Community forest manual to be revised

A stakeholder workshop which was attended by forestry officials from territorial divisions, dzongkhags, parks, and College of Natural Resources among others concluded yesterday with  a resolution to revise the four-part Community Forestry (CF) manual of Bhutan first published in 2004 by Social Forestry and Extension Division (SFED), Department of Forest and Park Services (DoFPS).

“Changes of the legal framework for CF as well as CF practices have motivated the current revision,” said Kinley Dorji of SFED.

The forest and nature conservation rules were revised in 2006 followed by the land act of Bhutan a year later. The national strategy for CF was developed and shortly in 2011,  the  national forest policy was also  endorsed.

The advancement in the use of technology for all stages of CF can also be attributed as reason for amending the manuals. “For instance compass and tape survey technique is no more applicable and is replaced by GPS survey,” an official said.

The old manuals were also voluminous with unnecessary information. Feedbacks and comments from the users pointed out such shortcomings.

Some of the possible changes that can be expected are update and simplification of participatory training tools, link to simplified CF management plan template, more information on resource assessment and calculation of annual harvesting limit.

The manual will be not only simple, practical and realistic, but also thinner.

Not included in the old manual, carbon assessment, social vulnerability to climate change, CF contribution to poverty reduction, practicing good group governance and gender equity will  feature in the revised version. In addition, the “monitoring” part in the manual will be elaborated and strengthened.

According to officials involved in revisions, the current four-part manual (part I: initiating CF, part II: CF management planning, part III: Silviculture in CF and part IV: record keeping and institutional strengthening of CF group) will be clubbed together while another manual for silvicultural options will be developed for all forests in the country.

As of March end, records with SFED say that there are 382 CFs involving about 17,000 households comprising almost 34 percent of rural households.  This totals to one-sixth of all rural households while 43,000 hectares (1.5%) of the overall forest area in Bhutan have been handed over as CF.

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