Social Space of Indigenous Peoples in Forestry Sector Public Discourses in Nepal
The concept and practices of community forestry (CF) in Nepal is known as one of the successful intervention in forest resources management. It was introduced as a response to the massive deforestation occurred during 1950s and 2070s. More than 18 thousands Community Forestry Users Groups (CFUG), covering more than 23% of total forest area, has been formally registered across the country. The studies show that the success of CF is due to the participation of local communities in all level of activities such as decision making, conservation, utilization, benefit sharing. It is also claimed that the concept and practice of CF in Nepal is one of the most democratic and deliberative process of forestry resources management in Nepal.
The number of programs – supported by different agencies – have been formulated and implemented across the country for the promotion of CF as a core of the forestry program in Nepal. Different forms of institutions (formal and informal, government and non-government) have been formed to facilitate the promotion of CFUGs in Nepal. Number of policies and laws have been formulated and enacted. Recently, the 10 year (2013-2023) Multi Stakeholder Forestry Program (MSFP) is under implementation in more than 43 districts (during first phase, 2013-2015) and expected to expand into other districts (during second phase) of the country.
Though the concept and practice of CFUGs in Nepal is one of the successful forestry programs, there are some questions from the perspectives of the rights and issues of indigenous peoples. First, whether the concept and practice of CF is able to address issues and concerns of indigenous peoples; second, to what extent the policies, laws and practices of CFGUs have recognized and promoted the customary laws and practices of indigenous peoples on conservation and management of forest resources; and third, whether the concept and practices of CF in Nepal is able to comply with the international policy frameworks on the rights of indigenous peoples.
The preliminary review and analysis of the policies and practice of CF in Nepal indicate that the participation of indigenous peoples and their organizations such as National Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) very little and limited to only the numeric inclusion of some representative individuals in the executive committees. Moreover, the development of the ownership feeling of indigenous people upon the concept and practice of CF is very poor and hence the leaders of the indigenous communities and their organizations are reluctant to support and promote the concept and practice of CF in Nepal. In this context, this paper, based on the desk review (literature, national and international policies and laws) supplemented by a case study of the indigenous community in MSFP intervention area (in Bhojur district) tries to understand this issues from the theoretical perspective of “Social Space” by Henri Lefebvre. By doing this, the paper also tries to develop critical knowledge in understanding the future implication of the exclusion of indigenous peoples and possible avenues for mainstreaming the issues, concerns and actors in CF interventions in Nepal.