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The major components of the programme are as follows. Each component has been defined with an output, broad activities, and outcomes.
Five Major Programme Components
The Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative (KSLCDI) focuses on promoting responsible heritage tourism and innovative livelihood options at a transboundary level by strengthening existing value chains and developing potential new ones. Value chains across China, India, and Nepal have a local context, but are predominately natural resource based. Non-timber forest and rangeland products (bamboo, soap nut, Himalayan nettle, and the Indian butter tree), and agro-food commodities (off-season vegetables, kidney beans, and livestock products) figure predominantly.
Interventions include local institutional capacity development processes based on value addition innovations along various nodes of a given chain (production, processing/value addition, packaging, branding, and market linkage set ups). The greening of value chains, soil and land management, energy and water issues, climate resilient approaches, enterprise development, and the engagement of the private sector have been incorporated as they are integral to the sustainability of value chains. Agro advisory services are provided through e-communication.
Several globally significant sacred sites including Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar are located in the Kailash Sacred Landscape (KSL). The Kailash initiative’s responsible heritage tourism programmes are based on responsible tourism guidelines and cultural services assessments that provide an outline for developing integrated responsible tourism plans, building the capacities of local communities in relation to hospitality, food, guide services, homestay promotions, and the improvement of services such as yak transportation, sanitation, and waste management.
A priority-based promotion of best practices is observed. The high-value yarsagumba (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) is given top priority, as are responsible tourism guides. The recognition of local cross-border festivals is a common theme for transboundary actions. So are proposals for cultural and sacred sites in KSL to be recognized as UNESCO world heritage sites. Gender inclusion, the promotion of good governance, and equitable benefit-sharing that include poor and marginalized groups are fundamental to both value chains as well as responsible tourism.
Fundamental to the transboundary landscape concept adopted by ICIMOD under its ‘Framework for Trans-Himalayan Transect and Landscape Approach’ is the idea that integrated ecosystem management should be mainstreamed at a scale which allows for the leveraging of positive impacts on ecosystem services through balanced conservation and development action in pilots. This approach is recognized by several global conservation and environmental organizations including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and UNESCO.
In its four years of implementation, the premise for a long term landscape approach has been laid out by KSLCDI’s focus on community based ecosystem management plans. This is complemented by scientific data and evidence so that emerging challenges related to climatic and non-climatic drivers are understood, and solutions at scale are matched with the focus of existing plans. A planned set of capacity building inputs is provided to partners to update and enrich local institutional capacities for understanding and applying principles of integrated ecosystem management. This makes interventions and investments compatible with reconciled conservation and development in the greater Kailash mountain landscape (e.g. spatial organization, feedback loops, and the issue of scale).
Community knowledge is complemented by state-of-the-art geospatial tools so that key ecosystem services are identified and valuated. This allows for the recognition of ecosystem interfaces and the identification of hotspots, whether related to human-wildlife conflict, drying springsheds, or the potential of sustained production in supporting innovative livelihoods. Viable opportunities at scale are thus harnessed and mainstreamed. Common vegetation maps, thematic cross-border meetings or community exchanges on bilateral levels contribute to water security, livelihoods, wildlife management, disaster preparedness and markets for ecosystem services by providing a solid basis for regional cooperation.
As contribution to the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity, KSLCDI has focused on the use of bioresources and indigenous knowledge systems in alignment with the national policies and strategies of China, India, and Nepal.
KSL-India has taken the lead, and the implementation approach involves the design and delivery of a customized package of outputs. Guidelines related to people’s bio-registers (PBRs) and bio-cultural protocols (BCPs) have been applied to newly institutionalized and established biodiversity management committees (BMCs). Local communities in KSL-India have been organized and engaged, and trainings conducted to support documentation of related indigenous knowledge, and preparation of local biodiversity registers. China and Nepal were sensitized through cross-country knowledge exchange and capacity building programmes.
Long-term transboundary dialogue on knowledge sharing related to access and benefit sharing (ABS) has been fostered. So has the documentation of genetic resources and local knowledge systems. To avoid stand-alone outputs, ABS-related outputs have been included in local community management plans, and interventions designed to preserve and add value to knowledge harnessed through PBRs and BCPs. This helps identify benefits to livelihoods and the conservation of bio-resources in communities.
Long term environmental and socio-ecological monitoring (LTESM) involves the identification and conservation of ecosystem elements, and environmentally sensitive sites and species. At the landscape level, LTSEM is implemented by national partners with a specific focus on critical biological corridors, ecotones, and interfaces such as protected areas, buffer zones, forests, rangeland, wetland and agro-ecosystems.
Regional and spatial temporal assessments of ecosystems through capacity building of national partners, and local institutions is key. Interfaces on thematic areas such as climate change, cryosphere, springs, biodiversity and ecosystems, human wildlife conflicts, mountain economies, and societal and environmental changes have been incorporated into the implementation plan.
With the implementation of a transboundary concept, ICIMOD has realized that sustainable management of ecosystems in a fast changing climate can be achieved only by following an integrated and inclusive approach that recognizes the transboundary nature of ecosystems, and the flow of services beyond administrative boundaries. Setting what will hopefully be a future conservation and development paradigm, KSLCDI is relying on effective scaled-up regional cooperation to attain milestones related to the global agenda: the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Paris Agreement-UNFCCC 2015, and SDGs 2030, for example.
Regional cooperation has been institutionalized through a governance structure represented by the governments of China, India, and Nepal, and the donors. Effective coordination and institutional support at the implementation level has been accorded to national institutions. A rigorous monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system steered by the project management unit (PMU) ensures that learning outputs are collated, analysed, and prepared to influence national policies for promoting regional and transboundary cooperation.
KSLCDI applies a regional communication strategy to disseminate learning at different policy, practice and science level forums. Component 5 proactively looks for emerging policy challenges and deficits at the regional level so that project learning is calibrated according to country specific demands. The project builds on the concept of transboundaryness, which involves a bottom-up approach to interfacing communities and institutions so that the evidence gathered is reliable, upscalable, and outscalable. Appropriate amendments for landscape level ecosystem management in KSL are suggested, based on knowledge sharing among thematic working groups in China, India and Nepal (e.g. springsheds, livelihoods, and long term environment monitoring).
KSLCDI is nominating KSL serial sites as UNESCO world heritage sites with the aim of achieving enduring transnational cooperation.
KSLCDI transcends geographical boundaries, and has evolved through a participatory and iterative process into a transboundary initiative.