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Open Access Equity in Community Forests in Bhutan

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The equity of Bhutan's new community forestry program was assessed after three years of experience with timber harvesting. Despite the impressive achievements of community forestry programs elsewhere in South Asia, there is increasing evidence that poor and disadvantaged members of community forestry management groups benefit less than other members. We compared this with the situation in Bhutan. All households in three villages were ranked by socio-economic status before analyzing the distribution of community forest (CF) products. A household survey and focus group interviews provided more detailed information on how the socio-economic groups participated in the CFs. Economic equity (distribution of benefits) and political equity (participation in decision making) were found to be higher than reports from neighbouring countries. We discuss the cultural context and hypothesise that these unexpected findings can be attributed to four factors: ethnic homogeneity, active participation of women, supportive government policy and intensive extension support. Further study with additional CFs over a longer time period is needed to test this hypothesis and assess the relative importance of these four factors.

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Keywords: Bhutan; Community Forestry; Himalayas; equity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Rhode Island, Dept. of Natural Resources Science, 1 Greenhouse Road, Kingston, RI 02881, USA. 2: Forest Research (The Forestry Commission), Alice Holt Lodge, Farnham, Surrey GU10 4LH, UK. 3: Department of Forests, Ministry of Agriculture, Thimphu, Bhutan.

Publication date: September 1, 2010

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