Get access

“The Experts Taught Us All We Know”: Professionalisation and Knowledge in Nepalese Community Forestry



Environmentalist concerns over the state of Nepal's “fragile forests” resulted in the establishment of Community Forestry projects. These community-based projects are partnerships between the state and community user groups that invest user groups with a great deal of control over their forests. Project implementation, however, begins with the assumption that users have little prior knowledge of forest management and need to be taught modern silviculture. I examine the extent to which different community members embrace notions of professional forestry materially and symbolically. The development of written management plans, the need for careful accounting records and the promotion of silviculturally based management strategies by District Forest Officers serve to (re)inscribe differences between users based on education and literacy. Which users embrace these discourses and practices and for what purposes lends insight into the workings of neoliberalism and how it is implicated in the reconfiguring of social and power relations within localities and, in this case, the consequences of this for ecological change. It is argued that the promotion of expert knowledge and professional practices in Community Forestry is often used as a somewhat contradictory vehicle for educated elites to retain control over forest management, thus undermining some of the key objectives of the program.