People serve forests; forests serve people

Villagers in a mountainous region of central Nepal are learning that good forest stewardship pays dividends.

Nairobi, 31 October 2016: Some villagers in Nepal are to receive payments for their stewardship of community forests, an important step towards replicating this elsewhere in the country and beyond. The payments are based on new tools under development by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) that will soon be available for all FSC certified forests.

It will be the first time communities will be able to claim and receive extra payments for protecting specific services and benefits provided by community forests under a new expanded forest certification system which measures and independently verifies those claims.

The Forest Certification for Ecosystem Services (ForCES) project, which runs from 2011 to 2017 in four countries, is led by the FSC, in collaboration with UN Environment.

Under the project, 73 community forest user groups in the Charnawati Landscape in central Nepal’s Dolakha District are carrying out activities to enhance carbon sequestration (controlling fires, reducing grazing impacts, improving timber harvesting practices) and protect water sources (increasing forest cover – particularly on steep mountain slopes, excluding livestock, and improving waste management).

“[The project] has generated self-motivation and readiness to adopt the standards for conservation and sustainable management of our forests and other high conservation value areas,” says Ganesh Karki, chairperson of the Federation of Community Forestry Users – Nepal.

“It has developed understanding among us as well as the local forest managers about the ecosystem services provided by the forests, and their necessity for maintaining healthy ecosystems and prosperous communities.”

Prior to the project, forest management practices in Nepal assigned values only for timber, fodder and non-timber forest products and neglected other valuable ecosystem services such as water, biodiversity, forest carbon, soil conservation, and recreational services.

Forests provide materials for building homes, cooking, heating, feeding and healing. They store large amounts of carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere. They can counter heavy rainfall, floods and erosion; break the path of storms and avalanches; and offer green recreational space for our increasing urban population. They also act as reservoirs and purifiers for drinking water, and are home to countless plants and animals like bees that pollinate crops.

Incentives
Two community forest user groups are to receive incentive payments (on top of what they usually extract from the forest) for not only managing their forest sustainably, but also doing so specifically for water and non-timber products through partnership with the private sector. The funds will be provided by Charikot Drinking Water and Sanitation Users Association, and Himalayan Bio-Trade Pvt. Ltd (a non-timber forest products exporting company).

“This is an important global initiative to enable more responsible forest management by industries, plantations, and smallholders," says UN Environment ecosystems expert Max Zieren. "The payment for ecosystem services such as water or the protection of orangutan populations in forest operations can provide the needed incentives to do so, and responds to new 'green' market opportunities. The critical new element here is the independent verification systems offered by FSC.

“With the support of UN Environment and the Center for International Forestry Research, FSC are adapting FSC certification standards and tools to assure governments, investors, buyers and businesses that such incentives preserve forest ecosystem services.”

In Nepal the work was led by the Asia Network for Sustainable Agriculture and Bioresources (ANSAB), a pioneer on payments for ecosystem services.

“[The project] has brought local communities, government and private sector together for responsible management of forests and ecosystem services, and created a basis for recognizing and rewarding the local forest stewards by linking them with domestic and international sectors usually not involved in maintaining forests,” says Bhishma Subedi, Executive Director, ANSAB.

About the project
ForCES http://forces.fsc.org/ aims to help preserve valuable ecosystem services in responsibly managed forests, adapt FSC standards to emerging ecosystem services markets, and target ecosystem services which have present or future market potential. ForCES is being implemented and tested in nine pilot sites in Chile, Indonesia, Nepal and Viet Nam.

The project is supported through a grant of the Global Environment Facility and funded to the tune of US$6.7million.

It is working with communities, non-governmental organizations, tourism organizations, forestry and water companies, and governments.

About the Forest Stewardship Council
FSC is a global, not-for-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of responsible forest management worldwide. FSC uses certification to enable businesses and consumers to make informed choices about the forest products they buy.

Currently, nearly 194 million hectares of forest are certified to FSC standards (13 per cent of the world’s production forests), and close to 33,000 forest management and chain of custody certificates, which track certified products from the forest to the shelf, have been issued worldwide.

“FSC is creating new incentives for forest owners, managers and communities to preserve valuable ecosystem services,” says Chris Henschel, FSC ecosystem services programme manager.

“FSC-forest certification already requires the protection of ecosystem services. As ecosystem service markets grow, we see opportunities for new incentives and rewards for forest owners, managers and communities.”

For further information please contact Max Zieren: Max.Zieren [at] unep.org or Chris Henschel : c.henschel [at] fsc.org