Kailash Sacred Landscape Breaks Barriers

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Handicraft exhibition made by Rani Sikhar community forest user groups.

In mid-November, three of us travelled to Kailash Sacred Landscape (KSL), India — Uma Pratap, Binaya Pasakhala and Kamala Gurung. We were going to assess value chain niche products and facilitate bee keeping training with the Van Raji tribal groups, also known as the the forest dwellers. Our trip was under the mandate of Kailash Sacred Landscape Con-servation and Development Initiative being implemented between China, India and Nepal. 

On our way to visit the Van Raji, our team had the opportunity to visit the Jauljibi mela, a trade fair that has been in existence for over a century. Since the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) KSL team and the German Society for Interna-tional Cooperation (GIZ) had discussed bringing high-level government officials from Minis-try of Environment & Climate Change, India and Ministry of Forest & Soil Conservation, Nepal, together for policy dialogue on transboundary cooperation, we were interested in what the fair had to offer.   

We wandered the stalls put up by community groups, public and private sectors, displaying various products. Our attention was particularly caught by agricultural products and medic-inal herbs such as varieties of kidney beans and soya beans. We took in a cultural show where school children from India and Nepal participated. On the Indian side, we were pleasantly surprised to see Indian children dancing to a Nepali song.   

We crossed over the Mahakalj River on a bridge that links India together Nepal. We went to observe stalls on the Nepal side. While observing the stalls, we spotted a banner that said, 'KSLCDI: Nigalo Products Exhibition' displayed by District Forest Office, Darchula. We were excited to see their displayed products. The forest guard at the stall mentioned that their products were made by Rani Sikhar community forest user groups. Although visitors expressed interest to buy their products, they were for display only as there weren’t enough to sell. We were overwhelmed to see partners have taken up the ownership of ac-tivities supported by KSL, though the government officials at higher level were unable par-ticipate at the transboundary meeting due to the ongoing uncertainties between India and Nepal.

At a tea stall, we talked to the locals on the Nepalese side about the event. They said the number of visitors had been same as previous years. Their friends and relatives on the In-dian side had been helping them cope with ongoing fuel-crisis, illustrating under times of uncertainties, communities on both sides are cooperating with each other and are strongly linked culturally and through trade. 

If you build transboundary landscape cooperation in the HKH linked to local livelihoods en-hancement and sustenance of ecosystem services, strong cultural bonds will overcome chal-lenges. Holy Kailash has shown the way forward in times of trials and tribulations.