Community-based Natural Resource Management:

Project Introduction

Wamrong and Kangpara Gewog (local administration) under Wamrong and Thrimshing Dungkhag (sub districts) respectively are located in Trashigang district of eastern Bhutan. With altitudes ranging from 1900-2108 meters above sea level, the area consists largely of broadleaf forests with potentially high diversity of faunal and floral species. These two gewogs consist of 64 villages with 949 households, home to more than 10,000 subsistence farmers. About 85% of the households depend on agriculture activities for rural livelihood and they cultivate various cereals and vegetables while 15 % of the households engage in development for handicrafts such as bamboo weaving and wood carving. The villagers almost entirely depend on the natural resources for water, wood, timber, fodder, and non-timber forest products such as cane and bamboo.

Most of the villages in Wamrong and Kangpara are scattered amidst forest areas and lack modern infrastructural facilities. The increasing aspirations of the inhabitants of Wamrong and Kangpara for economic development and expanding access to market will potentially lead to degradation of the natural resources. With support from the Embassy of Finland in New Delhi, RSPN began work on initiation of community based natural resource management program in the area. A Field Office was set up in Wamrong in September 2007 to coordinate the program and its activities. Socio-economic and bio-diversity surveys have been carried out in four representative villages i.e., Passangphu, Maduwa in Kangpara and Moshi and Khaimanma in Wamrong (See brief background to the villages in Annexure 1). Survey results indicate that deforestation due to increasing human population and uncontrolled exploitation of forests, dwindling water sources, decrease in soil fertility, low food productivity, soil erosion, landslide are some of the common threats to human livelihood in these areas.  The community based natural resource management program is expected to be ecologically and economically beneficial to the local population. Heavy dependence of the local population on natural resources call for continued efforts to strengthen community involvement in natural resource management. Communities in Wamrong and Kangpara represent the difficulties commonly faced by rural communities in Bhutan. Successful and appropriate interventions in enhancing both environmental conservation and socio-economic welfare of the local people will provide the basis for up-scaling and replication in other communities.

Project Goals and Objectives

Goal

The project goal is to promote sustainable use of natural resources through community participation and capacity building.

Objectives

Promote environmental awareness and action.
Strengthen community capacity for self organization.
Reduce deforestation and soil erosion by initiating community-based management of forest.
Improve food productivity through appropriate land management practices.
Improve water availability and quality by initiating watershed management programs and supplementing rural water supply schemes.

Major Project Outcomes

  • Major biodiversity and socio-economic values of site evaluated and key conservation issues identified
  • CBNRM plan developed
  • Increased availability of farm-based forest products
  • Diversified sources of income for local communities
  • Education and awareness of local communities in environmental & sustainable resource management promoted.

Project Activities

1. Promote environmental awareness and action

Existing local community groups like the Local Community Support Group (LSG) and Nature Club established through this project will be trained and sensitized on environment issues and eventually they will be used as an agent to further spread awareness at the grassroots level. In specific, this will involve following activities:

  • Establish nature clubs in schools
  • Community awareness programs
  • Sector and community leaders education programs
  • Support to LCSG by providing action grants for addressing local environment issues 

2. Strengthen community capacity for self organization

RSPN will help initiate local community groups by strengthening the capacity of the local people to function effectively as a group and thereby address local environmental problems. In this regard, following specific activities will be carried.

  • Set up community committee at the gewog level (administrative blocks)
  • Develop management guidelines/ articles for community organization
  • Train community leaders/ committee members
  • Hold committee meetings 

3. Improve food productivity through appropriate land management practices.

This activity will be carried out in collaboration with agriculture sector to train communities on appropriate land management practices.

4. Reduce deforestation and soil erosion by initiating community-based management of forest.

In collaboration with the government agencies like the Department of Forest and Park services, RSPN will help initiate community forest in at least two areas. The activity will mainly involve the following specific activities:

  • Training local people in sustainable management of forest.
  • Development of management plan for the community forest
  • Formation of community forestry management group (CFMG) etc.

5. Improve water availability and quality by initiating watershed management programs and supplementing rural water supply schemes.

Following specific activities will be carried out

  • Map critical watershed areas in the area
  • Restore degraded water sources through plantation and fencing
  • Repair and renovate existing water supply

Project Areas

  • Lumang gewog in Womrong
  • Kangpara gewog in Kangpara under Trashigang district

Project Partners

  • Trashigang District Administration
  • Womrong Dungkhag
  • Lumang gewog administration
  • Kangpara Gewog Administration
  • Kangpara Environment Management Committee.

Issues and Problems

1. Insufficient/ lack of proper drinking water

Moshi, Kanimanma and Maduwa are faced with common problem of poor quality and inadequate drinking water. Overgrazing, inconsistent rainfall, natural and man-made soil erosion due to deforestation have not only led to decreased quality and quantity of water for drinking and irrigation but the availability has also become erratic in recent years. During the monsoon, the deforested areas are exposed to soil erosion and landslides leading to decrease in water table.

2. Deforestation and erosion

As it is, Himalayan terrain and its young fold mountains are vulnerable to soil erosion. Heavy harvesting of trees by local communities, livestock grazing in undesignated areas, shifting cultivation and agricultural practices along the vulnerable slopes have led to deforestation, causing soil erosion and heavy landslide during monsoon and threatening livelihoods. Khanimanma and Moshi are the most vulnerable areas and are already bearing the consequence of landslide with some of the households being relocated to other areas.

3. Decrease soil fertility

With increase in family members, intensive cultivation is practiced by the people in fragmented land holdings to overcome food shortage, which decreases soil fertility and productivity. As a result, people have resorted to chemical fertilizers for enhancing the soil fertility.

4. Low food productivity

Land fragmentation with the increase in family members and top soil erosion of the farmlands by the monsoon rain has lead to insufficient land. Inconsistent rainfall either causing landslide or drought in the recent year, and diversification from farm activities by the farmers and crop damage by pest and wildlife such as wild boar, monkey, barking deer, etc has led to low food productivity, as a result affecting the livelihood of the people.

5. Wildlife crop damage/livestock predation

Over a decade, the Royal Government has banned the practice of shifting cultivation in the proposed areas (Passangphu, Maduwa, Moshi, Khaimanma) that has led to forest growth in the vicinity of farmlands. These forests served as a close home for the wild animals, providing easy access to the farmlands and human settlements. On the other hand, Government enforced strict law on restricting killing of wild animals and that lead to increase in wild population. As a result, crop damage and livestock predation by the wildlife has become an issue in these areas.