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Move over, men

Women should be included in decision-making roles in the management of forests – BASUNDHARA BHATTARAI

move-over-19022017082229-1000x0Feb 19, 2017- Several months ago, I visited a community forest in the mid-hills of western Nepal to understand how patriarchy was influencing community forestry practices. A group of women told me that, among other unwanted changes, they were getting progressively less firewood from the community forest.

“I became chairperson of my community forest not because I know the duties of the chair, but because men put me there to impress the rangers and DFOs.”

“Every year, when we carry out ‘godmel’ (forest thinning and pruning operations), we cut all inferior species (known as ‘kukath’) and retain ‘superior’ trees for timber. But we never thought how big timber trees would reduce the supply of firewood and fodder species,” they said. A woman in her 70s added, “I have seen that as timber trees grow bigger, smaller plants supplying firewood and fodder vanish.” I asked them if they could use branches and rejected portions of timber trees for firewood. They explained that when someone cuts down a tree for timber, the person is entitled to take the leftover branches. Another woman in her 50s said, “I will never get leftover branches as I have no plan to harvest timber trees for at least the next 10 years.”