Community Forests in Nepal are government-owned forest areas that have been leased out to nearby local communities. These forests are essential to supplying locals with basic forest-based products for subsistence needs and sustainable income generation. Locals are formally given management rights to these forests for utilization of forest products. 33% of all forest land in Nepal – equivalent to 2.2 million hectares, is occupied by community forests. There are around 22 thousand community forests in Nepal which represent 14 million users (47% of total population) and 2.9 million households (41% of all households).
Community Forest User Group is the custodian of a community forest on behalf of the entire beneficiary community. It is an autonomous, democratically-elected, non-government body of local individuals responsible for protection and replenishment of these forests. User groups’ responsibilities also include stopping high rates of deforestation and ecological degradation in their assigned community forest. An average user group consists of 10 members who represent a community of 100 hectares forest area and 130 beneficiary households.
Lack of funding is the single most crucial hurdle majority of forest user groups in Nepal face. A study titled “Importance of Community Forestry Funds for Rural Development in Nepal”, found that average annual income for a user group from a community forest amounted to just over $2,000, with the income around $300 for majority. Of this income 44% was invested in community development and 37% in forest conservation. Thus, a small portion of the already very small income is set aside for reforestation efforts. Reforestation effort falls behind in the lack of substantial funds.
FECOFUN (Federation of Community Forestry Users Nepal) is a formal network of forest user groups from all over Nepal. It does advocacy on behalf of its member community forests and user groups.