Turning REDD in Nepal: Investigating reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) in the context of the institutional and social dynamics present in community-based resource management in the Terai

Start date: 27 February, 2011 End date: 15 May, 2011 Project type: Master's Thesis (prior to 2018) Project code: A10756 Countries: Nepal Institutions: University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Denmark Grant recipient: David Washington Total grant: 11,000 DKK


Recent more participatory approaches towards forest management have championed the ability of community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) to deliver successful and stable outcomes. These approaches challenge the previous concept that placed rural communities in conflict with conservation outcomes. The promotion of community involvement in resource management has also encouraged the development of policies facilitating the devolution of powers to local level institutions through decentralisation.
However the ability of the local level institutions to manage resources and distribute benefits accordingly is still highly contested. The variable outcomes observed reflect the spectrum of decentralisation as well as the effect of social and institutional dynamics. Understanding the relevance of these factors in successful outcomes is becoming of increasing importance with new opportunities being presented to these communities. One example is payments for ecosystem services (PES) where community forests have a potential to generate additional benefits and incomes based on the externalities of forests.
In the case of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD), payments are being offered for the sequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide. How these payments benefit rural communities is still uncertain and further investigation must be undertaken to ensure communities possess the adequate institutional frameworks necessary for proper management and equitable outcomes. In doing so this study looks at a REDD pilot project site in community forests in the Terai region of Nepal. Based on meetings with forestry institutions, community consultations and household interviews this study investigates the current system of community forestry focusing firstly on the powers devolved to community institution from central government and later the ability of these institutions to manage these responsibilities effectively.
Evidence from this study highlights the importance of social dynamics in the formation of the user committees and the power relationships in these institutions. Focusing on decision-making and benefit distribution it is clear that these community institutions possess the adequate powers for management; however these powers build upon the unequal social dynamics already present in communities. As a result decision making does not always involve all stakeholders and those responsible are not being held accountable for their actions. Despite the lack of participation of some stakeholders in decision making community institutions are proving successful in their ability to achieve conservation outcomes and implement activities that address poverty and livelihood improvement. However if REDD is to achieve development goals as well as conservation it must address these current institutional weaknesses.
This study highlights that a greater focus must be given to the involvement of all stakeholders in decision making through more democratic and participatory approaches to committee selection and group decision making. With the potential for increasing amounts of carbon funds it is clear that processes that enable members to become more actively involved in fund expenditure are required as well as greater accountability. The dissemination of knowledge regarding REDD is something that should be emphasised to ensure all stakeholders have an opportunity to contribute and contest future developments.