The Asia-Pacific region has some of the highest absolute numbers of people dependent on forests for significant portions of their livelihoods, and also stands to suffer some of the greatest expected economic and loss of human life as a result of adverse climate change impacts. In numerous sites across the region, community forestry (CF) has proven to be an effective approach both for reducing forest loss and degradation and for sustainably managing forests for multiple benefits. These forests, however, continue to be subject to widespread degradation and conversion, and are becoming fragmented within increasingly diverse and intensively used landscapes, often with negative impacts on local people—particularly the poor and excluded—as well as on national and global priorities, such as mitigating and adapting to climate change. CF can be a powerful approach for improving rights, governance and fairer access to benefits for local communities and smallholders; all of which supports the adaptive capacity of communities and the resilience of ecosystems on which they rely. There is increasing policy support for this approach across the region and growing interest in how CF can simultaneously support climate change mitigation and adaptation goals.
In this context, RECOFTC and USAID Adapt Asia-Pacific have developed a framework for better understanding and assessing climate change vulnerabilities in a context of multiple competing interests in a CF landscape. The pilot site for developing this approach was a women-led Community Forestry User Group (CFUG) in the Terai of Nepal; the Bishnupur community forest. The context in Bishnupur reflects challenges associated with the ecologically fragile Chure Forest, but also one of growing opportunities for economic development due to the close proximity of the Indian border. The community has served as a valuable, and generous, testing ground for the approach and a continuing pilot site for the implementation of interventions identified through this Vulnerability Assessment process.
The community had demonstrated considerable commitment to the conservation and development of their community forest, while still being impacted on a regular basis by climatic and other natural disasters and growing vulnerabilities heightened by increasingly market-based livelihoods. The project has sought to build on the existing strengths of this women’s group and use the context of growing climatic impacts as an opportunity to test an innovative framework and systematically identify options for responding to associated vulnerabilities. Forestry and local livelihoods do not exist in isolation from other sectors or cross-cutting priorities, and the best practices and learning process documented throughout and the approaches piloted here may be of broader use to the forestry (and adaptation) sector. The framework presented here may be applicable in a range of contexts not limited to community forestry and while further refinement will be undertaken, can serve as the foundation for a broader community-based approach to adapting to climate change.
See also: Community forestry-based climate change adaptation: a practitioner’s brief