Data informed action to protect species in Peril 

Jalthal, a 6100 hectare block of forest, is known for its rich biodiversity. The forest is remnant of once lush and continuous forest of lowland of Nepal. The forest is gradually degrading and its rich biodiversity is gradually eroding. Dillenia indica, a rare species in Nepal, demonstrates case of biodiversity erosion in the forest associated with development during last five decades.

Locally called as Paanchfal and Thaaidith   grows into a medium sized tree used to be a common species in Jalthal forest. Our detail forest survey shows that the  species is about to vanish from the forest. We have spotted only two individual trees and they are without seedlings and saplings. Standing trees are  degraded due to lopping. Locals have not seen its flower and fruits for last two decades. The tree is multipurpose with edible fruit. Fruits are eaten raw, picked and even used in traditional medicines. Twigs are used as fodder and woody parts as firewood.

Given its situation in the forest and to protect the valuable genepool in the wild, ForestAction Nepal joined Bishal Community Forest and Division Forest Office (DFO) Jhapa to protect the species’ last individuals in the forest. Protection of standing trees coupled with awareness among forest user and provision of alternative fodders are expected to conserve the species’ valuable genepool in the forest.

This demonstrates ForestAction Nepal’s Darwin Initiative project’s   ‘data informed conservation action’.

Two-days Participatory Workshop on Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture

Forest Action Nepal, secretariat of Alliance of Agriculture for Food (AAF) along with Free student Union (FSU) Lamjung campus, hosted a two-day participatory workshop focused on Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture. The event, held on June 13 and 14 of 2023 aimed to promote sustainable agriculture and disseminate innovative and proportionate solutions for agriculture challenges in the region.

The workshop brought together researchers, experts, and students in the field of Agriculture. Participants engaged in lively discussions, sharing their knowledge and experiences related to agroecology and sustainable farming methods. The event was structured to foster collaboration and encourage the exchange of ideas among the attendees.

Keynote speakers at the workshop highlighted the importance of adopting sustainable practices to mitigate the negative impacts of conventional farming on the environment. They emphasized the need for promoting biodiversity, conserving natural resources, and reducing chemical inputs to ensure long term agriculture sustainability.

Throughout the two days, various topics were covered, including organic farming, permaculture, crop rotation, integrated pest management, and soil conservation strategies. Attendees actively participated in hands-on demonstrations, practical sessions, and interactive group activities to enhance their understanding of these concepts.

Additionally, the workshop featured presentations on successful case studies of agroecology implementation from different parts of the world. These success stories provided inspiration and practical insights for participants, demonstrating the positive outcomes of the sustainable agriculture practices.

The two-days participatory workshop on Agroecology and sustainable agriculture at Lamjung Campus proved to be valuable platform to exchange knowledge, networking and collaborative efforts. The event undoubtedly succeeded in sowing the seed of sustainability in compliance with the aim of the workshop.

World Environment Day 2023 celebrated

Solving environmental problems is not the responsibility of anyone alone. Togetherness in the movement obviously makes a huge difference. While “World Environment Day 2023” was globally celebrated with the campaign #beatplasticpollution, the ACIAR funded EnLiFT2 project implemented under ForestAction Nepal, along with Salle Chaubas Forest Management Committee and Sub Division Forest Office, Chaubas, organized a one-day “School Level Awareness Program” on June 5, 2023, in Setidevi Secondary School, Yakpa tole of Bhumlu-4, Kavre, Nepal. The celebration serves as a spur for collaboration and group efforts to build a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future for future generations. This day was celebrated primarily to raise public awareness of the need to protect the environment by avoiding the use of plastic and instead utilizing eco-friendly alternatives. The event was chaired by Mr. Lok Bahadur Kunwar, the coordinator of Salle Chaubas Forest Management Committee, in the presence of Mr. Prem Bahadur Bhujel, chairperson of Bhumlu Rural Municipality (RM), as chief guest. Other guests, like the chief administrative officer of Bhumlu RM, the coordinator of the Forest, Environment, and Disaster Committee of Bhumlu RM, the chairperson of Bhumlu 5, the Assistant Forest Officer from Sub Division Forest Office-Chaubas, the school’s representative, FECOFUN Bhumlu, CFUG’s representatives, the Private Forest Owners Association, etc., participated in the program.

Marking the 50th anniversary of World Environment Day 2023, the events were divided into multiple sessions that centered on beating plastic pollution. The sessions were a silent rally on the importance of environmental conservation, with the participation of hundreds of students from three major schools in Bhumlu and Kavre. The rally was demonstrated, seeking to bring recognition of how plastic pollution impacts a natural environment. It was staged to bring attention to environmental issues and prompt action to prevent or address plastic pollution. The plantation program was carried out on the school premises to promote the preservation of trees, maintain a sustainable environment, and promote the greenery around the school premises.

Inter-school speech competitions and inter-school quiz competitions were conducted, in which three higher secondary schools, Bhumlu 4 and 5, participated. The main aim of these competitions was to offer the students the chance to socialize not only with classmates but with different students from other schools and learn through these interactions. Further, this competition also helped the students to observe, share their opinions, choose their words, ease oral communication, and take many actions to motivate them to fight against plastic pollution.

This event was intended to encourage fun learning methods while also enhancing general knowledge on diverse environmental-related themes. Overall, all the participants present there benefited from the diverse themes discussed in this event, making them more environmentally conscious. Two cultural dances and songs were performed by the students to promote social and cultural interaction as well as a sense of community well-being and unity. These dances were accompanied by powerful social messages and narratives. Ecofriendly alternatives like cloth banners, handmade papers, hemp bags, etc. were used throughout the program to encourage the use of green alternatives.

 

Green enterprises are empowering marginalised women and beating plastic pollution

Nepal has an illustrious reputation for its beautiful mountains, but has now been taken over by a storm of plastic pollution, which forms mountains of waste in urban spaces and creates detrimental effects on human health. Nepal generates roughly 2.7 tons of plastic waste each day; 16% of urban waste is plastic. Kathmandu alone uses 4,700,000 to 4,800,000 plastic bags daily, according to research by ICIMOD.

Indeed, plastic pollution is a global scourge: by early 2023, court cases concerning plastic pollution had been reported in more than 30 different countries. World Environment Day 2023 turns a spotlight on the problem and urges collective action to stop it.

While the world commemorates World Environment Day, the 30 rural and marginalised women entrepreneurs of three community forests involved in the project Economic Empowerment of Women Through Forest-Based Solutions have an ecofriendly alternative to the plastic crisis. It is bio cups and plates, also known as Duna Tapari in Nepali, which have been used in the country for food packaging, for time immemorial. The cups are made from naturally fallen leaves and sustainably picked from self-sustaining sources like Shorea robusta (Sal leaves).

Image source: ForestAction Nepal

The women are modernising the once-arduous, traditional occupation of making these plates, by now using low-carbon, women-friendly technologies. To achieve this, the project is empowering women entrepreneurs on gender and social inclusion issues, providing skill-based trainings, and group management training, and forming women’s leadership circles.

Image source: Usha Thakuri, ForestAction Nepal

The women undertook an inventory of Sal leaves in their local forest area. The information was then integrated into the community forest management plan, which opens avenues for the women to establish multiple enterprises based on the non-timber forest products.

The fresh green leaves are collected manually without harming trees and dried to make lapha – a couple of leaves stitched together with bamboo pins which are then pressed by electric machine to achieve an appropriate size and finish.

This process is efficient, timesaving, reliable, hygienic, and easy to operate. What is more, using clean energy technology aligns with the goals of SDG 7, Affordable and clean energy, empowers women, bridges the gender development gap, and helps to build a new identity for rural women as those who handle electric machines.

Image source: Aarati Khatri, ForestAction Nepal

These women entrepreneurs have left no stone unturned in exploring markets for their products. Sal products are profoundly connected with Hindu culture and have strong religious relevance. People use them in all major life events from birth to death, such as weaning ceremonies, birthdays, exhibitions, workshops, social gatherings, marriage, community feasts, ethnic celebrations, parties, and funerals.

In recent years, Sal products have become popular with hotels, restaurants, homestays, event planning organisations, international and domestic non-governmental organisations, tourist attractions, etc. Due to their renewability, non-toxicity, high socio-economic value, strength, and durability, these products have grown commercial markets in both the national urban space and international markets.

In addition, these products have multiple environmental benefits. In many aspects, this eco-product is considerably superior to plastic. Contrary to plastics that are composed of polymers, oil, and fossil fuels, which pose a serious threat to living things, its raw materials are rich in sources of various flavonoids and exhibit anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, analgesic, and wound healing activities . Plastic takes around 20–500 years to decompose, leaving hazardous scars on the Earth that affect generations. But these biodegradable cups are converted into manure and dissolve into the soil, creating more life through their organic manure.

This climate-smart innovation also aligns with the SDG Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production , and Goal 13: Climate action respectively. Since the overall process of preparing Sal leaf products involves manual labour and the use of renewable energy, these products emit less carbon compared to plastic. Emissions are about 6 kg of CO2 per kg of plastic .

Every sector is touched by the plastics that create massive carbon footprints. Replacing the deep-rooted plastic economy overnight in a developing country like Nepal is a herculean task, as numerous livelihoods are connected with it. But it’s critical to take one step at a time.

It’s predicted that by 2050, we’ll be making approximately four times as much plastic as we do now. And based on the current situation, the OECD predicts that by 2060, plastic trash is predicted to triple, with half of it ending up in landfills. In the era of climate crisis, behavioural shifts to eco-friendly consumption and embrace of green attitudes is urgent. There is a pressing need to have zero impact on the environment and for each person to become an eco-champion of their own.

Image source: Kamal Bhandari, ForestAction Nepal

To develop the culture and practice of green packaging use in our daily routine, a robust and comprehensive policy intervention to discourage the use of plastic is a must. Providing incentives, subsidies, and tax exemptions for eco-friendly products would be appropriate efforts by the government. Furthermore, increasing taxes on plastic products that compete heavily with the bio-products would motivate women entrepreneurs to produce bio cups and plates at a larger scale.

These bio cups and plates can be a ray of hope for a sustainable environment, supporting marginalised sections of society, especially rural women, to improve their livelihoods and become economically empowered. Next time you buy these plates, you are also supporting and rewarding the hard work of these women, who have fought countless internal and external patriarchal, wars against gender stereotypes to be entrepreneurs. It is time to accelerate this action and switch to a bio-based circular economy and reimagine a plastic-free environment.

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.

Enhancing the collaboration between farmers and journalist

ForestAction Nepal, secretariat for Alliance of Agriculture for Food, organized 2 days interaction program (May 24-25, 2023) with the journalist, media personnel’s and farmers from Chitwan and Makawanpur districts respectively at Syangdi, Chitwan. The main objective of this event was to orient the journalists on the contemporary issues of food and agroecology and also to bridge the gap between the farmers and the journalists.

During the interaction, both farmers and media personnel shared their concern about the uncertain future of agriculture and its significant impact on the national food system. Farmers also criticized about the ineffective policies and programs that pose a serious threat to their livelihood. They expressed that it is essential to consistently exert pressure on the government and bureaucracy to prioritize and protect farmers’ agendas and issues at the national level.

Similarly, journalists committed to supporting farmers in addressing the pressing issues through their media writings and coverage. Furthermore, they also placed their appreciation on the inclusion of a comprehensive agricultural context as a priority in their reporting efforts.

 

Policy dialogue on “Community institutions and forest-based enterprises: Prospects of transformation”

While the Government of Nepal has set the goal of achieving prosperity from forestry, the country holding 44.74% of forest area demonstrates the prospects of forest based enterprises. Along with the ambition, there are a range of challenges that have been rather discouraged in promoting community-based forest enterprises in Nepal. Community institutions are facing several challenges in the establishment and operation of forest-based enterprises. With the aim to discuss opportunities and challenges in promoting forest-based enterprises and laying out ways forward, ForestAction Nepal, in support from the Australian Government, organized a policy dialogue on “Community institutions and forest-based enterprises: Prospects of transformation” on 6th June 2023. A diverse group of actors from the government, non-government, civil society, private sector, local government among others expressed their views during the event.
Click here to download the event report