Regional Workshop on the Himalica Project in Taplejung Deemed a Success

Group photo of the participants, Photo by Ujol Sherchan

As ICIMOD’s Himalica Programme prepares to end its work in Taplejung, Nepal, this December, stakeholders convened to share their stories, lessons, and experiences on building community resilience and improving rural livelihoods in the context of climate change adaptation in the Himalaya. 

Ghanendra Maden, the recently elected District Coordination Committee Chairperson for Taplejung and the Chief Guest at the inaugural session, lauded Himalica for introducing a package of practices on large cardamom value chains, conducting ecosystem services assessments, and introducing spice garden tourism. Maden also launched the mobile app and map for promoting the Kanchenjunga spice garden tourism in Taplejung that was initiated in collaboration with the Trekking Agencies' Association of Nepal (TAAN),  Wolfmatrix Pvt Ltd, and the Environment Conservation and Development Forum (ECDF).

Ghanendra Maden launching the mobile app, Photo by Ujol Sherchan

Key highlights of the workshop were: eight presentations on topics such as large cardamom, ecosystem services assessment, and bee pollination services followed by discussions; experience sharing by a panel of demo farmers; field visit to demo farms, common facility centre, home stays, and the Taplejung Himalica gift shop; and Himalica exhibition, showcasing posters, publications, cardamom products, bee hives, and handloom.

Cardamom was a major topic of discussion at the workshop as the Himalica pilot project in Taplejung is on cardamom value chain. Approximately 65% of farming households in Taplejung are engaged in cardamom cultivation and have been affected by the decline in cardamom productivity and prices. 

After deliberating extensively on issues surrounding cardamom over the two days, those gathered recommended 

  • Mainstreaming cardamom agro-forestry ecosystem services management in their local/community development plans and diversifying their livelihoods to reduce pressures on the ecosystem; 
  • Intercropping with kiwi, shitake mushroom, ginger, shatuwa; and developing integrated farming systems and agro-tourism as strategies to reduce farmers' overdependency on cardamom; 
  • Out- and upscaling climate-resilient technologies and practices, including bee pollination services, to other parts of Taplejung and the other 40-plus cardamom growing districts of Nepal as well as reviving old cardamom plantations ("bagan") to reverse cardamom productivity decline;
  • Upscaling the ICT (SMS)-assisted information services piloted under the Himalica project to deliver market prices on the three grades of cardamom to farmers, entrepreneurs, and traders across Nepal on a daily basis;
  • Lobbying the government to talk bilaterally with the countries concerned to stablise the international market price of cardamom, provide relief to poor and marginal farmers in the event they lose crops to extreme weather events such as drought and hailstorm; rationalize crop insurance policy, and reduce import taxes on cardamom-processing equipment; and 
  • Exporting cardamom not only as pods but also as value-added products such as spice and herbal tea, marketing them domestically under the Himalica brand with a tag “HIMALICA - Green Products from the Mountains”, finding new markets for cardamom-based products in China, Europe and the Middle East, and influencing domestic demand by organising consumer education campaigns as strategies to diversify markets for cardamom 

Packaging cardamom products at the common facility centre. Photo by Ujol Sherchan

David Molden, Director General, ICIMOD, said he was glad to see the Ministry of Forestry and Soil Conservation (MoFSC), Ministry of Agriculture Development, the local government, regional and district level authorities, Nepal Tourism Board, and The Mountain Institute-India represented at the workshop. He called on the government authorities, private sector, and farmers' groups to think about sustainability and give continuity to the climate-smart approaches and practices piloted under the Himalica project. He assured all that even if Himalica comes to an end soon, there will still be ICIMOD's Kanchenjunga Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative (KLCDI) around to engage in understanding conservation and development issues, albeit less intensively.

As Chair of the closing session, Pem Narayan Kandel, Joint Secretary at MoFSC, spoke last. He said: "The Himalica project has been a success because it identified the right issues, the right partners and the right places for implementation. The workshop likewise has been a success, as those gathered here learnt lots of things about the project and the way forward from experts, farmers, and government officials." 

ICIMOD and ECDF organised the workshop to promote cross learning between Sikkim, India; Taplejung, Nepal, and Bhutan as the Himalica project is winding down. Unfortunately, the Bhutanese group could not make it. Over 60 participants, representing the government, private sector, project implementing partners, and farmers' groups from Nepal and India, attended the workshop.