Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rural communities lead Nepal's green fightback

Seed Daily via Agence France-Presse: Nepal began handing forests over to local communities in the late 1970s in a desperate bid to stem illegal deforestation, which the government lacked the resources to halt. Three decades on, the Federation of Community Forestry Users Nepal (FECOFUN) says around a million hectares (2.5 million acres) of forest previously owned by the government is thriving under the control of neighbourhood groups.

"State control over the forests was ineffective because the government failed to engage local people in forest governance," said Bhola Bhattarai, general secretary of FECOFUN. "When control was handed over to local people, it made them responsible."

Nepal relies on wood for around two-thirds of its energy needs, and the scheme benefits local people by giving them direct control over their principal fuel source. The replanting of acacia, pine and sal trees also means more forest to absorb carbon dioxide, contributing to the reduction of global warming in a country where climate change is already taking its toll.

Scientists say temperatures in Nepal are rising at a much faster rate than the global average, causing the Himalayan glaciers to melt and form giant lakes that threaten to burst, devastating communities downstream. Climate change experts also predict that Nepal will experience shorter, more intense bursts of rainfall in the future, increasing the risk of flooding and landslides.

"The forests are critical for addressing climate change," Nepal's Environment Minister Thakur Prasad Sharma told AFP….

Namche Bazar (Khumbu, Nepal), shot by Kogo, Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

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