Women take the lead in the conservation crusade
February 2006; The Female User Groups in western Nepal are getting more and more involved in the Buffer Zone Programme around the Royal Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve. They have realized that only by conserving their natural resources they can improve their livelihood. The realization that conserving biodiversity is important led them to undertake the task of spreading messages about the importance of conservation among the Buffer Zone communities.
The Kishori Samuhas (female youth groups) have become very active in strengthening conservation outreach through cultural programmes. These groups along with female User Groups have also stepped up their efforts by being increasingly involved in patrolling the reserve in order to control poaching and other illicit activities inside the reserve. A significant amount of pressure on the reserve?s resources has been reduced by controlling cattle entry into the core area.
Their efforts have paid off as the areas surrounding the reserve are covered with greenery. All this has been made possible through intensive community mobilization by the Royal Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve and the Participatory Conservation Programme of UNDP. Experience proves that local communities, if mobilized and motivated properly, can make a meaningful contribution to biodiversity conservation.
Besides the 30-50% Park/Reserve revenue sharing mechanism with Buffer Zones, the community savings and credit scheme has played a significant role in propelling the programme forward and providing people easy access to loans at low interest rates without having to depend on other sources. Seed grants and the Biodiversity Conservation Facility, a revolving fund to finance micro enterprises, are also being provided for Buffer Zone development.
Moreover, for the first time in the history of the Buffer Zone Programme, the nine-member Buffer Zone Management Committee constituted has two female User Committee Chairpersons as members. This is a major milestone as one of the aim of the programme has been to bring women to the forefront in the decision making process.
The Participatory Conservation Programme (PCP), implemented since May 2002, is a follow-up to the Parks and People programme to institutionalize its achievements. The goal of the programme is to bring about a harmonious relationship between the Parks/Reserves and the Buffer Zone residents and to forge a lasting partnership between the two to achieve sustainable biodiversity conservation and socio-economic development of the Buffer Zone communities.