Catalysing ecosystem restoration for resilient natural capital and rural livelihoods in degraded forests and rangelands of Nepal.

BY Alice McClure ON 05 May 2015

In Nepal, rural communities rely strongly on goods and services from healthy mountain ecosystems. The effects of climate change are of grave concern because they threaten the health of the ecosystems. Local communities in the mid-hills and high mountains are particularly vulnerable because: i) erratic rainfall is resulting in an increase in the severity and frequency of droughts; and ii) increasing temperatures are shifting agro-ecological zones. Such climate-related changes are exacerbating the ecosystem degradation caused by unsustainable use of natural resources. This degradation is reducing agricultural productivity, particularly in the livestock sector. In addition, ecosystem degradation has negative effects on sectors including inter alia: water, transport and tourism. As a result, poverty alleviation and development in Nepal will be greatly restrained under conditions of climate change.

What can be done to help local communities in Nepal tackle these challenges? The preferred solution is to adopt an EbA approach to build the resilience of local communities and economic sectors in Nepal to climate change. This restoration and management of degraded ecosystems will increase resilience by providing a buffer of natural infrastructure to the negative effects of climate variability.

Figure 1. Communities located in villages in Dolakha District (Nepal) will be trained to implement, monitor and maintain Ecosystem-based Adaptation interventions.

The Government of Nepal (GoN) has been proactive in addressing climate change threats. Currently, to address the vulnerability of local communities who rely on ecosystem services, the GoN has initiated projects for ecosystem restoration and management. In particular, these focus on: i) improving the livelihoods of the rural poor by restoring degraded forest ecosystems; ii) promoting livestock production by restoring degraded rangelands; and iii) implementing a research programme focusing on the effects of climate change on indigenous plants in Nepal. However, these initiatives are at risk of failing under conditions of climate change because of limited: i) capacity of local and national institutions to address the effects of climate change through EbA; ii) integration of EbA into policies and strategies; and iii) protocols for on-the-ground EbA in forests and rangelands.

Figure 2. More than 1,000 ha of forest in Achham, Dolakha and Salyan District, (Nepal) will be restored using climate-resilient approaches.

Figure 3. During the project design phase, thorough consultation with a range of local, district and national stakeholders promotes sustainability of the project, and ownership of these role-players. Such consultation includes workshops during which the project is validated by relevant ministries, departments, NGOs and local academic institutions.

The proposed LDCF project will address the identified barriers by: i) developing the technical capacity of local and national institutions to increase the resilience of communities by implementing EbA; ii) integrating EbA into policies and strategies; and iii) developing protocols for EbA and demonstrating these interventions in forests and rangelands. As a result, the activities of initiatives to restore these ecosystems will be climate-proofed. Such projects will therefore support the socio-economic development of Nepal under the expected effects of climate change.

Figure 4. Techniques for topsoil and water conservation will be implemented to complement EbA, and increase the adaptive capacity of local communities in Salyan District (Nepal) to the climate-related effects of more frequent and severe droughts as well as heavier rainfall. These techniques will promote the climate-resilience of the agro-ecological and forest landscapes.