The Royal Government of Bhutan (RGoB) prioritizes forest landscape restoration and reclamation of degraded lands with re-afforestation and watershed development programs, many of which involve rural populations and affect land use and rural economic wellbeing. Bhutan’s community forestry (CF) program, for example, encourages restoration of degraded hillsides to increase ecosystem services downstream. However, compensation to often economically disadvantaged upstream participants for their labor and lost income is rarely sufficient and requires regular review. Meanwhile, sustainable forest management and watershed protection goals in government reserve forests (GRF) face challenges arising from access to forests and harvest costs that belie good spatial planning and tree population management. Management policies, goals and strategies occur against a background of continuous and multi-dimensional change, including demographic shifts and related land use changes, fluctuations in demand for timber and water resources, and weather and hydrological variability exacerbated by global climate change.
CIFOR’s Sloping Lands in Transition (SLANT) team is working with Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE) Bhutan to launch new collaborative research and capacity building in Bhutan named Sloping land in transition: Participatory research on landscape management for forest ecosystem service provision and adaptation to change in Bhutan. Overall, the objective of the project is to engage in capacity building and research to understand the suite of forest ecosystem services in a sloping landscape that are highly relevant to both upslope and downslope stakeholders. While the scientific objective is to generate new data and information about the perceptions of and priorities for the ecosystem services provided by forests in a sloping landscape of both up-slope and down-slope stakeholders.
The project development goals are:
- to increase partner capacity to engage smallholder communities in participatory research and decision-making processes that prioritize delivery of forest ecosystem services
- to raise awareness among district and national sectorial management units of the role of upland smallholder communities in management of forest landscapes for provision of ecosystem goods and services
- to enhance the national cadre of forestry professionals through the engagement of new forestry officials in project activities.