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Binaya Pasakhala & Nabin Bhattarai
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Trees provide multiple environmental, economic, and spiritual benefits. They purify the air, sequester carbon, prevent soil erosion, provide habitat to wildlife, and have cultural significance. Mountain communities in Nepal and across the HKH are dependent on trees for subsistence and livelihoods – for fuelwood, fodder, timber, medicine, and food, among many other goods and services. Recognizing the potential of trees to alleviate poverty, the public and private sectors in Nepal have supported community-led efforts to grow trees that have local use and commercial value. These initiatives have generated income and employment opportunities for the youth, women, and other marginalized communities and really help grounding modern livelihoods in nature-based solutions.
In 2018, we signed an MoU with Dabur Nepal Private Limited (DNPL) to work on sustainable livelihoods development and environmental management. Our collaborative project envisions the plantation of medicinal plants in fallow lands and degraded forest areas while ensuring a market for the produce. In 2018, in consultation with the Ministry of Industry, Tourism, Forest and Environment, Sudurpaschim Province, we selected Baitadi District in far-west Nepal for this project.
In 2019, we consulted Baitadi’s Divisional Forest Office (DFO) and identified Nepali pepper (Zanthoxylum armatum), locally known as timmur, as a suitable medicinal plant for plantation. Timmur grows locally in barren and degraded areas and has high commercial demand in Nepal as well as foreign markets, mainly India and Europe. We also wanted to ensure the integration of gender equality and social inclusion dimensions into the project, so we selected the Taalkulla Community Forest Users Group (CFUG) and Gwalekh Kedar Women’s Cooperative as beneficiaries.
Our beneficiaries would need to buy into the concept for the project to find any success. So, we organized an exposure visit on 2–7 March 2021 to a DNPL project site in Surkhet District run by Bhairam CFUG. The participants included 12 women and 14 men representing the Taalkulla CFUG, Gwalekh Kedar Women’s Cooperative, Dashrath Chand Municipality Office, DFO-Baitadi, and Social Awareness and Development Association (a local non-governmental organization).
Participants visited a nursery and plantation site in Surkhet. They interacted with members of Bhairam CFUG and Govinda Dahal from DFO-Surkhet, learning about timmur seedling production and plantation and market opportunities and risks. Amar Thapa, Chairperson, Bhairam CFUG, shared how members of his users group needed to practise patience and trust for their public–private–community venture to become successful. They planted 120,000 timmur seedlings in their forest in 2019 and their nursery produces around 50,000–60,000 seedlings every year, which generates an income of about USD 20,000. Dahal suggested large-scale production, value addition, and product diversification to maximize profit and minimize risks.
The participants were oriented about the terms and conditions of a tripartite agreement with DNPL and ICIMOD. They also played interactive games that illuminated the importance of gender equality, social inclusion, and proper governance for project implementation. After these interactions, participants expressed that they were excited and looking forward to their own project in Baitadi.
On 7 March 2021, an interaction programme among the Taalkulla CFUG, Gwalekh Kedar Women’s Cooperative, DNPL, and ICIMOD was organized to discuss details of a five-year plan and agreement. Representatives from ICIMOD and DNPL ensured continued support for the successful implementation of the project.
During the programme, Gopal Dutta Joshi, Chairperson, Taalkulla CFUG, requested revisions of certain provisions (such as transportation costs of seedlings from Kavre district to the plantation site) that would have financial implications for the CFUG. He shared that the CFUG is willing to work voluntarily for ensuring the healthy growth of seedlings. Sunita Joshi, Chairperson, Gwalekh Kedar Women’s Cooperative, requested two seedlings for each member of the cooperative. To end the programme and commemorate the start of this collaboration, Joshi and her team sang a deuda (local genre song, see box text) appreciating ICIMOD and DNPL for supporting women and local communities and expressing commitment to fulfil their roles and responsibilities.
“भ्रमण मा आह्यौं हामी टिमुर खेती हेर्न,
बैतडी गई गर्ने भयौं टिमुर खेती अब,
सबै जना एकजुट भई अगाडि बड्ने छौं,
महिला साथीहरुबाट ईसीमोडलाई नमन”
“We came on a tour to observe timmur cultivation,
And we will now cultivate timmur back home in Baitadi,
We shall move forward united,
We, womenfolk, pay tribute to ICIMOD”
The tripartite agreement will be revised, shared for review, and signed by the representatives of targeted beneficiaries, DNPL, and ICIMOD. All parties have agreed upon a timeline spanning two phases: (1) plantation and silvicultural works (2021–2024) and (2) harvesting fruits, negotiating price, and delivering timmur to DNPL (2025 onwards).
Throughout the project period, we will collaborate with DNPL to support capacity building of the beneficiaries. We will document and share best practices from the project for upscaling public–private–community partnerships that will provide both environmental and economic benefits to communities in the Kailash Sacred Landscape (where Baitadi lies) and beyond in the HKH region.
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