Mrs. Budamaya Tamang

 

The Shankhadevi  Community Forest Users Group (CFUG) began receiving support form ANSAB in 1998 and is now managing 301 hectares of sub-tropical and temperate forest in the Dolakha district of Nepal. This CFUG is the district’s pioneer in commercial harvesting of non-timber forest products (NTFPs), such as argeli (Edgeworthia gardener) and lokta (Daphne spp.), shrubs that produce fiber for high-value handmade paper.

To address issues like the lack of access to capital, land, knowledge and management capacity of poor members of the CFUG, ANSAB designed sub-groups. The sub-groups, made up of the poorest individuals of the communities, have been allocated pieces of land by the CFUG to plant NTFPs, fodder, and new varieties of grasses, which they manage and sell themselves. They then redistribute the sales revenue amongst sub-group members. The group has also started savings and credit schemes to create long-term sources of financial support.

Mrs. Budamaya Tamang, as the chairperson of one of the sub-groups and mother of four, is one of the individuals who represent a total of 22 member households.  “Prior to the training provided by ANSAB, Budamaya says that she “didn’t know about forest management or anything about credit and savings.”

The sub-group’s learning has gone beyond finance and administration, however. By being able to have their own plots of land, the group has identified agroforestry practices that benefit the regional environment. In particular, “we discovered about watershed management. Previously, we used to collect dead leaves during monsoon season. We now realize that this affects the soil.” To preserve soil and prevent landslides, the sub-group has discontinued this practice and “we also began intercropping as well,” explains the Co-chairperson.

Budamaya notes that the sub-group’s next steps are to set up a store at which they could sell what they are producing on their leased land. They feel that people in the community could benefit by purchasing local products that would be sold at a cheaper price compared to products distributed by large Kathmandu-based companies, and that they would also create local employment, in addition to the profits raised by the actual product sales.

“It’s good to see the forest coming back,” says Budamaya. “We have a saying in Nepali which is ‘green forest equals Nepal’s wealth.” In fact, thanks to the community forestry movement, the deforestation rate in Nepal has fallen from to only 0.7 percent today and evidence of the success is easily visible in thickly forested slopes that three decades ago were barren and brown.

“I would like to move our subgroup even more forward,” explains Mrs. Tamang. “I would like to further improve our financial and environmental conditions. In the future, I hope that my children might benefit from what we are doing now.”