Supporting Communities to Conserve Forest Biodiversity and Environment

A pilot initiative in Shivamandir VDC, Nawalparasi, Nepal

In cooperation with the Asian Network for Sustainable Agriculture and Bioresources (ANSAB), the foundation Manfred-Hermsen-Stiftung supports local forest-dependent communities in Nepal. In the scope of this project we established a pilot case for the conservation of forest biodiversity and protection of environment within the fragile transition zone of the Terai plains and Himalayan foothills.

MHS project manager Johannes Burmeister (third person from left) in local community discussion group

Representing only 0.1% of the earth’s surface area, Nepal is home to more than 2.6% of all the flowering plant, 5.1% of gymnosperm, 9.3% of all bird, and 4.5% of all mammal species. Nepal has 35 forest types, 75 vegetation types and 118 ecosystem types (HMGN & MFSC, 2002).

This unique and important biodiversity of Nepal is at threat! With population growth and rising needs for income generation, intensified land-use practices have been adopted over the last decades. Particularly the forests inside the Terai and foothill region are subject to high anthropogenic pressure, leading to an alarming rate of degradation, continuous deforestation, and the loss of unique and valuable biodiversity. Slash and burn farming, fire-induced clearing of understorey, unintentional forest fires, detrimental and inefficient livestock management, unmanaged harvesting of forest products, and poaching of wild animals are imposing unbearable stresses onto these rich ecosystems. Incidences of forest fire are rampant; towards the end of the dry season skies are overcast with haze from forest fires and dust of bare soils.

Many old-established communities still live in a sense of balance with their environment. The integrity of their forests plays an integral part in their life. Traditional knowledge encompasses the utilization of a large array of forest products as food and medicine, and for the crafting of tools, materials, and clothes. Well-managed and protected forests are and will be the greatest security for these communities. Their traditional knowledge about the use of forest resources bears great potentials for the future development of conservation-oriented enterprises.

In the face of the rapidly changing environmental and socio-economic landscape, it is vital for these communities to receive support and to develop new paradigms for the conservation of their forests. Trends of rural economic development need to be shifted away from exploitative practices towards sustainable and conservation-orientated income options by addressing poverty, conflicts over land management rights, needs for education, environmental awareness, lack of skills and capacities, and external market demands.

The Project

In this project we worked with 4 Community Forest User Groups (CFUGs) at the Himalayan foothills in Nepal. Through the project, we supported the CFUGs to obtain within the framework of the "Nepali Community Forest Programme" management rights over their local forests, in the preparation of management plans, and in the restoration of their community forests. By promoting the marketing of sustainably harvested forest products and organically produced agricultural products, we have succeeded in developing an economically rewarding model for sustainable forest management and nature conservation with the communities. At the same time, we worked together with local actors on the prevention and control of forest fires, implemented corresponding measures in the project area, and integrated relevant provisions in the management plans of the community forests.

Outcomes include:

  • Establishment of 4 community forests with a total area of approx. 880 ha
  • Afforestation and renaturation of forest areas in cooperation with local communities
  • Development and testing of key measures to create economic incentives for nature conservation
  • Establishment of a model farm for organic cultivation of high value crops
  • Raising awareness on the value of biodiversity and on nature conservation
  • Establishment of a regional initiative on forest fire prevention and control
  • Development of a model for replication with the experiences collected in the course of the project

The project had a duration of 3 years (2013-2016); options for extending the measures to the surrounding region are currently being explored.

Further information: ANSAP Nepal