Empowering rural communities to manage forests in Bhutan

The Participatory Forest Management Project supports the formation of community forest management groups throughout Bhutan. These groups manage their forests and market forest products to improve their livelihoods.
Rural communities in the Bhutanese Himalayas depend heavily on forests and other natural resources. In 1969, all forests were put under control of the central government. However, the Bhutanese government soon realised that the participation of local people is key to the conservation and sustainable management of forests and started exploring community forestry. Community forests are government-owned forests for which rural communities receive management rights under conditions set out in a management plan. With this transfer of responsibilities, local communities again become custodians of their surrounding forests.

In the young democracy of Bhutan, HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation and its partners promote community forestry as a means to improve rural livelihoods and local governance, and thus to contribute to poverty reduction and local democratisation. The project - funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation - supports the formation of new community forestry management groups and develops the capacities of community members and foresters to jointly plan and manage community forests. It also promotes the marketing of forest products to generate income for the often poor communities and contributes to the development of an enabling legal framework for community forestry.

Today, community forestry is a key component of Bhutan’s forest policy and an important movement in the country. The number of community forests has increased rapidly since 2007 and continues to grow. An increasing number of groups generate income from selling timber and non-wood forest products from their forests.

This is a project mandate implemented on behalf of SDC (until June 2017)

project impact

644 community forests have been established by May 2016 covering an area of more than 60’000 hectares. 27000 households are members of a community forest management group equalling about one fourth of all households in rural Bhutan.


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