Over five decades ago, the Terai region of Nepal had plenty of land for agriculture. The area also had enough land where people had set up private forests. People used to plant crops on arable land along with trees and produce enough grains and other vegetables to sustain themselves.
But, things changed as more and more people started to migrate to Terai, the southern plains of Nepal, from the hills. Most of the land where the private forests were located was sold. This then resulted in different issues as wood became scarce along with other forest resources.
In a bid to stop this, few people in the country have started to commercialise private forests in the country as they aim to ensure the community does not face similar scarcity in the coming years.
A case in point
One such person is Megnath Bhusal, a resident of the Raptisonari rural municipality in the Banke district. Over the past five years, he has planted 4,000 pipal trees in the area.
“My father and grandfather never had to face a scarcity of the wood. But now, it’s become a major issue and that is why I started to plant trees. There is good money in this,” says Bhusal.
Bhusal has planted around 4,000 trees on rough 13,000 square metre land. He says once they grow a bit, he will sell the wood.
“I’m looking at selling a few after two years,” he says.
Bhusal says there is a lot of demand from the furniture industry. Pipal is strong wood and a lot of factories use it to make furniture.
“The demand is quite high and the money is good,” Bhusal says. “There is less risk and the profit is high. I estimate to earn around Rs 20 million from selling some trees.”
A few years ago, people in the area started planting rosewood and masala tree. But, these trees suffered from different diseases, after which people stopped planting them and started shifting to pipal trees.
The past decade has seen a rise in the commercialisation of private forests. According to the Association of Family Forest Owners, there are around 150 people involved in setting up private forests across the country.
Jograj Gaire, the chair of the association, says he and the organisation are providing support to people who are interested in planting trees. He says they are also giving plants away for free as the association has distributed around 150,000 plants over the past few years in Kavre, Banke and Dang.
“We want to help these people as they are doing a great job in creating forests around the country,” he says. “But, there are challenges as these people haven’t been able to sell it easily due to forest-related laws.”
Gaire says the government should allow people to sell tree products easily. He says they should make it easier as selling crops.
Forest expert Naya Sharma Poudel says the rise in private forests is due to the current market that pays quite well compared to 20 years ago.
“Access to road has also made it easy to transport wood away from the forest to different factories,” says Poudel. “Wood from community forests is used by the user group members themselves. Hence, private forests address the market demand.”
Poudel says this is a good alternative to farming.