Adapting to a Changing Environment


Entry Overview

General Info
Email :
Organization Address: 
1031 33rd Street
Denver, 80205
United States
Population Impacted: 
20,000 households

8 districts (Nawalparasi, Rupandehi, Kapilbastu, Syangja, Kaski, Parbat, Dang and Rolpa)

Major Occupations: 
The Nepalese economy is principally agrarian, with 65% of the population depending on agriculture for their livelihoods. 40% of the national population is involved in community or other types of forestry.
Local resources the community depends on, and for what purpose: 
Forests are an integral piece of the of the agricultural livelihoods practice by the majority of the rural population of Nepal. People utilize forest resources for energy, livestock feed, construction material, medicinal and aromatic plants, and more.
Local threats to resources: 
Much of the threat to local forests comes from people. Heavy reliance on subsistence agro-forestry and increasing population threaten the forests and impact biodiversity, which ultimately, threatens people?s livelihoods.
Climate Hazards: 
Rainfall variability
Level of exposure to these hazards: 
Climate change projections for Nepal indicate that there will be significant warming, particularly at higher elevations, leading to reductions in snow and ice coverage. There will also be increases in climatic variability and the frequency of extreme weather events, including floods and droughts due to an overall increase in regional precipitation during the wet season, but a decrease in precipitation in the middle hills . Climate change threatens to reduce the effectiveness of development initiatives which will increase the vulnerability of marginalized and poor people in both rural and urban areas of Nepal .
Level of sensitivity: 
With encroaching climate change, it is estimated that rainfall variability in Southeast Asia, including Nepal, will increase exponentially, such that Nepal was considered by the Climate Change Risk Atlas in 2010 to be the 4th most climate change-vulnerable country in the world. Rainfall variability will only aggravate the current hazards, pushing subsistence farmers and those who rely on forest products, into increasingly difficult situations. This is likely to include the farming of more marginal lands that will cause increasing amounts of erosion from loss of ground cover, the unsustainable gathering of forest resources causing a loss of biodiversity, and water resource degradation from both.
Level of adaptive capacity: 
The capacity to adapt to climate change depends on a number of factors, including physical assets, financial resources, educational level and knowledge, diversity of income streams, and social support networks. Poor and socially marginalized groups in Nepal are more vulnerable to climate change impacts as often have few resources in the aforementioned categories. They are typically dependant on forests and small plots of land for their survival. While landholders, typically wealthier individuals with diverse assets and income generating opportunities, are able to invest in new or experimental agricultural practices and crops, these poor individuals typically start at a disadvantage because they were likely forced to settle in marginal and hazard-prone locations. Additionally, they have fewer physical and financial assets to allocate to adaptation and lack of education that allows for more and diverse income generating opportunities.
Describe Your Solution: 

A key tenant of the project is that community forest management regimes can manage non-timber forest products (NFTPs) by introducing financial incentives for preservation and sustainable maintenance of the local forests. At present, financial need often drives locals to use marginal lands to maintain their subsistence agriculture plots or simply log the forest for firewood. Creating a profitable private sector market for NFTPs shifts incentives to encourage sustainable land preservation. For the individual, diversification of income sources is essential to the process of increasing climate change adaptability. If, with the increasing variability of climate, one income stream should fall short, there should be others present to take their place. In the past, the only viable economic opportunities for the most marginal farmers in forested areas was logging ? without the resources and know-how necessary to acquire community forestry rights from local groups, there was no way for these households to extract sustainable livelihoods from foraging for the medicinal or aromatic plants they could find. To address this reliance on foraging and increase the incomes of the poor, iDE, in 2003, introduced the cultivation of marketable NTFPs, thereby creating new income-generating livelihoods opportunity for these groups while preserving incentives for sustainable forest management and decreasing the economic pressure that drives illegal logging and unsustainable harvesting of wild plants. Under iDE?s current Initiative for Climate Change Adaptation (ICCA), iDE is selecting the households most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and allocating assigned plots in community forests for essential oil production, while simultaneously connecting them to leased land for high-value agriculture. iDE?s supports these households in beginning cultivation of high-value vegetables that can provide for family consumption, increasing food security, while also allowing for surplus production to be sold at market, generating additional income. iDE connects farmers to high quality inputs, including micro-irrigation technologies, that greatly enhance yield. As part of the intervention, iDE promotes cultivation during the dry season when, without access to irrigation, production is normally impossible. Producing out of season means farmers earn more for the produce they sell at market. Access to irrigation also allows farmers to weather erratic rainfall and produce much higher yields than they could by relying on rainfall alone. iDE provides technical assistance and training to households on both NTFP cultivation and high-value vegetable production. iDE also coordinates the establishment of individual- or group-owned distilleries for the manufacturing and marketing of essential oils and other NTFP products. This dual pronged approach ensures that families diversify their income streams increasing income in both areas, generating additional resources that may be used to further enhance resilience to climate change while fostering ecosystem conservation through economic incentives to halt previously unsustainable practices. In addition to support to individual vulnerable households, one of the program?s main goals is to increase the adaptive capacity of the community by raising awareness on climate change among the community members, local institutions, and other stakeholders. Through the establishment of a Community Climate Resource Center (CCRC), the project seeks to disseminate adaptive technologies that will help local farmers and foragers manage their water, land, and forest resources in a sustainable way, through innovation and best practices for climate change adaptation. The project will also build the capacity for the local private sector supply chain to more efficiently provide products and services for mainstreaming climate change adaptation and climate-proof infrastructure.

Ecological Costs: 
- Since certain NTFPs are non-native species to the region, could cause unintended consequences
Ecological Benefit: 
- 628 micro-irrigation technologies (MITs) promoted, reducing water use - 5 multiple-use water systems installed for more efficient use of water resources
Economic Indicators used to measure benefit: 

- Number of micro-irrigation technologies purchased - Number of multiple-use water systems installed

Community/Social Cost: 
- Increased participation in community forest groups causes politicization and some tension within communities - Restriction of use of forest areas for logging may be seen as further excluding landless groups from economic opportunit
Community/Social Benefit: 
- 86 forest /farming groups have been established
Community/Social Indicators used to measure benefit: 
- Number of forest /farming groups holding regular meetings
Economic Cost: 

- Restrictions on logging restrict potential profits on high-quality timber

Economic Benefit: 

- Average income increase of $50 per household - 1628 households trained in vegetable production - 499 households trained in NTFP harvesting - 2 new distillation units for essential oil production established, and 4 existing scaled up or strengthened

Ecological Indicators used to measure benefit: 

- Household surveys - Training logs - Number of distillation units under operation

What were/are the challenges your community faced in implementing this solution?: 

Most challenges faced by the community had to do with the quality of the existing community forest groups. Without good governance and an established organizational structure, it is extremely difficult to implement anything. iDE recognizes this is a challenge to be overcome to ensure successful support in adaptation to climate change. Therefore, iDE has integrated training on good governance for these groups through the Climate Change Resource Center (CCRC) to increased their ability to manage govern effectively, improving forest management. Equally critically is the challenge of changing the mindset of the local people as it relates to the forest itself. Traditionally seen as an obstacle to greater agricultural production, it is essential to demonstrate that preservation of the forest is integral for their livelihoods. The awareness training and the demonstration of increased income opportunities is specifically targeted at changing this view. This solution depends on the community. iDE brings the technical knowledge to the communities, but depends on collaboration with local people. Reliant as it is on community-based stewardship, corruption or other pitfalls could arise. With iDE?s long presence in Nepal and Nepali staff, it is expected that local contextual understanding will identify any bottlenecks that may arise.

Describe the community-based process used to develop the solution including tools and processes used: 

The Community Forestry Program in Nepal is country-wide initiative that aims to addresses the twin goals of forest conservation and poverty reduction. By April 2009, one-third of Nepal?s population was participating in the program, directly managing more than one-fourth of Nepal?s forest area. (IFPRI). Some 18,000 associations known as community forest user groups (CFUGs), made up of more than two million households, manage community forests covering 1.6 million hectares. Given that a large portion of the rural population is heavily dependent on the forests and the NTFPs gathered therein, iDE, in collaboration with donor USAID, recognized an opportunity to improve income generating activities while simultaneously improving forest diversity and health, reducing further environmental degradation, improving the system?s ability to withstand changing climate, and supporting the rural population to enhance their resilience to the changes. This context, coupled with field surveys by iDE and partners, indicated that the incomes of rural Nepalese could be increased through interventions aimed at increasing the production, processing, and sale of high value agriculture products and NTFP, while preserving the forest systems in which the plants were cultivated. To identify particular communities in which this approach can be effective, iDE uses a sustainable livelihoods approach (SLA) to identify the main constraints and opportunities faced by the poor, as allocated into five asset categories: physical, human, natural, financial, and social This framework is particularly well suited to assessing and addressing vulnerability to climate change because it is multi dimensional. It is critical that input must be gathered from assessed individuals themselves. This framework is then used to assist local community leaders in developing a Local Adaptation Plan of Action (LAPA), a process that engenders a bottom-up approach for translating central-level climate adaptation plans into tangible projects on the ground, including input from vulnerable communities. Adopting a mix of decentralized and bottom up planning process, it will identify adaptation needs at the local level that focuses on reducing local-level climate risk and vulnerabilities and ways of increasing resilience. The preparation and implementation of LAPA is an entirely community-led multi-stakeholder process, and integrating it into iDE?s Initiative for Climate Change Adaptation (ICCA) is a key innovation of the project. This program sees the forest user and farmer groups as points of intersection between forest conservation and income generating activities based on forest resources as their existence depends largely on sustainable natural resource management. Through these entry points, the project has identified landless and near-landless households, which were ranked based on a climate change sensitivity scale developed by Rupantaran, a local Nepali partner collaborating with iDE. The project has assigned high priority to the most vulnerable households, supporting them by allocating plots in community forests for essential oil production and leased land for high-value agriculture, as well as providing technical assistance and training to these households.

Climate hazard of concern: 
Changing temperatures and weather patterns
How does your solution reduce the exposure of and buffer/protect the ecosystem affected?: 

iDE?s interventions promote watershed management techniques which help to prevent landslides and conserve water resources.

How does your solution reduce the sensitivity of the ecosystem affected?: 

iDE?s intervention in NTFP cultivation reduces logging, which helps conserving moisture, reduce erosion and maintain critical biodiversity. Cultivating NTFPs ensures that harvest rates do not exceed yield rates, preserving a balance in vegetation. Additionally, productive land closer to forests has greater soil moisture content and water retention capacity, enabling it to better withstand the effects of low rainfall.

How has your solution increased the capacity of the ecosystem to adapt to potential climate changes?: 

Community forests are an important buffer in enhancing resilience to climate change. The economic incentives introduced through iDE?s interventions reduce illegal logging or foraging, thus preserving the forest while improving human adaptive capacity.

How does your solution reduce the exposure of and buffer/protect the communities affected?: 

iDE?s solution buffers and protects the communities affected by helping preserve forestry resources while offering income diversification strategy that enables individuals enhance their adaptive capacity through a variety of methods. Additionally, iDE is developing recharge ponds to serve as reserves in the case of short ?term drought and promoting technologies for efficient use of water for both agriculture and household use.

How does your solution reduce the sensitivity of the communities affected?: 

This solution reduces the sensitivity of affected communities by establishing alternative modes of income generation that take into climate changes and offer tools and strategy to increase adaptation. This is accomplished by enhancing the transfer of information, resources, and technologies to smallholder farmers and foresters. Farmers are directly impacted by the increasing variability in rainfall. iDE?s interventions with farmers introduces efficient micro-irrigation technologies to ensure farmers can water crops, both during the rainy season as rains become more variable with climate change and in the dry season when production would be impossible without irrigation. By introducing dry season irrigation and offering an entire new production season, iDE helps provide another opportunity for income generation if rainy-season crops are ruined by flood or other climate extremes. Additionally, cultivating NTFPs ensures that harvest rates do not exceed yield rates, thus preserving the gathering of NTFPs as an income stream. After ensuring farmers and forester have begun productive cultivation of the NTFPs and high-value vegetables, iDE links the producers to processing enterprises (like essential oil distilleries) and to market. This strategy allows poor communities to diversify their income streams, become increasingly engaged in economic activities, and reduce their sensitivity and vulnerability to rainfall or temperature variations. A crucial piece of iDE?s intervention is the education of communities on the sustainable management of the resources that are crucial for their survival. The Community Climate Resource Centers (CCRCs) will be important resource for CFUGs, farmer groups/committees, and other local organizations to access information to adapt to climate change. As an additional measure, the CCRCs will help develop safety nets of crop and livestock insurances. Communities will provide contributions, and a portion of an established fund will be allocated as emergency funds for support to victims of climate-induced disasters.

How has your solution increased the capacity of local communities to adapt to potential climate changes?: 

By strengthening existing local institutions through increasing transparency, accountability, decision-making and benefit-sharing, this project will not only increase the adaptive capacity of vulnerable households now, but also in the future, as the established institutions will be able to continue to create new plan of actions and adapt to changing circumstances. For instance, part of the project is the establishment of a Climate Adaptation Fund, which will be managed by stake-holders at the district level. The funds will be transferred to communities that are more vulnerable and less capable of acquiring funds, for distribution to vulnerable households to support them in the case of emergencies like crop failure or other eventualities.

Can this solution be replicated elsewhere?: 

Though the specific strategies of ICCA are tailored to the situation in Nepal where community forests are an integral part of the livelihoods of the rural poor, the approach to devising such strategies ? sustainable livelihoods approach (SLA) ? can be replicated wherever it is needed. Under ICCA, the LAPA preparation and implementation is being executed by a Village Climate Change Coordination Committee (VC4) which consists of multiple local level stakeholders including members of community forest user groups (CFUGs) and farmers representing marketing/planning committees (MPCs) and agricultural communities. This participatory interface ensures all voices are incorporated and could be replicated elsewhere.

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