With a good long year in hand, the Social Forestry and Extension Division (SFED) under the Department of Forests and Park Services is upbeat to achieve targets to initiate and establish 400 Community Forests (CF) in Bhutan.
In fact, it might even overshoot the initial target.
The current tenth plan commenced with 72 CFs already approved by the department in the previous plan. However, by the end of the fourth year of current plan which ended on June 30, the division in collaboration with the Dzongkhag forestry sectors had already established 425 CFs in the country. This translates to close to 90% achievements.
Spread across 20 dzongkhags, Wangduephodrang has recorded the highest with 47 CFs approve. It is closely followed by Trashigang with 40 CFs. Punakha stands third in with 34 CFs.
Zhemgang and Pemagatshel have 22 CFs each. Gasa being the smallest Dzongkhag has also less number of CFs. As of now it has only seven CFs. Except for Gasa, the other 19 dzongkhags has more than 10 CFs.
Going by the total of 425 CFs established, an average of 21 CFs has been established in a Dzongkhag.
Community Forests is a chunk of government reserved forests handed over to the group of community with sustainable ownership, utilization and management rights. SFED has put up concerted efforts toward creation of enabling environments for CF establishment.
It has developed a CF strategy in Bhutan which is being implemented, while the CF Action Plan is under finalization. The training of 45 foresters on CF management planning, sponsoring of study tour to 22 CFMG members to Nepal, provision of training package on record and book keeping, seminar on CF for poverty reduction, economic analysis and market chain of timber products within CFs have been carried out by SFED/PFMP
The SFED also claim that pursuing such a people-centered forest management regime has impacted positively. They said it has contributed immensely in building social capital in terms of strengthening social cohesion.
This is especially important when Bhutan is increasingly experiencing social degeneration and breakage of family links due to modernization and other factors.
Establishment of CFs, according to the Division, has also helped reduce illegal activities while the number of forest fire incidences has witnessed a drastic dwindling. Handing over of ownership has also helped bring degraded land under plantation.