Improved health and livelihoods. These are the tools a group is offering communities to help avoid further forest loss in eastern Nepal.
The Namsaling Community Development Centre (NCDC) is working with residents in a patchwork of small agricultural communities, some growing tea and others growing cardamom in the community forests that pepper the area.
The project site, in Nepal’s Ilam District in the Kanchenjunga-Singalila Complex, is part of the Eastern Himalayas Region where CI’s Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) supports civil society conservation efforts. This biologically rich landscape is shared by Nepal and India and harbors a wide variety of floral communities and species such as the red panda (Ailurus fulgens), which is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List.
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Many people in the project area rely on forest resources to supplement meager incomes from agriculture, but the scale of harvesting has depleted their natural wealth. The result: forest fragmentation and loss that threatens both biological diversity and the communities’ well-being.
With CEPF support, NCDC’s approach is to enable changes that offer the communities improved lifestyles while decreasing natural resource consumption and degradation.
One such tactic is the installation of improved cookstoves, which use less wood and eliminate some of the adverse health affects caused by unvented smoke in their homes. By the end of 2008, NCDC arranged for the installation of the improved cookstoves in 107 homes, said Kamal Raj Rai, project coordinator for NCDC. An additional 75 are expected to be installed as well.
Most important, those who have the new cookstoves report a decrease in smoke-caused eye problems and headaches, and a drop in their firewood use by up to 50 percent.
NCDC has also trained residents to make the cookstoves, and is working with farmers to cultivate a wider variety of crops and employ organic practices, including organic pesticides and composting.
They conducted an analysis to help residents identify ways to market promising new products. Workshops have helped participants identify skill gaps for alternative livelihoods, and training was offered in the making of bio briquettes, a sustainable fuel that can be used for home heating and other purposes.
IN-DEPTH: Learn how CI works with communities to develop alternative economic opportunities that benefit both people and nature.
“We have seen many people who are adopting sustainable livelihood and agriculture options,” Rai said.
In addition to addressing livelihood issues, the project also assessed biodiversity in the area. Participants are preparing a detailed monitoring and conservation plan based on the recommendation of the Ethnobotanical Society of Nepal. With the help of Red Panda Network, a red panda conservation action plan is also in the works.
NCDC also used data collected for the area to create a map identifying land-use patterns, forest coverage, and habitat and distribution of key species. With this information, the organization plans to create community participatory monitoring plans for key species.
By conducting such species conservation activities in addition to offering livelihood alternatives, NCDC hopes to yield significant rewards for the people and natural resources of the area.
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