Terai Arc Landscape (TAL), Nepal
The Terai Arc Landscape in Nepal is populated by 6.7 million people. 60 per cent of households own less than 1 hectare of land. The average annual income for a person is US$100. 61 per cent of households rely on wood as their main fuel for cooking. Most get their fodder from forests.
The health of Nepal's Terai Arc Landscape is of critical importance for both the human communities and the wildlife that live within it. Sometimes described as the rice bowl of the country, it is home to some of the largest surviving populations of the Royal Bengal Tiger and the Greater One Horned Rhinoceros.
The densely populated area is currently under extreme ecological pressure, to the detriment of both wildlife and human populations, especially the rural poor. These pressures are compounded by a high level of political instability, including the long standing Maoist rebellion in the country.
Links between Livelihoods and Wildlife
WWF has been involved in wildlife conservation in Nepal since 1967. Root Causes Analyses (RCA) carried out in the Terai Arc Landscape in Nepal identified that rural livelihoods are heavily dependent on forests, which are also the habitats of many of Nepal's wildlife species.
The conservation of these forests therefore benefitted not only the wildlife, but also the livelihoods of the rural poor in a significant way. Ensuring that rural communities have access to healthy forests provides them with a sustainable source of fuel, fodder, wild foods, building materials, agricultural and household tools and medicine (Livelihoods Study 2003).
Good Governance through Resource Management
WWF approaches conservation in Nepal by working to enable local people to become resource managers, beneficiaries and stewards of the forests in which they live. The legal framework through which this occurs is ‘Community Forestry' which gives forest user groups clear cut forest rights and responsibilities that provide them access, use and economic gains from the forests that they manage.
Promoting gender equality and women's participation
It empowers women to participate in management and decision making, and on average a Community Forest User’s Group earns USD 4760 annually. Sustainable forest management through Community Forestry is restoring forest corridors that connect protected areas, and are essential for the dispersal and survival of the tiger and other species.
In this remote, conflict torn region, resource governance through local communities is able to provide perhaps the only model of governance functional in the area.
Strengthening human and social assets
The species conservation programme has demonstrably helped build the human capital of the area through capacity building aimed at diversifying on and off-farm economic activity, strengthening entrepreneurial skills and local ability to sustainably manage natural resources, and providing support structures such as small credit and marketing schemes.
Supporting basic infrastructure and equipment
Infrastructure developed through the programme includes renovated school buildings, small irrigation schemes, health centres and subsidiary roads as well as micro-hydro schemes, and toilets. The provision of alternative energy sources such as biogas plants and energy saving devices such as fuel wood efficient stoves ensures that communities are less reliant on illegal and exploitative resource extraction, which degrades the environment for both humans and wildlife.
Political conflict has caused setbacks for the programme, but over the longer term, wildlife habitat conservation through community forestry management in Nepal has protected and enhanced the resource base, promoted the sustainable use of resources and empowered and benefited communities. Furthermore, this approach has continued to deliver benefits and services when other government institutions have been incapacitated.