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Nepal Saving forests and villages 1Nov 1996

THE EARTH TIMES

NOVEMBER 1-15, 1996

FOOD, FODDER AND FUEL: AVOIDING THE ‘TEDIOUS PROCESS OF

GOING TO BANKS’

Protecting parkland by helping the people

By Ashali Varma

Royal Bardia National Park Nepal: The Terai region of Nepal, at the foothills of the Himalayas, boasts five national parks rich in biodiversity with 15 distinct ecosystems.  Puran Bhakta Shrestha, the chief warden of Bardia, said, “This park alone has seven types of vegetation and 36 wildlife species.

Two to three years ago we had a serious problem of poaching, but since we started the Parks and People Program with the help of UNDP and the government, poaching has stopped.”

Started in January 1995, with a total fund of US$ 1.3 million for the five parks in this region, the project focuses on: capacity building of local people to manage buffer zones; conservation awareness; and reducing people’s dependence on the parks by improving crop production and generating jobs.

The Teraihas a population of nine million people, 700,000 of whom live around the parks.  Agriculture is the mainstay of the largely ruralpopulation. Over the years, population pressures, scarcity of arable land and poorirrigation drove many poor villagers to the forest for fuel wood and fodder fortheir animals.

Threatened by the shrinking habitat, wild elephants, tigers and other animals would  wander into village fields; damaging crops and killing livestock. To save the habitat for animals as well as to give the villagers an incentive to protect wildlife a solution had to be found.

The Parks and People project’s main aim was to prevent such a conflict between man and animal.

“In 18 months we have reached out to 7,000 households, trained 580 women in tailoring and weaving, improved 60 miles of road and installed 69 hand pumps, so villagers can have access to water for consumption and irrigation,” said Prabhu Budhathoki,  project manager.

In addition, the villagers have contributed time to dig trenches and make fences to keep animals from coming into their lands.  They have also planted 27,565 seedlings of trees which will provide them with fuel, fodder and fruit.

In the little of Bankhet, Deepak Lal Dhakal, the head of this community group, spoke proudly of their achievements.  “Previously, we had a lot of water problems.  Now we have aqueduct and 81 households with a total of 75 acres of land get water which is rich in nutrients because we have channelled it from the forest.”

“UNDP gave 55,000 rupee ($983), we raised 17,000 rupees ($303) from the community and we collected another 50 rupees from each household. In addition, 710 people provided labor from our community.”

Dhakal estimates that the labor was worth 710 man hours which would amount to 40,000 rupees ($714).

Dhakal said the crop production had gone up 25 percent and the farmers are growing paddy now. With the  additional income from crops and a savings scheme that the community started they have even managed to build a village school. “We decided the government school was too far away, especially for the younger children,” said Dhakal. They collected money from the village and hired a teacher for 700 rupees ($12) a month.

“We are much better off now,” said Dhakal. “We don’t need to go through the tedious process of applying to banks for money. We are involved in the development process and have even

started a small fund for helping villagers.”