by Tara Prasad Gnyawali1, Nepal, ELP 2014
Written on July 21, 2014.
By nature, we seldom ignore the challenges thinking that the management regime and people in control will face them. We eventually miss the opportunities that are learned from the challenges, working with people who are living in a biological corridor and regularly affected by wildlife. Some challenges they face by the presence of wildlife are crops damage, property and livestock loss and human injury. A majority who dislikes wildlife started clearing out the forest, thinking that it would reduce wildlife movement and reduce incidences. However, there can be a balance between nature, wildlife and people. They can live in harmony and sustain livelihoods and ecosystem services in the corridors. Though almost all households are dependent on corridor forests for energy, grass, grazing, fodder and water sources and timber, their tolerance against wildlife presence has been decreasing. After consultation and discussion, civil society leaders suggested that we use the present wildlife challenges as an opportunity to sustain forests, ecosystems and livelihoods in a different way. Eco-tourism became a solution, because it required small financial support to build up the capacity of ecotourism entrepreneurship and infrastructure, marketing and promotion. Eco-tourism became an institutional way to regulate and leverage with other service providers.
Collected evidence shows that the eco-tourism business as a strategy to protect biodiversity, wildlife habitat and forests simultaneously contributes to generating household and institutional incomes. Through the changing role of women and their families and improving the household economy, a sustainable and stable income source is thus provided. Year round food, water, energy and grass sufficiency, increased access, use, control and decisions over benefits generated from ecotourism, and women engagement in natural resource management are the major factors that qualify the life. The generated income enhances the household economy, which enhances the capability to access quality education for their children. Entrepreneurship skills and micro enterprise management, selling and marketing their cultural and indigenous products, goods and services, increasing institutional and household capabilities, accumulating livelihoods assets and facilities and stewarding corridor forests and ecological services are additional benefits that come from the ecotourism business. The eco-tourism business became a well-known illustration that brought changes in villages and their capability to leverage from other services and opportunities. This also supported and promoted indigenous cultures, customs, foods and dietary habits, recreation and amenities and in turn, enhanced quality and sustainable tourism, conservation and preservation of their ancient traditions, skills, knowledge and practices against increased human wildlife conflicts and the impact of climate change. Access to modern means of domestic and communication appliances, modern energy devices and a modern education in boarding schools are additional benefits and opportunities that entrepreneurs and subsidiary groups derived from the ecotourism business.
In spite of the above illustrations, there are other challenges, i.e. impact of climate change, especially dealing with agriculture and wetlands and thus the availability of foods, meat and vegetables that are collected seasonally from the fringe land of farms, wetlands, forests, streams and rivers and culturally highly valuable items like crabs, mice, snails, fishes and indigenous varieties of rice. Even behind of these challenges, the eco-tourism business drastically makes a difference in their quality of life, compared to one and half decades earlier.
1Mr. Gyawali is Senior Livelihoods Expert in WWF Nepal Program Office, P.O Box 7660, Baluwatar, and Kathmandu Nepal. He can be accessed on his email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com