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27 Jan 2020 | News

Prakriti Ahwaan 2019 brings local communities together to conserve biodiversity in the transboundary Kailash Landscape

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The transboundary Kailash Landscape of India (left) and Nepal (right) is divided by the Mahakali River. (Photo: Janita Gurung/ICIMOD)

Nature recognizes no political boundaries. The Mahakali River forms a part of the boundary between India and Nepal and areas on both sides share similar cultures and ecosystems. They also share many common issues relating to resource management – unsustainable harvesting of high-value medicinal plants, human–wildlife conflict, and illegal trade of medicinal plants and wildlife species, among others.

The Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative (KSLCDI) is an ICIMOD initiative covering parts of China, India, and Nepal that adopts a transboundary landscape approach to address these issues and achieve sustainable livelihoods and ecosystem management at scale.

In 2018, the Initiative brought together communities and local government representatives from India and Nepal in Darchula District, Nepal, to discuss issues relating to transboundary biodiversity management. Special emphasis was placed on the sustainable management of the high-value yartsa gunbu, commonly known as the “caterpillar fungus”. Participants agreed to implement a number of actions that included managing waste, controlling fuelwood extraction and curbing wildlife poaching in the collection sites, banning livestock grazing during the collection season, and practising rotational harvesting and inclusive yartsa gunbu collection and management.

As a follow-up to this event, the second transboundary forum was conducted in Pithoragarh, India, from 14 to 16 December 2019 under the title “Prakriti Ahwaan”, which translates to “nature calling” in Hindi and Nepali. Government and community representatives from the border areas of India and Nepal shared their experiences and lessons learned from implementing the actions agreed upon in 2018. In addition, pressing issues relating to nature-based livelihoods and biodiversity management – human–wildlife conflict and wildlife crime, gender-inclusive natural resource management, and livestock grazing, particularly in high-altitude rangelands – were discussed and strategies collectively identified to address them.

“Modernization, better road connectivity, and education have resulted in the erosion of traditional methods of livestock rearing. We need interventions through which modern education and traditional practices can co-exist to forestall youth out-migration and enhance people’s wellbeing,” remarked Yashoda Tinkeri, Chairperson, Byansi Shauka Samaj, Darchula, Nepal.

Yashoda Tinkeri, Chairperson
Yashoda Tinkeri, Chairperson, Byasi Shauka Samaj of Darchula, stressed on the importance of youth in the landscape’s conservation and development (Photo: Sushmita Kunwar/ICIMOD)

 

Manju Budathoki – a member of Byansi Shauka Samaj, an indigenous community organization in Darchula, Nepal – pointed to the importance of soil conservation and water management for yartsa gunbu harvesting: “Soil and water are of utmost importance to us all. We cannot talk about yartsa gunbu, agriculture, and livestock without considering soil. Current trends in development, especially on road connectivity have caused soil erosion and changes in spring discharge. This has created transboundary implications as road construction on the Indian side has led to landslides in Nepal.”

This transboundary connection and shared problems were much discussed. Rajendra Singh Nabiyal of Rung Kalyan Sanstha – a civil society organization that works for the Rung community in northern Pithoragarh and Dharchula, India – shared that the transportation and trade of yartsa gunbu between the two countries need to be improved. The Government of Uttarakhand issued a directive in 2018 that allows the collection and trade of yartsa gunbu. Nabiyal remarked, “But we still face challenges with cross-border trade. A transboundary trading license would really help, or even placing yartsa gunbu on the list of traded items.”

Aamji Kuldip Gunjiyal
Aamji Kuldip Gunjiyal, a traditional healer from Gunji, India, shared his knowledge of medicinal plants in the landscape (Photo: Sushmita Kunwar/ICIMOD)

 

There are immense opportunities for cross-learning in the landscape. Bhaskar Joshi, Secure Himalaya – India, spoke along those lines: “While we can share information and contact persons for some of the value chain work being done in India – for instance on sea buckthorn in Ladakh – we would like to understand how participatory anti-poaching and wildlife monitoring is being done in Nepal.”

One of the major issues of contention was related to livestock grazing in the Api Nampa Conservation Area (ANCA), particularly with reference to human–wildlife conflict. “Api Nampa officials do not provide compensation to us when our livestock are killed by wildlife in open pasture areas. We live inside the conservation area – where should we then graze our animals?” stated Dharmananda Manyal, Chairperson, Api Rural Municipality, Nepal. In response, participants were informed that the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC), Government of Nepal, is revising the relevant policy to address the issue. Moreover, compensation for livestock depredation could also be provided to victims by the rural municipalities.

The forum concluded with agreement on action points under priority areas for biodiversity management in the landscape. The participants appreciated the platform to share transboundary issues on biodiversity conservation and recommended that the outcomes of such discussions be taken up during the official cross-border meetings at the district level.

Participants from India and Nepal at Prakriti Ahwaan 2019
Participants from India and Nepal at Prakriti Ahwaan 2019 held on 14–16 December 2019 in Pithoragarh, India (Photo: Rishabh Srikar/Wildlife Institute of India)
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