Supporting community based sustainable forest management and economic empowerment of Women in Central Region of Nepal

Project title: Supporting community-based sustainable forest management and economic empowerment of women in central Nepal [Project ID: 2013P4-NPL]
Supervising agency: Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation (MoFSC)
Executing agency: HIMAWANTI Nepal, Ashmita Nepal and Community Resource Management Centre
Implementing agency: HIMAWANTI Nepal, Ashmita Nepal and Community Resource Management Centre
Duration: October 2014–March 2018
Budget in USD (total/APFNet grant): 521,208/412,238
Target economy: Nepal
Location: Central Nepal, districts of Kathmandu, Makwanpur and Sarlahi
Objectives: Demonstrate sustainable forest management practices and promote alternative energy sources to reduce pressure on forests and carbon emissions; Promote development of community forest-based mini-enterprises to improve use of forest resources and livelihoods of marginalized communities; Develop models and best practices to empower communities to manage and use forest resources in a sustainable way.
Expected outputs: Sustainable forest management practices demonstrated and local communities’ capacity on sustainable forest management built or improved; Income generated from community forests increased through development of community forest-based mini-enterprises; Alternative energy sources are promoted and carbon emissions and pressure on forests is reduced; Community forest management mechanisms improved, including decision-making, financial management, benefit-sharing and forest management planning; Models of best practices for community-based sustainable forest management disseminated to policymakers and practitioners.
Project background
Women throughout the world, but especially in developing countries, have long been led to believe that they do not have any power. However, as Alice Walker, a famous writer, once said: “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” Empowering rural women to take ownership of their lives, improve their own livelihoods and enable them to learn new skills is an internationally recognized goal captured in the Sustainable Development Goal 5 to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. In Nepal, both women and men are strongly dependent on community forests for their livelihoods, however women use the forest primarily for meeting subsistence needs and men tend to manage the commercial activities that leads to greater economic independence. Thus in Kathmandu, Makwanpur and Sarlahi districts, central Nepal, APFNet and the Himalayan Grassroots Women’s Natural Resource Management Association (HIMAWANTI) together with the Nepali Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation, has taken on the challenge to empower local women by teaching them how to sustainably manage their community forests while also developing new handicraft enterprises and promoting ecotourism. 

Project featured topics
Women managing forests sustainably
Sustainable forest management, especially in community forests, requires knowledge and skills, which are often lacking in local communities. Often “heavy” forest management, such as thinning or planting trees, is undertaken by men, so that women have limited involvement in forest management. Throughout the project, members of local communities with a majority of women were taught how to develop forest management plans, establish nurseries and undertake low-impact logging. Using field surveys and stakeholder discussions, forest management plans were developed for 13 community forest user groups. These plans were endorsed by district forest offices upon completion. Three nurseries were established to rear fast-growing trees and species that can be of medicinal use or provide food. Species grown included Eucalyptus spp., Tectona grandis, Phyllanthus emblica, Shorea robusta, Aegle marmelus and Syzygium cumini. The key to managing forests sustainably is removing timber with the least impact as possible. Thus, 130 people were trained on low-impact harvesting and logging techniques, specifically designed for women. On established demonstration plots, weeding, pruning and “3D extraction” (dead, decayed and diseased trees) techniques were demonstrated as well. 
Getting women into business
Empowering women also means to empower them economically. Getting women into business not only leads to higher incomes, but helps them to acquire new skill sets that make them more independent and with which they can support their families. In this project, women in different regions of Nepal learned three different ways to improve their livelihoods: making wooden handicrafts, setting up community-based aromatic herb enterprises (citronella, pamarosa, mentha and lemongrass) and earning money through ecotourism. 
“Now, neighbours call me entrepreneur”
Sarita Lama is a 38-year-old married woman, mother of two sons and one daughter, and member of a handicraft microenterprise in Makwanpur, central Nepal. After sending her children to school, she goes to the Piple Pakha Community Forest User Group to make wooden handicrafts, something she has now been doing for two years. 
Previously she made a living carrying bricks which was extremely exhausting and bad for her health. Although she worked very hard every day, the income was low and it was still very difficult to afford her children’s education. Wanting to learn new skills and improve her income, she joined the Piple Pokhara Community Forest User Group two years ago and was selected for wooden handicraft training, the first round of six months of basic training. Showing a strong work ethic, she then completed a five-month advanced training course, specializing in producing wooden frames. Sarita also continued working with the community forest user group, undertaking a variety of jobs, such as helping to cut logs and designing frames based on customer specifications. The frames are sold by the community forest user group and the income is distributed to members from a group bank account. One of Sarita’s proudest achievements was when her handicraft was chosen to be exhibited during World Wood Day in 2015.