Nepal is a mountainous country in which about three-fourths of the population directly depend on agricultural activities. Therefore, they are highly vulnerable to current and anticipated climate change impacts. Local communities are already affected by unpredictable rainfall and diminishing water resources. Crop losses from droughts or floods and topsoil loss from increased soil erosion and landslides pose a risk to future food security. Extreme weather events, together with other climate-induced hazards such as glacier lake outburst floods, avalanches and wildfires, are rapidly increasing in frequency and intensity, making those communities more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
Towards a Solution
To address this challenge, the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) and the National Development and Reform Commission of China (NDRC), through the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences (IGSNRR, CAS), have jointly implemented a project entitled Ecosystem-based Adaptation through South -South Cooperation (EbA South) with the support of the Global Environment Facility. The aim of the project is to assist local communities to adapt to the impacts of climate change by using biodiversity and ecosystem services (ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA)) based on experiences from China and other developing countries. The project seeks to build climate resilience by strengthening institutional capacity, mobilizing knowledge and transferring adaptation technologies through EbA interventions, which include community-based watershed restoration (i.e. restoration on degraded and barren lands, water conservation and management) and livelihoods improvement. Under project EbA South, similar pilot projects are underway in parallel in Mauritania and the Seychelles.
The development of EbA interventions starts with assessing local practices and determining whether these practices can be improved or upscaled before introducing new approaches. Existing practices were identified by a local expert through extensive field visits and interviews with local stakeholders, including community forest groups, women’s groups, farmers and district officers. Based on these findings, the Chinese and South African experts designed possible interventions together with the local expert and advised on their implementation and monitoring against project indicators and targets.
Knowledge-sharing and practical learning take place mainly through the joint development and implementation of the Long-Term Research Programme (LTRP) and EbA interventions, such as setting up plant nurseries and seedling propagation, mixed plantations of bamboo, banana and salix on degraded riverbanks for soil erosion control, and cardamom plantations and crop diversification to improve livelihoods. Trainings were provided by Chinese and South African experts on data collection methodologies, including developing and conducting household surveys to measure vulnerability changes and awareness changes in response to EbA interventions. Furthermore, knowledge-sharing takes place between Chinese and Nepalese experts, as well as experts from other pilot countries, through inter- regional capacity-building workshops, exchange visit and a web-based knowledge platform.
The LTRP includes the establishment of a permanent monitoring site as well as research on the short- and long-term effects of EbA interventions. To establish the monitoring site, the Nepalese experts were first invited to visit the Chinese Ecosystem Research Network (CERN) stations in China to see how the monitoring sites with plots were set up, operated and contributed to research activities. Specific research data and equipment needs for watershed management from the Nepalese side were jointly identified with the support of South African experts, based on which the design for the monitoring site was developed in partnership. The Ministry of Population and Environment (now called the Ministry of Forests and Environment), together with Chinese experts, then identified Tribhuvan University as a partner to lead the LTRP. The site with monitoring plots and a meteorological station was established in 2016 and complemented by a hydrological station in 2017. The data collected are used at local level and integrated in the national level through Ministry of Hydrological and Meteorology. This site will be independently managed by Tribhuvan University together with Government of Nepal beyond the project period. The project also contributed to the process for Nepal’s national adaptation plan.
The project encourages the participation of women in EbA intervention and has succeeded in this regard in the areas of propagation in nurseries, planting, agro-forest planting and harvesting.
Furthermore, inputs from men and women are sought when designing EbA interventions and household surveys and conducting capacity-building activities such as community training and school projects.
Long-term sustainability is ensured through the LTRP and EbA interventions, which continued beyond the project period. According to the project task manager, project manager and chief technical advisor, the nature of the opportunities for sustainability varied according to each EbA site and included commitments of long-term investment, including by government departments, universities, community organizations and private farmers. The incentives for the commitments included desires to: manage climate change for society; claim rights to abandoned agricultural land; increase income from timber and non-timber forest products; improve the aesthetics of the landscape; reduce soil erosion; and leave a legacy for future generations.
Good documentation and sharing with potential stakeholders are crucial in order to ensure replicability. In April 2018, experience and lessons learnt from this project were introduced at the South-South Exchange Workshop: Ecosystems for Climate Change Adaptation and Sustainable Livelihoods Knowledge Sharing. Detailed EbA interventions, long-term monitoring and research, as well as mutual challenges, were discussed with representatives from Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam. This laid a foundation for their future projects.
Sustainable Development Goal target(s): 13.2, 13.b
Countries/territories involved: China, Nepal
Supported by: Global Environment Facility
Project status: Completed
Project period: 2013-2018
URL of the practice: http://ebasouth.org/pilot-country/nepal
Name: Ms. Diwen Tan, International Ecosystem Management Partnership, United Nations Environment Programme