Community empowerment is a driving force to motivate rural people for conservation efforts. Access to knowledge and financial resources are basic requirements for the community to translate their acquired knowledge and skills into practices that lead to their well being. The CBM fund is used as a mechanism to achieve the twin goal of biodiversity conservation and livelihood improvements in Western Tarai regions of Nepal.
Western Terai Landscape Complex Project (WTLCP) is a multi-stakeholders’ partnership project, aiming to ensure conservation and sustainable use of globally significant biodiversity in Nepal’s Western Terai Landscapes. Implemented from 2005, the project has been adopting Community-based biodiversity management approach to implement on-farm conservation of agro-biodiversity in six villages. Community biodiversity management (CBM) is a community led participatory approach to strengthen the community’s capacity for conservation, use and sustainable management of local biodiversity with a blend of traditional and scientific knowledge system. The project focuses on encouraging leadership by the local level institutions in setting the research and development agenda. The project was implemented by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Ministry of Forestry and Soil Conservation (MoFSC) in collaboration with GEF, SNV, WWF, Biodiversity International, National Agricultural Research Council and LI-BIRD.
Traditionally, biodiversity planning always followed top down approaches in which local priorities and preferences were seldom considered in shaping the biodiversity agenda. Though this project was also formulated top down, LI-BIRD, with its successful experiences from community based works in Biodiversity Global Project (1997-2004), used local level institutions as the platform for decentralized agenda setting. In each project village, Village Development Committee (VDC) and biodiversity conservation and development committee (BCDC) were formed. This formed an umbrella structure at the ward level (smallest political unit in Nepal) and these were linked to the other groups in the ward and to the district level line agencies especially with district agriculture development office (DADO) and district level biodiversity conservation and development committee. Capacities of these committees and farmers groups were strengthened by a series of trainings, orientations, exposure/exchange visits to ensure that their agendas are considered in planning process and they become part of the process.
In each BCDC, a community biodiversity management (CBM) fund was established with farmers monthly savings being supplemented with a seed money provided by the project. The conditions of the CBM fund are that the local women groups should be officially organized as community based organization with transparent governance system. They should have set their own local income generating activities and also work together to support community based conservation efforts. The funds help to bring together rural community for participation in collective action and in the process allows strengthening local capacity in decision making and individual member’s benefits from participation.
The CBM funds are given to farmers as loan with minimum interest rate for different income generating activities (IGA) like pig rearing, goat farming, bull purchasing, poultry farming, bee keeping, fish farming, vegetable production, fruit production and improved crop production. Basic idea is to identify best local genetic resources for multiplication and spread to other members of the network. A small amount of fund is set aside to capitalize natural assets for further enhancing financial and other assets of poor farmers (See Box 1). The group has its own rules and supports those members with loans who combine income generation activities with conservation efforts. The condition is that each farmer getting loan from the CBM fund must conserve at least one local landrace in his home garden.
In the year 2009, a total of 272 farming households from 6 VDCs benefited from mobilization of such fund (ranges from NRs. 2000 to 3500 i.e., equivalent to 27-47USD) for several income generating activities with the total amount for NRs. 70,9000 (9576 USD). Majority of farmers used the money for activities like goat rearing and pig rearing while some was used for setting rural enterprises such as fruit cultivation and fish farming (Box 1).
The farmers using the CBM fund have conserved traditional landraces like Satha dulhaniya, Anjana, Anadi, Sauthyari, Lalchand, Anjani of rice and other vegetables in their home gardens.
Ms. Bandiha Chaudhary, is a member of Pragatishil group in Gadariya VDC-1, Kharuwakheda, Kailali district. She borrowed NRs. 2000 (USD 27) from the CBM and used it to buy a piglet in 2009. She fed the pig with household wastes and after one year was able to sell it NRs. 10000 (USD 135.14). She had been interested in rearing swine before, but was not able to afford the 5% interest rate from local money lender in the village. But after establishment of CBM fund, her interest was fulfilled. In 2010, she brought another piglet without availing a loan.
Management and Sustainability of CBM Fund
BCDC owns and manages this fund in the form of micro saving and credit scheme which receives from community members and using it for conservation and development activities. The interest generated from investment to different IGAs help to increase the amount of fund that can be used for its management. The fund is also providing incentives for access and benefit sharing, as community benefited from the fund for conserving local crop genetic resources. Everyone in the BCDC has equal opportunity of getting loans from the fund. The benefits accrued from use of community genetic resources directly go to the fund and are later used for the welfare of farmers. CBM fund established in the western terai landscapes is increasing year after year with the interests added and farmers’ monthly savings from farmers’ groups, supported by fund mobilization guidelines developed by community with the technical support from project. This makes it a sustainable mechanism to finance rural farmers for conservation and development activities in Nepal to uplift their livelihood strategies.
Farmers are not interested in any agro-biodiversity just for the sake of conservation without seeing utility and incentives in conserving them. The conservation efforts will be sustainable if it is supportive to the livelihoods of rural people. CBM fund has achieved the twin purpose of biodiversity conservation as well as livelihood improvements.
Funds like CBM do generate good initial participation from the community. But it can also be a source of community conflict if the governance mechanisms are inadequate. Hand holding by a local level community organizer who is a part of the community will help in overcoming this problem.
Focused group discussions reveal that there are positive results from the CBM fund initiative. It is yet to be seen whether such community-driven CBM guidelines support the conservation of rich local biodiversity in the long run.
Shree Kumar Maharjan and Pitambar Shrestha
Local Initiatives for Biodiversity,
Research and Development (LI-BIRD),
P.O Box 324,
Bhuwon Ratna Sthapit
India Regional Office,
C G Centres Block, Dev Prakash Shastri Marg,
Pusa Campus, New Delhi – 110 012,