Sonam Phuntsho


Program Manager




M.S. in Forestry
Australian National University (AUSTRALIA)

PG Diploma in Forestry
Australian National University (AUSTRALIA)

Diploma in Forestry
Natural Resources Training Institute - Lobesa (BHUTAN)


Community forestry and its impact to rural livelihoods in Bhutan
(School for Field Studies)

Social forestry course to forestry certificate trainees
UWICE, Bhutan

Back to All Staff

Staff Profile

Sonam started his career in 1996 under the District Forestry Sector, promoting social forestry programs such as community and private forestry in rural areas of Bumthang and Trongsa districts in Bhutan. Sonam was involved in establishing the two first community forests (Shambayung Community Forest in Tang and Siptangzur in Ura) in Bumthang in 2003 which two of the oldest community forests in the country. After serving more than thirteen years in the District Forestry Sector, in 2009, Sonam joined the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environmental Research (UWICER) which is the leading research institute addressing environment and conservation in Bhutan. Sonam conducts research on forestry, primarily focusing on community forestry. Sonam has assisted the SFS program in Bhutan since the start of the program in 2010, and in 2012 became the SFS Program Coordinator.

Academics & Research

Professional Activities

  • Member of Royal Society for protection of Nature (RSPN), Bhutan since 1998

Research Interests

Sonam’s current research focus is on community forestry in Bhutan. As the community forestry program becomes more and more popular in rural areas of Bhutan, understanding how community forests progress and impact rural communities is imperative. While one of the objectives of community forestry programs is to contribute to rural poverty reduction, understanding how these CF’s benefit local people and to what extent they contribute to poverty reduction is still unclear. Thus, Sonam focuses and endeavors to study the dynamics of community forestry and to understand its socioeconomic and ecological dimensions of these programs. In addition, Sonam also conducts research on sacred groves focusing on social and ecological values of the grove, and their management issues.

Research Projects

The research conducted at SFS field centers is designed to answer key questions related to critical and related social and environmental problems and to provide our hosts with detailed and accurate information for decision making and action. Faculty and student research projects are linked to the Center’s strategic research plan, which defines an overarching research directive. Sonam assists faculty staff to design and carryout directed research accordingly.

Projects prior to SFS

Accomplished watershed management project at Shingneer village in 1999-2000 which is one of the most remote villages in the Bumthang District. The project was funded by the GEF/Small Grant Programme of UNDP Bhutan.



Endeavour Scholarship Award Holder to undergo master degree at the Australian National University, Australia, 2008.



Wangchuk, S., Phuntsho, S. and Wangdi, T., 2017. Management issues in Community Forests Management: a case from Bumthang, Bhutan, Forests, Trees and Livelihoods.
Phuntsho, S., 2011. Scared Groves under Ura geog, Bumthang. In The High Ground: Sacred Natural Sites, Bio-Cultural Diversity, and Climate Change in the eastern Himalayas, WWF-International Annual Report 2011, USA. Yoder, L., Phuntsho, S., Conrad, A., Doren, H., Haney, R., Johantgen, C., LeBoeuf, K., Miller, S., Reich Aviles, Z., Ritter, A. and Zegas, G. 2017. From farmers to foresters? Response to pine encroachment on former swidden fields in Choekhor Valley, Bumthang district, Bhutan. In: M. Cairns (ed.). Shifting Cultivation and Environmental Change: Indigenous People, Agriculture and Forest Conversion: Vol II. London: Earthscan.
Phuntsho, S., 2011. In Phuntsho, S., Schmidt, K., Kuyakanon, R. S. and Temphel, K. J. (eds) Community Forestry in Bhutan: Putting People at the Heart of Poverty Reduction, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, Thimphu.
Dorji, S. and Phuntsho, S., 2007. A Series of case Studies on Community-Based Forest and Natural Resources Management in Bhutan, Ministry of Agriculture, Thimphu. Available from:
Technical Publications Phuntsho, S. and Sangye, M., 2006. A Series of case Studies on Community-Based Forest and Natural Resources Management in Bhutan, Ministry of Agriculture, Thimphu. Available from: