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WWF fully acknowledges the importance of addressing people's livelihood needs and responding to peoples strengths, and constraints, in order to sustain conservation.
In the Himalayas WWF is working with partners and communities to develop innovative approaches and interventions in conservation.
  • Providing local communities with sustainable alternatives and diversified options.
  • Improving the quality and sustainability of lives and  livelihoods.
  • Building community resilience to the impacts of climate change.
  • And reducing pressure on biodiversity and the environment.
Biogas reduces: pressure on forests for firewood, carbon emissions, workload, kerosen consumption and fertilizer costs. Biogas improves: cleanliness, health, agricultural productivity and opportunities for alternative income.

Social context

The Eastern Himalayas ecoregion is densely populated. Bhutan has a population of around 800,000, Nepal has a population of around 30 million and Northeast India has a population of around 40 million. All of which are expanding rapidly.

The populations consists of a rich cultural mosaic of Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and animists, all of whom have lived closely with nature for centuries. Many indigenous mountain communities continue to live in remote isolation, and their livelihoods and traditions depend on natural resources. Making conservation an integral part of their lives.

A significant proportion of the population lives well below the poverty line, subsisting on crop agriculture, livestock rearing and the use of non-timber products. Cash crops such as sugarcane, rice, wheat, pulses and vegetables are extensively cultivated, and firewood, fodder, and thatch grass are extracted from the forests.

WWF's Living Himalayas Initiative aims to focus on these areas where wealth and access to services and education are far lower than national averages.
The population of the Eastern Himalayas is increasing at a rapid rate, as are the settlements. Kathmandu continues to expand out into the surrounding valley, covering natural habitat and agricultural land.


The need for firewood is a major cause for deforestation in Nepal. Finding firewood is an ever more strenuous task, usually carried out by women.

© Simon de Trey White / WWF-UK

Conservation & Sustainable Livelihoods
WWF recognise the important link between biodiversity conservation and sustainable livelihoods, and is fully commited to the long-term reduction in pressure on natural resources.

WWF's work in the region is focussed on integrating sustainable livelihood choices into their conservation work.  In all 3 countries WWF is significantly engaged with communties to address the threats the environment pose to livelihoods, as well as the threats livelihood choices pose to the environment and biodiversity.
Women cutting grass. The grasslands are managed by the Community Co-ordination Forest Committee (CFCC). The land was previously grazed on, leaving it barren and bereft of life. Through sustainable management the area has now been regenerated. The CFCC was established with the help of WWF and allows communities to manage their own forests/grasslands in a sustainable manner. Khata, Royal Bardia National Park buffer zone, western Terai, Nepal.

© © Simon De Trey-White / WWF-UK

WWF Offices in the region

Climate Summit for Living Himalayas
© Climate Summit for a Living Himalayas, Bhutan 2011 ©

WWF Goals

  • Climate change adaptation and biodiversity conservation will be mainstreamed into the management of river systems.
  • A mosaic of over 7 million hectares of high conservation value forest, grassland and wetland will be secured, connecting 1,500 km of conservation area.
  • Viable populations of iconic and threatened species will be secured and will live in harmony with human communities.