Building Climate Resilience and Empowering Nepal’s Most Vulnerable Through Integrated Community- and Ecosystem-based Adaptation
Inra, a Nepalese woman of indigenous descent, rises to her feet with a firm dignity, her sari draping softly on her slight figure. Inra’s remarks complement those of her Community Forest User Group’s secretary, who catalogued an impressive number of accomplishments achieved with support from Hariyo Ban. This project aims to reduce the adverse impacts of climate change and threats to biodiversity in two Nepalese landscapes.
A member of the CARE-WWF Alliance global core team since 2011, I met Inra during a visit to her community, Rajdevi, in Gorkha District as part of a delegation there to learn how Hariyo Ban contributes to climate resilience. Inra’s contributions—illustrative of the project’s approach to improving social inclusion, livelihoods, and governance—clarified that women and other members of traditionally disempowered groups like hers now participate and assume leadership roles in the management of their forest resources.
Inra is among the 20+ percent of Nepal’s population living below the poverty line. Like most of Nepal’s rural poor, she relies on forests and subsistence agriculture for food and limited income. Nepal is among the world’s countries most vulnerable to climate change. As temperatures rise, glacial lakes are already melting at an alarming rate and many tree species—including those of economic importance—are likely to move uphill to cooler, damper ranges (WWF Nepal 2015).
With 42 of 75 districts already experiencing food insecurity, climate change is projected to reduce national food production by 12 percent over the next 60 years and undermine the agricultural livelihoods of 60 percent of the countries’ 26.6 million people (Lamsal 20171). Impacts from climate change suggest Nepal will face a 2.2% annual loss of gross domestic product by 2050 (Ahmen and Suphachalasai 2014).
This reality calls for a robust, integrated community- and ecosystem-based approach to adaptation. Through my brief experience learning from Hariyo Ban’s first phase of implementation (2011-2016), I concluded that the project is meaningfully contributing to developing such an approach.
Employing a rights-based empowerment approach, Community Learning and Action Centers are a cornerstone of Hariyo Ban’s cross-cutting gender and social inclusion work. Over the course of sixteen weeks, CARE staff provide training on climate change, conservation and development policy and practice, citizens’ rights and the government’s responsibilities to help community members participate effectively in community conservation, development and adaptation processes.
These Centers then develop action plans that contribute to adaptation measures that reflect community priorities and opportunities to build climate-resilient livelihoods. Hariyo Ban provides funds to implement these plans and mainstream them into local government planning processes.
Action plans have included community-based adaptation activities, such as sustainable livelihood diversification, the creation of revolving community funds and footpath construction. Sample ecosystem-based adaptations include native species reforestation, broom grass plantations, soil bioengineering and gabion construction to prevent or mitigate landslides. Combined with a broader water catchment management approach bringing together up- and down-stream users, these interventions not only ensure sufficient, clean water supply and mitigate the risks and impacts of flooding and landslides but also restore corridors for species migration in response to the changing climate.
One of the unique aspects of the second phase of Hariyo Ban—facilitating the harmonization of adaptation and development plans from community to national levels—builds on lessons from such interventions at multiple scales. Hariyo Ban’s systematic learning approach includes: defining a proactive learning agenda in partnership with partners, including research institutions; piloting innovations at relevant scales; monitoring and adapting approaches based on experience and evidence; and scaling up the most successful approaches.
My visit to Nepal suggests that Hariyo Ban already offers a rich set of approaches for building climate resilience for both communities and the ecosystems on which they depend (see program achievements and learning). I expect the consortium will continue to document experiences and produce lessons that are promising for the present and future of our planet and her poorest communities, alike.
Hariyo Ban is implemented by World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE), National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC), and the Federation of Community Forestry Users, Nepal (FECOFUN). Follow progress in the second phase (2017-2021) of Hariyo Ban here.
 Lamsal, Ram Prasad. “Food Security/Nutrition and Climate Change in Nepal.” Joint Secretary of Climate Change Management, Ministry of Population and Environment, presentation to the CARE Food and Nutrition Security learning event on climate change in Kathmandu, Nepal. 24 May 2017.
This blog is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.
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Althea Skinner serves as Senior Program Officer for the CARE-WWF Alliance, leading partnership monitoring, evaluation, research and learning work. She is committed to facilitating robust, integrated conservation and development programming to deliver a more climate-resilient future for poor women and our one and only planet.