Kanchenjunga to Makalu: conserving Himalayan landscapes

The Mountain Institute works with communities in the Andes, Appalachians and Himalayas to conserve mountain ecosystems, preserve mountain cultures and sustainably develop mountain economies. Since its founding in 1972, The Mountain Institute has listened to those who live in the mountains and worked hand in hand with them to identify and implement solutions to their most critical challenges.
 
Farming medicinal herbs
Farming medicinal herbs

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The Project

The landscape corridor between the world’s third and fifth tallest mountains, Kanchenjunga and Makalu, contains some of Nepal’s best ‘off the beaten track’ trekking. The area is rich in biodiversity, including concentrations of threatened and endangered species such as the snow leopard, red panda and Asiatic black bear. Extreme poverty and a lack of economic alternatives are forcing local communities to overharvest commercially valuable medicinal plants, overgraze grasslands and illegally fell timber for foreign markets. This project will:
- Identify and work with 5-6 families along the trekking route to develop tourist homestays
- Train at least 160 local farmers to cultivate medicinal and aromatic plants which will reduce harvesting pressure on wild populations of these species, and provide new sustainable livelihood opportunities
- Identify 50 families to receive low pollution fuel-efficient cooking stoves, which will reduce the use of scarce wood resources and improve in-home air quality
- Reforest degraded mountain slopes using the economically beneficial Himalayan Yew Tree


 
Tree nursery
Tree nursery

The Update

In early 2015, The Mountain institute reported good progress with this project, despite political unrest at the start of the year slowing down some of their work.  Lodge management training in Gupha Pokhari was attended by 25 people (17 women and 8 men) representing 25 different local lodges and homestays along the TMJ trekking route.  A local Tourism Management Committee was formed in order to improve ecotourism in the area.

The first round of cutivating medicinal and aromatic plant training was conducted in 2014, covering both the theoretical and practical sessions on cultivation techniques for three species of plant. Each training participant receives 200grams of Chiraito seeds.  

Many more fuel efficient cooking stoves were donated by the Himalayan Stove Project than originally planned, with 215 being distributed in the EOCA project area with EOCA funding. Although the impact of these stoves in this area has not been assessed, in other areas, a 75% reduction on fuelwood use has been reported which obviously has a significant and positive impact on the local forests.  

May 2015
The devastating earthquakes and aftershocks in Nepal in late spring 2015 had a catapsrophic impact on more than half the country.  The direct impact in the EOCA project area was relatively low but monsoon, innumerable landslides and flash floods ruptured earthquake-weakened slopes and caused human casualties, displaced communities and damaged micro-hydropower projects, schools, homes and agricultural lands. 

TMI asked EOCA if it could reallocate the remaining project funds to provide relief in earthquake-affected project areas, which the EOCA board was quick to agree to in such an urgent crisis.

Post Earthquake
- 29 lodge owners and village homestay operators have been trained in basic lodge and tourism management and have formed a toursim management committee involving several local authorities, industry and tourism experts and committed to preserving the natural and cultural resources of the corridor route via the development of a sustainable tourism management plan.
- Training in cultivation of plants has been undertaken by 218 participants (far exceeding the traget of 160 farmers) and more than 90% of these farmers have already started cultivating crops on their own private land covering approximately 40 hectares.  Theur first harvest should be ready within 2.5 years.  Advanced level training for these farmers is now planned and further resources to support these farmers with their first crops are being sought.
- 52 cooks stoves have now been distributed amongst teashops, lodges and poorer families.  10 sets of large improved cooking stoves with back boiler systems have also been installed in larger lodges, further reducing fuelwood consumption significantly (by up to 67%!)
- earthquake funds were given to help the rebuilding of 2 schools in the Sankuwasabha district.

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We are hugely grateful for the support of the European Outdoor Conservation Association, without whose support we could never have realised such an ambitious project.
Hugo Tagholm, Surfers Against Sewage