School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences - Theses

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    Biodiversity conservation: perceptions and concepts in community forestry in Nepal
    ACHARYA, UMA ( 2004)
    The Community Forestry program in Nepal entrusts communities with full authority in management and use of local forests. In that program, various projects related to biodiversity are implemented through community forest user groups. Government planners, policy makers and non-government agency staff involved in the forestry sector use the term biodiversity extensively in their documents and programs. Yet little research has previously been carried out in Nepal on perceptions and the meaning of the term biodiversity for different stakeholders in community forestry. Such research would appear to be highly important in designing policies and programs on biodiversity conservation. So this study explored perceptions of biodiversity among different stakeholders, with a view to suggest ways to improve mutual understanding in the domain of biodiversity conservation in community forestry in Nepal. Grounded theory was used to guide the collection and analysis of data for a case study conducted in Nepal. Individual interviews and focus group discussions were used to explore the views of government officials, non-government professionals, and local users involved in community forests. Eight community forest user groups were selected from two ecological regions, the Mid-Hills and Tarai. The results indicate that the term biodiversity, brought from the western world, is new and confusing to most forest people. The Nepali term 'jaiwik bibidhata' and concepts related to this was interpreted in a variety of ways and there is a considerable gap between policy-makers and forest users in understanding and interpretation of the term. The study identifies some socio-economic factors influencing forests users' perceptions about biodiversity, such as education, knowledge, exposure to outsiders, gender and caste. Although the majority of forest users were indifferent to the concept of biodiversity conservation in their community forestry, some held concepts about forest use that were remarkably similar to Western concept of biodiversity. Some users expressed a desire for learning and knowledge about biodiversity, so that these concepts could be considered and incorporated where appropriate in their community forestry plans and activities. Some main needs identified for the enhancement of biodiversity conservation in community forestry were research on practical benefits of enhanced biodiversity, frequent sharing of ideas on biodiversity with forest users, improved coordination among forest agencies, and greater sensitivity by officials towards different people's viewpoints on biodiversity. There seems to be potential for building on traditional biodiversity-related concepts held by some community members - to develop practical and meaningful terms and definitions for work in promoting biodiversity conservation. Further research in understanding the people's perceptions, and on the potential of community forestry in conserving biodiversity, is required as a sound basis for the design of effective forest policies and programs in the future. The findings should help clarify to government and NGO officials the perceptions held by forests users and other stakeholders, and hence should assist in building mutual understanding. The thesis concludes that understanding different perceptions held by different stakeholders about biodiversity in community forestry is central and that government and non-government officials and forest users need to understand each other's role in this, if mutually favourable outcomes are to be achieved.