Restoring forests and adapting to climate change – one step at a time

Posted on 26 April 2013  | 
Laxmi Rana in front of her house in Jumdanda
Laxmi Rana in front of her house in Jumdanda
© ©Pallavi Dhakal/WWF NepalEnlarge
"I was ill, I have even had heart surgery, and my health was deteriorating because of the smoke while cooking," shared Laxmi Rana, who is very happy to have installed biogas in her home with the help of the Hariyo Ban Program. Rana is from Jumdanda, one of the least developed regions in Bandipur Village Development Committee, in Tanahun District in the mid-hills of Nepal, where most women are tied to home and hearth. Today 25 households in Jumdanda have installed biogas. Rana says, "Now since less time is needed for gathering firewood, cooking, and cleaning, I have spare time to do other work." As well as saving women time and work, and reducing smoke in the kitchen which affects women and children, biogas helps to restore forests by reducing firewood extraction. Biogas plants provide methane gas for cooking; the gas is produced in a digester from livestock dung and waste from the family toilet. Since livestock are an essential part of the process, people keep livestock near their homesteads instead of in the forest, which also takes pressure off the forest by reducing trampling and browsing of young trees. Children have milk to drink, and spare milk can be sold to boost household incomes. Manure from the slurry that drains from the digester can be used to grow vegetables, which also improves household nutrition. Restored forests stabilize hillsides and improve water supplies. So, bringing biogas to Jumdanda helps women, children and the forest.

Currently Rana is using some of the time saved from household chores to act as the vice president of Jum Dada Jhapri Community Forest Users Group (CFUG), and today there are also many other women members in the CFUG committee. One of them is Sugmaya Thapa. On a high level monitoring visit of the Hariyo Ban Program, I accompanied government representatives and heads of partner institutions to Jumdanda where Thapa enthusiastically taught me the use of forest firefighting equipment - uncontrolled fire is a major threat to forests in Nepal. She lifted a shovel up, "We use this to create fire lines, and this,” pointing at a yellow bag, "to fill water, so we can easily carry it on our backs," she instructed. Hariyo Ban has also provided forest fire management training and equipment to the locals in Jumdanda. "We did not have boots, gloves or helmets before, so obviously when the fire used to start on that hill,” she said pointing to the north, "we burnt our hands and feet when we tried to control it. It was dangerous because we were wearing saris but now we even have protective suits."

Women in Jumdanda were not always this outspoken. The Hariyo Ban Program helped the community to establish a community learning and action center (CLAC), an informal forum to organize and gather marginalized , particularly women, Dalits, and poor to discuss issues of concern to them. These people are often the most dependent on the forest for their survival, but do not have a say in how the forests are managed and used. The focus of CLAC is to organize, empower and mobilize these communities around issues affecting their lives and livelihood for collective social action. Issues discussed in the CLAC range from environmental, social and economic to political. After these discussions the group normally generates community awareness and even tries to network with relevant service providers to seek solutions to their problems. In Jumdanda, through the CLAC, the group has established a local penalization rule to stop the problem of poaching and illegal harvesting of trees, and has even conducted a campaign on solid waste management in Bandipur.

The community learning and action center also provided training on climate change adaptation through a local resource person trained by Hariyo Ban Program. "I understand about climate change and its impact on our community and ecosystem now, and the need to develop climate smart adaptation practices," stated Rana. The CLAC group has now decided to prepare a Community Adaptation Plan of Action (CAPA) to address climate change impacts in Jumdanda. With the help of Hariyo Ban Program, the CLAC group will take the lead with other community organizations, including the community forest users groups (CFUGs) and local leaders to create a community adaptation plan for action. By the end of March 2013, Hariyo Ban Program had helped to prepare and implement 26 CAPAs in Nepal.

"We hope to prepare our community adaptation plan and leverage resources from stakeholders to implement it to address vulnerabilities to climate change," said Rana. The CAPA not only brings together the community to prepare a plan, thereby creating ownership, but also empowers them to address the adverse impacts of climate change by networking and mobilizing resources from local and national stakeholders. Hariyo Ban takes an integrated approach to climate adaptation, using ecosystems to help vulnerable people to adapt to climate change (for example, reducing the risk of landslides by restoring forests on steep hillsides), and at the same time working with local communities to build resilience of ecosystems to withstand the adverse impacts of climate change.

By Pallavi Dhakal, Communications Officer, Hariyo Ban Program, WWF Nepal

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Disclaimer: The Hariyo Ban Program is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this article are the responsibility of WWF and its consortium partners and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government. 
Laxmi Rana in front of her house in Jumdanda
Laxmi Rana in front of her house in Jumdanda
© ©Pallavi Dhakal/WWF Nepal Enlarge
Laxmi Rana showing biogas in her kitchen
Laxmi Rana showing the biogas in her kitchen
© © Pallavi Dhakal/WWF Nepal Enlarge
Sugmaya Thapa smiles as she explains the use of forest fire fighting equipment.
Sugmaya Thapa smiles as she explains the use of forest fire fighting equipment.
© © Pallavi Dhakal/WWF Nepal Enlarge
Women participants of Community Learning and Action Center (CLAC) in Jumdanda
Female participants of the Community Learning and Action Center (CLAC) in Jumdanda
© © Pallavi Dhakal/WWF Nepal Enlarge

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