Tsirang hails first as independent CF manager

In sync with the government’s vision to have Community Forests managed independently, three Community Forests (CF) in Tsirang recently made the successful transition .

Community Forests Management group members of Dangraybu CF under Doonglagang gewog, Chirphen CF under Mendrelgang gewog, Darjeling CF under Rangthangling gewog in Tsirang not only personally contributed money for the CF activities but also took the lead to execute the activities.

The section head of Social Forestry and Extension Division (SFED), KJ Temphel said this is the vision of the government in the long run.

An official of the SFED said a time will come when the CF members will pay foresters for provision of technical backstopping and other services. This means that the CF programs in the country should slowly mature and function independently. The government currently provides most of the supports since the program is in its infant stage.

Tsirang Dzongkhag Forest Officer, Pema Tshewang said “We know this has to happen one day and someone should initiate and take the step forward”.

Community Forestry Programs in Bhutan is about handing over Government Reserved Forests with sustainable management, utilization and ownership rights to a group of communities. The program aims to enable these beneficiaries to generate income through sale of excess timbers and other sources to help reduce poverty which is predominantly a  rural phenomenon.

The program was incepted with the belief that the forests and natural resources within the proximity of the community are best managed by themselves and benefits should also flow to the communities. “When the communities are entrusted with the responsibilities the overall health of the forests improves,” said an SFED official.

Major positive impacts have been witnessed since the program started. For instance, there has been drastic reduction of illegal activities while the number of forest fire incidences has also dwindled significantly. Officials said such programs have also helped bring degraded land under plantation.

Tsirang Dzongkhag currently has 24 approved CFs with 10 more in the offing. At the end of March this year, there were  382 CFs which comprise 17,000 households (CFMG members) which is almost 34% of rural households.  These totals to one-sixth of all rural households while 43,000 hectares or 1.5%of the overall forests areas in Bhutan have been handed over as CF.

The government targets to establish minimum of 400 CFs and hand-over at least 4% of government reserved forest land as CFs by the end of 10th five year plan.

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