Rural communities lead Nepal’s green fightback

KAVRE, December 15, 2009 (AFP) – Thirty years ago, Nepalese farmer Badri Prasad Jangam realised that the once thickly-wooded hillside that overlooks his home had been transformed into a barren slope. Decades of deforestation had taken their toll, stripping away the topsoil, affecting vital underground water sources and threatening to bring disaster to a community entirely dependent on farming for its livelihood.

Now the trees are back, thanks to an innovative government scheme that won international plaudits for handing responsibility for the preservation of Nepal’s forests over to local people.

“No one was taking responsibility for the forest thirty years ago,” the 76-year-old farmer told AFP in Kavre district, 20 kilometres (12 miles) east of the capital Kathmandu.

“People were cutting down trees for fuel and the forest got more and more sparse. So we worked as a community to protect it, planting new trees and preventing people from using the forest for firewood.”

Nepal began handing forests over to local communities in the late 1970s in a desperate bid to stem illegal deforestation, which the government lacked the resources to halt.

Three decades on, the Federation