The context of REDD+ in Nepal. Challenges and opportunities
This report provides an overview of Nepal’s initiatives on readiness for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), the political and socio-economic context in which they are taking place, and their implications for conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries. It examines land use change and the drivers and underlying causes of deforestation. It evaluates the effectiveness, efficiency and equity of current REDD+ efforts in Nepal and analyses the prospects for and challenges to REDD+ implementation going forward.
The report draws on multiple data sources and diverse methodologies. It provides an overview of government plans and policies, legislation, and views of experts on development, forestry and the REDD+ sector in Nepal, as well as ongoing debates in Nepal on issues such as forest governance, benefit-sharing and carbon assessment.
Nepal has a high rate of deforestation and forest degradation, which varies across forest management regimes and ecological zones. There are no robust, comprehensive and upto-date nationwide data on the precise level of deforestation and forest degradation. Multiple drivers—such as high dependency on forests, overharvesting, weak governance, poverty, landlessness and high opportunity costs for agricultural expansion—contribute to deforestation, particularly in the Terai, a narrow, flat and low region in the southern part of the country with fertile soil, dense forests, rich biodiversity and densely populated settlements.
The government’s capacity to monitor and address these drivers and underlying causes appears inadequate. In contrast, the community forests, mainly in the hills, are well managed with positive economic, social and environmental outcomes.
Forest officials, civil society organisations and donors exhibit strong enthusiasm for and active involvement in REDD+. A number of REDD+ readiness initiatives, including the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and projects funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, are being implemented. REDD+ implementation has adopted a participatory and multi-stakeholder process usually involving government agencies, civil society organisations and development partners. However, this process is largely detached from the complex dynamics of deforestation and appears to be limited to technical, administrative and peripheral issues. The core issues of tenure and governance have not received adequate attention.
The multiple drivers of deforestation pose challenges to REDD+ implementation in Nepal. They are often rooted in tenure confusion, weak governance, high opportunity costs and Nepal’s ongoing political transition since the end of the Maoist insurgency and abolition of the monarchy in 2006 (efforts to draft a new constitution are still under way). Though the REDD+ initiative generally has adopted a participatory and multistakeholder process, it has tended to avoid core substantive issues related to resource conflicts that may eventually lead to failure of the scheme. REDD+ leaders must appreciate the core issues of tenure, governance and benefit-sharing and engage with key actors accordingly.