Many changes have been observed in the global climate over the past century. The nature and causes of this climate change (CC) have been perceived in increased temperatures and air pollution, and decreased rainfall intensity (Roy et al., 2020: Zhang et al., 2020). Agriculture productivity has decreased because of the influence of CC and CC’s influences on forests and it is argued that forest species composition is because of human induced activities (Hatfield et al., 2008). The threat of CC in the developing world, such as Nepal, has emerged from deforestation, incongruous forest management, immigration from hill, mountain and Himalayan regions to the Inner Terai and Terai (Nash et al., 2019; Paudel et al., 2018). Consequently, natural climatic disasters reflect climate hazards, particularly events in weather cycles like landslides, hurricanes, droughts and wildfires, flooding, and high winds. These can trigger prolonged droughts, unprecedented changes in temperature, heat/cold waves, rainfall, fogs, humidity increase, flooding, siltation, riverine floods and windstorms. Soils are exposed by extreme rainfall, which creates sedimentation and siltation that raise the river bed downstream and cause floods in the rainy season but reduce groundwater recharge. These impacts, over time, have a cumulative effect on the livelihoods of local people, including economic, social, ecological and environmental aspects. These problems are most visible at the local level and are experienced directly by local communities. Yet, a critical and grounded analysis of local experience of climate change is rarely undertaken.
Climate change impacts are highly visible in Nepal as many local communities experience it every day. Nepal’s problem of climate is due mainly to physical, social and economic geography: the high Himalayas (16%) to the north, the middle hills (68%), and the lowland Terai (17%) to the south. Altitude ranges from 73 to 8,848 metres above mean sea level and includes diverse geo-climatic zones. South Asia, including Nepal, covers diversified climatic regions and experiences an array of CC impacts (Dobias, 2018). Human activities, such as land use change, deforestation and improper management of forest resources, amplify the effect of CC that causes havoc in food production and the livelihoods of local communities. The most vulnerable areas to climate change are the Inner Terai, the Terai and hills where forest species composition, flowering season, cropping pattern and productivity are changing. This is because of prolonged droughts, changes in temperature, heat/cold waves, rainfall, fogs, humidity, forest fires, flooding, cyclones, siltation, riverine floods, windstorms and water scarcity. In the long run, the changes impact the availability of quality water and local amenities, forest ecosystems, cause biodiversity loss, reduce food security, deplete energy resources, and degrade rivers.
In this paper, we examine local experiences of climate change, taking case study analysis of Nepal’s community forestry stakeholders. In doing so, we aim to fill a knowledge gap with evidence from a detailed assessment of stakeholders’ perspectives of CC from the relatively recent CFOMP under Nepal’s CF programme. We design and develop a conceptual model of willingness to implement pro-CC friendly behaviour in Nepal. We investigate three key questions: (1) what is the stakeholder engagement process in designing and implementing CFOMP that makes CC friendly with existing government policy? (2) What is the understanding of key forestry stakeholders of CFOMP and how do they perceive CC mitigation and adaption over the last 40 years? (3) What is lacking in CFOMP and what are the factors that make CFOMP local stakeholders friendly? We highlight the role of stakeholders in managing CF, in general, which is relevant and beneficial to Nepal to identify the specific reasons behind the inactivity of regular users and disadvantaged users in the implementation of CFOMP and the Nepalese government’s policy to adopt a process of awareness to CC. To achieve the above objectives and answer the research questions, the following hypotheses are proposed.
a. When different power actors A and B have power exercises in designing and implementing CFOMP, there is an increased likelihood of mitigating and adapting to CC.
b. When both A and B actively and equally support one another on the basis of mutual dependency, cooperation and synergy, collective goals in decisions, and articulation of the rules, more benefits from CF are delivered to the regular and disadvantaged stakeholders to increase the likelihood of CC resourcefulness.
1.3 Previous Studies
Climate researchers believe that the role of forest management in adapting to and mitigating the impact of CC has become an international as well as a Nepalese matter. CC is caused by both natural and anthropogenic factors in Nepal. However, there has been very limited study in the Inner and Terai regions. Anthropogenic factors drive changes that include the biophysical environment and ecosystems, biodiversity, and natural resources. The most common causes of the degradation of forests and land cover are over grazing, forest fires, erosion, floods, and loss of, or threats to, biodiversity. The consequences are increased landslides, floods, the disruption of river and wetland ecology, and the depletion of ground water resources that result in evidence of negative effects in the environment; these effects influence CC (Bauer, 2013). Ghimire (2017) and Yadav et al. (2019) studied forest cover in two areas in Duns and two areas in Bhawar and found that 92, 72, 48, and 79% of the total area in 1954, reduced to 89, 43, 36, and 64% in 1979, respectively. In the Terai and inner Terai, changed forest was only 11.73% of forest cover in 2015 (USAID, 2016). The lack of literature shows that the Terai is a “white spot” because of the lack of adequate research. Tiwari et al. (2010) found decreased water sources and groundwater, and increased siltation and sedimentation in the downstream Terai region. Devkota et al. (2013) assessed the flood vulnerability of the West Rapti River basin using the perceptions of people who had been affected by floods for years. Yadav et al. (2021b) examined the forest management plan for the economic impacts of CF particularly in the Terai region of Nepal. Omerkhila et al. (2020) explained that the hilly and plain zone is a harsh climatic region vulnerable to the high frequency of pest and disease outbreaks as the main risk. In addition more uneven rainfall and higher temperatures because of CC also had an impact. Giri et al. (2021) examined the inhabitants of informal (illegal) settlements whose inhabitants migrated from the hills to Nawalpur in the plains because of lower adaptive capacities as informal settlers.
Climate-smart approaches in forestry are enthusiastically linked to the sustainable distribution of forest products and ecosystem services (Temperli et al., 2022). The management of CF has played an important role in the mitigation of and adaptation to CC (Pandey et al., 2016). Puri et al. (2020) found that the current benefit level fits is insufficient to stimulate forest user groups to enhance forest management in the mid hills in Nepal. Cedamon et al. (2017) argued that local CFOMPs have given little focus to the technical management of forests in mid hills of Nepal. The production-oriented forest management plan under the Scientific Forest Management (SFM) programme of the Collaborative Forest Management (CFM) regime in Terai is required to assess the situation because CFOMPs have been limiting forest production (Bhattarai et al., 2018). Modak and Poudyal (2018) found that the promotion of greenery, control of encroachment, protection of forests and biodiversity conservation were aroused by SFM in CF. Pokharel (2013) showed that the ecological, geographical and biophysical conditions of the Chure region had rapidly degraded over 32 years. Bhandari (2013) found that the temperature of the Kapilbastu district had an increasing trend and rainfall was now unpredictable with increasing droughts and a two to three week delayed monsoon with fewer rainy days that resulted in a loss of species, declining yields, and outbreaks of pests and diseases. Panta (2017) revealed that the health and vitality of forest ecosystems were adversely affected by climatic and land use changes. Yadav et al. (2021a) analysed the socioecological impacts based on CFOMPs.
The above studies did not consider the CFOMP and whether they offer an option in forest management to adapt to and/or mitigate the impact of CC. Hence, the main aim of this study is to investigate the pragmatic knowledge of local respondents who have resided in the region for over 40 years, particularly the Inner Terai and Terai, including Churia. The study was carried out in the Siraha, Saptari and Udaypur districts, which are the regions and people who designed and have implemented a CFOMP for about 40 years. The design and implementation of the CFOMP have been prejudiced by powerful local stakeholders and professional experts who played a dynamic role in compliance with the initiatives for adapting to and mitigating CC, particularly in favour of disadvantaged households that had no lucrative interest in the CFOMP for the Inner Terai and Terai regions. The study’s main aim was to analyse Nepal’s community forestry stakeholder’s experience of climate change, thereby to fill the knowledge gap through detail from stakeholders on the CC impacts.
 A denotes reinforcive power to reform existing structures and institutions for their specific interests (bureaucrats, technocrats, politicians and policy makers).
 B denotes end users and disadvantaged stakeholders including the weaker women of the society.