I am delighted to share my great SUTROFOR experience from Nepal. I was nominated by the Institute to serve as a Teacher/Supervisor for the Sustainable Tropical Forestry (SUTROFOR) Spring School in Nepal.
The SUTROFOR is an Erasmus Mundus International Master Course which is organized and run by a consortium of five prominent European Universities in the field of forests and natural resource management. They include the University of Copenhagen (Denmark), Dresden University of Technology (Germany), Agroparis Tech (Montpellier-France), Bangor University (UK) and the University of Padova (Italy) (for details, see: https://sutrofor.eu).
A total of 23 students drawn from 18 countries around the world participated at the event. The students were grouped into 4 groups based on their areas of interest as follows: Livelihoods, Forest Ecology, Agroforestry and Community Forestry. Four supervisors from the University of Copenhagen (Carsten), Bangor University (Mark), Agro-Paris Tech, Montpellier (Raphael), and Dresden Technological University (Jude) accompanied the students during this field exercise, in collaboration with local supervisors from the Institute of Forestry (IoF), Pokhara. Prior to the field trip, the students had been engaged in a one-month (February) field preparation online course where their research ideas and instruments were developed.
Between the 5th and the 19th of March 2019, it was time for them to generate data and report their findings. The study site was in the Lower Mustang District of Nepal, which is managed by the Annapurna Conservation Area Programme (ACAP). Specifically, the group covered five villages to include Kunjo, Titi, Parshyang, Taglung, and Chhayo. A welcome ceremony was organized for the entire SUTROFOR team by these communities.
I worked with the Community Forestry group on the topic “Co-management arrangements and social outcomes. Insights from the Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal”. Their study sought to: (i) explore the co-management arrangements (structure, rules compliance, roles and interest of actors) in the ACAP Area, (ii) determine households’ motivations to participate in co-management activities as a function of their socio-economic attributes, and (iii) estimate the social outcomes of households’ participation in co-management.
To accomplish this study, five focus group discussions, 8 key informant interviews and 50 structured household interviews were conducted. This was followed by a few days of data encoding and reporting.
A striking aspect of their finding was the fact that forest users’ motivation to participate in conservation area management activities was not driven by their perceived direct benefits (such as income). This result actually contrasts previous contentions on the role of perceived benefits as key motivational elements for community participation in natural resource management.
Their field results were presented and discussed at the Institute of Forestry (IoF) in Pokhara. This was then followed by a closing ceremony (and party) on the 19th of March. The group has equally demonstrated interest to develop the results into the scientific paper for submission to a journal. Together with the IoF colleague, it is our intention to support them in this process.
Away from the scientific work, we equally had time to explore some touristic attractions in Nepal. Some of which include the Titi Lake (located at an altitude of 2600m) and Muktinath (a religious centre for Buddhists and Hindu – located at close to 4000m).
Personally, it was a great experience to have worked with students from diverse cultures and backgrounds who all demonstrated aptitude and flexibility in adjusting to field realities to ensure a successful research process.