TOWARDS RESILIENT COMMUNITIES

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake of April 2015, a village rises from the rubble, finding life from a natural resource they protected together. An integrated river basin management project in the Indrawati sub-basin, its roots dating back to 2010, pulls a village back from the brink as an example in resilience.

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TOWARDS RESILIENT COMMUNITIES

TOWARDS RESILIENT COMMUNITIES

“Just when I thought life was becoming better and more economically sound, the ill-fated earthquake took away my house and my cattle,” laments Tak Kumari Khadka, a 41 year old farmer residing in Sundardanda village of Kavrepalanchwok district. “I was having lunch with my youngest son when the earthquake struck. We were able to dash out of the house quickly and survived else we would have been buried under our own home,” Khadka added.

Tak Kumari’s neighbour, Bholanath Bajgain who is also a farmer has a similar story to tell. “In less than a minute I saw my house turn into rubble. With all our food stock destroyed under the house, we relied solely on boiled potatoes with weeks spent praying for our lives.”

Sundardanda (or beautiful hill) is one of the many villages Nepal’s mid hills that faced the major brunt of the devastating earthquake of 25 April 2015. All of the 35 houses in the village were flattened by the quake leaving the villagers with next to nothing leave alone a roof above their heads. Even after nine months had passed since the earthquake, the villagers received no more than Rs. 15,000 (USD 150) and about 15kg of rice per household in government relief.

Yet life moved on for the people of Sundardanda. When asked what kept them going amidst the crisis, the villagers had one unanimous answer: water!  For a village that was once reeling under acute water shortage, it was this very resource that came as a life-saver during this dark period thanks to a simple yet innovative integrated water resource management program that had helped improve water access in this village over the years.

Let us travel back in time to Sundardanda, 16 years ago, to when it all started. 

Tired of wildlife such as wild boars and monkeys eating their produce, villagers such as Tak Kumari and Bholanath migrated to this village in 2000 from Sindhupalchowk district with a hope for the better. Their hopes got a reality check when they started coming to terms with the water scarcity in the village. The whole area around the village was in fact dry and barren and nothing much would grow here given the water shortage.

“We had to walk for an hour just to bring home one bucket of drinking water,” Tak Kumari reminisces. .

Farming became another major challenge as villagers had to depend solely on rainwater for irrigation. During winter and spring, with very little rainfall, the villagers could only grow a few traditional crops such as maize, millet and wheat. The rainy season in itself posed new problems because the rains came in excess destroying important rice harvests of the season.

Tak Kumari recalls how the rains had also started getting erratic further affecting agriculture. “Earlier it used to rain on time and we could time our farming accordingly, but now the rain patterns have changed and are uncertain in all the seasons,” she says. While both Tak Kumari and Bholanath owned about one and three acres of land respectively, much of it used to be left barren since nothing would grow on it except during the pertinent seasons.

Selling the surplus of whatever grew in their lands gave people like Tak Kumari and Bholanath some source of income but was still insufficient to support their homes for a whole year and afford quality education for their children. As an alternative Tak Kumari began to work as a daily wage laborer in Kathmandu which earned her a meagre Rs. 300 (US$ 3) a day while Bholanath settled for loans from a local cooperative.

To address the water woes of the local communities, WWF Nepal together with the government’s Water and Energy Commission Secretariat (WECS) initiated the Integrated River Basin Management (IRBM) project mainly funded by Ministry of Foreign Affairs Finland, in nine catchments, including Sundardanda, of the Indrawati sub basin in 2010. The project was part of the broader Koshi River Basin Management program launched in 2008 to action the government’s National Water Plan.

The project work in Sundardanda starting with the conservation of three natural spring sources, a primary source of water for the villagers, through plantation and forest conservation activities. Two water tanks were in turn built to channel and store water from the conserved spring sources to provide clean drinking water to the households. With water more directly available, villagers particularly women and children did not have to walk for hours to collect water.

In order to manage water for irrigation, four conservation ponds were constructed with a storage capacity of about 12,000 liters of water. The conservation ponds served as collection centers for rain and run-off water which could then be used for irrigation purposes especially during the dry season. This also meant households could start cultivating vegetables which was practically impossible earlier owing to the parched lands. For people like Bholanath and Tak Kumari, being able to grow vegetables was a life-changer. For them, vegetables used to be a luxury as much of their income would go into buying such produce for consumption. With the help of the conservation ponds, they could actually save on such costs and in fact make money by selling their surplus produce.

To further support agricultural practices, the concept of Farmers’ Schools was introduced in the village whereby local farmers were given practical lessons on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and water smart farming. With the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides being a prominent practice amongst farmers in the region, the Farmers’ Schools helped build wider understanding on the benefits of organic farming for both people and the land.

These were some of the positive changes brought by the project’s interventions in Sundardanda. The project’s success rests on the sustainable benefits the project was able to provide to the local communities even during the damaging aftermath of the earthquake.

After the earthquake, of the four conservation ponds constructed, three were still functioning through which the villagers could grow vegetables both for personal consumption as well as sales. The villagers were actually able to earn a profit of Rs. 400,000 (US$ 4,000) from the sale of vegetables alone in a single season which they invested in the rebuilding of their homes. Three of the seven spring sources conserved were still intact providing drinking water to the village households. And the Farmers’ Schools established by the project additionally served to provide a huge moral support to the local people given the close bonds they nurtured over the years by being a part of these schools.

The smiles on the faces of Tak Kumari and Bholanath are a perfect testament to the resilience of this hilly community. “The earthquake broke our homes but not our spirit,” exclaims Tak Kumari. “We will for sure rebuild what is gone, for after all life still has so much more to offer.”

WHEN EVERY DROP COUNTS

Two villages, separated only by distance and bound by a common issue, find benefit from a common solution. A sustainable land management project in the fragile Chure region works with local communities to promote efficient use of water while providing tangible benefits to secure local livelihoods.

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WHEN EVERY DROP COUNTS

WHEN EVERY DROP COUNTS

Jagat Bahadur Shrestha, a farmer by profession, lives in a village in Nirmalbasti Village Development Committee (VDC). He and his family of five survive on less than a hectare of land from which they eke out a living. Water deficiency is characteristic of Nirmalbasti VDC with many villagers abandoning farming of seasonal crops and opting for tobacco as the prime alternative given its need for less water.

“Not a single perennial river passes through this village. All we had as a water source was a well that could hardly support 40 of the 300 households in our village. We had to wait for hours for our turn to get water; sometimes we had to return with empty vessels. Being a farmer I always dreamt of planting vegetables that would give me a good income and meet the nutritional needs of my family, but I could neither grow my own vegetables nor buy them regularly”, shared Jagat pensively.

In neighboring Bara district, Kanchi Maya Dhalan grappled with a similar problem. A residence of Ratanpuri village, Kanchi Maya relied on water from a small gorge for farming to support her family of eight. While the water from this source was adequate for her needs, the problem was having to walk to the source and back for water. She and the rest of the villagers lacked the resource as well as to channel the water to their lands.

These villages in Parsa and Bara districts fall within Nepal’s fragile Churia region – the outermost hill range spreading from the east to the west of Nepal. Inhabited mostly by farmers, the ecology of the region is under constant pressure from deforestation, over-grazing, land conversion, inappropriate agricultural practices, and encroachment. A primary impact is on water availability and sustainable land management thereby directly affecting the livelihoods of local people such as Jagat and Kanchi Maya.

Until two years ago, Jagat, like his fellow villagers, had planted tobacco in his farmland. His annual harvest provided him with an income of Rs. 10,000 (USD 100) which was insufficient to cover his household expenses especially to afford his children’s education for which he used to take loans.

Kanchi Maya, on the other hand, was relatively a little better off with an annual farming income of Rs. 25,000 (USD 250). However, she had her own set of problems as water from the gorge contained significant amount of sand which was deteriorating the fertility of her land, and the rainfall was also erratic.

For Jagat and Kanchi Maya whose lives were bound by a common concern, it was but a matter of time for change to happen for them for the better.

In 2014, WWF with the support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) introduced a project, Sustainable Land Management in the Churia Region, in Makawanpur, Parsa, Bara and Rautahat districts of Central Nepal. The project also brought together for the first time four ministries of Nepal – Ministry of Land Reform and Management, Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, Ministry of Agricultural Development and Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment – under a common objective.

Within a short span of three years, the project brought about tangible benefits for the local people such as Jagat and Kanchi Maya.

In Parsa, Jagat along with 11 households of Nirmalbasti were supported with micro-irrigation facilities for the efficient use of water for irrigation in extremely dry areas. Jagat participated in a training on micro-irrigation techniques and agricultural practices and received equipment for a drip irrigation system in his farm land. This system helped Jagat to make an efficiently use of the available water resource. Through the same source that he used in the past Jagat could now harvest seasonal crops thrice a year. His household income grew extraordinarily with earnings of Rs. 90,000 (USD 900) in a season. As an added benefit, the micro irrigation system also aided on increasing the productivity of the soil.

In Bara, Kanchi Maya and eleven other households from her village benefitted from a plastic pond that was constructed under the project which provided them continuous access to water for irrigation. Through technical support received from the project the local people conserved a natural spring source which became the main source of water supply for the plastic pond. The water from the spring source was then channelized to the plastic pond through an irrigation canal. With water now readily available close to her farmland, Kanchi Maya now grows vegetables throughout the year. Kanchi Maya also presently earns Rs. 3,00,000 (USD 3000) annually from farming.

The benefits brought about by the project were both demonstrable and sustainable to build lasting change for people like Jagat and Kanchi Maya. With a focus on local relevance, blending local knowledge with improved science and technology, the sustainable land management project in Churia serves as a model in community wellbeing and enhanced ecological conditions.

UNEARTHING POSSIBILITIES

By working together, a group of women from a village in Nepal’s Terai, tide over their problems that were prevalent for years. Through a water-based adaptation program, the women find promise from their lands, embracing an occupation that had been abandoned from these very lands.

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UNEARTHING POSSIBILITIES

UNEARTHING POSSIBILITIES

Kalapani, a small village with 30 households in Dang district in mid-western Nepal, once shared a typical challenge as numerous villages in Nepal do – water stress. With the village reeling under serious water problems, farming was an activity people had literally abandoned. All the households used to buy vegetables for consumption simply because they could not grow any in those circumstances.

In 2013, WWF Nepal introduced its water-based adaptation program in the village starting with spring source conservation. Key interventions included a reforestation drive at the spring source, construction of a massive reservoir and channeling of water from the spring source into the reservoir. The collected water was then tapped to feed into households and irrigation canals, a source that worked even during the dry spells.

As an added measure, a farmers’ school has been initiated in the village whereby the local people are provided with practical lessons on vegetable farming, integrated pest management and harvesting techniques, now that the water problems of the villagers have been addressed.

Bel Mati Chaudhary, 26, is one of the members of the farmers’ school. She is part of the Kalapani Women’s Farmer’s Group which has 31 members in total. Together with her peers, she works on a leased plot of land where the practical lessons are held. In the land, they have been able to cultivate numerous seasonal and off-season vegetables. She takes back the learnings from the classes and applies them in her own small plot of land.

If earlier vegetables formed a major part of the household expense for Bel Mati, today she feels proud to be able to grow vegetables in her own home. She is now also able to sell the vegetables in the local market which fetches her a monthly income of NRs. 8,000 (about USD 80).

With water forming an integral part of rural people such as Bel Mati who rely on agriculture for their daily sustenance, interventions such as this are indeed a life-saver.

ADAPTING TO CLIMATE CHANGE

The integrated river basin management project in Dudhkoshi sub-basin under Nepal’s Koshi River Basin Management program came to a close in 2016. Within a span of three years, it helped provide tangible benefits in securing water resources for vulnerable communities, and left a legacy of change for the people of the region.

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CONSERVATION CONVERSATION

CONSERVATION CONVERSATION

What are the water issues facing Nepal?

Although being rich in water resources, Nepal faces several water related problems ironically. Water, one of the most valued natural resources, is being directly impacted by climate change, population growth and development activities in recent times. Changes and alteration of hydrological regime, rising temperature, glacial retreat and enlargement of glacial lakes are some major climate change impacts. Likewise, agriculture as a primary occupation in Nepal and population growth have accelerated the demand for water adding further pressure on available water resources.

 

You work closely with the local communities. How have their lives been affected in particular?

Water scarcity poses major problems for people in both urban and in rural Nepal. It is however more severe for people in the rural areas as they are highly dependent on water for agriculture. In Nepal’s context, agriculture is primarily dependent on annual rainfall; 80% of this occurs during the four months of the monsoon season (June-September) leaving the rest of the year relatively drier. Water pollution is also one of the major issues due to anthropogenic impacts in addition to degradation of watersheds in some places due to poor management of land and related resources. Additionally, freshwater ecosystems such as wetlands and rivers are also deteriorating. All of these have direct impacts on water for people and their livelihood, ecosystems and biodiversity.

 

What is WWF Nepal doing to address these issues?

For the sustainable management of water resources in the face of climate change and development impacts, WWF Nepal uses an Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) approach that rests on the 3E pillars: Economic efficiency, Social Equity and Environmental Sustainability. As a partner of the government, WWF Nepal has implemented the IWRM approach under the Koshi River Basin Management (KRBM) project to help build the resilience of the communities and ecosystem in two sub-basins. The major activities of the project include water harvesting, spring source conservation, bio-engineering and watershed protection measures, alternative energy technologies, farmers’ school on integrated pest management and local capacity development and awareness building. These activities have helped local communities adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change as well as build water, food and energy security. WWF has also been conserving wetlands – an important source of freshwater. In the Gandaki basin, Hariyo Ban Program of WWF Nepal is conducting an E-flows assessment, and promoting Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) by supporting the government in preparing a PES policy and implementation mechanism in Phewa watershed.

 

What should Nepal’s future outlook be in building water security?

Water security links to food, energy and ecosystem security as well. In this regard, the integrated approach of water resource management plays a crucial role. The focus now should be on protecting and restoring critical freshwater habitats in its priority river basins through the strategic planning and management of river basins including reducing water-related hazards such as landslides, floods and erosion. At the local level, community-based interventions and their scaling up is very important, whereas at the national and transboundary levels it is important to create an enabling policy environment for managing river basins and their critical freshwater ecosystem and habitats.

RHINOS ON THE MOVE

Five Greater one-horned rhinos found a new home in Bardia National Park through a successful translocation expedition from Chitwan National Park in Nepal’s Terai Arc Landscape on 1-5 March 2016. This is part of a larger effort to move 30 rhinos to Bardia National Park (25 rhinos) and Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve (5 rhinos) through 2018.

The expedition is an important step towards creating a second viable population in the western complex of TAL comprising Bardia National Park and Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve, with the broader goal to bring back rhino numbers to its historical size of 800 in Nepal.

A ROYAL VISIT

WWF Nepal was honored to host Prince Harry on 21 March  as part of his five-day visit to Nepal. A major highlight of the program was Prince Harry’s visit to Dalla village in Khata Corridor where WWF Nepal had initiated its community forestry program back in 2001. Accompanied by WWF Nepal representatives and members of the local community, His Royal Highness observed several conservation initiatives underway in Dalla such as biogas, the homestay and ecotourism project, and the broader community forestry program led by the people of Dalla.

Khata Corridor in the Terai Arc Landscape is a narrow strip of forest that connects Nepal’s Bardia National Park with India’s Katerniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary providing wildlife such as tigers and rhinos the freedom to roam between the two countries. Dalla is WWF Nepal’s first homestay village in the Terai Arc Landscape that uses ecotourism as an approach to strengthen harmony between people and wildlife.

A NEW RAMSAR SITE DECLARED IN NEPAL

World Wetland’s Day was marked in Nepal with a special celebration to declare a cluster of nine lakes in Kaski district under the Ramsar Convention on 2nd February, 2016 in Lakeside, Pokhara.

The cluster comprising of nine lakes: Phewa, Begnas, Rupa, Dipang, Maidi, Khaste, Neurani, Kamalpokhari and Gunde, is the 10th Ramsar Site declared in Nepal. Two of the lakes, Phewa and Kamalpokhari, are in Pokhara Sub-Metropolitan city while the rest are in Lekhnath Municipality.

The Lake cluster of the Pokhara valley has international importance, as it supports vulnerable, endangered and critically endangered species as well as threatened ecological communities.  Many local people depend on resources from the lakes and their catchments, and electricity is generated through hydropower. However, the lakes face many threats, including pollution and increased sedimentation due to forest destruction, settlement expansion and road construction in the catchments.

Bringing international recognition to the lakes through this declaration is expected to accelerate action to save them, while safeguarding the livelihoods of local people.

PROMOTING SUSTAINABLE INFRASTRUCTURE

WWF Nepal signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI) on 1 February 2016 to plan and promote environment-friendly infrastructure practices in Nepal. The MoU, effective from 1 February 2016 till 31 January 2021, is a non-exclusive contract between WWF Nepal and CNI to exchange expertise and resources on sustainable infrastructure development and promoting environmental safeguards.

The MoU marks an important partnership with the private sector which is a key stakeholder in nation building efforts of Nepal. It is expected to create a new synergy by harnessing the capacities of both sectors through the development and implementation of separate and joint programs on capacity building, policy and advocacy and media mobilization.

While infrastructure development for an underdeveloped country like Nepal brings huge opportunities, Nepal is taking concerted efforts to ensure it does not come at the cost of the environment. Through this joint initiative, it is expected that development and biodiversity conservation will go hand in hand so that people can live in harmony with nature.

NEPAL SHINES LIGHTS ON CLIMATE ACTION FOR EARTH HOUR!

Earth Hour was marked in Nepal by shining 4,000 lights on climate action. Through an event organized in Basantapur, one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, WWF Nepal organized a candle light vigil and used the medium of spoken word through three young Nepali slam poets to talk about climate change and encourage climate action.

Nepal joined more than 170 countries across the world in a unified act to shine a light on climate action through this year’s Earth Hour celebrations. Supporters in Nepal also shared their commitment to the planet by donating their Facebook feeds and social media profile pictures to Earth Hour to inspire their friends and communities to join the movement.

THE GENERATION GREEN

The Generation Green (TGG) campaign is a youth initiative of WWF Nepal and implemented by six like-minded organizations since 2014. The campaign seeks to strengthen the engagement of Nepal’s youth in conservation and promote smart choices for the environment.

More than 50,000 youth signed up to TGG campaign since its inception to contribute to the overall goal of establishing 500,000 youth members by the end of 2018.

The campaign rests on a unique mentorship program that has brought together some of Nepal’s leading citizens from different sectors to mentor selected TGG members as mentees. The mentorship program has so far been conducted for two batches with 165 mentees and 15 mentors. Each six-month program involves a project conceptualized and implemented by the mentees under the guidance of their mentor. The second mentorship program batch closed on 28 March with 14 projects implemented successfully by the mentees focusing on environment sustainability, conservation education and waste management.

To know more about The Generation Green campaign, please visit: www.tgg.org.np