A decade ago, when the Department of Forests and Park Services (DoFPS) under Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF) first initiated establishment of Community Forests (CF) at Dozam under Monggar Dzongkhag, people were apprehensive about such new ventures.
For them, the forest and other natural resources were more of a natural occurrence and not something that someone can claim ownership over.
It took the department officials quite an effort to create awareness, educate and win the confidence of the people in the program. The people remained adamant that the natural resources are inexhaustible and need no protection and management. The age-old tradition of forest being looked after by the foresters was too good for them to forgo.
But slowly, the program picked up and gained momentum. More and more villagers were willing and came forward with the proposal to manage the government reserved forests in the proximity of their villages. They ultimately realized that it only means that by protecting the nearby forest resources, they have more to gain than lose.
Community Forest is the concept of participatory forest management, whereby the chunk of government reserved forests is handed over to groups of local people for ownership, sustainable utilization and management. It essentially coerced the participation of the citizens in effective protection and management of the forests and other natural resources within the proximity of the villages.
Till then, the forest and its allied resources were protected and managed by the state with very little participation of the people living with and depending on it. Hence, it was very challenging for the manpower-starved regimes to keep close vigilance of the forests in the whole country.
Now, with the tenth plan nearing an end, their target of having at least 400 Community Forests (CF) established and handed over to the local communities for ownership, sustainable utilization and management has been already achieved.
Having done that, the government is now gradually shifting their focus toward making the Community forests management groups (CFMGs) capable of scientifically managing the forest resources within their CFs. This is basically about strengthening capacity building of the CFMGs in timber harvesting in good silvicultural method and logging operations.
The need, according to the officials in the department was felt, because, the Community Forests management in the country still hasn’t matured well. He said that most of the community forests management groups are layman villagers without much scientific knowledge on forest management. “Rendering the forests blank and bald is the last thing we want,” he said adding, “That’s why, we’ve Dzongkhag forestry sector staff closely rendering technical backstopping to the CFMGs,” he said.
Scientific method of forest resource management within the CF will also ensure the sustainability. Such method, officials remarked, will ensure the present demands of the people are met without compromising the availability of the same resources of the future generations.
Most of the CFs in the country has generated substantial income through sale of excess timbers and other fund sources. While such income avenue is appreciated both by the government – the benefactor and the people – the beneficiaries since it immensely contributes toward current plan target of poverty alleviation, harvesting of forests resources unsustainably cannot be ruled out.
Hence, 55 members of the CF user groups from 25 approved CFs and Dzongkhag Forestry Sector staffs under Sarpang Dzongkhag were imparted six-day training on Silviculture, timber harvesting and logging operations recently.
A week-long training was imparted after one of the dzongkhag forestry staff attended a Training of Trainer (ToT) course on Silviculture, Timber Harvesting and Logging Operation at Rural Development Training Centre, Zhemgang in 2012.
According to the resource person, this is the first technical training organized by Dzongkhag Forestry Sector. “The CFMGs haven’t received any training of such nature in the past,” said Jigme Tenzin.
The training was imparted mainly driven by the objectives to enhance the technical skills and competency on silviculture applications, eco-friendlier timber harvesting and logging operations by the CFMGs without compromising sustainable forest management in the future.
The training also included lessons on safely handling the power chainsaw. It will help curb the incidence of causality resulting due to unsafe handling of power chainsaw. Participants were taught about the safety measures and never to compromise personal safety.
Participants were also made aware on timber selection and marking principles along with marking criteria.
The training was conducted with the funding support from Participatory Forest Management Projects-II (SDC/Helvetas).