Members reap benefits from Community Forest in Kangpara

Neten Dorji

Kangpara—For over seven years, 60-year-old Tashi, along with his fellow villagers, had been protecting  the 1,300 acres of forest in the vicinity of his village Zordung in Kangpara.

The Department of Forest handed over the forest to the community in 2017. Thereafter, the villagers adopted rules and regulations set by their forest user group committee. The community forest today  is a newfound asset for people of Zordung village.

Tashi and  the 110 members of Samtenling Community Forest (SCF) has been sourcing timber and fuelwood needs from the forest since then. To enhance livelihood by depending on the  community forest  a group of villagers also started the Samtenling Furniture House in Zordung. The  CF has economically viable woods.

Two Community Furniture Houses benefit people of Zordung and Merda

“We started a furniture house to make the best use of the community forest timber and generate income from furniture,” said Jamyang Tenzin, chairperson of Samtenling Furniture House. “We deposit Nu 85,000 annually into the community forest account for equal benefits from the furniture house.”

The group aims to create employment opportunities and provide an alternative source of income for the people of Zordung.

Group members said that people have seen the fruits of their labour as they had been involved more intensely to plant trees and preserve the forest.

“The forest means everything to us. It provides timber, fuelwood, and leaf litter. It is the perfect source of income,” said a member, Yeshi Dorji. “Moreover, illegal timber extraction in the village has also reduced.”

According to residents, the CF members planted over 8,500 cypress, pine, and walnut trees for high-quality timber.

Of the six community forests in Kangpara, two have started generating income from the sale of timber and non-wood forest products.They also sell surplus timber or other non-wood forest products.

Zordung Tshogpa, Chimi Rinzin, said that government-reserved forests, with sustainable management, utilisation, and ownership rights granted to groups of communities, have not only helped farmers reap benefits but also aided in preserving the local environment and harvesting its natural resources sustainably.

“Now people can avail themselves of a maximum soft loan of Nu 100,000 from the CF fund at a nominal interest rate of 5 percent per annum. This has helped reduce the poverty rate in the gewog,” said the tshogpa.

He said the two furniture houses have kept people engaged in the community and help deter rural-urban migration.

Gewog Forest Officer Phuntsho Wangdi stated,  “Community Forests (CFs) are a valuable source of timber. We permit timber extraction based on the available resources in the forest and the annual logging operations to sustain the livelihoods of the people.”

He said among the six community forest groups in Kangpara, Tsendaling Furniture House primarily focuses on religious-related wood products, and Zordung Samtenling Furniture House produces home-based wooden products. Members of CF receive skills development training to start commercial production from the CF.

The concept of people’s participation in sustainable forest management in Bhutan started with a Royal decree in 1979. People-oriented forestry programmes aimed at sustainable utilisation of forest resources for income generation and enhancement of livelihoods further received more focus since the early 1990s. The first CF, Dozam in Drametse, Mongar was established in 1997.