TNRC Nepal Case Study 2

Image representing TNRC's four focus areas: wildlife, fisheries, forests, and finance

Targeting Natural Resource Corruption

Harnessing knowledge, generating evidence, and supporting innovative policy and practice for more effective anti-corruption programming

CASE STUDY



Enabling youth as good governance champions of community forests in Nepal

In 2023, the Targeting Natural Resource Corruption (TNRC) project supported a small number of activities incorporating the lessons of the project’s first pilot projects and building on their themes. In their first pilot (2020-2023), WWF Nepal designed and delivered targeted capacity building for community forest user groups. That work identified a promising, concrete opportunity for a follow-on stage, which WWF Nepal targeted in their second pilot: mobilizing youth as a key stakeholder group for good forest governance. This case study documents lessons from their work.

Youth engaged but know-how needed

Forest governance is one of the most important conservation and sustainable livelihood topics in Nepal, particularly in the form of community forest user groups (CFUGs). CFUGs are responsible for making sure the forests they manage provide environmental, social, and economic services to their community.

In recognition of this centrality of CFUGs, WWF Nepal’s first pilot assessed CFUG governance in six communities. Their assessment identified several gaps, from insufficient accounting procedures to excessive periods without updating fundamental governance documents. The latter issue in particular risked undue concentration of power and benefits.

But their assessment also identified a major opportunity: youth. A majority of CFUG members were youth, and while they did not have substantial experience in the complexities of CFUG administration or capacities in financial management, they did exhibit enthusiasm and a strong commitment to good governance. WWF Nepal also had successful youth champion models to draw upon from their other conservation priorities, like Community-based Anti-Poaching Units. So, WWF Nepal set out to capacitate youth as good governance and anti-corruption champions and create a supportive enabling environment for their efforts.

Increasing skills, knowledge, and capacity of youth champions

The foundational activities of the second pilot were three rounds of training for youth members of the targeted CFUGs. The training focused on the nature and enablers of corruption in community forestry, anti-corruption controls, the public procurement act and other laws, and general financial management methods. More than 100 people participated in the three trainings, from which the team identified 21 “youth champions.” These champions, along with other CFUG stakeholders, participated in additional capacity building, diving deeper into good governance and financial management of community forests.

Armed with this training, the youth champions were ready for the next stage.

Facilitating a good governance enabling environment

WWF Nepal’s enabling environment activities involved three related strategies: directly facilitating engagement with decision makers, raising awareness among the broader community, and developing a grievance redress mechanism for accountability. See Text Box 1 for more information about their theory of change.

Theories of change and results chains: Social norms and anti-corruption

Since TNRC is a learning project, WWF Nepal and TNRC made sure to take the effort to capture lessons from their experience. WWF Nepal contracted external evaluations of its pilots, which provided much of the information shared in this case study and informed the adaptive management of their office’s four-year strategic plan.

In addition, TNRC developed four model results chains to include anti-corruption in the design of conservation projects. One of the model chains was directly informed by WWF Nepal’s project: "Social Norms and Behavior Change for Anti-Corruption".

In a September 2023 presentation to the Conservation Measures Partnership, WWF Nepal and TNRC shared the results of WWF Nepal’s activities, their final theory of change, and the model results chain developed based on their experience. After an introduction to TNRC and the model results chains, WWF Nepal’s section begins at the 20:30 minute mark. 

WWF Nepal and their implementing partners facilitated multiple meetings between the youth champions, duty bearers in elected positions in CFUGs (executive committees), non-governmental organizations, and government agencies like the Divisional Forest Office (DFO). Those meetings were spaces for sharing information and knowledge; the duty bearers sharing more information about the realities of their positions, and the youth champions sharing the knowledge they had gained via the previous trainings. The groups then, together, assessed the levels of good governance of the CFUGs using the set of governance indicators WWF Nepal and their partners developed in the prior pilot. 

Simultaneously, the program engaged a broader cohort of youth beyond the champions. Those engagements included sponsoring eco-clubs in schools and developing resources for students to discuss good governance with their families. The program also trained youth volunteers to carry out public street performances on corruption control and the roles and responsibilities of CFUG officials. The team estimated that the six street performances reached more than 300 individuals. 

Finally, immediately after completing the training, WWF Nepal and their partners developed information boards and informative leaflets about grievance redress. The materials detail the steps for submitting a grievance and publicly commit the CFUG to responding to submissions. The team accompanied the installation of the information boards and production of the leaflets with in-community trainings (see Figure 1). Former government officials, local government elected representatives, and civil society organizations all participated in the trainings, sharing their experiences with government grievance redress mechanisms as lessons for the CFUGs. 

Figure 1. An excerpt from the grievance redress leaflet


Box 2. Reviewing the forest operational plans

Forest Operational Plans, or FOPs, are the governing document establishing how a CFUG conserves and manages their forest and the types of sustainable, income-generating activities that are permitted. One of the key CFUG partners of WWF Nepal was in the process of revising its FOP at the time of the pilot’s second phase. To take advantage of this opportunity, WWF Nepal sponsored a review of 10 FOPs to generate good governance recommendations for the FOP under revision.  

Many of the recommendations were informed by and drew on the resources and activities from both phases of the pilot project. For example, the recommendations to incorporate grievance redress mechanisms were able to refer to and use the practical guidance from developing the mechanism described above. In addition, greater inclusion of youth was one of the main recommendations, and WWF Nepal expects that their experiences in the mobilization of youth champions will strengthen their ongoing work supporting the revision of this FOP. 

Results

The pilot successfully implemented planned activities and commissioned an independent endline evaluation. While the short time frame meant significant change was unlikely, the endline study did illuminate some promising initial impacts: 

  • The program prompted the participating CFUGs to hold their annual general assemblies in a timely manner. Previously, some CFUGs had neglected this important mechanism for transparency and participation. Interviewees, including government officials, unanimously attributed this to the project. The youth champions actively participated in the general assemblies, according to interviewees. As of the end of the project, however, there had not been any new decision points to measure how influential the champions’ participation might have been. 
  • In a promising sign for the sustainability of the project, the youth champions established forest patrols to monitor for illicit use of the forest resources together with duty bearers. These patrols were not an explicit part of the program, but rather were something the champions organized themselves. 

Image attribution: © naturepl.com / Jen Guyton / WWF; © Brian J. Skerry / National Geographic Stock / WWF; © Georgina Goodwin / Shoot The Earth / WWF-UK; © Hkun Lat / WWF-Aus