Joint Forest Management Rules: Law and Practice in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
The study’s main aim was to provide an in-depth insight into the Community Participation (also called Joint Forest Management or JFM) Rules enforced by the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) in 2004 to reform the KP Environment Department from a “policing model” to a participatory one. It sought to find out; whether the JFM rules are followed in letter and spirit or the environment department of the province is still using age-old policies without involving the local communities in the management of forests. The study has uncovered the departmental and bureaucratic constraints towards the JFM Rules that stop the department from embarking on a journey towards a more participatory, inclusive, transparent, accountable, and sustainable management as well as development of forest resources. A qualitative research design was selected for this study and data was collected from a sample assembled on quota sampling technique with the quotas of respondents: 10 forest owners (people who have ownership rights in forests. 5 were taken from Malakand Division and 5 from Hazara Division of KP), 10 forest users (people who occasionally or permanently live in or near forests and use its resources in an arrangement with the forest owners. 5 were taken from Malakand and 5 from Hazara again), 10 government officials (5 from the environment department and 5 from the legal fraternity) and finally 10 environmental activists (including 5 female activists). Themes were developed after carrying out semi-structured in-depth interviews using interview guides. One of the major findings of the research were the sweeping and discretionary powers of the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) which hinders the progress of JFM as DFO is not only the final authority on registration of a JFM Committee but can influence various other aspects of community participation and JFM like planning, funding and termination. It was also found that the territorial or protection staff (like Ranger, Forester & Guard) were still calling the shots in a top-down approach instead of a bottom-to-top approach by the mobilization and developmental staff (like Community Development Officer or CDO & Female Forest Extensionist or FFE) despite the JFM Rules. It was revealed that there is a great lack of funds and financial independence of the Directorate of CDEGAD (Community Development, Extension, Gender and Development) which is responsible for implementing community participation and JFM. The directorate staff is mostly financially dependent upon the discretion of the DFO. Even after 16 years, the environment department has not internalized JFM Rules. There was a lack of concern by government top management towards addressing this huge environmental problem of the lack of implementation of JFM despite the recent Billion and 10 Billion Trees "Tsunami" Afforestation Projects with the help of the UN under the Bonn Challenge. A very small number of community members reported that they are participating in the forestry and wildlife activities with the environment department. "Rubber stamp" and "token" participation were reported just to give legal cover to the departmental activities and a photo session for the social media instead of truly real incentive participation to achieve sustainable management and development of forest resources. There is a great if not an organized resistance of the majority of forestry staff to JFM Rules and keep these rules hidden under the carpet to carry on the traditional approach which is harmful for the communities, the department, the forests, and the wildlife in the long run. Lack of implementation of JFM Rules also facilitates corruption. Without local support and knowledge, the poverty in the forest-dependent communities cannot be eradicated. Lessons from Nepal's social forestry should be learned and utilized for KP's JFM. Nevertheless, the recent projects by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf led KP and Federal governments have given environmental activists a great glimmer of hope but the long-term positive results of it will depend upon its continuity by the future governments. The positions of CDOs, Female CDOs, and SOs (Social Organizers) need to be strengthened with legal powers regarding JFM. Several environmental policy and regulation needs were also identified in this study, followed by several recommendations for the environment department, provincial government, and civil society for bold and ambitious community-led forestry and wildlife conservation projects.