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Money Does Grow on Trees! - Himalayan Footsteps

For many people in Nepal felling trees and selling firewood is their only source of income. When the women of Dolakha were told not cutting the trees could earn them money they couldn’t believe it at first.

Cash incentives worth 95,000 US dollars had been awarded to more than 100 community forests in Dolakha, Gorkha and Chitwan. This money is paid to communities for taking good care of their forests and not felling trees. The participating families grow vegetables, cut grass in the forest for fodder and collect fallen and dead wood only.

In 2008 research was carried out about how communities living on forest produce can be taught to value standing forests more than timber. It was proposed to establish a Forest Carbon Trust Fund for a pilot project in Nepal, paying money to those communities that conserve their forests best.

Plans are now to ask international investors to invest in the Forest Carbon Trust Fund to improve their corporate social responsibility image. With over 50% of the members in community forest groups being women and the project forests lying in remote and poor areas this money will also benefit an especially vulnerable part of society.

“We first heard about the incentive money to protect the forests two years ago. None of us quite believed that people would be paid for not cutting trees. Now the forest user groups have cash they can use for a livelihood,” Sita Chettri, the project coordinator in Dolakha said. The money that is distributed among the stakeholders may seem meagre, but for the local people it is a considerable amount.

“Our revolving fund had only 21dollars and the money was lent to a disadvantaged member so that she could buy a goat,” said Chettri. “There are 19 such women in the group and the carbon money will mean faster succour for them.”