A challenging global trend is that of deforestation in developing countries. But there are places where the opposite trend is happening. Nepal is one such place.
According to satellite imaging, in 1992 forest covered 26% of Nepal. As of 2016, that number was 45%.
To some extent, the forest regrowth was a result of policy changes from about three decades ago, when the government began removing management authority from bureaucrats and shifting it to local communities across the country. This local management helped to reduce illegal logging and many local villages undertook tree-planting campaigns.
But perhaps a bigger factor at play is human migration. In recent decades, millions of Nepalis have left the country to work in the Persian Gulf, Southeast Asia, and elsewhere. The out-migrants wire money home and meanwhile, families left behind rely less on forest products or abandon farmland, aiding reforestation. A 2018 study showed that the areas with the highest out-migration experience, on average, had the most forest recovery.
Globally, migration has important impacts on forests, but not always positive ones. In many countries, forests seem to recover as people leave rural areas to work elsewhere. El Salvador, for example, has seen a rebound of its forests as many of its rural residents move to cities or even to the United States. But in Guatemala and Nicaragua, the return of migrants bringing money they have earned overseas has led to an expansion of cattle ranching that has harmed forests.
The global relationship between migration and forests is a complicated one that depends on whether the migration is one-way or “circular” (meaning that the migrants eventually return) and how returning migrants make use of their earnings from abroad.
Photo, posted September 30, 2018, courtesy of Flickr.