REDD+ Initiative and Partners Conduct Ecotourism Trail Mapping in and around Ludhi Khola Watershed of Gorkha, Nepal

A section of a proposed ecotourism trail in Gorkha, Nepal
(Nabin Bhattarai/ICIMOD)

Ecotourism has the potential to compliment Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) finance for landscape level conservation and management. REDD by itself may not have adequate finance to fulfil the conservation and development interventions, therefore finding a synergy with the ecotourism sector could leverage the necessary finance.  

ICIMOD’s REDD+ initiative in collaboration with Federation of Community Forestry Users Nepal (FECOFUN) and Gorkha Gaun Resort carried out ecotourism trail mapping in and around Ludhi Khola Watershed of Gorkha, Nepal. Ludhi Khola watershed is one of the pilot sites of ICIMOD’s REDD+ Initiative, which was implemented in 2009 by Asia Network for Sustainable Agriculture and Bioresources (ANSAB), ICIMOD and FECOFUN covering 5,750 ha of forested area and 632 ha of agriculture land and built ups. Since the pilot project, forest biomass has increased under community management, new agroforestry areas have been developed on agriculture land and sightings of wildlife have increased along with crop depredation from wildlife. The watershed along with increased biodiversity provides opportunities for recreational benefits through ecotourism which ultimately contributes to the local economy. 

The trail mapping was conducted by taking four norms into consideration: major religious and cultural attractions, historical and archeological resources, agroforestry, and other heritages. Four major ecotourism trails were mapped by GPS devices: Manakamana to Gorkha, Gorkha to Maskechap-Timanebhanjyang, Sushare Gaun to Kattel Danda Gaun, Gorkha to Ligligkot. In addition, interaction with the local communities on the walking route was conducted to explore the possibilities of attractions they can offer to tourists. Some of the attractions in the REDD site include visiting numerous caves, historical trails, watching sunrises and sunsets, adventure trekking, cultural tour/walk, home stays, and viewing the Himalayan range.

With an ecotourism trail integrated into a REDD site, it is expected to help increase the value of standing forest and assist people to improve their conservation efforts. It will also provide an opportunity for the households far from road-heads and markets to be open to the tourism sector. As this site has many indigenous communities, it provides an ideal opportunity for cultural tourism as well. Exchanges between hosts and guests include ‘what can be done’ and not just ‘what is there’. To further ensure benefits for the locals, community-based ecotourism is encouraged. This is a form of ecotourism where the local community has substantial control over its development and management, and receives most of its benefits. Therefore, many development organisations believe that ecotourism has a large potential for sustainable development.