Rights, responsibilities and resources: examining community forestry in South Asia

This paper seeks to understand whether decentralized management of forests can reduce forest loss in developing countries. In South Asia, large-scale experiments in decentralization -- Joint Forest Management in India and community forestry in Nepal, in particular - have changed the relationship between forests, the forest departments and rural households. However, have these institutional changes lead to a decline in forest degradation? Have they empowered households with stronger access rights and contributed to household well being? These are important questions to examine because rural households depend on forests to meet numerous subsistence needs. The emerging evidence suggests that community forest management may indeed be contributing to improved forest health. However, the impacts on household well-being are less carefully studied and seem to be far more varied. The paper suggests that clarity over rights, local monitoring and recognition of differences in intra-community needs are issues that require policy support if community forestry is to meet both livelihood and forest conservation expectations.

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