Policy Dialogue on Fostering an enabling environment for forest-based enterprises in Nepal

On 29th May, Wednesday, ForestAction Nepal with the support of the Australian Embassy in Kathmandu, and in collaboration with FECOFUN, FenFIT, and NEHHPA organized a half-day policy dialogue titled ‘Fostering an enabling environment for forest-based enterprises in Nepal: From shared understanding to devisable strategies’ at Hotel Sankar, Kathmandu. The main agenda of the dialogue was to develop a common understanding of the issues surrounding forest enterprise and develop strategies for reforming forestry ideologies to promote prosperity.

A total of 36 participants including Ms. Kavitha Kayasthan, Head of Development Cooperation at the Australian Embassy in Nepal was present at the dialogue. In the first half of the dialogue, representatives from FECOFUN, FenFIT, NEHHPA, and ForestAction Nepal presented their experiences, lessons, and proposals on forest-based enterprises. Various issues related to forestry enterprise were discussed, such as timber and non-timber production, Nepal’s herb investment and production, and women’s involvement in forest restoration and enterprise. In the second half, a moderated discussion on the presentation took place. Through the discussion, various issues include the need for a proper business plan in the forestry enterprises, lack of research and development on timber production, lack of innovation and technological approaches, insufficient market access, non-tariff obligations in such sector, etc.

Mr. Badri Dhungana, the Planning Division Chief of the Ministry of Forest and Environment, further highlighted that “The country’s socio-political ecology is causing tremendous transition of forestry. There is a vital need to bridge the gap between individual benefits and national benefits from the initiation of forestry enterprise.”

The forest-based enterprise policy dialogue has become an important stepping stone to bring policymakers, local government, academia, and civil society organizations together to discuss and develop a common understanding of the problems and advocate for the better promotion and sustainable development of forest-based enterprises.

Mastering Chainsaw Safety

In several districts of Bagmati Province, individuals often perform chainsaw operations without formal training or guidance leading to unsafe practices and habitat destruction. Recognizing this issue, EnLiFT2/ForestAction Nepal in collaboration with the Forest Research and Training Centre (FRTC) launched a 2-day training session (16th-17th May 2024) on the “Safe Chainsaw Operation and Maintenance Program”. The training program focused on bridging the knowledge gap by providing comprehensive training on safe chainsaw operation and maintenance practices. By equipping chainsaw operators with the necessary skills and knowledge, the program seeks to ensure the safety of the operators, minimize environmental impact, improve operational efficiency, and enhance the sustainability of chainsaw use in Nepal.

A total number of 24 diverse participants from different fields (forestry workers, farmers, sawmill operators, construction workers, drivers, etc) attended the session. The first day of the session focused on “Introduction to Chainsaw Operation and Safety” where theoretical knowledge on usage, components, maintenance, and environmental considerations of chainsaw operations were discussed. Similarly, the second day aimed to enhance the participant’s theoretical knowledge through practical exercises, safety procedures, and legal & regulatory methods.

At the end of the training, participants were evaluated on their understanding and proficiency in safe chainsaw operation through written assessment and practical demonstrations. The “Safe Chainsaw Operation and Maintenance Program” has become a successful program in enhancing safety awareness among chainsaw operators from the Bagmati province, developing their technical skills, and emphasizing the importance of responsible and sustainable practices!

Fostering Sustainable and Resilient Agriculture through Agroecology Initiatives at the Local Level

ForestAction Nepal organized a half-day interactive workshop at the Ichhakamana Rural Municipality (RM) office in Kurintar, Chitwan, on April 29, 2024. The workshop was attended by key stakeholders, including the Chief of the District Coordination Committee, Chitwan, lead organic farmers from the Organic Farmers Federation Chitwan, Chair, Vice Chair, and Ward Chairpersons, agricultural technicians, and local farmers of Ichhakamana RM.

The main objective of this workshop was to discuss the need for and importance of agroecological farming and to emphasize the role and responsibilities of the rural municipality in supporting farmers in transitioning towards sustainable and resilient agriculture.

Participants engaged in fruitful discussions, sharing their experiences and insights on current farming practices and the potentials and challenges of agroecological farming. However, the key stakeholders expressed their strong support for promoting agroecological farming.

The Chairperson of the Ichhakamana RM committed to allocating resources and budget for promoting and implementing agroecological farming practices within the community in the upcoming fiscal year. Furthermore, collaborative efforts were also discussed, including training programs, demonstration plots, and capacity-building activities to empower farmers with the knowledge and skills to adopt sustainable agricultural practices.

This workshop marked a significant step towards fostering sustainable and resilient agriculture through agroecology initiatives at the local level, laying the foundation for a more sustainable and resilient farming future in Ichhakamana.

Co-creating agroecology roadmap

ForestAction Nepal organized an interactive program on “Co-creating agroecology roadmap” at Nepal Academy, Kamaladi, Kathmandu on 14th April, 2024. The key speakers in the program were Bharat Mansata, a renowned writer, natural activist, and founder of Vanvadi, a collective forest regenerative initiative, Malvika Solanki, an experienced permaculture designer and practitioner from India, Dr. Pitambar Sharma, a former professor of Geography in Tribhuvan University and Dr. Meena Paudel, sociologist, researcher and activist. The program was attended by government actors, academics, civil society actors, farmers, activists, media personnel, and students.

Major concerns presented in the program

– The energy-intensive agricultural sector is adversely affecting the environment by contributing to biodiversity loss, soil degradation, and greenhouse gas emissions.

– Today’s food production is deficient in nutrients due to excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

– The declining water table level in the soil is leading to a growing water shortage.

– Treating soil as living is one of the main principles of natural farming.

– Women are primarily engaged in labor within agriculture, while decision-making remains predominantly in the hands of men residing overseas.

– Agricultural markets are not women-friendly.

– Women are traditional nurtures of seeds who play a huge role in saving and selecting seeds.

– The low productivity of crops in Nepal is driving outmigration as it fails to meet the basic needs of families.

– There is a huge gap between agro-based economy and non-agro-based economy.

 

Training on Agroecology and Permaculture Design and Practice

ForestAction Nepal organized and facilitated a six-day training session on agroecology and permaculture design and practice in Vyas, Tanahu, from April 6th to 11th, 2024. The training had a total of 20 participants and was led by primary instructors Bharat Mansata, a renowned writer, natural activist, and founder of Vanvadi, a collective forest regenerative initiative, and Malvika Solanki, an experienced permaculture designer and practitioner from India.

The training methodology integrated various learning approaches, such as presentations, interactive discussions, group works and hands-on field exercises. The training was divided into two modules, with the focus on essential topics in the first module. These topics included the introduction and significance of regenerative agroecology, the value of traditional practices and bio-cultural knowledge, fundamental principles of soil and water conservation, and water harvesting systems. The training also covered Bhaskar Save’s natural/organic farming approach. Participants were introduced to permaculture principles, ethics, and design methods like functional analysis, sector analysis, and zone analysis.

Practical techniques on seed saving, re-afforesting watersheds, integrated pest management techniques, and urban food gardening strategies were discussed during the training sessions. The training also emphasized community-centric approaches to increase socio-ecological awareness and promote collective action.

Additionally, engaging activities were incorporated into the practical sessions to provide hands-on learning experiences for the participants. These activities included landscape reading (a foundational component of permaculture design, where participants learn to observe and analyze the natural features and patterns of a landscape), contour line mapping (by understanding the contour lines, participants can design water harvesting systems, terraces, and swales that help slow down water runoff, prevent erosion, and promote efficient water distribution across the landscape) and composting demonstrations. These engaging activities not only provided valuable hands-on experience for the participants but also reinforced the theoretical concepts discussed during the training sessions.

On the final day, a detailed review and reflection session was conducted to assess the overall training experience. The participants shared their insights, learnings, challenges, and positive takeaways from the training. Participants were also assigned tasks to be completed before the next module of the training, which is scheduled for mid-September 2024.

Overall, the participants left the training with a renewed sense of enthusiasm and commitment to applying agroecology and permaculture principles in their own practices. They were eager to continue their learning journey and contribute to building more sustainable and resilient food systems in their regions.

National Sharing Workshop on Economic Empowerment of Women through Forest Solutions

The National Sharing Workshop on Economic Empowerment of Women through Forest Solutions held in Kathmandu, marked the culmination of a 30-month project. Throughout its journey, the initiative empowered over 240 rural marginalized women entrepreneurs, fostering their economic, social, and technological capacities through diverse training sessions and capacity-building activities. Despite facing challenges, the project persevered and successfully achieved its objectives.

The workshop aimed to:

– Facilitate Knowledge Sharing: Disseminate project insights, best practices, and lessons learned to stakeholders.

– Celebrate Achievements: Commemorate the accomplishments and contributions of entrepreneurs, stakeholders, and the project team.

– Reflect and Evaluate: Assess project outcomes, identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement.

– Disseminate Results: Share the project’s findings with a broader audience through presentations and case studies, inspiring similar initiatives.

Diverse stakeholders, including representatives from the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation, consortium partners like AFFON, FenFit, HIMAWANTI, as well as NGOs and INGOs, actively participated. Their engagement enriched discussions, providing valuable feedback and fostering a supportive environment.

A key topic, led by Kanchan Lama, the Principal Investigator, provided an overview of the project, highlighting objectives, study areas, and the operation of 11 different enterprise models, resulting in 18 forest-based enterprises, nine of which were officially registered. Collaboration with government and non-government entities was emphasized.

Major project interventions, including women empowerment initiatives, forest management training, exposure visits, and climate-resilient leadership training, were explained. The project’s involvement in Gender Just and Climate Financing discussions, as well as its contribution to policy formulation in international conferences, was underscored. Robust knowledge dissemination strategies were highlighted to enhance stakeholders’ understanding of the challenges and successes faced by marginalized women entrepreneurs.

The workshop concluded with a shared vision of promoting sustainable economic empowerment and resilience among women entrepreneurs in forest communities. In his closing remarks, Rahul Karki echoed a widespread perception that understanding community forests requires research or visiting Nepal. He also envisioned a future where women-owned forest-based enterprises attract global attention as exemplars of sustainable practices.

Empowering smallholder farmers through the promotion of the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS)

ForestAction Nepal has been collaborating with the Organic Farmers Federation Chitwan (OFFC), a group of prominent organic farmers in Chitwan, to promote agroecology over the past few years.

A crucial component of this agroecology promotion campaign is the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS), an alternative and reliable certification process designed for smallholder farmers. PGS involves a group of farmers collectively establishing and implementing their own quality assurance system based on active participation, transparency, and mutual trust. This system not only offers a more affordable and accessible organic certification option for small-scale producers but also strengthens local community networks and promotes sustainable agriculture practices. Overall, PGS empowers smallholder farmers by enabling them to demonstrate the quality and authenticity of their products in the market.

In line with the goal of promoting the PGS system among smallholder farmers, ForestAction Nepal organized a half-day interactive session on March 21, 2024, at the District Agriculture Development Office (DADO) in Bharatpur, Chitwan, to discuss the promotion of the PGS through the formation of a PGS committee at the municipal level. The session was attended by OFFC farmers, municipal-level agricultural technicians, and the head of DADO. The discussion focused on the opportunities presented by PGS and the challenges that need to be addressed in expanding the PGS committee at the municipal level.

 

Managing Invasive Species in Community Forests for Forest Restoration and Sustainable Agriculture

Biodiversity Integration in Community Forest Operation Plan Training for Forestry Officials

In a bid to safeguard the ecological integrity of Nepal’s prized Barandabhar forest corridor, government officials from various districts convened a training event aimed at integrating biodiversity conservation and invasive species management into community forest operation plans and regulatory frameworks. Organized by Forest Action Nepal (FAN) with support from the International Climate Initiative and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, the event saw participation from key stakeholders including Division Forest Offices, the Ministry of Forest and Environment (MoFE) Bagmati Province, and conservation organizations. Technical sessions led by experts underscored the urgency of addressing invasive alien plant species (IAPS) threats, emphasizing the need for concrete policy measures and proactive management strategies. Notable presentations highlighted the ecological significance of the forest corridor and showcased successful interventions from ongoing projects. Driven by a collective recognition of the looming challenges posed by invasive species and anthropogenic activities, government officials vowed to prioritize biodiversity conservation and implement targeted measures for sustainable forest management. With a commitment to integrating valuable insights from the event into forthcoming regulations and action plans, stakeholders are poised to reinforce the resilience of Nepal’s natural ecosystems for generations to come.

International Conference on Revitalising Community Forestry in the Era of Socio-Environmental Crisis

The International Conference on ‘Revitalizing Community Forestry in the Era of Socio-environmental Crisis’ convened in Kathmandu, Nepal, on March 4th and 5th, 2024. The conference was a joint collaboration of the Ministry of Forest and Environment, Government of Nepal, and the Australian Government (through ACIAR) along with partners including EnLiFT2 project, Institute of Forestry, Federation of Community Forest Users Nepal, and Agriculture and Forestry University. The primary aim of the conference was to discuss and address challenges and opportunities facing community forestry in Nepal.

Over 211 participants from 11 countries actively participated in diverse presentations and panel discussions led by esteemed speakers including Dr. David Ganz, Prof. Tapan Kumar Nath, Dr. Bimala Rai Paudyal, and Popular Gentle. Diverse themes including governance, silviculture/forest management, enterprise, among others, focusing on integrating policy, practice, and science to revitalize community forestry were discussed.

Keynote presentations by experts like Dr. Mary Hobley, Prof. Carsten Smith-Hall and Dr. Maheshwar Dhakal delivered insightful presentations highlighting the issues and challenges surrounding community forestry in the changing socio-economic scenario.


 

 

Training of Trainers (TOT) on Sustainable Forest Management

Forests play a crucial role in supporting ecological balance, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable development. With increasing pressure on forest resources mainly attributed to factors such as deforestation, illegal logging, and climate change, there is a pressing need to empower individuals with the expertise to promote responsible forest management practices.

With an aim to provide concepts on different areas of forest management including forest certification, forest inventory, silvicultural systems, harvesting techniques, and forest governance, EnLiFT2 organized a training of trainers (TOT) on sustainable forest management in Hetauda on 6-9 February, 2024. About 30 individuals representing Division Forest Offices including forest officers and technical staff, academia, NGOs, and practitioners, participated in the training.

The TOT involved a comprehensive program designed to equip participants with the knowledge, skills, and tools necessary to become effective trainers in the field of forest management. This training aims to address the growing need for capacity building in sustainable forest management to promote sustainable practices, enhance forest conservation efforts, and mitigate environmental degradation.

The training covered a wide range of topics with a blend of theoretical insights, practical exercises, and interactive discussions on sustainable forest management.

Exposure visit: Cross project learnings and sharing on women-led enterprises

The EnLiFT2 project in Nepal’s Kavrepalanchok and Sindhupalchok districts has been actively engaging in actions to improve forest management and promote gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) within community forestry. As part of these efforts, an exposure visit was organized from January 24th to 27th, 2024, targeting women leaders from various Community Forest User Groups (CFUGs), Local Government (LG), and the Federation of Community Forests Users in Nepal (FECOFUN). The visit aimed to enhance participants’ understanding of women’s empowerment opportunities through community forestry, particularly focusing on income-generating interventions and collaborative efforts between CFUGs and LGs.

A total of 24 women leaders participated, representing different CFUGs and local government bodies. The objectives of the visit included observing Non-Timber Forest Product (NTFP) based women-led enterprises in project sites of Economic Empowerment of Women through Forest Solutions in Nawalparasi, sharing and learning from cross-project experiences, and understanding the potential for collaboration between LGs and CFUGs in fostering forest and NTFP-based enterprises for women’s economic empowerment.

The visits  centered on various women-led enterprises, including Thakal and broom enterprise in Namuna CFUG, bio cups and plates enterprise in Amarjyoti CFUG, and Triphala enterprise in Shankhadev CFUG, among others. Participants engaged in discussions with entrepreneurs, CFUG members, and local government representatives, exploring topics such as entrepreneurship development, resource management, market access, and sustainability.

Key reflections from participants highlighted the importance of realizing the economic potential of forest resources, the need for skills development training, and the significance of selecting enterprises based on available resources and community interests for sustainable operation. Participants also emphasized the importance of connecting women’s enterprises with CFUGs, ensuring a rigorous beneficiary selection process, and enhancing awareness among community members about resource availability and market potential.

Overall, the exposure visit provided valuable insights into successful women-led enterprises, collaborative efforts between stakeholders, and the potential for replicating such models in participants’ respective communities. It also underscored the importance of continuous learning, capacity building, and strategic partnerships in promoting women’s economic empowerment and sustainable forest management within community forestry contexts.

   

   

   

   

Second cohort of Youth leadership training

ForestAction Nepal successfully organized a week-long (07-11 March 2024) leadership training on Environment and Biodiversity Conservation. The training was organized in the midst of biodiversity rich forest of Barandabhar corridor of Chitwan and in an indigenous Tharu settlement. The primary objective was to support leadership development on environmental issues among youth. The training focused on proximate and underlying causes and socio-ecological consequences of the most pressing environmental problems of our time- biodiversity loss, climate crises and environmental pollution. Participants engaged in reflective activities which aimed in building a holistic perspective on the complex relationship among economic growth, development, biodiversity conservation, human rights and environmental crises.

The training was provided by over of dozen of different experts, both national and international, representing academia, environmental activists and conservation organizations and consisted of a mixed approach with blend of interactive lectures, engaging project work, learning oriented exposure visits, panel discussion, book reviews and in-depth discussion on how the modern development leaves its footprints on the environment. Participants were also familiarized around the dominant narratives and pervasive myths around environment and development.

The training was held in Bhimawoli HomeStay, a recently initiated services by indigenous Tharu community. Participants enjoyed Tharu foods, cultures, customs and traditions. Participants provided very good remarks on the learning outcomes of the program, making it a productive event. The training involved 27 participants, between age of 20-30 coming from a diverse cultural and educational backgrounds from various geographic region of Nepal.  Nearly a two thirds of the participants were girls.  The program was part of Darwin Initiative UK funded project “Linking Science to Management: Restoring Community Forests in Nepal (Ref, 29-028)”.