to support the farmers, encourage them and provide necessary training so that they can effectively produce the forest and also be able to get the economic benefit from it.
Similarly, government should develop easy process for registering the family forest which must be done through the local ward office. It will help farmers to register without procedural hurdles. Further, all the required permissions related to harvest, use and transportation of the family forest product should be given by the ward offices. Family forest should be considered as agricultural crops and there should not be prohibition in cutting and selling of trees from family forest areas. Process for selling and cultivating trees can ensure economic benefit for the farmers.
The writer is a lecturer at St. Xavier College, Kathmandu.
Published on 29 December 2019