Equity in community forestry management: A case of Lhuentse and Mongar Dzongkhags, eastern Bhutan
Author Sonam Wangchuk1*
In resource dependent rural areas of Bhutan, community forestry management is promoted as a viable option for poverty reduction, enhancement of local economic development
and biodiversity conservation. While there have been an impressive number of community forests established in Bhutan since the early 2000s, there are many concerns including the degree to which benefits of community forests are equitably distributed within the community forestry management groups. This paper presents the findings of a study investigating economic equity (distribution of financial benefits) and social equity (participation in decision making) from three
community forest management groups in two eastern Dzongkhags. The comparisons among socioeconomic groups (rich, middle income and poor), committee vs. regular members, and by gender on livelihood assets and utilization of the forest products (timber, firewood, fodder, leaf litter and non-wood forest products) from community forests were conducted based on information determined from household surveys. The findings suggest that the community forest members had obtained most of their forest products requirements from community forests and
inequity was insignificant amongst the different socioeconomic groups, between committee and regular members and between male and female members. However, economic equity (access to and distribution of forest products) from community forests was dependent on various household characteristics such as availability of land, livestock holdings, trees on private lands, food sufficiency, and income status of households. These factors exert a strong influence on determining the social equity and benefits from community forests. In general, economic equity and social equity were found comparatively higher than reported in neighboring countries. This may possibly be attributed to socio-cultural homogeneity, gender equality, supportive policies and rules, and appropriate resource endowment in community forests.