Management of Village Common Forests in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh: Historical Background and Current Issues in Terms of Sustainability

DOI: 10.4236/ojf.2012.23016   PDF   HTML     7,472 Downloads   14,654 Views   Citations


This study was conducted to investigate the historical management system of village common forests (VCF) in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh and observe the current issues related to their sustainability. The study on historical context was based on secondary information to establish the linkages of VCF development and management in the CHT. Field visits to four VCF in the Bandarban Hill Districts were also conducted to cross check the information collected from secondary sources to observe the current status and management pattern of these VCF through semi-structured interviews, group discussion, key-informant interviews and biodiversity assessment. VCF in the CHT undoubtedly play an important role in biodiversity conservation and as well as supporting daily necessities of the community people. We found that VCF still are the source of fuel wood, herbs, roots, bamboo shoots, wild fruits, vines or leaves for cooking or medicinal use necessary to sustain the lives of the indigenous communities in the CHT. Field visits to different VCF show that the VCF are necessarily small in size (57 ha) and around 108 families are dependent on these community managed village forests. A total of 163 plant species from 60 families were also recorded from these VCF including some rare plant and animal species which are not usually found in the reserve forests and the un-classed state forests due to continued deforestation and land degradation. However, population pressure combined with improved marketing facilities, ignorance, over exploitation, personal greed, tenure insecurity, faulty government policies regarding settlement of land and breakdown of the traditional systems exerting pressures on these VCF and the overall condition of these important biodiversity rich areas are degrading or shrinking in size and number gradually. Recognizing the traditional and customary resource rights of the indigenous communities in the CHT, acknowledging resource management system, providing tenure security, encouraging communities through legal and financial incentives in protecting these VCF or any other state owned forest areas solely for the conservation of biodiversity following an intensive management plan, resolving long lasting land related conflicts, and at the same time upholding the spirit of CHT Peace Accord 1997 could be important policy tools for the sustainability of these VCF in the CHT. Lessons learned from this study will be useful in formulating effective policies for community based forest management in Bangladesh and other developing countries.

Share and Cite:

Jashimuddin, M. & Inoue, M. (2012). Management of Village Common Forests in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh: Historical Background and Current Issues in Terms of Sustainability. Open Journal of Forestry, 2, 121-137. doi: 10.4236/ojf.2012.23016.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Acharya, K. P. (2002). Twenty-four years of community forestry in Nepal. International Forestry Review, 4, 149-156. doi:10.1505/IFOR.
[2] Adhikari, B., Williams, F., & Lovett, J. C. (2007). Local benefits from community forests in the middle hills of Nepal. Forest Policy & Economics, 9, 464-478. doi:10.1016/j.forpol.2005.11.002
[3] Adnan, S., & Dastidar, R. (2011). Alienation of the lands of indigenous peoples in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. Dhaka/Copenhagen: Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission/International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs.
[4] AF (2010). Conserving forests for the future: Annual report 2009. Dhaka: Arannayk Foundation. URL.
[5] Ali, M. E., & Tsuchiya, T. (2002). Land rights of the indigenous people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh: A historical analysis of policy issues. Fourth World Journal, 5, 63-79.
[6] Arnold, J. E. M. (1998). Managing forests as common property: FAO Forestry Paper 136. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
[7] Azam, M., & Sarker, T. (2011). Green tourism in the context of climate change towards sustainable economic development in the South Asian Region. Journal of Environmental Management and Tourism, 1, 6-15.
[8] Banerjee, A. K. (2000). Devolving forest management in Asia-Pacific countries. In T. Enters, P. B. Durst, & M. Victor (Eds.), Decentrali-zation and devolution of forest management in Asia and the Pacific. RECOFTC Report 18, RAP Publication 2000/1, Bangkok.
[9] Barkat, A., Halim, S., Poddar, A., Badiuzzaman, M., Osman, A., Khan, M. S., Rahman, M., Majid, M., Mahiyuddin, G., Chakma, S., & Bashir, S. (2009). Socio-economic baseline survey of Chittagong Hill Tracts. Dhaka: Human Development Research Centre (HDRC)/Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Facility (CHTDF)/UNDP. URL. Reports/Survey/Socio-economic_BaselineSurvey_CHT_%20HDRC_ %2008April09.pdf
[10] Baten, M. A., Khan, N. A., Ahammad, R., & Misbahuzzaman, K. (2010). Village common forests in Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh: Balance between Conservation and Exploitation. Dhaka: Unnayan Onneshan—The Innovators, 13.
[11] Baumann, P. (2002). Improving access to natural resources for the rural poor: A critical analysis of central concepts and emerging trends from a sustainable livelihoods perspective. LSP Working Paper 1, Access to Natural Resources Sub-Programme, Livelihood Support Programme (LSP). Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
[12] Behera, B., & Engel, S. (2006). Institutional analysis of evolution of joint forest management in India: A new institutional economics approach. Forest Policy & Economics, 8, 350-362. doi:10.1016/j.forpol.2005.08.006
[13] Berkes, F., Feeny, D., McCay, B. J., & Acheson, M. J. (1989). The benefits of the commons. Nature, 340, 91-93. doi:10.1038/340091a0
[14] Biswas, A. K. (1992). Forest management, environment and development in South Asia. Contemporary South Asia, 1, 249-258. doi:10.1080/09584939208719684
[15] Chakma, B., Khisa, B. B., & Chakma, S. (undated). Conflict into opportunities: Towards forest governance in Chittagong Hill Tracts (A case study from Bangladesh). Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). URL.$file/B._Chakma_3.1.pdf
[16] Chowdhury, K. (2008). Politics of identities and resources in Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh: Ethnonationalism and/or indigenous identity. Asian Journal of Social Science, 36, 57-78. doi:10.1163/156853108X267567
[17] Chowdhury, M. S. H., & Miah, M. D. (2003). Housing pattern and food habit of the Mro-tribe community in Bangladesh: A forest dependence perspective. Journal of Forestry Research, 14, 253-258. doi:10.1007/BF02856841
[18] CIFOR (2011). Community-based forest management key to success of REDD+. Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). URL (last checked 10 July 2011).
[19] Ciriacy-Wantrup, S. V., & Bishop, R. C. (1975). “Common property” as a concept in natural resources policy. Natural Resources Journal, 15, 713-727.
[20] DoF. (2011). Community forestry. Department of Forests, Government of Nepal. URL (last checked 23 October 2011).
[21] Duthy, S., & Bolo-Duthy, B. (2003). Empowering people’s organizations in community based forest management in the Philippines: The community organizing role of NGOs. Annals of Tropical Research, 25, 13-27.
[22] FAO (2011). State of the world’s forests. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. URL.
[23] Feeny, D., Berkes, F., McCay, B. J., & Acheson, J. M. (1990). The tragedy of commons: Twenty-two years later. Human Ecology, 18, 1-19. doi:10.1007/BF00889070
[24] FRA. (2010). Global forest resources assessment 2010: Main report. FAO Forestry Paper 163. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. URL.
[25] Gautam, A. P., Shivakoti, G.P., & Webb, E. L. (2004). A review of forest policies, institutions, and changes in the resource condition in Nepal. International Forestry Review, 6, 136-148. doi:10.1505/ifor.
[26] Halim, S., & Roy, R. D. (2006). Lessons learned from the application of human rights-based approaches in the indigenous forestry sector in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh: A case study of the village common forest project implemented by Taungya. URL.
[27] Halim, S., Roy, R. D., Chakma, S., Tanchangya, S.B. (2007). Bangladesh: The interface of customary and state laws in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. In H. Leake (Ed.), Bridging the gap: Policies and practices on indigenous peoples’ natural resource management in Asia. Chiang Mai: UNDP-RIPP/AIPP Foundation.
[28] Halim, S., Roy, R. D., Chakma, S., & Tanchangya, S. B. (undated). Natural resource management country studies: Bangladesh report. Regional Indigenous Peoples’ Programme, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP-RIPP). URL.
[29] Hardin, G. (1968). The tragedy of the commons. Science, 162, 12431248. doi:10.1126/science.162.3859.1243
[30] Heltberg, R. (2001). Determinants and impact of local institutions for common resource management. Environment and Development Economics, 6, 183-208. doi:10.1017/S1355770X01000110
[31] IPP (2011). BAN: Second Chittagong Hill Tracts Rural Development Project. Indigenous Peoples Plan (IPP). Dhaka: Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs and Asian Development Bank.
[32] Islam, M. A., Marinova, D., Khan, M. H., Chowdhury, G.W., Chakma, S., Uddin, M., Jahan, I., Akter, R., Mohsanin, S., & Tennant, E. (2009). Community Conserved Areas (CCAs) in Bangladesh. Dhaka: Wildlife Trust of Bangladesh.
[33] Jamaluddin, M., Hassan, M. K., & Miah, M. M. (2010). Identifying livelihood patterns of ethnic minorities and their coping strategies different vulnerabilities situation in Chittagong Hill Tracts Region, Bangladesh. Final Report CF#7/08. Dhaka: National Food Policy Capacity Strengthening Programme (NFPCSP), USAID.
[34] Khan, N. A., & Khisa, S. K. (2000). Sustainable land management with rubber based agroforestry: A Bangladeshi example of uplands community development. Sustainable Development, 8, 1-10. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1099-1719(200002)8:1<1::AID-SD126>3.0.CO;2-C
[35] Khisa, S. K. (1998). Ethno-botanical cultural background of ethnic communities in forest resource management in Chittagong Hill Tracts. In R. L. Banik, M. K. Alam, S. J. Pei, & A. Rastog (Eds.), Applied ethnobotany (pp. 56-63). Chittagong: Bangladesh Forest Research Institute.
[36] Lasimbang, J. (2006). Natural resource management country studies. Regional Synthesis Paper. Regional Indigenous Peoples’ Programme, UNDP. URL.
[37] Mahapatra, L. K. (1997). Parameters of forest policy for tribal development. In P. M. Mohapatra, & P. C. Mohapatro (Eds.), Forest management in tribal areas: Forest policy and peoples participation (pp. 26-42). New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company.
[38] McKean, M. A., & Ostrom, E. (1995). Common property regimes in the forest: just a relic from the past. Unasylva, 180, 3-15.
[39] Miah, M. D., & Chowdhury, M. S. H. (2004). Traditional forest utilizetion practice by the Mro tribe in the Bandarban region, Bangladesh. Schweiz Z Forstwes, 155, 65-70. doi:10.3188/szf.2004.0065
[40] Mjanger, G. (2008). The land is not ours: Alienation of land rights of the Jumma in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh. Masters Thesis, Hague: Institute of Social Studies.
[41] Mohiuddin, M., & Alam, M. K. (2011). Opportunities of traditional knowledge in Natural resource management experience from Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge, 10, 474-480.
[42] Muhammed, N., Koike, M., & Haque, F. (2008) Forest policy and sustainable forest management in Bangladesh: an analysis from national and international perspectives. New Forests, 36, 201-216. doi:10.1007/s11056-008-9093-8
[43] Nasreen, J., & Togawa, M. (2002). Politics of development: ‘PahariBengali’ discourse in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Journal of International Development and Cooperation, 9, 97-112.
[44] Nath, T. K., & Inoue, M. (2008). The upland settlement project of Bangladesh as a means of reducing land degradation and improving rural livelihoods. Small-Scale Forestry, 7, 163-182. doi:10.1007/s11842-008-9048-0
[45] Nath, T. K., & Inoue, M. (2009). Forest based settlement project and its impact on community livelihood in Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh. International Forestry Review, 11, 394-407. doi:10.1505/ifor.11.3.394
[46] Nath, T. K., Inoue, M., & Chakma, S. (2005a). Shifting cultivation (jhum) in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh: Examining its sustainability, rural livelihood and policy implications. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, 3, 130-142. doi:10.1080/14735903.2005.9684751
[47] Nath, T. K., Inoue, M., & Hla Myant, M. (2005b). Small-scale agroforestry for upland community development: a case study from Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh. Journal of Forest Research, 10, 443452. doi:10.1007/s10310-005-0171-x
[48] Nath, T. K., Inoue, M., & Pretty, J. (2010). Formation and function of social capital for forest resource management and the improved live-lihoods of indigenous people in Bangladesh. Journal of Rural and Community Development, 5, 104-122.
[49] Nayak, P. K. (2002). Community-based Forest Management in India: the Issue of Tenurial Significance. The 9th Biennial Conference of the IASCP (International Association for the Study of Common Property), Victoria Falls, 17-21 June 2002.
[50] Nishat, A., & Biswas, S. (2005). Community-based restoration of degraded tropical hill forests: Experiences from Krykhong Para, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh. Bulletin 16: 1-11. Jaipur/New Delhi: National Institute of Ecology.
[51] Panigrahi, R. (2006). Democratization of Forest governance: Myths and realities. The Eleventh Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property, Bali, 19-23 June 2006.
[52] Rahman, M. A. (2005). Chittagong Hill Tracts peace accord in Bangladesh: Reconciling the issues of human rights, indigenous rights and environmental governance. Journal of Bangladesh Studies, 7, 46-58.
[53] Rahman, S. A., Rahman, M. F., Codilan, A. L., & Farhana, K. M. (2007). Analysis of the economic benefits from systematic improvements to shifting cultivation and its evolution towards stable continuous agroforestry in the upland of Eastern Bangladesh. International Forestry Review, 9, 536-547.
[54] Rahman, S. A., Rahman, M. F., & Sunderland, T. (2011). Causes and consequences of shifting cultivation and its alernative in the hill tracts of eastern Bangladesh. Agroforestry Systems, 84, 141-155. doi:10.1007/s10457-011-9422-3
[55] Rasul, G. (2005). State policies and land use in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. IIED Gatekeeper Series 119. London: International Institute for Environment and Development.
[56] Rasul, G. (2007). Political ecology of the degradation of forest commons in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. Environmental Conservation, 34, 153-163. doi:10.1017/S0376892907003888
[57] Rasul, G., & Karki, M. (2006). Political ecology of degradation of forest common in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. The Eleventh Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property, Bali, 19-23 June 2006.
[58] Rasul, G., & Thapa, G. B. (2003). Shifting cultivation in the mountains of south and southeast Asia: Regional patterns and factors influenceing the change. Land Degradation & Development, 14, 495-508. doi:10.1002/ldr.570
[59] Rasul, G., & Thapa, G. B. (2005). State policies, praxies and land-use in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. IIED Working Paper. London: International Institute for Environment and Development. URL
[60] Rasul, G., & Thapa, G. B. (2006). Financial and economic suitability of agroforestry as an alternative to shifting cultivation: The case of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh. Agricultural Systems, 91, 29-50. doi:10.1016/j.agsy.2006.01.006
[61] Rasul, G., Thapa, G. B., & Zoebisch, M. A. (2004). Determinants of land-use changes in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. Applied Geography, 24, 217-240. doi:10.1016/j.apgeog.2004.03.004
[62] Roy, R. C. K. (2000). Land rights of the indigenous peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh. Copenhagen: International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA).
[63] Roy, R. D. (1998). Land rights: Land use and indigenous peoples in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. In P. Gain (Ed.), Bangladesh: Land, Forest and Forest People (pp. 53-118). Dhaka: Society for Environment and Human Development (SEHD).
[64] Roy, R. D. (2002). Land and forest rights in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh. ICIMOD Talking Points 4/02. Kathmandu: International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development.
[65] Roy, R. D. (2004) Challenges for juridical pluralism and customary laws of indigenous peoples: The case of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh. Arizona Journal of International & Comparative Law, 21, 113-182.
[66] Roy, R. D., & Halim, S. (2002). Valuing Village commons in forestry. Indigenous Perspectives, 5, 9-38.
[67] Roy, R. D., Hossain, S., Guhathakurta, M. (2007). Access to justice for indigenous peoples in Bangladesh: Case study. Towards Inclusive Governance Promoting Participation of Disadvantaged Groups in Asia-Pacific. Bangkok: UNDP Regional Indigenous Peoples’ Programme (RIPP)/UNDP.
[68] Ruiz-Pe′rez, M., Almeida, M., Dewi, S., Costa, E. M. L., Pantoja, M. C., Puntodewo, A., Postigo, A. A., & de Andrade, A. G. (2005). Conservation and development in Amazonian extractive reserves: The case of Alto Jurua. Ambio, 34, 218-223.
[69] Saha, P. S. (2010). Parbattya Chattagramer Mouza Ban: Prachin Praggyar Arek Rup. In P. Gain (Ed.) Dharitri, 11th issue, an occasional SEHD magazine (Bangla). Dhaka: Society for Environment and Human Development (SEHD). URL.
[70] Stocks, A., McMahan, B., & Taber, P. (2007). Indigenous, colonist and government impacts on Nicaragua’s Bosawas Reserve. Conservation Biology, 21, 1495-1505.
[71] Sunderlin, W. D., Hatcher, J., & Liddle, M. (2008). From exclusion to ownership? Challenges and opportunities in advancing forest tenure reform. Washington DC: Rights and Resources Initiative.
[72] Talwar, D. M., & Ghate, R. (2003). Community-initiated forest management without land tenure: how feeble, how strong? A study of three villages from central India. The Conference on Politics of the Commons: Articulating Development and Strengthening Local Practices, Chiang Mai, 11-14 July 2003. URL.
[73] Thapa, G. B., & Rasul, G. (2006). Implications of changing national policies on land use in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. Journal of Environmental Management, 81, 441-453. doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2005.12.002
[74] Tiwari, S. (2003). Chittagong Hill Tracts: A preliminary study on gender and natural resource management. Ottawa: IDRC. URL.
[75] Uddin, M. A. (2008). Displacement and destruction of ethnic people in Bangladesh. Canadian Social Science, 4, 16-24.
[76] van Schendel, W., Mey, W., & Dewan, A. K. (2001). The Chittagong Hill Tracts: Living in a Boarderland. Dhaka: The University Press Ltd.
[77] Vemuri, A. (2008). Joint Forest Management in India: An unavoidable and conflicting common property regime in natural resource management. Journal of Development and Social Transformation, 5, 81-90.
[78] Wakiyama, T. (2004). Community forestry in Nepal: A comparison of management systems between indigenous forestry and modern community forestry. In: K. Harada and M. Nanang (Eds.), Policy Trend Report 2004 (pp. 1-20). Hayama: Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES).
[79] White, A., & Martin, A. (2002). Who owns the world’s forests? Forest tenure and public forests in transition. Washington DC: Forest Trends.
[80] Zaman, S., Siddiquee, S. U., Faruq, M. A. A., Pramanik, M. R., Katoh, M. (2011). Reckoning Participatory Forest Management in Bangladesh: Study from Its Implementation Perspective. Journal of Agricultural Science, 3, 233-239.

comments powered by Disqus

Copyright © 2020 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.