Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Creating impacts in forestry research and development projects in Nepal

ACIAR’s forestry project FST/2011/076, which is undertaking research on enhancing agroforestry and community forestry systems in Nepal, has been conducting its activities for the past 19 months and already we are beginning to see some short term impacts. Many farmers in the project sites have indicated that they need access to better germplasm if they are to improve their agroforestry systems as the preferred tree species are not readily available.

Edwin Cedamon, a project scientist from the University of Adelaide, has been working with his Nepali colleagues to train farmers in how to establish their own small nurseries. Edwin, who originally came from the Philippines, undertook postgraduate study in Australia with the support of ACIAR’s John Allwright Fellowship scheme while he was working on an ASEM project in the Philippines. Edwin has introduced the raised nursery bed technology that was used in the ASEM project in the Philippines to farmers in Nepal. These nursery beds are easy for farmers to construct from locally available materials and they have the advantage over the traditional ground based nursery beds in that the plants don’t become waterlogged and the root systems are “air pruned”.

Edwin Cedamon (centre) with a farmer nursery [Source: Tony Bartlett]

At one of the project sites at Chaubas in Kabhre Palanchok district, the Australian Government supported the establishment of a community sawmill in the mid 1990s. This sawmill draws its timber from five community forests, that were also established with the support of Australian aid. It operated successfully for a number of years and the local community forestry user groups that operated the sawmill used it to generate the funds required to build a new school in the village. However, it closed in 2011 as a result of disputes between the various community forest user groups and bureaucratic problems associated with approvals to harvest timber from the community forests.

Traditional forestry nursery technologies [Source: Tony Bartlett]

ACIAR’s project has been working with the local community and the staff of the Kabhre District Forest Office in an attempt to revitalise this promising community forestry enterprise. The aim of this research is understand how the local institutions deal with conflict and ultimately to strengthen the institution so that it can continue to operate a commercial enterprise that generates substantial returns to the local communities from better management of their natural resources.

Following the mid-term review of the ACIAR forestry project, Australia’s Ambassador to Nepal – H.E. Glenn White agreed to make a visit to the Chaubas area with the project staff. His visit on 27 January generated high level support from senior government officials from the Department of Forests and demonstrated to the local community that Australia is committed to helping them generate enhanced livelihoods from their community forests.

Australian Ambassador at the Chaubas sawmill [Source: Dr Hemant Ojha]

Long-term impacts and sustainability of project technologies

Between 1978 and 2006, Australia funded the Nepal-Australia Forestry Project (NAFP) which pioneered the development of community forestry approaches in Nepal. In the 1990s, agricultural land was a scarce resource for many farmers in the Middle Hills. While their subsistence agricultural systems depended on inputs from forests (such as leaf material and fuelwood), generally only the land rich farmers grew trees (on outward sloping terraces) and most families relied on collecting forest products from community forests. Consequently, much of landscape was relatively devoid of trees. Twenty-five years on, in many villages more than half the men now work in other countries, so a lot of agricultural land is underutilised and trees are very much more common in the farming landscape.

Agricultural landscapes common. Left: 1990s Right: 2012 [Source: Tony Bartlett]

In 1980, NAFP ran its first training course for nursery workers (naikes). Khadga Bahadur Kharel (from Chaubas) and Tek Bahadur Tamang (from Chautara) both participated in that training, and afterwards, managed tree nurseries in the project area. Khadga became a field assistant with the project and worked for the project until it finished in 2006. Tek continued his naike work at Chautara until he retired. In January 2015, I visited the Chautara nursery with Khadga and we met up with Tek Bahadur, who is now 71 years old. The District Forest Office staff had recently brought Tek back to work at the nursery because the annual production of tree seedlings had dropped substantially. Under his guidance, the local nursery staff improved their work and once again the nursery is producing about one million tree seedlings each year for distribution to local farmers. Now that is a very good example of long-term impact that came from a simple training program conducted 35 years ago.

Chautara forestry nursery [Source: Tony Bartlett]

By Tony Bartlett, Research Program Manager, Forestry

1 comment:

  1. Research brings a good news. The farmers of Nepal's are benifited from the research.They teach new nursery bed technology from the specialist. It is very helpful for every farmer.


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