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Protecting Nepal’s Parks by Safeguarding Buffer Zones


Around the world, alternative livelihoods are the go-to activity for communities when it comes to biodiversity conservation projects. However, the main benefit of livelihood activities is often improved community relations. There is little evidence that they are successful in terms of increasing people’s incomes or reducing pressure on protected areas. They may even lead to greater extraction of natural resources.

And, unfortunately, the focus on increasing incomes has limited our appreciation of how protected areas help communities. Increasingly, studies show that contrary to the common belief that protected areas cause or exacerbate poverty, the benefits of protected areas actually translate to less poverty in Nepal and other places like Bolivia. , Costa Rica and Thailand.

The underlying problem for communities in protected areas is not poverty, but the fact that they do not have enough opportunities to participate in conservation and management. Focusing on providing means for people to participate will improve livelihoods that complement conservation.

Now, as Nepal changes its buffer zone regulations, it has an opportunity to prioritize activities that strengthen the bonds between communities and conservation. This will create sustainable livelihoods in the broader sense of improved health, water, climate and natural resources. Here are some recommendations that will strengthen the park-inhabitant relationship:

  1. Buffer zone funds should not be used for regular government activities, but rather to support conservation activities that directly help communities protect habitat and wildlife.

This means prioritizing community forests, community anti-poaching units, mitigating human-wildlife conflict, and supporting forest- and natural-resource-dependent communities, who are often the poorest of the world. poor and the most marginalized. It can also help depoliticize buffer zone management committees, a common criticism of the current system.

  1. Support to communities dependent on forests and natural resources should prioritize the sustainability of traditional livelihood activities, especially for the most marginalized communities. Policies should support and create the necessary conditions to integrate people’s traditional activities into the conservation of natural resources and serve as a bridge for these communities to alternative livelihoods.

For example, buffer zone funds could be used to create and support river reach conservation user groups, just as they support community forestry groups.

  1. Buffer zone policies should have mechanisms to incorporate local and traditional ecological knowledge into habitat and wildlife management. For example, water and grassland management are two increasingly critical issues in protected areas in Nepal, about which people with traditional and ecological knowledge, such as Tharu, Sonoha, Maje, Bote and Musahar in know a lot. They can provide invaluable information and insights into pressing conservation needs.
  2. Buffer zone policies should be consistent with national policy guidelines and community forestry guidelines regarding inclusion and pro-poor activities. For example, community forestry policies require registration of male and female heads of household, 50% female participation in committees, and require that 35% of Community Forest User Group (CFUG) funds be allocated to pro-poor activities.

Buffer zone policies should also include similar provisions. In addition, there should be equal representation of households in buffer zone management groups. For example, one household in each user group should have the same voting power as any other household in any other user group.