Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Resource Conservation

Department or School/College

College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

Jill M. Belsky

Commitee Members

Stephen F. Siebert, Sarah Halvorson


Bhutan, community forestry, rural livelihoods


University of Montana


Bhutan has had an active community forestry program since 2000. A key feature of the nationally organized program is the devolution of forest management and use to local residents who participate in a “Community Forestry Management Groups” (CFMG) for managing nearby community forests (CF) according to rules developed by the Department of Forests. These groups are responsible for developing and implementing community forest management plans that entitle them to use locally valuable forest products (fuel wood, construction timber, mushrooms, bamboo etc). Most recently CFMGs have been given the right to sell forest products from their CFs that are not needed locally with the goal that community forestry can contribute to rural poverty alleviation in Bhutan, in addition to sustainable forestry. While studies have been conducted on the relative achievements of community forests at the community level, few report on the dynamics of the program on individual household livelihoods, especially in the context of other food and income generating activities. The objective of this study is to examine the actual contribution of community forests to rural livelihoods in Bhutan including the relatively new goal of income generation to alleviate rural poverty. Four community forests were selected as case studies, all in Bumthang district or dzongkhag. Two community forests were selected in two different blocks including one long established and one recently established, and one with relatively good and another with relatively degraded forest conditions. These include Shambayung CF established in August 2003 and Lhapang CF established in April 2010 in Tang block and, Ziptangzur CF established in December 2003 and Dechen Kinga Choeling CF established in July 2010 in Ura block. To understand the contribution of community forests to individual household livelihoods, face to face interviews using a semi-structured questionnaire were conducted by the author with CFMG member households in the four case study community forests. Interviews were also conducted with individuals who had not joined a community forest management group to compare their livelihoods as well as reasons why they have not joined a CFMG. Interviews were also conducted with extension forest officials in each block for background information on community forests. Policy documents and secondary data from office records were also used for additional background and comparative information. Key results are that CFMG households in all but Shambayung CF get their staple food through market purchase, mostly from selling agricultural products (especially potatoes). In Shambayung 17 % of the respondents obtain their food from agricultural farm labor, labor for collection of fuel and construction wood, from collection of wild mushroom (Auricularia sp) and from remittances from Bhutan or from abroad. Only Shambayung CFMG members report getting all (100%) fuelwood and construction wood from their CF, while only 3.8% meet their fuel wood needs from the Ziptangzur CF in Tangsibi village. In the other two CFs, which were newly established and yet to implement the management plan, 100% obtain their fuel wood and construction wood from government forest. Easier access to forest products as well as protection of their community forests from illegal outside use are the two main reasons for joining CFMGs. The main reason households do not join a CFMG is because they are unable to contribute the labor required for CF activities (i.e., to attend meetings, conduct boundary demarcation, silviculture treatments and making fire lines, and patrol forests). To date, community forests do not provide households with significant income. In Shambayung CF, records indicate there is sufficient timber beyond local use which could be available for sale but lack of a good access road has limited sale of excess timber. The Ziptangzur CFMG is just beginning to collect and sell wild mushroom (Auricularia sp) f



© Copyright 2011 WANGCHUK DORJI