Dado goempa becomes the first to hand back the CF to the department of forest

Punakha: Almost seven years after taking over a community forest (CF), the Dado goempa community forest group in Shengana gewog, Punakha officially handed back the CF to the department of forest on May 18.

Punakha’s dzongkhag forest officer, Naphel said the group was the first community to do so.

The 21-member Dado-goempa community forest group was formed in 2007, and officially took over 120 acres of government-reserved forest for management in 2008.

Naphel said, in May 2014, the group had put in an application with the department of forest, saying that they wanted to hand back the CF.  The group reasoned that the CF was not potential for timber extraction and they could not make use of it.

He said, unlike other community forest groups, the group had left the CF idle, and hadn’t done any plantations.  Except for some firewood, they had not extracted much from the CF.

When people have taken over the CF, they have intentionally excluded the sogshing (tree growth reserved for collection of leaves), which lies between the community forest and the village.

Forest officials said handing back the CF would mean that the villagers would have to follow the former system and, to avail anything from the forest, they would have to route through the tshogpa, gup and then community centres.

A former Dado-goempa CF member, Dorji said when the group was formed everyone was excited about the CF.  However, when people could not do much or gain anything from the CF, they decided to hand it back.

“It was our mistake,” Dorji said. “We excluded the sogshing from CF, following the discussion in Parliament about possibilities of awarding sogshing and tsamdro ownership to people in 2008.”

Other members said, even after seven years, they could extract only firewood from the CF and couldn’t touch the sogshing, as it was excluded from CF.

People started to lose interest in CF and slowly it was difficult even to sent people for meetings and trainings for CF.

In 2014, the group held several meetings and decided to hand back the CF to the department of forest.

There are now 36 community forest groups in Punakha.

By Dawa Gyelmo, Punakha