Khanal Story | Poverty Environment Network

Khanal Story

News – 1 – 2007

Forest dependency in the mountain communities of rural Nepal

By Bir Bahadur Khanal Chhetri, bbkc@life.ku.dk

This year-long study involved 303 randomly selected households in 2 Village Development Committees (VDCs) in Gorkha District, Nepal: Simjung andGhyachchok. The VDCs, which are about 1 day’s walk from the nearest road, represent a typical Nepalese rural setting. The elevations of the VDCs range from 700 to 3000 m above sea level, and therefore the study area has large variations in forest types and agricultural potential. All households in the study area depend on forest products for cooking fuel, heating, house construction, animal fodder, wood for agricultural implements and, to some degree, traditional medicine. The major crops grown are rice, millet, maize, wheat and potatoes. Livestock include cattle, buffaloes, goats and sheep. Most of the forests near the settlements in Simjung are managed by communities, whereas in Ghyachchok, much of the forestland is under state control. The survey was completed in December 2008.

The study found that the average annual per capita income is 22 663 Nepalese rupees (US$294). The annual per capita income ranges from an average of 8498 rupees ($110) for those in the poorest 20% to an average of 44 402 rupees ($577) for the top 20%. Transfer income -; which includes remittances, wages, pensions, gifts and rent -; is the largest source of income, contributing on average 37% of the total. Combined forest and environmental income contribute on average 16% of total household income. In absolute terms, forest and environmental income increases with income level; in relative terms, however, the higher the income, the smaller the proportion derived from forest and environmental sources (Fig. 1). In the lowest income quintile, forest-;environmental income contributes an average of 29% of total household income, whereas it contributes only 11% for households in the highest income quintile. Results also show a significant seasonal variation in forest income. Seasonal harvesting of some important forest products such as green fuelwood and poles results in more forest income in the first two quarters (January-March and April-;June) than in the final two quarters (July-;September and October-;December).

Figure 1: Absolute and relative contributions of forest and environmental income

On average, crops and livestock contribute 26% and 13% of total household income, respectively. Income from crops is the biggest contributor to total household income for the poorest 60% of households, whereas transfer income (primarily remittances) is the biggest contributor for the wealthiest 40%. Transfer income is thus the major determinant of a household’s income status. The study also indicates the importance of off-farm wages for poorer households, contributing an average of 20% of their total household income. Alcohol production and small village shops are the main sources of business income, but these provide only 2% of the total.

Sources of forest-;environmental income
Eighty per cent of the total forest-;environmental income comes from raw forest and environmental products; however, forest-derived income and forestry wages (generally cash and of importance mainly for the lowest-income earners) also constitute a significant share of this income source. The 3 main sources of direct forest-environmental income are grass for livestock grazing (35% of value), fuelwood (24%) and fodder from trees (18%). Other forest-environmental products include stones and sand, poles and timber for agricultural implements, leaf litter, materials for bedding and thatching, wild fruits, bamboo, fish and other small non-timber forest products.

Bamboo-based products are the predominate form of processed forest products in the area, contributing approximately 56% of the total income from this category. Timber furniture contributes around 20%. Other sources of income from processed forest products include charcoal, utensils and woven products, each contributing around 8% of total forest-derived income. This study documents the high dependency of poorer households on forest-;environmental income sources, even though, in absolute terms, wealthier households derive more income from these sources. It should be noted that the study accounts only for tangible forest-;environmental income and not for income from other environmental services. Therefore, the figures provided represent the lower limit of income derived from forest-environmental sources.
Annex

Table 1: Mean annual per capita income (NPR) by income source and income quintile (n=303)

Income source
Income quintiles
All households
Lowest 20%
Second
Third
Fourth
Highest 20%
Amount
%
Amount
%
Amount
%
Amount
%
 

Amount
%
Amount
%
Forest-environmental 2445 28.8 3464 24.5 3492 17.8 3683 13.7 5111 11.5 3635 16.1
Crop 2777 32.7 4075 28.8 5996 30.6 7258 27.1 9132 20.6 5836 25.8
Livestock 478 5.6 1593 11.3 2693 13.8 4250 15.8 5926 13.3 2979 13.2
Off-farm wages 1727 20.3 1338 9.5 1051 5.4 1372 5.1 1475 3.3 1393 6.1
Own business 300 3.5 380 2.7 376 1.9 135 0.5 645 1.5 366 1.6
Transfer 772 9.1 3286 23.2 5969 30.5 10161 37.8 22114 49.8 8424 37.2
Total 8498 100 14137 100 19577 100. 26858 100 44402 100 22633 100

Table 2: Household forest-environmental sources

Income source
Annual income
per capita (NPR)
Share of
income (%)
Raw forest-
environmental income
2894
79.6
Forest-derived income
384
10.6
Forestry wages
328
9.0
Forest services
28
0.8
Total
3634
100.0

Table 3 Household annual per capita raw forest-environmental income by income source (n=303)


Unprocessed sources
Forest income
per capita (NPR)
Environmental income
per capita (NPR)
Total forest-environmental
income
Income per capita
(NPR)
Share of
income (%)
Grass for grazing
373
647
1020
35.2
Fodder
281
236
517
17.9
Fuelwood
564
132
696
24.0
Timber
33
8
41
1.4
Poles/sticks and tree branches
76
8
84
2.9
Soils, stone and sand*
116
123
239
8.3
Leaf, litter, animal bedding,
grass for thatching
60
46
106
3.7
Wild fruits
42
43
85
2.9
Bamboo
2
3
5
0.2
Other NTFPs
24
2
26
0.9
Fish*
75
75
2.6
Total
1571
1323
2894
100.0

* Included only as environmental income

Table 4: Household annual per capita forest derived income (NPR) by income source (n=303)


Processed forest products
Income per capita (NPR) Share of income (%)
Wooden furniture
76
19.7
Bamboo products
215
55.7
Charcoal
30
8.0
Utensils
32
8.5
Juice and oil
1
0.3
Woven products
30
7.8
Total
384
100.0

One USD = approximately 77 NPR (December 2008).



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