International Biodiversity day: Taking biodiversity to grassroots

International Biodiversity Day 2023 was marked with various activities in the project site of Jalthal, Jhapa. The event brought together  diverse stakeholders; from school students to the Head of local governments in multiple activities.

The event commenced on 22 May, in Jalthal, Jhapa. Head of Haldibari Rural Municipality Inaugurated the program wherein a documentary highlighting floral and faunal diversity, ecosystem, and socio-ecological significance of Jalthal remnant forest was premiered on the day. The primary objective of showcasing the video was to highlight the significance of biodiversity in Jalthal and sensitise stakeholders.   The documentary was based on the comprehensive biodiversity profiling of Jalthal forest by the Darwin Initiative  project. The documentary is available in https://www.facebook.com/JalthalBiodiversity and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhLflddbpZs

Likewise, sixteen students from eight different High schools were engaged in a poster preparation event.  Students identified ’23 Actions for Biodiversity’ in Jalthal forest. These 23 points are in congruence with 23 Targets of Global Biodiversity Framework. The students were initially oriented about the objective of the program and the content of the poster, following which they were prepared in four days period.  Based on innovative idea and excellence, the students were awarded during the event on the International Biodiversity Day. Two girls and two boys were awarded with educational materials and cash prize.

A Biodiversity Appreciation walk was organized on 21st May which brought students and teachers from five different secondary schools in the forest. During the forest walk, students were informed about the significance and features of Jalthal forest biodiversity. This was an important event to increase awareness about biodiversity.

The Jalthal project, led by ForestAction in collaboration with DARWIN Initiative, has supported in establishing and operating eco clubs in high schools. Educational materials for students (Binoculars, Birds and butterfly guidebooks, Stationaries etc.) were handed over during the ceremony on 22 May.

The project coordinator Dr. Lila Nath Sharma organized a forest transect walk on 20th and 21st May, which was aimed at introducing salient features of the forest biodiversity to nature enthusiasts and youth leaders.

Project supported in organizing Forest walk on 23rd May to celebrate International Biodiversity Day. This was attended by journalists and nature enthusiasts and local leaders including representatives of local government.

The events directly engaged and benefited over 250 people representing over forty various institutions-community forests, local governments, Division Forest Office, schools, civil society organizations, political parties  and media. These events were crucial in raising awareness on the importance of biodiversity and inform people about myriads of threats bearing upon forest biodiversity. The events were reached to thousands of people through social media and local newspapers. These events were covered by over two dozens of news outlets.

 

A delegation meet with Agriculture Minister to discuss forthcoming policies, programs and budget

ForestAction Nepal, the Secretariat of the Alliance of Agriculture for Food (AAF), in collaboration with other partner organizations, scheduled a delegation with Agriculture Minister Dr. Bedu Ram Bhusal in 8 May 2023 to discuss the forthcoming policy, programs, and prioritizing promotion of Agro- Ecology and sustainable agricultural development in the upcoming policy and programs deliberately in the fiscal year’s Budget. Our counterparts briefly read out the report and submitted the minute to the honorable minister.

His comments show his comprehension of the issues. He voiced his concern about irrigation becoming a significant issue in agriculture and described how its enforcement can be a key factor in Nepalese agriculture. Similarly, he concentrated on the need for conducting a campaign to promote Raithane fruits that grow in forest areas, interwoven with the agriculture sector. He believed that organic and commercial production should be supported in tandem, to maximize the collective potential.

Click here to download the meeting minutes

Discussion on contemporary issues of food and agriculture with Agriculture journalists

Forest Action Nepal, Secretariat of Alliance of Agriculture for Food (AAF), in conjunction with Association of Nepali Agricultural Journalists (ANAJ), organized a two-day discussion session (May 5–6, 2023) at Edu Farm, Lalitpur, centered on contemporary issues of food and agriculture. The program was attended by total of 30 persons, including a group of journalists reporting and writing feature stories in the realms of agriculture, food, livestock, and forest science, accompanied by the representatives from partner organizations such as Food First Information and Action Network (FIAN) Nepal, National Farmer Group Federation (NFGF), Community Self Reliance Centre(CSRC)/National Land Right Forum (NLRF) and Centre for Agro-Ecology and Development (CAED) Nepal. The programs key objectives were to inform better and engage media personnel’s for them to comprehend AAF’s work highlighting the challenges faced by the agriculture sector along with its repercussion as well as the potential responses. Furthermore, the program also sought to create a platform to exchange knowledge and support among the stakeholders.

The following were the major issues briefly discussed during the session:

– Revision of agriculture strategy and formulation of act

– Periodic plan and annual policy, program and budget

– Foreign direct investment

– Pesticide regulation policy, standards, and regulations

– Import of synthetic chemical fertilizers and release of carbon

– Global food crisis and export ban

– Land use, land distribution and barren land

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sustainability of women’s access to forest resources is ensured

 

The case of a gender-transformative approach from Nepal

 

Turning weeds into valuable products

“I could not imagine how valuable the Thakal (Phoenix loureiroi Kunth) plant could be for rural women. Today I was surprised to see diverse, beautiful handmade products made from Thakal. Looking at the Thakal products by women of the Namuna Community Forest User Group, I realised the importance of this plant for the rural economy. ”

Those were the words of Mr Mohan Raj Kafle, the Divisional Forest Officer of Nawalparasi at a policy lab organised by the Economic Empowerment of Women through Forest Solutions project, recently.

The lab involved rural women entrepreneurs, the Local Government Chief and officials, private bank officials, a Chief from the Cottage and Small Industry Office, a Divisional Forest Officer from the district government, and project personnel.

Rural women in Nawalparasi district of central Nepal have succeeded in producing bags, hats, and mats from Thakal, bio-cups and plates from Sal (Shorea robusta) leaves, and brooms from broom grass. The lab provided the occasion for Mr Kafle and others to appreciate the initiative and encourage women entrepreneurs with commitments of support.

Not only was this a matter of courtesy, but also of legacy for the project. The words meant a lot for the rural women who have been using leaves, straws, twigs and Thakal-derived fibres to produce handicrafts and increase earnings from their sale.

Handicraft made from Thakal fibres

Creating the legal framework for women’s economic activities

Patient work was needed to reach this level of achievement.

Generally, these women do not face any restrictions in accessing the raw materials in the forest, as long as the products are for household use. However, once the materials are converted into products for market, the women have to meet several legal requirements.

Nepal has a community forestry system whereby registered forest user groups can harvest forest products according to approved operational plans.  The area where the women wish to harvest must have the provisions mentioned and the amount of harvest prescribed in the approved Community Forestry Operational Plan. These explicit permissions for raw material collection would be based on a proper inventory of each resource, to ensure sustainable management and harvest.

During visits to Division Forest Office, the project team discussed the policy issues. Mr Kafle suggested the project team should conduct an inventory of available non-timber forest products (here in our case, Thakal and Sal leaves) and incorporate their management and collection in the Operational Plan. This would not only be an operational issue, but would also create a legal platform for women entrepreneurs to sustainably assess the raw materials for their enterprises.

The project formed a technical team to conduct Thakal and Sal inventory and prescribe the regeneration status and annual allowable harvest in the Operational Plan. Since Thakal is rare in the country, the project consulted experts to devise an appropriate method for carrying out its inventory. The Community Forest User Group and women’s groups members were engaged in the inventory process, which increased their self-confidence and self-respect too. They shared their pride in being a part of such a technical study.

Following the inventory, the team revised the Operational Plan, and Mr Kafle approved these plans with respect. He also provided the women with encouraging words that these were very innovative efforts that he would like to expand to the rest of the Community Forest User Groups.

Women undertaking inventory activities

Transformation in local women’s status – a strong foundation for their futures

The project “Economic Empowerment of Women through Forest Solutions” tried to ensure that rural women have sustainable access to forest resources including non-timber forest products, which are often overlooked as useless grass and other fibres and are left out in the forest, causing fire hazards. The inclusion of these provisions facilitated the use of these materials to create products for sale in the market.

With the official approval from the Division Forest Office, the rural women feel respected for their own choices and decisions, feel much more responsible for conserving the forest and making the most useful application of their traditional knowledge to foster household economies.

In the complete process, besides the role of the project team, experts and the Community Forest User Group executive members, the role of the Divisional Forest Officer remained as a constructive technical advisor. His appreciation and facilitation of the women’s needs, choices and decision-making processes remain commendable.

The initiation will be upscale by the project through different means of dissemination including publication of the blog in Nepali language in a national newspaper and community FM radio. The project will promote the transformation through The Federation of Community Forestry Users Nepal (FECOFUN) – a formal network of Forest User Groups from all over Nepal. Furthermore, this experience and evidence will be shared widely in the national policy lab and dialogues to influence the authorities.

This action can be coined as a “gender transformative legacy in action” on how to ensure rural women’s sustainable access and control over minor forest products by raising women’s dignified decisions and choices for forest-based livelihoods.

The blog was originally published in CDKN website as a part of the gender equality in low carbon world (GLOW) program funded by IDRC Canada.

https://glowprogramme.org/news-blogs/sustainability-womens-access-forest-resources-ensured

Policy dialogue: Forum for discussion between the rural women entrepreneurs, policymakers and policy implementers

Effective and successful policy implementation in all sectors is the key to national development. In the forestry context, numerous favourable policies and laws address all the major aspects of this sector, but their implementation is a complex endeavour and is of pivotal concern. To address the policy and regulatory barriers by women entrepreneurs in accessing forest resources, Policy dialogues were organized by the project Economic Empowerment of Women through Forest Solutions in Tripura Sundari Rural Municipality-Sindhupalchok and Gaidakot and Devchuli Municipality in Nawalpur (E). The dialogues were organized to provide women entrepreneurs with a forum to discuss the issues and seek to enhance their understanding of the policies and their translation in practice.

The women entrepreneurs shared with enthusiasm all about their achievements and problems faced during enterprise development, specifically in the context of accessing the raw materials for enterprises, market issues, registration issues and many more. The Chief and representatives of the Local Government, Divisional Forest Office, Chief of District Small and Cottage Industry Office and Banks unpacked the existing gender-responsive service provisions, especially to address women’s practical and strategic needs. For example, women’s access to information, resources, services, employment, credit, programs, budget and other benefits meant for the advancement of women were discussed. The women entrepreneurs actively interacted with the officials for clarification and demanded simplification of the process. The officials responded positively and motivated the women entrepreneurs; the local government officials ensured that they would be thoughtful to include such programs and budgets in their upcoming annual plans. Furthermore, the other non-state actors such as representatives from the Association of Family Forest Owners- Nepal (AFFON) and Federation of Community Forest User Groups Nepal (FECOFUN) expressed the policy and practical hassles could be resolved through functional coordination between state and non-state actors.

At the end of the session, all the women entrepreneurs and stakeholders came to a consensus to develop a joint statement and actions on the policy gaps and commit to policy reform that could help them to continue their entrepreneur’s journey even after the project phases out.

Policy dialogue: Forum for discussion between the rural women entrepreneurs, policymakers and policy implementers