14. Ensuring forage supply from Nepal’s community forests
Rameshwar Singh Pande
(Published in : Pande, RS 2004. Ensuring forage supply from Nepal’s community forests. APANews Asia-PacificAgroforestry Newsletter, No. 25. December 2004APANews - The Asia-Pacific Agroforestry Newsletter, No. 25 ... www.fao.org/docrep/008/af337e/af337e03.htm )
Nepal is among the pioneers of community based forest management. About 20 percent of its natural forests have been handed over to community forest user groups (FUGs) comprising 1 422 301 households (CFD 2004). These community forests have significantly improved the supply of timber, fuelwood, leaf litter and other forest by-products. Afforestation has also transformed denuded land into a green landscape.
However, the wide use of Pinus species (at high stocking rates) has drastically reduced the growth of the herbaceous undergrowth, thereby affecting the availability of forest fodder. Forage production, using high-yielding perennial species inside the community forestlands, was considered an option for diversifying community forest products to meet fodder requirements and provide income-generating activities to the FUGs.
NACRMLP for sustainable forage production
The Nepal-Australia Community Resource Management and Livelihood Improvement Project (NACRMLP) has been active in Nepal’s Kabhre Palanchok and Sindhu Palchok districts for the last 30 years. The sixth phase (2003 - 2009) of the Australian Aid for International Development (AusAID) project is currently being implemented. The project aims to develop and institutionalize equitable and sustainable community-based natural resource management systems, to improve the rural livelihood and reduce poverty among the FUGs.
The project is collaborating with 800 FUGs, comprising 73 915 households that are managing 44 589 ha of community forestlands, in the Kabhre and Sindhu Palchok districts. About 19 percent of the community forestlands are degraded, barren and underutilized (Kanel and Kanel 2004). Sparsely planted community forest areas, dominated by unwanted bushes and weeds, offer ample opportunities for forage development.
Aside from the FUGs, the landless poor and disadvantaged groups also rely on communal resources for fodder. Compared to the land-rich FUG members, they have insufficient land for on-farm fodder production. To address this problem, NCRMLP has enabled the landless poor, women and disadvantaged groups to pilot and facilitate forage development activities in community forestlands. The project has also been helping FUG members to enhance fodder supply through on-farm forage development programs, school forage programs and landslide/roadside forage production.
Forage development in community forestlands
To address equity issues in resource sharing, the project has assisted in the formation of forage subgroups within the FUGs. These subgroups comprise the relatively poor and the disadvantaged community and/or women groups. After rigorous meetings and discussions, blocks of land for forage production were allocated to the forage subgroups. Policies and guidelines on forage development/management were also formulated.
The project has provided technical know-how, seeds and vegetative planting materials. Different forage species, including stylo, joint vetch, molasses, ipil-ipil, and Wynn cassia, have been planted together. Mixed planting diversifies the forage species (legumes vs. non-legumes, shrubs, herbaceous and climbers, etc.) and maximizes land use.
The subgroups have implemented minimal tillage operations. To date, some 58 FUGs have been formed and about 80 ha of community forests have been developed as forage blocks.
On-farm forage production
A separate on-farm forage production program was initiated for the land-rich FUG members to improve fodder supply on terrace risers. Each FUG member received a packet of seed mixture weighing 200 g, estimated to be sufficient for 500 m2. Over 5 000 households have established forage blocks in their backyards.
Forage development along roadsides and landslide areas
The roadsides and landslide areas were considered potential sites for fodder production. In these areas, NACRMLP was jointly initiated with the respective Department of Soil Conservation district offices.
School forage development program
Every household engaged in the raising of livestock should have easy access to fodder supply. But since it was not possible to include all FUG members due to time and resource constraints, the NCRMLP, in collaboration with the District Education Offices, established forage blocks in schools.
Through the school forage development program, the youth were made aware of the importance of improved forage crops, and were also provided opportunities to widen the scale of the forage cultivation program. Each child was provided with a small packet of forage mixture containing 10 g of seeds. Simple planting instructions were printed on the bags.
Production of forage planting stock and establishment of seed production centers
The seeds and vegetative materials were imported from other districts and/or from Australia. However, this practice could not be sustained to meet the growing demand. Hence, private and community-managed forage resource centers were established at various strategic sites.
Although being implemented on a pilot scale, the overwhelming response from the FUGs, especially the women, indicated the success of the project. FUGs in Bhedigoth, Thulo sirubari and Sindhu, for example, were already using their fodder income to venture into vegetable production. Similarly, other FUG members were also earning income and planning to venture into other livelihood and production schemes. The forage subgroup of the FUG in Goisakund, Kabhre district decided to conserve its forage in situ, as its allocated forage block was too small to meet the needs of all its members.
The subgroup decided to harvest its forage during "Tiz" - - a special Hindu festival for women that occurs during September/October. The women harvested the forage as they sang and danced their sorrows, anxieties and happiness on the eve of the festival.
1) Community Forest Division (CFD). 2004. Nepal: CFD, Department of Forestry, HMG.
2) Kanel, K.R. and B.R. Kanel. 2004. Community forestry in Nepal: achievements and challenges. Journal of Forest and Livelihood, 4(1).