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Impact of Climate Change on Forests and Biodiversity and Current Adaptation Practices - A Case Study of Nepal


Abstract and Figures

Climate change is a global phenomenon, and its implications are more critical in a mountainous country like Nepal. Moreover, nearly 80 % of annual precipitation occurs in four months (June-September). Also, Nepal contains 3,252 glaciers and 2,315 glacier lakes of various sizes above 3,500 m that are sensitive to climate change with the annual mean temperature increasing at a rate of 0.4°C per decade from 1975 to 2005. Similarly, the majority of meteorological stations examined from 1961 to 2006 also show an increasing trend in extreme rainfall events. On the other hand, overall forest area has decreased at an annual rate of 1.7 % in Nepal. Climate change has been found to have negative effect on the forests of Nepal. There has been loss of historic range of flagship species like tiger.Some of the widely adopted adaptation practices in the forestry sector by local communities include stall feeding, reduce number of livestock, use alternative to firewood, control fire and grazing, and improve forest management. The adaptive measure relevant to biodiversity conservation are buffer zone implementation, water holes construction, species translocation, commercial farming of medicinal plants, habitat restoration etc.Climatic alterations such as these, especially increasing temperatures, are having profound impacts on vital components of life such as forests and biodiversity, which make up the livelihoods of many people in Nepal. People living in developing countries like Nepal often depend on forests for water, food, medicine, shelter, fibers, fuel for cooking, forage for their livestock, and timber products. Losses of forested areas due to the impacts of climate change will subsequently threaten many livelihood capitals (i.e., human, social, physical, and economic capitals) of the Nepalese people. As some vegetable species such as tomatoes, millet, and wheat shift to higher elevations, local communities will lose income and will be forced to migrate.
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Table of content
S.No. Title Page No.
1 Seemingly Worthless Khoriya Turned Famine Fighter 1-5
2Impact of Climate Change on Forests and Biodiversity and Current Adaptation
Practices - A Case Study of Nepal 6-18
3Polyandry Marriage System:
Cultural Erosion - A case study in Upper Mustang, Nepal 19-23
4Situation Analysis of Lower ACAP Region: Integrated Conservation and Development
Program and Livelihood Perspective 24-29
5 A Case Study of the Socio-economic Status of Women Farmers in Nepal 30-33
6 Preliminary Identification of Ecosystem Services in the Panchase Area of Nepal 34-43
7Rooftop Gardening: An Innovative Approach to Sustainable Urban Agriculture and
Solid Waste Management 44-48
8List of Project Work Documents submitted for the Partial Fulfillments of the Bachelor
in Development Studies ; Academic Year 2013 49-50
9List of Project Work Documents Submitted for the Partial Fulfillments of the Bachelor
in Development Finance ; Academic Year 2013 50
10 Lists of Selected Abstracts of Projects Works 51-59
Journal of
Development StuDieS
Journal of
Development StuDieS
Page: III
Page: 1
Seemingly Worthless
Khoriya1 Turned Famine Fighter
Khop Narayan Shrestha2
An Overview
It could look amazing for anyone to believe that a poor
Chepang family could buy land in ferle Chitwan valley
by selling Amriso (broom grass) grown in a 3 kaha
sloppy terrain. But, Deep Bahadur Chepang had made it
possible with a lile wisdom, a lile sense, a thorough
consultaon and support, mixed with a great deal
of hard work. He is now a proudly owner of 3 kaha
(1,014 sq. meter) land in Chitwan valley bought from
his accumulated annual savings of about Rs.80, 000
from the sale of broom grass. This has abruptly lied
his social status to a pinnacle. His respected ancestors
used to tell him A genuine eort will always pay the
handsome dividend”. He did not pay heed to this fact
then, but it happened now. Unl 3 years before, he
had, as his sole property, only 3 kaha of very sloppy
up land with no source of irrigaon. With hard eorts,
the land produced food, enough for only about half
the year, when harvests were good and lesser when
the almighty was not so merciful. Sending children
to school was a rather distant dream, and so was the
craving for a decent meal during the fesval. He used to
go to Kathmandu and Pokhara to weave and sell bags
and the wood chopping work – yet his family barely had
enough to eat throughout the year.
Another praconer Mr. Kanchha Praja has recently
turned 45. Since the days when he began to understand
the world around him in Ramba village, the word
“famine” never ceased to prevail. Less than 6 months
of food shortage was considered a decent year. His
principal duty was to collect wild tubers like giha,
bhyakur, and chuinya and the search was becoming
compeve as all households resorted to the same for
bare survival. Besides, without the wage earning works
in the plains, re could not be lit in the local ovens.
Kanchha Praja has now no such compulsion of collecng
the wild tubers. Khoriya full of banana, broom grass
and fodder trees have not only eased his livelihood,
but obviated the reality of having to eat desired food
only during the main fesval periods, that too oen
with borrowed resources. Kanchha narrates how the
increased income from agro-forestry had made all this
possible. He links the new feat as a boon from MDI.
It has been 4 years since he has quit migrang to the
plains for the wage job. His 40 odd years’ daily roune
has undergone a sudden transformaon. Sing under
the coolness of a banana tree in a peak summer month,
he vividly recalls the past days spent toying with nature
and relates how a small gesture of love towards nature
can pay high dividend.
1. Literally, Khoriya means the steep slopes where cultivation is done following slash & burn practices. This form of agriculture is also termed as shifting
cultivation since the system involves the growing of crops on a plot of land and then letting it “rest and recover” for several years (Regmi, 2005).
2. Executive Director and Agriculturist in MDI Nepal, Hetaunda, Makawanpur, Nepal
The marginalized communities of Chepang in Makwanpur district used to
practice Khoriya (slash & burn) on the slopes of the Mahabharat range.
Their tiny land holdings (less than one hectare) provide no more than
3 to 6 months of food security. The district lies in the fragile regions
of Chure and Bhawar range. It has been estimated that 93% of land is
under serious threats of soil erosion mainly due to deforestation, Khoriya
practice adopted by the local people.
The broom grass (Thysanolaena maxima) is a fast growing soil binding
species that grows in harsh climatic and topographic conditions. Local
people have knowledge and skill in growing the grass, and there is a
domestic market for the product in the country. Introduction of broom
grass has brought a positive change in upgrading the livelihood of the
local people.
Broom grass, Chepang,
Khoriya, Livelihood
Since the formation of the National College in 1996, it has created a history of conceptualizing and implementing
tailor-made academic programs in the elds of development education. Presently, the College offers three unique
programs namely Bachelor in Development Studies (BDevS) since 1999, Bachelor in Development Finance (BDevS)
since 2006, and Bachelor of Social Sciences (BoSS) since 2012. Afliated to Kathmandu University, these forward
looking programs are designed to addressing the contemporary issues of national and global contexts.
Since 2006, the College has developed an exchange program with the Waseda University and University of Sacred Heart
in Japan. Similarly since 2012, the UNESCO Madanjeet Centre of Development Studies and Regional Cooperation has
granted scholarships for the South Asian students.
Since 2002, already 520 students have been graduated from the College. In 2014, a tracer study of the ex-students has
revealed that the graduates have been either employed in reputed organizations or pursuing for higher degrees in Nepal
or abroad including India, Australia, USA and European countries.
Field study has been a major thrust in the study programs. Students are exposed to real life situations, and are assigned
to conduct various eld works under the guidance of experts and teachers. Annually, they spend about 2,000 person
days in average visiting over 12 different districts. The fourth year students conduct their independent research works
under the course entitled DEVS405 Project Work for six credit hours. In general, their works focus on specic topics
in a dozen of development sectors, and geographically spread in over 20 districts each year. During the period of
1999-2014, almost 500 project works have been successfully completed and documented. Similarly, the college also
undertakes tailor-made research activities such as eld research conducted by the groups of Nepalese and Japanese
students under the supervision of the Nepalese and Japanese faculties in Nepal and Japan.
Realizing the strengths of research works and the values of their ndings, the college decided to publish a journal to
disseminate ndings of students’ project works. The rst issue was published in 2006 by accommodating nine articles
contributed by faculties and experts, and seven abstracts derived from the selected project works along with a list of 65
project works completed between 1999 and 2002.
After a gap of nearly ve years, the journal has been republished in July 2011 with a new design. The second issue
(Volume II, Number 1, February-July 2011) contained 11 articles and a list of 69 project works comnpleted in the
academic year 2010. The third issue (Volume II, Number 2, Februady-July 2012) included seven articles by experts
and 12 abstracts of students’ project works. Similarly, the fourth issue (Volume III, Number 1, Issue 4, August 2012 –
January 2013) accommodated seven articles and nine abstracts among others. In 2014, the Journal has been published
as a special issue containing 14 papers and other materials presented at the International Seminar on Sustainable
Livelihood organized by the National College on March 1st, 2013 in Lalitpur.
The journal has become an archive of research works conducted by students and faculties. It is believed that the articles
have not only encouraged the contributing students but also beneted the students and academicians in general. Finally,
the college management believes that the journal would eventually contribute towards development.
Genesis of the Journal of Development Studies (JDS)
Page: IV
Page: 2
Page: 3
These are some of the voices of the people living at the
interior corridor of north-west Makawanpur. Much like
the rest of Nepal, the inhabitants of this area, mostly
indigenous communies like ‘Chepang and Tamang’
rely on agriculture and forestry for subsistence. They
follow shiing culvaon pracces. They are regarded
as the most marginalized and resource poor group in
Nepal. They inhabit in the remote and dodgy contours.
Their ny land holdings (less than one hectare) provide
no more than 3 to 6 months of food security. High food
insecurity, low female literacy, low access to basic social
services, high populaon density on fragile natural
resource base and recurrent natural disasters like
famine and oods are the common poverty induced
ailments in the area.
The Northwest Makawanpur
Makawanpur, a typical mid hill district lies within
Mahabharat and Churiya ranges, occupies the total
land area of 244457 ha. (DDC Prole, Makawanpur)
with 25% culvated land. Of the total land area, Chure
and Bhawar range absorbs 60% and the rest 40% lies
in middle and high hill range. Because of its fragile
geology, Makawanpur is one of the badly aected
districts through landslides and erosion. According
to district prole, only 6.49% of the total land is said
to be safe from landslide and erosion and remaining
93% land are under serious threat and the researchers
oen blame deforestaon, slash and burn pracce,
other unsustainable land use and ood and landslide
as elements that threaten the livelihood of the local
The northwest part of the Makawanpur is considered
one of the most hazard prone areas in the district. It
comprises 12 VDCs3 . The landscape is a watershed
secon of the Manahari & Lothar rivers which drain into
the Rap river. The geological and climac condions
in these watershed areas have resulted in the extremes
of landslides, ooding and wild res, among others, as
evident from the area being worst aected by the oods
and landslides of 1993 and 2003 to the despondency of
the local inhabitants.
The total land area of the enre landscape (12 VDCs)
is 88,203 ha having only 7,164 ha culvated area (8%).
Nearly half the area is under forest (DFO Makawanpur).
In terms of terrain, 68.6 % of the landscape area is
above 18° slope (MDI/GEF/SGP 2012), where annual
agriculture could be risky from a slope stabilizaon
point of view.
Over 15686 households inhabit the target landscape
area with 90921 populaon (Populaon Census 2011).
Indigenous Tamangs (52%) and Chepangs (17%) are
major dwellers in the area. Of the total populaon, 49.3
% are women.
The slash and burn agriculture (KhoriyaKhe) pracced
by indigenous Chepang and Tamang communies of
North Western Makawanpur over generaons has
been one such pracce which has seriously ruined the
producve and carrying capacity in the uplands where
they dwell. This has put their already miserable lives and
livelihood at peril. These uplands must be ecologically
In an eort to arrest the source of the problem, MDI
Nepal piloted a ‘Khoriya Improvement Project’ in 2004
with nancial assistance of UNDP GEF Small Grants
Programme. Inially, this project was piloted in 4 VDCs.
This new iniave appealed the local people but the
resource was ny to make considerable dent in terms
of area and household coverage. United Naons World
Food Programme later provided addional resources in
2009 to expand the coverage of this successful iniave
under food support programme. Poverty Alleviaon
Fund (PAF) is providing support since 2005 mostly for
developing infrastructure development works and partly
in agroforestry acvies as part of income generang
acvies to the respecve communies. By now, there
are more than 3000 households of this region acvely
involved in promong various agroforestry systems
throughout the khoriya lands. It’s reported that ll
this period communies have planted more than 7.5
million plant species of dierent types including banana
860,123, citrus 51,006, (lime, lemon, orange), pineapple
348,548, fodders 300,030, asparagus 84,571, other
fruits 31,371 (pear, mango) and broom grass 5,913,623,
which constute the highest plantaon (80%) covering
almost 2500 ha. of marginal lands(MDI Annual Report
2012)in total.
What is Broom grass?
Broom grass is simply a ‘weed’ that grows luxuriantly
in all the forest areas. However, as on date, there is
no record of any farmer in the area having taken up
commercial culvaon of this so coined “Weed” or
mulpurpose grass. How fortunate we are having such
unlimited plant bio-resources that could be converted
into immediate cash but the unfortunate part is why
we are not exploing these rich potenals!! Surely,
promong Broom culvaon can catalyze economic
upliment in rural areas, parcularly the shiing
culvators whose livelihoods revolve around such
unsustainable agricultural pracces.
Broom grass (Thysanolaena maxima) is a perennial,
high-value, non-perishable Non-Timber Forest Product
(NTFP) that can be grown on degraded, steep, or
marginal land. Broom grass is a mulpurpose crop:
only its panicle is used for the brooms. The stems are
used by farmers as wall building material, fuel, fodder,
mulching, or staking crops, or sold to the pulp industry
to manufacture paper. The leaves and tender shoots are
used as fodder in mes of scarcity.Broom grass farming
can generate addional income through the culvaon
on marginal lands not unsuitable for food producon.
Broom grass can be used as part of an agro forestry
system to regenerate degraded land.
In late 2006, we had a short eld trip to one of the
areas in northwest region of Makawanpur from our
organizaon MDI. We had a night stay in Niguretar
village of Raksirang VDC-8. We asked a farmer in
Niguretar to take up broom farming, but the reply was
very fascinang, “Why should I culvate broom? It is a
grass, growing plenty and plenty in the hill/ jungle. Every
year we keep on cung sll the grass keeps on growing
and the area increases automacally due to natural
regeneraon through seed dispersal by winds, only the
problem is while burning jungle re destroys the grass
but grows again more healthier when monsoon starts”.
We asked one of the farmers of this area to have some
tesng of this grass. Mr. Ramesh Praja agreed with our
proposal. We managed him just Rupees 5,000 as an
incenve to pay for his labor cost for clearing the lands,
collecng slips from the forests, digging small pits for
plantaon and planng works. He used his 2 ropani (0.1
ha) khoriyaland, which was completely degraded and
had no use at all for any other food crops. He cleared
the bushes and planted 1500 slips (approx.) during the
end of June, immediately aer onset of rain.
In nine to ten months during February/March, Mr.
Ramesh Praja harvested brooms worth of Rs. 8,000.
In the subsequent years, he harvested brooms valued
at Rs. 13,500 from the same piece of land. This gave
an encouraging result to all other farmers, who were
closely watching its performance. With this successful
achievement, there are thousands of farmers now
adopng Broom grass farming in this region. This has now
become one of the strong livelihood bases for people of
this area. Mr. Raj Kumar Praja, who is one of the young
talents of Chepang community evolved as whole seller,
collects the products from the beneciaries. It has been
reported that he sells products like banana, Broom
grass, other bamboo based products (Nanglo, Mandro,
Muda, Bhakari etc)with a gross worth of Rs. 10 million
per year of which 60-70% is shared from the sales of
banana and brooms only (Grameen Sarokar Collecon
Center, Lothar 2014).
Mr. Shiva Kumar Kashi, an environmental journalist from
Makwanpur, used to be in his boots to publish the news
of famine in Western Makwanpur every year, a place
resided historically by Tamangs, Chepangs and Dalits.
The news read something like this – “This year, number
of people grieved with famine in western Makwanpur,
compared to number more than the last year”. This
was sort of a ready-made news template and only the
numbers had to be changed each year. He wondered
how such news is not forthcoming since last 4-5 years.
He decided to visit the place and found that those
places did not look like the ones that he had visited
before. One me, he felt that he had mistakenly landed
in a wrong place. But it was not so. The places were
the same but their faces were changed. The greenery,
a rare sight in the past, had been growing by leaps and
bounds. All people appeared to be well fed. Hale and
hearty looking children, both boys and girls in almost
equal proporon, were heading towards school wise
uniforms, each carrying a bag full of textbooks. Being a
development journalist, he did not repent having had no
news of famine to ll his newspaper columns. He could
not resist himself hailing the change, which proved to
be even beer material to ll his news columns(Thaha
Sandesh 29 April 2013).
Technological Aspects
• Broom grass can be grown in a wide range of agro-
climac condions and soils (up to 2000 m above sea
• It is tolerant of harsh environmental condions such as
shallow soil, drought, and high rainfall. It successfully
grows on shady slopes, damp and steep riverbanks,
open and degraded areas, and on gravelly soil on
weathered rock surfaces.
• Broom grass can be produced on degraded, marginal,
or steep land that is unsuitable for food producon. It
can be grown as a hedgerow crop in an alley cropping
system and is recommended as part of a shiing
culvaon system.
• In India and Nepal, planng is done at the onset of the
monsoon, in May/June, when there is sucient soil
• Broom grass can be propagated arcially through
seeds, slips (rhizomes: roots with culms) or wild
seedling transplant.
• Propagaon using seeds takes 15 months. To
propagate using seeds, grains are collected from
wild senescing panicles in March. Grains are sown in
nursery beds that are clean of weeds and roots, with
loose, farmyard manure-enriched soil, at a rate of 10
grams for a 4 m x 1 m bed. Germinaon commences
1 month aer sowing, and seedlings are ready for
transplant 3 months aer sowing (at the onset of the
monsoon in June). Seedlings are transplanted to a
dierent nursery bed at a spacing of 10 cm x 10 cm.
Alternavely, they can be planted in polybags in a mix
of soil, sand, and farmyard manure in the raos 1:2:1.
They are transplanted to the eld aer a year, at the
beginning of the following monsoon (15 months aer
sowing). For opmal growth, seedlings require regular
Seemingly Worthless
Khoriya Turned Famine Fighter
Samriddhi, Journal of Development Studies
Seemingly Worthless
Khoriya Turned Famine Fighter
Samriddhi, Journal of Development Studies
3. The VDCs in the northwestern Makawapur are Handikhola, Manahari, Sarikhet, Raksirang, Bharta, Kankada, Khairang, Dandakharka, Agra, Gogane,
Kalikatar & Namtar and Ref seen in the text to page 2
Page: 4
Page: 5
weeding and irrigaon throughout the 15 months.
• Most farmers plant Broom grass slips, which can be
gathered from old plantaons or forests, or obtained
through nurseries that rear seedlings or rhizome
• Slips are gathered by digging of roots from wild or
culvated plants aer harvest in February or March.
The culms are cut, leaving a 15 - 20 cm long stem with
roots. Two to three culms along with bud sprouts and
rhizomes are separated from the clump and planted
either in polybags (with a 1:2:1 mix of soil, sand, and
farmyard manure) or directly in pre-dug pits in the
eld. Soil moisture should be maintained sucient for
the plant establishment.
• The planng site for Broom grass slips must be free of
weeds, and cleaned of debris.
• One month before planng, pits of 30 cm³ are dug,
and le for weathering.
• On hilly land, the pits should be spaced every 1.5 m
x 2 m along the contour lines or on terrace bunds
19,000 slips are needed for 1 hectare.
• Each pit is planted with a seedling or slip with four to
ve buds, in a mix of soil and farmyard manure.
• During the rst year, the crop should be weeded
three to four mes. For a higher yield in the rst year,
farmyard manure can be applied as a top-dressing
during the second weeding.
• The plot should be weeded annually in subsequent
• A fence can help protect the crop from browsing and
• From January to March, the panicles are carefully
harvested when they are mature: aer they have
become tough and their color has changed to light
green or red.
• The ming of the harvest is extremely important to
generate maximum returns. If panicles are harvested
prematurely (ve to seven days in advance),
producon declines dramacally. If they are harvested
late, the plant begins to wilt.
• Cung above the soil, and disjoining stem and
panicle, or by hand pulling can harvest panicles.
• Young sprouts should not be damaged during harvest.
Panicles never should be harvested when unripe, or
by uproong the enre plant4 .
• Broom grass is produced in a ve-year cycle. Yield is
lowest in the rst and h years, and highest in the
second and third years.
• Although the rst year of Broom grass producon is
labor-intensive (planng and weeding), the crop does
not require much aenon in further years.
• One producon cycle is possible per year (in Nepal and
India, broom is harvested during the winter season in
• Producon is possible perenially. However, aer 5
years, Broom grass must be replanted.
• 30 to 35 dried panicles are bundled together to make
one broom. Farmers bundle the brooms themselves.
• Aer ve years, the plot should be burned aer
harvest to improve germinaon of seeds and foster
rapid growth in the next season.
Economic Aspects5
• Inial investment costs are the Broom grass slips.
Farmers source the slips themselves from previous
• Variable costs are the farmers labor. On steep land,
in the rst year, 135 person-days (at NPR 200, i.e.
US$ 2.27) each) are needed, for a total variable cost
of NPR 27,000 (US$ 306.32). In subsequent years, 95
person-days (NPR 19,000; US$ 215.56) are necessary
for maintenance, harvest and bundling of the brooms.
• A study done in the Broom grass eld of Mr. Dip Lal
Chepang who has 1 ha. plantaon with Broom grass
(Total area: 10920 m2) showed that he harvested 2075
Mutha(broom) in the rst year valued at Rs. 83,000,
2625 mutha in second year valued at Rs. 105,000 and
3040 mutha in third year valued at Rs. 152,000. The
average price of the broom is found to be Rs. 42 (US
$ 0.48) per mutha. Thus, he harvested 7740 mutha in
total and received a gross return of Rs. 340,000 (US $
3,778 in average).
• This shows that a gross agricultural margin, averaged
over a period of three years, is NPR 113,000 (US$
1,286) per hectare.
Environmental Aspects
• No addional irrigaon is necessary.
• No external inputs are needed.
• All waste is recycled on-farm.
• No energy besides human labor is required.
4. Standa-Gunda, W., T. Mutimukuru, R. Nyirenda et al.( 2003). Participatory modelling to enhance social learning, collective action and mobilization among
users of the Mafungautsi Forest, Zimbabwe.Small-scale Forestry, vol. 2, pp. 313-326, p. 321. Available from:
5. Economic gures are based on the experience of the Nepali NGO Manahari Development Institute (MDI), which has been promoting Broom grass farming
in the hills of Nepal since 2008.
• The deep, brous Broom grass root system anchors
and structures soil, prevenng erosion of steep
hillsides6 .
• Broom grass is recommended as part of a shiing
culvaon system on marginal hillsides.
As Broom grass grows on degraded and very steep
land, it can be used to rehabilitate degraded areas. It
does not compete for land with cereal crops7 .
Social Aspects
• The key benet for adopters is the sale of brooms to
increase households’ incomes.
• Adopters addionally benet from the mulpurpose
crop by using the grasses as animal fodder, using
or selling the stems, and using the roots medically
(decocted as a mouthwash during fever)8 .
• Broom grass as a fodder is especially important during
the lean season from November to March, when
its leaves remain green aer other green forage is
• Females contribute 70% of the labor required to
culvate Broom grass and manufacture brooms.
• 10% of the total labor required is hired from outside
the household, creang a small rural employment
Broom grass culvaon can promote sustainable
use of fragile and degraded lands thereby promong
conservaon of soil and water. This grass grows in almost
all types of climate, marginal lands, wastelands and
Khoriya lands and can even tolerate frost. Depending
on the soil and climac condion, it may aend heights
up to 2 meters. Culvaon is comparavely easy and
requires less nancial inputs but remunerave returns.
Seeds or rhizomes can do the planng.
Therefore, there could be no doubt that all project
partners, who are conservaon conscious would surely
focus on promong such economically viable proposion
to save the ecology and enrich the environment on one
side and converng‘weed to wealth’ on the other.
References/Useful links
Kriesemer, SK, 2014. Research Fellow. Food Security
Center (FSC), Universität Hohenheim 70593 Stuttgart.
Manipur Small Farmers’ Agri Business Consorum,
Directorate of Agriculture Manipur, Imphal East 795001,
Manipur (INDIA), Director of Agriculture Manipur
Manipur, Imphal-795001
Newar, N. (2013). Broom brings boom. How one Nepali
village has found the road to harmony and prosperity.
Nepali Times #656, 17-23 May 2013. Kathmandu,
Nepal: Himalmedia. Available from: http://nepalitimes.
Regmi, BR, A Subedi, KP Aryal, K and BB Tamang, 2005.
Shifting cultivation systems and innovations in Subedi
Nepal. LIBIRD (Local initiatives for Biodiversity
Research and Development), Pokhara, Nepal
World Wildlife Fund Nepal (2012). Rehabilitating land
degraded by shifting cultivation. Available from: http://
by-shifting--cultivation Youtube video: broomgrass
rhizome collection.
World Wildlife Fund Nepal (2013). Broom grass – a boon
for communities and ecosystems. Available from: http://
Seemingly Worthless
Khoriya Turned Famine Fighter
Samriddhi, Journal of Development Studies
Seemingly Worthless
Khoriya Turned Famine Fighter
Samriddhi, Journal of Development Studies
6. Kae, G., and M.K. Balla (2008). Effectiveness of root system of grasses used in soil conservation in PaundiKhola sub watershed of Lamjung district, Nepal.
The Initiation: SUFFREC (Journal of the Student Forum for Forestry Research and Environmental Conservation), vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 121-129. Available from
7. MDI-Nepal Annual Report 2013, p. 26. Available from:
8. Shankar, U., S.D. Lama, and K.S. Bawa (2001). Ecology and economics of domestication of non-timber forest products: an illustration of Broom grass in
Darjeeling Himalaya. Journal of Tropical Forest Science, vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 171-191, p. 174.
Page: 7
Impact of Climate Change on Forests and Biodiversity
and Current Adaptation Practices A Case Study of Nepal
Cristina Castillo1, Lisa, Robines1, Amir Poudel2, Kate Lomac-MacNair1, Christine Gajewski1
Over the past few decades, levels of carbon dioxide
(CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) in Earth’s
atmosphere have dramacally increased from the
burning of fossil fuels and other human acvies. In
response to the rapidly increasing levels of these
heat-trapping gases, the global average temperature
is rising, and at the rate much faster than expected.
Global climac alteraons are causing dierent impacts
around the world, including rising sea levels, melng
ice caps and glaciers, variaons in precipitaon, and
increases in extreme weather events. As the global
thermostat connues to rise, these impacts and others
are expected to become even more pronounced in the
coming decades.
Although climate change is a global phenomenon, the
eects will vary by region and some countries are more
vulnerable than others. Research indicates that Nepal
is economically, culturally, and environmentally high
vulnerable to the impacts of climate change because
of its geographic locaon, fragile ecosystems, and
weak socioeconomic and instuonal context. Nepal’s
1 Graduate Student, Advanced Academic Program, Johns Hopkins University
2 Faculty Member, Advanced Academic Program, Johns Hopkins University;
development is already aected by current climate
variability and extreme weather events, and this is
expected to worsen with future climate change (UNDP
2012). Most importantly, countries like Nepal, which
largely depend upon natural resources based economy
such as cropping, forestry, livestock rearing, agro-
forestry etc are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate
change. Further, there is an increasing evidence that
climate change is already aecng several sectors that
make up the livelihood assets for rural communies in
Nepal including water, forests, biodiversity, agriculture,
and human health. As such, the purpose of this paper
is to invesgate how two major sectors, forests and
biodiversity, are being impacted by climate change in
Nepal and to look into the adaptaon pracces being
carried out in the sectors.
1. Background of Climatic Alterations in Nepal
Nepal is located between 80°4’ and 88°12’ east
longitudes, and from 26°22’ to 30°27’ north latudes.
The country covers approximately 147,181 square
kilometers and is landlocked by India to the east, west,
and south, and by China to the north (UNDP 2012). The
country is comprised of ve disnct geographic regions
including the Terai, Siwalik hills, Middle Mountains,
High Mountains, and the High Himalayas (Bajracharya
et al. 2011). For the purposes of discussing climac
parameters, these regions are somemes simplied
into three physiographic regions based on elevaon:
the Terai, Middle Mountain (includes the Siwalik hills),
and High Mountain (includes the High Himalayas). The
Terai region is home to low lying areas that are only
about 80 meters above the sea level. In contrast, the
High Mountain region is home to 8 of the world’s 10
highest peaks, including Mount Everest, which is 8,848
meters above the sea level. Due to Nepal’s extreme
topography, the climate spans from tropical to alpine.
Summer and late spring maximum temperatures range
from about 28°C in the Middle Mountain region to more
than 40°C in the Terai region. The average maximum and
minimum temperatures in the Terai region range from
7°C to 23°C in the winter months. The High Mountain
region has much low temperatures than the Terai and
Middle Mountain regions year round (UNDP 2012).The
elevaon ranges and annual temperatures for each of
Nepal’s ve geographic regions are shown in Table 1
Table 1: Elevaon Ranges, Climate, and Average Temperature in
Nepal’s 5 Geographic Regions
Region Elevation (m) Climate Average
Temp. (°C)
Terai 200 Humid tropical >25
Siwalik hills 200-1,500 Moist subtropical 25
Middle Mountain 1,000-2,500 Temperate 20
High Mountain 2,200-4,000 Cool to sub-alpine 10-15
High Himalayas > 4,000 Alpine to arctic < 0-5
Source: Agrawala et al. 2003
Nearly 80 % of Nepal’s total precipitaon occurs during
the monsoon season, which lasts from mid-June to
mid-September. A much smaller poron of Nepal’s
total precipitaon occurs during winter months due
to moisture coming from the Mediterranean Sea far
to the west. Across Nepal, the average annual rainfall
is approximately 1,500 mm to 2,500 mm, with the
maximum being around 4,500 mm in Pokhara. Due
to a combinaon of fast-moving monsoon clouds and
dramac increases in elevaon, many places in Nepal
receive more than 100 mm of rainfall in a 24-hour period.
These intense rain events, which are oen accompanied
by hailstorms, trigger numerous landslides, erosions
and debris ow (UNDP 2012).
Another notable feature of Nepal is the vast amount of
glaciers and glacial lakes in the Himalayan regions. In
total, Nepal contains 3,252 glaciers and 2,315 glacier
lakes of various sizes above 3,500 m. Glaciers cover an
area of more than 5,000 square kilometers and have
an esmated ice reserve of nearly 500 cubic kilometers
(Thomas and Rai 2005).
1.1 Increasing Temperature
The annual mean temperature in Nepal has increased
steadily at a rate of 0.4°C per decade from 1975 to 2005
(Praccal Acon Nepal, 2010). Studies also indicate that
the observed warming trend is not uniform across the
country and is more pronounced in autumn and winter.
In addion, the warming trend is higher in the high
altude regions compared to the Terai and Siwalki hills
(UNDP 2012; Praccal Acon Nepal, 2010). In the Middle
Mountain and Himalayan regions, the annual rate of
mean maximum temperature ranged from 0.068°C to
0.128°C per year. In the Terai, the annual rate of mean
maximum temperature ranged below 0.038°C per year.
Further, the warming trends vary by locaon, with
ranges of -0.04°C to 0.08°C in both the west and central
regions and -0.06°C to 0.09°C in the eastern region from
1976 to 2005 (Praccal Acon Nepal, 2010). Although
the trends vary from study to study, Nepal is undeniably
warming at a rate much higher than the global average
temperature rise of 0.01°C per year (Praccal Acon
Nepal, 2010, IPCC 2007).
Climate models show that this increasing temperature
trend will connue into the future. The temperature
in Nepal is projected to increase by 1.3°C to 3.8°C and
1.8°C to 5.8°C by the 2060s and 2090s respecvely. The
GCS model projects an increase in the frequency of
hot days and hot nights of 11 to 28 % and 18 to 28 %
respecvely. Likewise, the frequencies of cold days and
cold nights are expected to decrease. The PRECIS model
projects a mean annual temperature increase over
Nepal of 3.4°C to 5.2°C by 2100. Similar to the current
trends, warming is projected to occur at the highest rate
in the higher elevaons and less in the Terai (Praccal
Acon Nepal, 2010).
Impact of Climate Change on Forests and Biodiversity
and Current Adaptation Practices A Case Study of Nepal
Samriddhi, Journal of Development Studies
Climate change is a global phenomenon, and its implications are more
critical in a mountainous country like Nepal. Moreover, nearly 80 % of
annual precipitation occurs in four months (June-September). Also,
Nepal contains 3,252 glaciers and 2,315 glacier lakes of various sizes
above 3,500 m that are sensitive to climate change with the annual mean
temperature increasing at a rate of 0.4°C per decade from 1975 to 2005.
Similarly, the majority of meteorological stations examined from 1961 to
2006 also show an increasing trend in extreme rainfall events. On the
other hand, overall forest area has decreased at an annual rate of 1.7 %
in Nepal. Climate change has been found to have negative effect on the
forests of Nepal. There has been loss of historic range of flagship species
like tiger.
Some of the widely adopted adaptation practices in the forestry sector
by local communities include stall feeding, reduce number of livestock,
use alternative to firewood, control fire and grazing, and improve forest
management. The adaptive measure relevant to biodiversity conservation are
buffer zone implementation, water holes construction, species translocation,
commercial farming of medicinal plants, habitat restoration etc.
Climatic alterations such as these, especially increasing temperatures,
are having profound impacts on vital components of life such as forests
and biodiversity, which make up the livelihoods of many people in Nepal.
People living in developing countries like Nepal often depend on forests
for water, food, medicine, shelter, fibers, fuel for cooking, forage for
their livestock, and timber products. Losses of forested areas due to
the impacts of climate change will subsequently threaten many livelihood
capitals (i.e., human, social, physical, and economic capitals) of the
Nepalese people. As some vegetable species such as tomatoes, millet,
and wheat shift to higher elevations, local communities will lose income
and will be forced to migrate.
Broom grass, Chepang,
Khoriya, Livelihood
Page: 8
Page: 9
1.2 Changes in Precipitation
Although there has not been a signicant change in
annual and monsoon precipitaon, Nepal has been
experiencing a decreasing trend in the number of
annual rainy days over the past four decades (Shrestha
et al, 2000; APN, 2007). In addion, data indicates that,
there has been a signicant variaon in the annual
rainfall record from 1959 to 1991 (Shrestha et al, 2000).
The intensity, frequency, and form of precipitaon have
also been changing in locaons across Nepal. Between
1976 and 2005, the average annual precipitaon trend
ranged from -10 to 20 mm in the eastern region, -30
to 40 mm in the western region, -20 to 10 mm in
the mid-western region and -10 to 20 mm in the far
western region. The majority of meteorological staons
examined from 1961 to 2006 also show an increasing
trend in extreme rainfall events. These extreme events
are expected to lead to more oods and landslides in
the future(Praccal Acon Nepal, 2010).
The mean average rainfall in Nepal is projected to
increase by more than 15 % by 2100. The largest
increases in rainfall are projected to occur in the east
and the largest decreases are projected to occur in the
west. By 2100, rainfall is projected to change by -36
mm to 224 mm per month in the months of June, July,
and August. The increase in mean annual rainfall by the
end of this century is projected to vary by a wide range
of 0 to 40% over Nepal, except for parts in Gorkha,
Banke, and Bardia. In these areas, rainfall is projected
to decrease by up to 5%. Rainfalls in the hilly region
and mid mountain regions are projected to increase by
20% and 30 %, respecvely. However, some areas may
see increases as high as 40% above baseline rainfall.
These increases in precipitaon could also lead to more
weather-related extreme events such as oods and
landslides (Praccal Acon Nepal, 2010).
2. Impact of Climatic Alterations on Forests and
The impacts of the climac alteraons presented in the
secons above are already being observed in Nepal
and are projected to worsen. Further, the alteraons
in temperature and precipitaon are having adverse
eects on two of Nepal’s major providers of livelihood
services, forests and biodiversity. These impacts are
discussed in more details in the secons below.
2.1 Forests
Forests provide food, medicine, energy, shelter and
wood products. Typically, people in rural areas are more
dependent on the variety of forest products along with
subsistence agriculture and thus play an important
role in the use and management of the forests. The
importance of forest biodiversity is directly related to
the maintenance of hydrological cycle of watersheds and
health of a multude of ecosystems found throughout
Nepal. Due to the increases in anthropogenic GHG
emissions and the resulng climac alteraons
discussed in the secons above, Nepal’s forest areas
are decreasing rapidly. Studies show that the Nepalese
forests are highly suscepble to climac alteraons such
as changes in precipitaon and temperature, and are
threatened by the increasing frequency of landslides,
droughts and extreme weather events (FAO 2009).
According to the Naonal Forest Inventory carried out
in the early 1990’s, forest and shrubs together cover
39.6 % of Nepal, which is equivalent to approximately
5.83 million hectares (DFRS, 1999; FAO, 2009). The
forest types found in Nepal vary from sub-tropical
forest in the lowlands to alpine meadows in the high
Himalayas (Figure 1). In Nepal, there are 35 major forest
types and 118 ecosystems. The major tree species
in terms of growing stocks are Sal (Shorea robusta),
Oak (Quercus spp), Asna (Terminalia alata), Chir Pine
(Pinus roxburghii), Talis Patra (Abies spectabilis),
Rhododendron (Rhododendron spp), Us (Alnus
nepalensis), Schima wallichii, and Himalayan Hemlock
Tsuga dumosa. Of Nepal’s ve geographic regions,
the region with the highest % age of forest cover is
the Mid-mountain region, at 33 %. This is followed
by the High Mountains, Siwaliks, Terai, and High
Himalayas regions, respecvely. Legally, Nepal’s forest is
categorized into naonal and private forests. The areas
designated as naonal forest include government-
managed forest, protected forest, community forest,
leasehold forest and religious forest (FAO, 2009).
Figure 1. Forest Distribuon of Nepal Image from Forest Resources
of Nepal (1991-1992 data), Forests Resource Informaon System
Project (
Forest area in Nepal is found to be decreasing. This slow
decrease is a result of a multude of anthropogenic
factors that include deforestaon for wood products/
fuel, human encroachment, and the lumber industry.
Climate change has a potenal impact on forest ranging
from changes and irregularies in precipitaon/
rainfall paerns, changes in temperature, frequency
of landslides, droughts, and extreme weather events.
Overall forest area has decreased at an annual rate of
1.7 % in Nepal. During the period of 1978/79 to 1994
forest and shrubs together decreased at an annual
rate of 0.5 %. Recent studies show that in 20 of Terai’s
districts, forest cover has decreased at an annual rate of
0.06 % from the period of 1990/91 to 2000/2001 (FAO ,
2009; MOPE, 2004).
The average warming of annual temperature in Nepal
was 0.06° C during 1977-1994 (FAO, 2009). Warming
in high altude is being found to inuence glacial melt
and retreat. These changes have the potenal to alter
precipitaon, the rainfall paern and hydrological
cycle and consequently availability of water resources
resulng in increased ooding or depleon of water
resources. Nepal has experienced extreme weather-
related events such as excessive rainfall, longer drought
period and an increase (in magnitude and frequency)
of landslides and oods (FAO, 2009). These alteraons
in water ow have huge implicaons on regulaon of
forest ecosystem thus impacng the dierent elements
of forests.
Climate change has been found to have negave eect
on the forests of Nepal. The most crical impacts from
climate change that aect forested regions are from
the issues related to water resources such as change in
precipitaon, oods, landslides and droughts. Global
climate change may cause forest damage in terms of
composion by decreasing forest biodiversity and the
endangerment and potenally exncon of species.
Other impacts include invasion of alien species, which
can be an indirect impact of climate change. The forests
of the Himalayan region are considered to be a fragile
ecosystem and suscepble to the impacts of climate
change as well as a region that is a key area in combang
global climate change.
The rst aempt to study the impacts of climate change
on the forests of Nepal was conducted in 2003. The
study found that due to the impacts of climate change,
tropical wet forest and warm temperate rain forest will
disappear, and cool temperate vegetaon will turn to
warm temperate vegetaon. The study also found that
the warming eect will be signicant in the sub-alpine
and alpine regions and the vegetaon system could be
pushed up as much as 500 m in elevaon (MOPE, 2004).
Forests play an important role in maintaining ecosystem,
health and combang climate change. Forest areas
assist by reducing run-o and variability of stream ow
and by minimizing nutrient loss and soil movements
(e.g. slumping, gulling, topsoil loss and mass wasng)
(FAO, 2009; Upadhyay et al, 2004). In Nepal, in the high
altude dry areas with lower precipitaon and weak
resilience of ecosystem, deforestaon has been one
of the major factors for the lands turning into a non-
reversible degraded state (FAO, 2009).
2.2 Biodiversity
‘Biodiversity’ is a term that can be referd to biological
diversity on many levels including genec, species,
habitat and ecosystem level diversity. Esmates of
global biodiversity range from an esmated 10 to 100
million species globally and only a small fracon have
been formally described by sciensts, about 1.4 million
(Lovejoy 1997). Despite these vast numbers, dierent
scienc studies esmate the current rates of exncon
ranges between 1 to 30 % global species loss per decade
(Stork 1997). There are dicules in directly aribung
the impacts on biodiversity to climate change as many
of the eects take place gradually and are oen closely
ed to other environmental stressors such as land
use change, polluon and invasive species (Kappelle
et al. 1999). While biodiversity loss has many drivers
including habitat loss, invasive species, polluon,
human populaon growth and overharvesng, climate
change enhances the stress placed on ecosystems and
In a review of climate change impacts on biodiversity,
Kappelle et al. (1999) idened four major eects,
which include: 1) shis in major vegetaon zones 2)
shis in ranges of species and species assemblages;
3) interacons between the eects of climate
change and habitat fragmentaon; and 4) changes in
ecosystem funconing. The Internaonal Centre for
Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) idened
a conceptual framework for assessing the impacts of
climate change on biodiversity; the framework shows
climate change stressors include rising temperatures,
shiing precipitaon condions and changes in
atmospheric composion which lead to shis in species
ranges, abundances and assemblages and also cause
physiological and phenological changes in some species
(Tse-ring et al. 2012).
From the point of view of biodiversity conservaon,
Nepal is divided into ve to seven physiographic regions.
However, by convenon, it is typically divided into three
large regions based on elevaon: the High Himalayas/
High Mountains (above 3,000 m), Mid-Hills (1,000-
3,000 m) and the Siwalik Hills and Terai Plains (below
500 m) (Acharya 2003). Ecosystem designaon may be
dicult as there are mulple variables to consider and
dierent ways to compartmentalize habitats and species
composions. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) compiled
a list of Terrestrial Eco-regions of the world and dened
them as “relavely large units of land or water containing
a disnct assemblage of natural communies sharing a
large majority of species, dynamics, and environmental
condions” (Olson et al. 2001). The WWF lists Nepal as
containing four eco-region types that are currently all
designated as vulnerable or crically endangered, the
Eastern Himalayan Alpine Meadows, Eastern Himalayan
Broadleaf and Conifer Forests (vulnerable), Terai-Duar
Savannas and Grassland (crical/endangered), Western
Himalayan Temperate Forests (crical/endangered),
while others such as Maskey (1995) cite Nepal as having
188 ecosystem types. Although the denions and
methods used to determine eco-region and ecosystem
Impact of Climate Change on Forests and Biodiversity
and Current Adaptation Practices A Case Study of Nepal
Samriddhi, Journal of Development Studies
Impact of Climate Change on Forests and Biodiversity
and Current Adaptation Practices A Case Study of Nepal
Samriddhi, Journal of Development Studies
Page: 10
Page: 11
vary, it is apparent that Nepal’s geographic provinces
with varied elevaon, underlying geology, hydrology
and local climate variaons due to the
topographic and orographic processes create many
habitat types and ecological niches for species to ulize.
The varied physio-geographic regions in Nepal support
some of the most bio-diverse areas in the world,
housing a large number of species. According to the
Internaonal Union for Conservaon of Nature(IUCN),
the Convenon on Internaonal Trade in Endangered
Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the
Naonal Parks and Wildlife Conservaon Act 2029 of
Nepal, there are 26 mammals, nine birds and three
reple species that are threatened or endangered in
Nepal and are under government protecon. There are
5833 owering plants species in Nepal, 700 of which
are medicinal plants (Dahal 2006). A recent study of
vascular plant species richness and endemism in Nepal
reports that there are 303 plant species endemic to
Nepal and 1957 species that grow in Nepal are endemic
to the Himalayas (Vetaas and Grytnes, 2002).
Large mammals make up a smaller proporon of
Nepal’s biodiversity but these charismac mega-fauna
oen become poster children for habitat and species-
specic conservaon eorts. For example, gers in the
Himalayan region have lost over 90% of their historic
range over the last century but conservaon eorts in
the Terai Arc Landscape have shown increases in the
Nepal ger populaon (Chundawat, 2011). According
to the IUCN red list, twelve large mammal species
are listed as endangered or crically endangered and
include the Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus), Ganges
and Indus River Dolphin (Platanista gangeca), Royal
Bengal Tiger (Panthera gris gris), Snow Leopard
(Uncia uncia), Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens), Greater One-
Horned Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) and the Wild
Asian Water Bualo (Bubalus arnae) with numerous
other species from eleven dierent animal Orders listed
as threatened or vulnerable (IUCN 2013).
Climate change in Nepal is marked by temperature
increases, which lead to snow melt and glacial retreat
and changes in precipitaon levels and type, which
lead to res, ooding, and intensied droughts and
desercaon in some regions. Changes in hydrological
cycles due to glacial melt or precipitaon changes can
impact water source availability, all of which can lead
to physiological stress, forced migraon or potenal
human wildlife conicts. The incidences of extreme
weather events and related disasters such as Glacial Lake
Outburst Floods (GLOFs), res, oods and landslides
have also increased and can completely decimate a
habitat or a populaon (Tse-ring et al. 2012). The gradual
and instantaneous impacts of changes in climate have
both direct and indirect impacts on biodiversity. Based
on dierent climate change warming scenarios, some
forest tree species are expected to migrate further
north and/or higher in altude; species adapted to a
specic habitat and climate may shi their ranges along
with the forest species or face local exrpaon or even
3. Livelihood Impacts Due to Climatic Alterations
Climate change can have signicant adverse impacts
on the natural environment, including loss of forests
and biodiversity. Observed climate changes in Nepal
are having the most profound impacts on people living
in rural and remote areas where their livelihoods are
highly dependent on forests and biodiversity for the
ecosystem services they provide (Mwingira et al, 2011).
Specically, studies show that forests are important
components of the livelihoods system for over two-
thirds of the populaon of Nepal (LFP, 2009). The loss of
forests and species in Nepal could threaten the socio-
economic status of communies and hinder progress
towards sustainable development goals (Mwingira et
al 2011). The livelihood impacts as they relate to the
forests and biodiversity sectors are discussed below in
more details below.
3.1 Forests
Aer water, forests are the most important natural
resources in Nepal (MOPE, 2004). The forests and
trees provide a variety of goods and services to the
people of Nepal including fuel, food, fodder and mber.
Forestry is an integral part of agriculture especially in
the rural areas, where fuel wood is the principal source
of rural energy. About 80 % of the total populaon
depends on the forests for daily fuel wood supply
and approximately 42 % of the fodder for livestock is
extracted from Nepal’s forests (MOPE, 2004). Non-
wood forest products have become the source of
income for the rural poor, medicine for primary health
care and revenue for the government (Christensen,
2009). The forests serve important ecological funcons
such as biodiversity conservaon, erosion control, and
carbon dioxide consumpon. Extensive ulizaon and
increasing demands for forest products have led to
dwindling of forest resource both in area and quality. The
degradaon and decrease of forests directly aects not
only the environment of Nepal, but also the livelihood
and lives of the populaon. Agriculture is the backbone
of the economy and combined agriculture and forestry
contribute 39 % to the total gross domesc product
of the country (FAO, 2009). Nearly two-thirds of the
country’s total populaon (approximately 6.5 million)
depends on agriculture and forestry for sustaining their
livelihoods (FAO, 2009; Christensen, 2009).
3.2 Biodiversity
The forestry and agriculture sectors are oen
addressed separately from biodiversity, forest tree
species as well as agricultural crops are part of the
biological diversity aected by climate change, with
many species (humans included), reliant on the
ecosystem services these spaces provide. Biodiversity,
forest health, agroecosystems and human wellbeing
are inextricably linked. According to the Food and
Agriculture Organizaon (FAO), agriculture, forestry and
sheries sectors will face changes in producvity levels
due to climate change. When biological systems are
stressed due to a typical temperature and precipitaon
regimes, they are more vulnerable to pests, disease and
invasive species. Forests are vital to the livelihoods of
rural people in Nepal, providing the products for both
subsistence and industrial uses. Shi in forests species
to higher altudes may make it more dicult for people
to obtain the natural and physical capital they need
for their livelihoods, either though the collecon of
forest products, fuel, building materials, direct food
sources or the ability to ulize forest products to turn
into nancial capital; because there is a reliance on very
specic species (mber species) other biological species
may not be priorized for conservaon. The agro
biological aspects of climate change are also important
as climate change is driving shis in crop paerns, crop
producvity, increases in disease and pest infestaons.
Agriculture is the main occupaon for many rural
people of Nepal; sowing and harvesng mes of wheat,
maize and rice have shied to start later in the typical
season oen due to the changes in precipitaon and
unpredictable monsoon cycles. Agricultural potenal
is oen aected negavely due to climate change as
increasing temperatures and variable rainfalls can
either cause droughts or inundate crops with water,
leading to crop failure or reduced outputs. Livestocks
are also negavely aected by climate change as water
and food sources for the livestock may become scare
aer a natural disaster or unpredictable weather events
(Livelihoods and Forestry Programme, 2009).
Shiing vegetaon and alteraons in hydrological
regimes are associated with both human migraon,
species range shis and land use changes, which are
leading to an increase in human wildlife conicts.
Humans and other biological species are forced into
compeng for land and resources when natural habitats
and forests are degraded due to droughts, oods and
natural disasters in addion to the land use changes
driven by deforestaon. Human wildlife conicts lead
to human casuales, livestock depredaon, destrucon
of food crops, loss of stored food and loss of property,
which can lead to retaliatory killing of wildlife. The
Terai Arc Landscape (TAL) is densely populated by
people relying on forest products for their livelihoods,
has one of the most highly concentrated populaons
of Bengal Tigers in the world and is also home to the
Greater One Horned Rhinoceros and Asian Elephants,
breeding human-wildlife conicts, a concerning issue
when dealing with mulple negave impacts of climate
change on both wildlife and human life (World Wildlife
Fund 2008).
4. Climate Change Adaptation
4.1 Adaptation Practices
IPCC report states “Climate change adaptaon is the
Adjustment in natural or human systems to a new or
changing environment. Adaptaon to climate change
refers to adjustment in natural or human systems
in response to actual of expected climac smuli
or their eects, which moderates harm or exploits
benecial opportunies. Various types of adaptaon
can be disnguished including ancipatory and
reacve adaptaon, private and public adaptaon and
autonomous and planned adaptaon”. For adaptaon
at the local level, people have been following coping
strategies by using tradional knowledge and local
innovaons to overcome or minimize the possible
adverse eect of climate change. Some of the major
coping strategies include crop diversicaon; shiing
natural resource based livelihoods to livestock; seasonal
migraon (to urban areas as well as internaonally to
India or the Gulf, among others); adopng agro-forestry
pracces; following rotaonal grazing on pastureland;
and applying local techniques to store grain seed fodder
and grasses. Migaon measures have been largely
restricted to forest plantaon, use of carbon friendly
technology such as bio-gas etc. Some of the widely
adopted adaptaon pracces in the forestry sector by
local communies include:
Shiing to stall feeding
Use alternave sources of rewood such as crop
residues, cow dung, bio-gas and cooking gases to
cook foods
Spend more me in collecon of rewood from the
government and community forests
Reduce the number of livestocks or abandon
livestock keeping
Plant fast growing mul-purpose trees (rewood
and fodder purposes) in the private land
Work towards the control of forest res
Control free/uncontrolled grazing in forest land
Improve management system in community forests
Likewise for the biodiversity conservaon various
adaptaon measures are being observed, namely:
Enactment of buer zone
Construcon of water holes in protected areas
Translocaon and rehabilitaon of wildlife species
Expansion in the commercial culvaon of medicinal
and aromac plants
Promoon of habitat and ecosystem restoraon
Impact of Climate Change on Forests and Biodiversity
and Current Adaptation Practices A Case Study of Nepal
Samriddhi, Journal of Development Studies
Impact of Climate Change on Forests and Biodiversity
and Current Adaptation Practices A Case Study of Nepal
Samriddhi, Journal of Development Studies
Page: 12
Page: 13
4.2 Economic Cost of Adaptation
Adaptaon pracces require large investments and local
communies have been bearing this burden – more so
in the recent decades when climate adversies have
escalated. Both in terms of cash and in kind investments,
local people put a lot of eorts to abate the impacts.
Against this backdrop, the global community adopted
the “Bali Acon Plan” at the 2007 United Naons Climate
Change Conference. The plan calls for developed
countries to allocate adequate, predictable, and
sustainable nancial resources and new and addional
resources, including ocial and concessional funding
for developing country pares” to help them adapt to
climate change. It also underscores that internaonal
cooperaon is essenal for building capacity to integrate
adaptaon measures into sectoral and naonal
development plans (World Bank, 2010). Systemac
approach to formulate proper adaptaon acons
demands understanding of the total cost incurred during
adaptaon. Understanding the cost of adaptaon,
however, has not been very easy. Although a few global
studies have been carried out in recent years (Oxfam
2007; Stern 2006; UNDP 2007; UNFCCC 2007; World
Bank 2006) the economics of adaptaon to climate
change is a relavely new research area. Presently,
no agreed methodology to assess overall costs has yet
emerged (Lange,et al 2010) and the economic study of
adaptaon change has largely been absent from peer-
reviewed research.
When dening the costof adaptaon, the consideraon
of the regional “baseline” is of crical importance but
oen the most challenging to esmate. Ideally, the
baseline of a region should dene what would happen
in the absence of climate change adaptaon measures.
Future predicons of development and social changes
for 20-50 years or more further confound adaptaon,
cost esmates. With such uncertaines many research
enes propose the use of mulple baselines when
esmang the cost and benets of an adaptaon opon
under consideraon (World Bank, 2010). Likewise, in
developing countries, database is very limited and data
generaon mostly relies on ‘recall’ method from people
which in itself is dicult as respondents nd diculty
in recalling expenditures and costs occurred years ago.
The life-span of an adaptaon opon under consideraon
further complicates adaptaon investment decision.
The life-span of an infrastructure project (e.g. dams and
roads) may range from 50 to 70 years. When assessing
these opons, the totality of costs, including investment
and maintenance costs, benets and expected impacts
of climate change over the enre period must be
considered. In contrast, health impact adaptaon plans
may take a short- to medium-term view (5 to 20 years)
or longer as needed (Berry, 2007).
IPCC (2007) and others have detailed the
disproporonate aect vulnerable populaons, many
of whom are poor. Adaptaon planning must also
consider the cost distribuon across aected groups.
One method is to weight dierent costs and benets
upon the beneciary and upon the benefactor (e.g.
doubling the benets for poor people, and halving that
for the rich). The pracce of weighng is also fraught
with consideraons as there are subjecve aspects
of what may be considered “rich” and “poor” as this
measure may be regionally inuenced (Lange, G.,,
The UNFCC (2010) has implemented a program to
develop naonal adaptaon plans. Currently, these
adaptaon plans have been implemented in about 23
least-developed countries.
In 2010, the Government of Nepal approved Naonal
Adaptaon Programme of Acon (NAPA). NAPA
developed as a requirement under the UNFCCC to
access funding for the most urgent and immediate
adaptaon needs from the Least Developed Countries
Fund (LDCF). Almost all acons in Nepal and other LDC’s
on ecosystem-based approaches to adaptaon fall into
the natural resource management sectors of agriculture,
water and forests or under biodiversity conservaon.
Acons include, for example, agroforestry, and soil
and water conservaon for adaptaon. In Nepal, the
Agricultural Perspecve Plan (1996), the Forest Sector
Policy (2000), the Wetlands Policy (2003), Conservaon
Strategy (1988) and the Biodiversity Strategy (2002) all
emphasize the link between ecosystems and human.
There are very few studies focused on esmang
the cost of adaptaon. Praccal Acon undertook
the “Mainstreaming Livelihood-Centred Approaches
to Disaster Management” project (Willenbockel D.
2011) in Nepal between 2007 and 2010. During the
project, a total populaon of 718 families (about 3,500
individuals) increased their capacity to cope with
natural disasters induced by climate change. Following
project implementaon for a cost-benet analysis was
conducted that focused on community-level project
acvies and did not include indirect long-term benets
that could arise. The resulng evaluaon revealed the
benets outweigh the economic costs measurably even
when considering discount rates into CBA calculaons
(Willenbockel D. 2011).
A study published by the World Bank in 2011 reports
that the cost between 2010 and 2050 of adapng to
an approximately 2oC warmer world by 2050 is in the
range of $70 billion to $100 billion a year. This range is
of the same order of magnitude as the foreign aid that
developed countries now give to developing countries
each year, but it is sll a very low % age of the wealth of
countries as measured by their GDP. Similar studies have
not been done so far in case of Nepal. In 2014, UNDP is
planning to iniate a comprehensive study on the cost
of adaptaon opons, which will be the rst research in
its kind to nd an economic value of adaptaon being
carried out by communies. Few studies such as Panta,
2010 have evaluated the cost of climate change on small
farmer in Nepal, which argues that farmers have to bear
direct and indirect costs of climate change and costs of
adaptaon and that the costs of climate change is much
higher than the benets. He also argues that esmang
the cost of adaptaon to farmers especially relang to
their livelihoods is not very easy as farming (crops and
livestock) are aected by hosts of other factors, which
do not essenally relate to climate.
5. Discussion
Climac changes are oen felt and perceived dierently
by various stakeholders. The secons below discuss the
viewpoints of key stakeholders such as government,
nonprots, and other pares regarding climate change
impacts on the forests and biodiversity sectors. These
viewpoints can help add qualitave value to scienc
studies and further Nepal’s understanding of the
impacts of climate change on its people and livelihoods.
5.1 Forests
Forestry stakeholders are now recognized to include
forest dependent communies, forest-based industrial
sociees, sophiscated global carbon market investors
and a vast array of pares and individuals in between.
Demand of forests for goods and services signicantly
diers from these diverse stakeholders (FAO 2009).
Nepal became a member of the UN Reducing Emissions
from Deforestaon and Degradaon (REDD) Program
in 2010. This program works to lower greenhouse gas
emissions by ensuring the protecon of forests. Nepal
has also declared that 18 % of the total land area of the
country to be preserved as conservaon forests (MOPE,
In 1993, the enactment of Forest Act gave local
communies the rights to form a forest user group
consisng of tradional users (MOPE 2004). This Forest
Act is the main forest management strategy of Nepal
and based on public parcipaon. In general, this is
known as Community Forestry Management. As a
format for improving the livelihoods of rural peoples,
the Community Forests Management approach was
formally introduced in 1978 to encourage acve
parcipaon of local people. Under the Community
Forest Management structure, local people make
decisions regarding the forest management, ulizaon
and distribuon of benets from a forest. The people
are organized as a Community Forest User Group
(CFUG). CFUGs develop their own operaonal plans,
set harvesng rules, set rates and prices for products,
and determine how surplus income is distributed or
spent. Community Forests Management Approach is
currently the second-largest forest management regime
aer government-managed forests. Since 1980, about
14,000 CFUGs have been formed and approximately
955,358 hectares, one-fourth of Nepal’s naonal forest
is now managed by over 35 % of the total populaon
(FAO 2009; MOPE, 2004).
The Community Forests Management approach in
Nepal is one of the most cited successes for managing
common property resources. CFUGs typically implement
forest protecon measures to promote biodiversity
in community forests that include prohibion to
wildlife hunng, forest re and grazing control, forest
encroachment control, conservaon of soil erosion
prone area and conservaon of water source area
designaons. This approach has been found to be
successful in improving the supply of forest products,
improving the environmental situaon in the mid-
mountain regions, rehabilitang degraded forests and
increasing biodiversity. It is claimed that the approach
oers an aainable means to conserve the biodiversity
of Nepal (Acharya et al, 2004). Some studies are
showing that Nepal’s forest coverage and condion is
signicantly improving due to the Community Forests
Management approach and there is evidence showing
an improvement in the conservaon of forests, both in
increase in area and improved density and enhanced
soil and water management. One study showed that
due to the Community Forests Management approach
forests were decreasing at an annual rate of 1.9 %
during the 1990s and the rate reversed, resulng to an
annual increase of 1.35 % over the period 2000 to 2005
(Acharya et al. 2004; FAO, 2009).
Although it is thought that community based forestry
regimes have assisted in restoring deforested regions
this management approach is not a singular soluon
for maintaining forestry biodiversity and conservaon
(Acharya et al, 2004). Other strategies and priories
for maintaining forestry biodiversity and conservaon
include the followings:
Restructuring of the forestry sector to cope with
Reinvenng and transforming forestry instuons
Policy and legal reforms
Valuaon of forestry contribuons
Formulang and adopng standards for sustainable
forest management
Linking community based forestry and the protected
area system with carbon credit mechanisms
Forestry governance: making it inclusive,
transparent and responsive
Globalizaon: enhancing the forestry sector for
comparave advantages
Linking forestry with poverty alleviaon
Balancing economic development and
environmental conservaon
Impact of Climate Change on Forests and Biodiversity
and Current Adaptation Practices A Case Study of Nepal
Samriddhi, Journal of Development Studies
Impact of Climate Change on Forests and Biodiversity
and Current Adaptation Practices A Case Study of Nepal
Samriddhi, Journal of Development Studies
Page: 14
Page: 15
Forestry research and development
Watershed conservaon and integrated development
Conservaon, domescaon and sustainable harvesng
Landscape level conservaon
Alternave energy
Although the Community Forestry Management
approach is designed as a format for conservaon of the
biodiversity, there are stakeholders and people arguing
that this management approach is contrarily increasing
the threat of biodiversity conservaon. The concerns
regarding this approach are that all of the power is
in the hands of the people and economic stability is
the rst priority whereas conservaon of biodiversity
is the second. There are also some arguments that
community forests management approach is playing
a role in altering the natural ecology and ecosystems
by the planng/removal of various species. In other
words, there is a concern that the management le in
the hands of the people is resulng in an over-managed
and non-natural progression of the forests which will
eventually impact biodiversity and the overall health of
the Nepalese forests (FAO, 2009; Arychara, 2007).
Other migaon and adaptaon strategies and priories
as dened by the Inial Naonal Communicaon to
the Conference of the Pares of the United Naons
Framework Convenon on Climate Change include the
following (MOPE, 2004):
Improved technology to reduce fuel wood
Rehabilitang degraded lands through aorestaon
and reforestaon
Promote sustainable forest management in
leasehold and community forests, parcularly in
the middle hills and the Siwaliks
Increasing CO2 uptake from the atmosphere (by
converng low producve land into grassland and
range lands)
Promote habitat management for protected wild
animals and plants with a parcular focus on buer
zone development and management
Explore opportunies for carbon trading both at
domesc and internaonal levels
Develop an accounng framework for measuring
potenal changes in forest biomass stocks. These
opons together with their nancial and economic
implicaons need to be carefully examined to
establish the GHG abatement potenals.
5.2 Biodiversity
Changing temperature and precipitaon regimes
will aect biodiversity and the people reliant on that
diversity in varied ways. As vulnerability is a funcon
of risk, minus adaptaon capacity,the people ulizing
biodiversity products found in higher altudes are
more vulnerable to the eects of climate change. It is
predicted that the endemic and/or endangered species
found at the highest altudes of the Himalayas in Nepal
will not be able to cope with rising temperatures, as
plant and animal species migrate higher in altude to
seek cooler temperatures, they will at some point no
longer be able to migrate further and will likely face
exncon or local exrpaon. In lower altudes and
more populated regions, changes in temperature and
precipitaon are predicted to impact forest species,
and crops like fruit trees and vegetable farming, directly
impacng people’s normal rounes, subsistence
farming and ulmately their livelihoods (Dahal 2005;
Chaudhary, 2011).
In Nepal and the Himalayas in general, eld surveys have
shown rural people do perceive changes in weather and
vegetaon coverage. As the livelihoods of many rural
people in Nepal are directly linked to natural capital,
stakeholder perspecves on climate change impacts
are the keys to local conservaon eorts. According
to research on local perspecves on climate change in
the Himalayas, over 75 % of respondents perceived the
temperature warming and the onset of spring shiing.
Addionally, over 65 % of respondents perceived
changes in the phenology of some owering species like
peach, marigold, and magnolia trees; respondents also
noted shis in some vegetable species to higher altudes
like chili, tomatoes, ginger, potato, onion, radish, carrot,
cauliower, cabbage, millet, wheat and cardamom. Over
50 % of respondents noted early ripening of their crops
and over 50 % noted observing new crop pests and
diseases. People surveyed also perceived an increase in
mosquitoes in higher altude regions, which are known
as vectors for disease (Chaudhary, 2011). The largest
study on climate change perspecves in the region
made it clear that locals feel the impacts of the complex
interacons among shiing vegetave zones, species
assemblages and habitat fragmentaon. In a survey
specic to climate change impacts in Nepal conducted
through the Livelihoods and Forestry Programme
(2009), respondents conrmed that climate change
negavely impacted their environment and livelihoods,
cing water availability and forest composion as two
highly impacted areas.
The Nepale government is taking steps to migate some
of the impacts to biodiversity in Nepal; these eorts
include beer watershed and land use management,
legal protecon of ecosystems/species through
government managed private and naonal parks
and though promong community engagement in
conservaon and management of forests. Some argue
that community forestry management schemes might
be a good opon for biological conservaon; Community
Forestry User Groups (CFUGs) allow local people to
make decisions about forest management and forest
product uses. The impacts on biodiversity conservaon,
however, are not completely straighorward, as local
community members will likely focus on preserving
and protecng biodiversity that directly impacts their
livelihoods (crops, livestock, forest products, etc) and
this management pracce does not currently state
biodiversity conservaon as a management goal. This is
already evidenced in the case of a higher preference for
mber species over other local shrub species (Acharya,
Human Wildlife Conicts (HWC) are also a major
concerns for biodiversity protecon. The Nepalese
government is trying to tackle human wildlife conicts
through a combinaon of prevenon and compensaon
measures. Preventave measures are important in
reducing HWC through direct measures like electried
fences or use of trenches as well as though beer land
use planning/management, creaon of buer zones
near naonal parks and forested areas, and by changing
crop types planted (for example to ones not favored by
elephants to reduce conicts). In Nepal, compensaon
for human, physical and natural capitals has been
provided by the government in certain regions, for
example near the Chitwan Naonal Park. Compensaon
is given to those that have faced human casuales,
livestock depredaon, destrucon of food crops, loss
of stored food or loss of property. Compensaon takes
the form of direct monetary compensaon and through
“installaon of biogas plants, park jobs, loan and skill
enhancement training” and through scholarship funds
that support the educaon of the children of wildlife
conict vicms. Although community members in this
study are not completely sased with the amount of
direct monetary compensaon received, it does show
their support for more sustainable compensaon
measures that would support the dependents of these
vicms for the long term (World Wildlife Fund, 2008).
As a developing country with a rural and oen poor
populaon, there are not always apparent direct
benets from biodiversity conservaon, although
sectors like travel and tourism are excepons. People
that are reliant on forest products have no direct
incenve to conserve biodiversity that does not directly
impact their livelihoods. As a result, the Livelihoods and
Forestry Programme in Nepal (2009) recommends the
government to use a compensaon or incenve scheme
to enhance biodiversity protecon. A combinaon of
preventave and reacve measures combined with
nancial incenves will connue to promote biological
conservaon in Nepal.
Strategies for maintaining biodiversity overlap with
forestry conservaon eorts but include the followings:
Policy and legal reforms
Creang and managing of Naonal Reserves and
Naonal Parks
Supporng sustainable forest management
Supporng community based forestry management
Community educaon and outreach on the
importance of biodiversity
Balancing economic development and
environmental conservaon
Biodiversity research and development
Landscape level conservaon
Manage Human-Wildlife Conicts (HWC) through
prevenve and reacve measures
Government support for HWC compensatory schemes
Table 1. Summary of Climac Alteraons and Impacts on Forests and
Biodiversity in NepalConclusion
Impacts of Climatic
Impacts on
•Increasing Temperature
•Variaons in Rainfall
•Loss of forest area due
to landslides, GLOFs,
droughts and extreme
weather events
•Shiing tree lines to high-
er elevaons
•Loss of diversity of plant/
tree/shrub species
•Shi in overall health of
forests due to changes in
temperature and precipi-
•Loss of income due
to the decreased
availability of wood
and non-wood for-
est products
•Loss of major carbon
•Loss of availabil-
ity of wood for fuel
to cook and heat
•Loss of availability of
fodder for livestock
•Increasing Temperatures
•Variaons in Rainfall
Shis in major vegetaon
Shis in ranges of species and
species assemblages due
•Local exrpaon or ex-
ncon of species due to
gradual climac variables
or disasters
•Habitat fragmentaon due
to gradual climac vari-
ables or disasters
•Changes in overall ecosys-
tem funconing
•Reduced produc-
on of outputs from
crops like fruit trees
and vegetables
•Shiing producon
to other crop vari-
ees aer primary
crop failure
•Increased exposure
of disease due to hy-
drological changes
or contact with dis-
ease vectors
•Increases in human
wildlife conicts
Loss in tourism sector
6. Conclusion
Due to the increasing emissions of anthropogenic
greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, climac
parameters such as temperature and precipitaon are
changing around the world. These climac alteraons
are currently being observed in Nepal and are projected
to worsen over the upcoming decades. The annual
mean temperature in Nepal has been increasing at
a rate of 0.4°C per decade from 1975-2005 and is
expected to increase by another 3.4°C to 5.2°C by 2100
(Praccal Acon Nepal Oce 2010). Further, Nepal has
been experiencing signicant variaons in rainfall over
the past 30 years. In some places, the average annual
rainfall has been decreasing and droughts are becoming
Impact of Climate Change on Forests and Biodiversity
and Current Adaptation Practices A Case Study of Nepal
Samriddhi, Journal of Development Studies
Impact of Climate Change on Forests and Biodiversity
and Current Adaptation Practices A Case Study of Nepal
Samriddhi, Journal of Development Studies
Page: 16
Page: 17
more frequent. In other areas, the average annual
rainfall has been increasing, parcularly in the form of
extreme rainfall events which are expected to lead to
more oods and landslides.
Climac alteraons such as these, especially increasing
temperatures, are having profound impacts on vital
components of life such as forests and biodiversity,
which make up the livelihoods of many people in Nepal.
Although their exact relaonship with climate change
has yet to be fully understood by science and academia,
there are reports and evidences of disappearances of
exisng species, appearances of new plants and animal
species, and shis in forests and ecosystems from the
perspecves of the local people (Praccal Acon Nepal
Oce 2010). People living in developing countries like
Nepal oen depend on forests for water, food, medicine,
shelter, bers, fuel for cooking, forage for their livestock,
and mber products. Losses of forested areas due to the
impacts of climate change will subsequently threaten
many livelihood capitals (i.e., human, social, physical,
and economic capitals) of the Nepalese people. Further,
these people also highly depend on local plant and
animal species for the ecosystem services they provide.
As some vegetable species such as tomatoes, millet,
and wheat shi to higher elevaons, local communies
will lose income and will be forced to migrate.
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Impact of Climate Change on Forests and Biodiversity
and Current Adaptation Practices A Case Study of Nepal
Samriddhi, Journal of Development Studies
Impact of Climate Change on Forests and Biodiversity
and Current Adaptation Practices A Case Study of Nepal
Samriddhi, Journal of Development Studies
Page: 18 Polyandry Marriage System: Cultural Erosion
A case study in Upper Mustang, Nepal
Juddha Bahadur Gurung
Charter Founder, Conservation and Development Foundation
Nepal is home for cultural diversity. Mustang is one of the districts in Nepal
with nuns, monks, and polyandry system, especially in Upper Mustang.
Before 1990, it was closed society, prohibitive zone for the foreigners
and local people had a limited movement. Since 1992, Government of
Nepal has introduced controlled tourism in Upper Mustang. It has opened
many economic opportunities and change in lifestyle. In 2000, graveled
road access in Upper Mustang made easier for travelers and wider
interaction with outsider. The mass communication also plays significant
role and assists to change the attitude of people. Cumulative impacts
of open society, road access and media changed the internal structure
of society. As a result, it has increased the awareness and alternative
economic opportunity for survival. Then, change has been seen in all
aspects of society including polyandry. This culture is eroding faster than
natural changes in Loba society. Appropriate action is needed to reduce
the erosion rate of polyandry in Mustang society.
Awareness, Open Society
and Polyandry
1. Introduction
Literally, a single woman sharing mulple men as
husbands at a me is known as polyandry (Hornby 1986).
In pracces, fraternal and non-fraternal polyandry
are found. In a fraternal polyandry, all the brothers
in one generaon share a woman as a wife. In Nepal,
fraternal polyandry marriage system is sll in pracce
in Himalayan region (Humla, Dolpa, Mustang, Gorkha,
Dhading, Okhaldhunga, Samkhuwasabha, Taplejung).
But it is at the verge of exncon (THT, 2008, Sharma,.
2007, TKP, 2005). It is contrasng cultural pracce to
monogamous sociees, and is unique and unusual for
many people of the modern society. In non-fraternal
polyandry, a group of like-minded men from dierent
households get married with a single woman. It is
rare and localized cultural pracce in the Himalayan
areas of South Asia, some parts of Africa, Oceania
and Nave America (Schwimmer, 2003). The history
of polyandry system is sll unknown but according
to religious literature in ancient me, Pandavas had
adapted Draupa as common wife for ve brothers in
Mahabharat period (Singh, 1988). This paper aims to
explore current status of exisng polyandry in Upper
It is believed that the polyandry culture started from
Tibet, an adjoining region to Upper Mustang. It is
probably the best way to maintain limited parental
properes right within the same clan and control
populaon of the region (Gurung, 1998). There is a gap
between policy maker and local people’s requirement.
This paper aims to document the trends of polyandry
pracce. The specic objecves are to (1) assess
current status of polyandry system, (2) social approval
of polyandry system and (3) idenfy underlying factors
causing changes in polyandry system. Similarly to
demonstrate and highlight the current status and
social percepon about polyandry system, use trace
out driving forces of adaptaon of polyandry system,
assessing women’s right on children and properes
and to explore any root cause of conict among the
2. Methods
Both primary and secondary data were used for the
study. Exisng cultural pracces, cultural resources
as well as environmental context were explored
through eld survey and interviews with structured
quesonnaires and checklists. Random sampling was
applied for interviews and other related researches.
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as a funcon of land-use change and forest/soil degradaon with special reference to Nepal. Agriculture, ecosystems
& environment, 105(3), 449-465.les/carbon_seques_dynamics_function_
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Himalayan elevation gradient in Nepal. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 11(4), 291 to 301
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in Nepal. Brighton: IDS. Retrieved from:
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Impact of Climate Change on Forests and Biodiversity
and Current Adaptation Practices A Case Study of Nepal
Samriddhi, Journal of Development Studies
Page: 20
Page: 21
3. Study Area
Mustang is one of the most remote districts of Nepal.
It is situated north to the Mt. Annapurna. Mustang is
situated at elevaons ranging from 2000 m to 8,167 m.
A study shows that almost 84% of the area has more
than 300 slopes and very less area has plain along the
bank of Kali Gandaki River. (DDC, Mustang, 2002).
Enre Mustang is a rain-shadow district. The ecological
zones range from temperate zone to alpine pastures.
The district is rich in the pastureland, which provides
an opportunity for livestock herding (Blamont, 1996).
The district is divided into 16 Village Development
Commiees (VDCs), a smallest polico-administrave
unit of Nepal. Tradionally, district is divided into three
regions: (1) Lower Mustang or Thak Sat Say or Thak
Khola (Thakali is a dominant ethnic group), (2) Baragaon
(middle part) and (3) Upper Mustang or Lo Chho Din
or Loba Kingdom, where Gurung is a dominant ethnic
group (DDC Mustang, 2002).
Mustang district’s total populaon is 11,593 (male
5,771, female 5,822) (CBS, 2011). Upper Mustang
covers 2,563 sq. km, which includes barren land (56%),
grazing land (42%), agriculture land (1.4%), shrub land
(0.5%) and water bodies (0.4%) (ACAP M Plan,1998).
There are 28 scaered selements of various sizes
along the watershed of the Kali Gandaki River. Upper
Mustang is the home of 3,844 people (Male 1,797
and female 2,047) and average family size is 3.5 and
populaon density is 1.5/sq km (CBS, 2011). Winter is
cold, dry and windy with northern blizzard. Summer is
windy and warm. Precipitaon is errac with an average
annual rainfall of around 160 mm in Lo-manthang in last
seventeen years (Blamont, 1996).
4. Economy
Livestock farming, subsistence agriculture, winter
migraon for trade and tourism as well as foreign
employment have been playing an important role in
sustaining local economy and livelihood of the people.
Aer the introducon of controlled tourism in Upper
Mustang since 1992, tourism is ourishing (Sapkota,
Winter migraon is a part of livelihood strategy.
During the winter, mostly young people (nearly 66%
populaon) migrate either to avoid harsh climate or
to do trade in south of Annapurna massif or Indian
cies. People usually spend about a quarter of the year
trading in India and Southern parts of Annapurna massif
(Blamont, 1996). Because of short summer, lack of
suitable land for agriculture (0.03 sq. km per household),
poor agriculture infrastructure and input (e.g., irrigaon
etc.), agriculture producon in the region is very low
and animal husbandry higher than naonal average (37
animal/household). These mulplicavely might have
contributed adaptaon of the polyandry system.
Cultural Practices: Monastery, Nunnery and Polyandry
Cultural pracces are social tools to adapt in the
environment. This is true for the Upper Mustang.
They include adapon of monk, nun and polyandry to
control populaon growth. Parents tradionally send
their middle son and daughter to the monastery and
nunnery respecvely. As a result, reproducve rights of
them are tradionally denied. If somebody disobeys the
tradional norms, values and regulaon, they have to
face a heavy penalty such as social exclusion and denial
of parental properes right. Therefore, it can be argued
that social pracces have contributed for reducon
of the populaon growth. Usually, each selement
contains a monastery and a nunnery. Currently, there
are seven acve monasteries with 250 monks and ve
nunneries with 68 nuns. Some of the monks are in
abroad, especially in Indian cies.
5.1 Polyandry Marriage System
Polyandry as a marriage system is tradionally adapted
as a tool for reducing the further fragmentaon of
inhering property, specially livestock, pasture or
grazing land and fragile agriculture land and forest.
In mountain society, natural resources are the prime
factors to sustain human lives. However, cultural
pracces developed to cope with fragile environment of
mountains are facing various challenges, especially from
modern technologies and economic development. The
same is true for polyandry system of Upper Mustang.
5.2. Role of Women in Polyandry
Women have a vital role in a polyandrous family to
maintain harmonious environment. Let me take a story
from Nyamdo, a selement of Chhoser VDC that shows
how a woman played a construcve role in a family
thirty years ago. There was a woman called Mrs. Doma
Gurung, married with six husbands. Most of the me,
she had 2 to 3 husbands at home. She played major role
to maintain the equal relaon, love and aecon among
the husbands. Normally, she read the psychology of the
husbands and provided sexual service for them. she
provided sexual services for more than three husbands
in a day. However, it is very rarely pracced, because in
polyandry families one husband stays always at home
with wife all around the year. It provides sexual security
for the women and provides protecon of family
properes including children. In a polyandry family,
woman has greater role than men. However, men have
Figure 1: A map of Upper Mustang in Nepal
Polyandry Marriage System: Cultural Erosion
A case study in Upper Mustang, Nepal
Samriddhi, Journal of Development Studies equally important role to maintain the good family
relaon among the brothers and husbands. Following
are important cases collected during the eld study.
5.3. Women Right on Children and Properties
Generally, woman status in the polyandry family
depends on the individual capacity of the woman. A
capable and cleaver woman can hold a good posion
in the family and society. Mrs. K. Gurung, for example,
from Upper Dakmar, is the chairman of the local mother
group. The group carries out various social and ritual
acvies. She is the main decision maker in the family.
She has maintained her house as a center for social
gatherings and meeng.
5.4. Number of Husbands in Polyandrous Family
There were 138 families adapng polyandry system in
the 1998 survey. Among them, 128 women had two
husbands, eight women had three husbands and two
women had four husbands.
5.5 Root Causes of Conflict Among Sexual Partners
Irraonal roune of sexual relaon is major route cause
of conict in polyandrous family. Raonal sexual relaon
is dependent on wise atude of women or wife and
elder brothers’ atude to other brothers. Wise woman
plays a vital role to sustain polyandry pracce. She can
eecvely manage the conict among the polyandrous
stakeholders. If women’s role is weaker in the family,
then it is hard to manage the conicts. Similarly, elder
brother has eecve role to maintain polyandrous
harmony relaonship. Women and elder brothers have
to play important role to reduce the conicts among the
polyandrous families.
a. Irrational role of elder brothers: Elder brother’s role is
one of the most important factors for harmonious
relaonship among the brothers. A case study shows
that from Surkhang VDC, women should be strong and
elder brother also understandable. In the polyandry
family, women should be smart as well as should have
good command, skilled management for household
chores. If not, there could be a lot of problems spouses
may have to face. An interesng case is reported from
Yara (3,550m) village such as a polyandrous family’s
sexual roune set by VDC chairman.
b. Irrational role of women: Woman plays vital role to
sustain polyandry system and she is also the center
of conict. Irraonal role of women break the
harmonious relaonship among the brothers. A case
is recorded from Upper Dakmar, Ghami VDC.
c. Similar profession: Similar profession of the polyandrous
family is a source of the conict. A case is recorded
from lower Dakmar, Ghami VDC.
Driving Forces to Erode the Polyandry Marriage System
Culture is a dynamic process and therefore it modies
according to available resources, knowledge and
atude. Knowledge, atude and skill can be change
through educaon. Formal and informal educaon has
increased the awareness of populaon at grassroot
levels. Mustang society was closed before 1990. No single
foreigner except few researchers reached in Mustang.
Tourism, access road and media are the major driving
forces for increasing awareness and changing lifestyle.
These forces play vital the role to increase awareness
and provide alternave livelihood opportunies. Aer
1990, mulparty democracy is restored in the country.
The people’s asouratuibs is very high. Government
of Nepal has launched controlled tourism in Upper
Mustang. Today, there are more than 26 thousand
tourists visited from 75 countries of the globe in last two
decade (ACAP 2013). More than three mes addional
tourist reached in Mustang as supporve crew member
of team in the form of porter and guides. It has provided
a lot of space for interacon with local people. Road
access is another driving force for culture erosion.
With construcon of a road between Lo-Manthang
and Chinese boarders in Tibet Autonomous Region in
2000, goods are available in cheaper rate and direct
access to local and more interacon with foreigners.
Aer mulparty democracy in Nepal, mushrooming the
media such as FM. newspaper, television, telephone,
IT services. These media are the most important tools
to increase awareness of local people. Cumulave
impacts of tourism, road and media to the local people
have dramacally changed their lifestyle and ulmately
negave impacts seen in polyandry marriage system.
Loba society has witnessed many changes brought
about by modernizaon.
5.7 Current Trend of Polyandry System
In 1998, a survey showed that 93% of selements (28
selements) had adapted polyandry pracce but survey
in 2008 about 60% of selements found polyandry
families dropped. The number of polyandrous families
varied in dierent selements. Chhoser VDC had the
highest polyandrous marriage system (27% of total
populaon/household) followed Lo-Manthang (7%
of family). In 2008, only 5% family had adapted the
polyandry pracce. The system went exnct from
Chhuksang but it is sll in pracce in Tsarang and Ghemi
VDCs. The changes seen in society could be the impacts
awareness and more economic opportunies open for
the people.
New generaon is found raonal than old one. It takes
a risk against the violaon of tradional norm and
values of the society. Modern educaon could play
vital role for cultural change. Awareness among the
young generaon, appearing ego-centric sociees and
global economic inuence could be the main factors
for declinaon of cultural pracces including polyandry
system in Mustang. Current status of polyandry marriage
can be observed from Fig. 3, below
Three decade before, many people adapted polyandry
Polyandry Marriage System: Cultural Erosion
A case study in Upper Mustang, Nepal
Samriddhi, Journal of Development Studies
Page: 22
Page: 23
system. Signicant number of people had pracced
polyandry system. The younger generaon has not
adapted that system see Fig.1. It indicates that within
next ten years no one is going to adapt polyandry.
Rapidly declining trend is observed [See Fig 2. ]
Fig. 1 Age wise structure of polyandrous in Upper Mustang in 1998
Comparave chart of one decade age wise polyandrous in Upper Mustang
Fig. 3 Current trend of the polyandry family in Upper Mustang
6. Discussion
Many anthropologists studied about polyandry marriage
system and have put several arguments. One of the
arguments says that family security is the main cause
of polyandry adaptaon in the mountain sociees.
Polyandry is a cultural response to a prolonged absence
of males in the family- a phenomenon observed
commonly in all polyandrous sociees (Gough 1959,
Prince Peter 1955). Other argued that economy is
the main driving force for the polyandry adaptaon
(Westermarck, 1922, Ghosh, 1987, Berreman 1987,
Majumdar 1963, Peter, 1955). Some claimed that the
adaptaon of polyandry is the outcomes of the labor
division in households or among the brothers (Raha, 1987). Some source claims that it is self-sucient
mechanism, because among the brothers they establish
the “corporate group” and maintaining complementary
and supplementary roles within the family or sociees.
It is a mechanism of resource conservaon, where
resources scarcity exists for liming populaon
From sociologists point of view, the system is driven
by the social security. The prolonged absence of men
from their homes, necessitated by the demands of their
profession, may also lead to polyandry in some sociees
to ensure protecon and support for their wives by
their kinsmen (Singh,1988). Polyandry is perceived,
therefore, as a security measure for the rest of the family
members, because it keeps mulple males in the family
so that at least one could stay at home (Berreman 1962,
Kapadia 1955). Similar observaons are found in the
Upper Mustang too. One male is always at home while
rest of the husbands are away from home engaging in
the income generang acvies like animal husbandry
in high land pasture or other alternave business.
Remoteness or geographical inaccessibility is one of
the underlying factors of polyandry system. Polyandry
pracces are recorded in the highly inaccessible regions
such as Tibetan Plato similar to Upper Mustang. In
Chhoser VDC, for example, there is highest proporon
of polyandry family (27%) and is also characterized by
the most harsh climate and remoteness in the Upper
Mustang. In Chhuksang VDC, polyandry is totally out of
society. Geographically, it is located in beer land and
climate for agriculture compared to rest of the VDCs in
Globalizaon has greater impact on tradional culture.
Technological innovaons have brought many changes
in living standard of people by giving them a beer
access to informaon, transportaon, means of new
trade and business. Consequently, there is a decreasing
trend of tradional economic acvies in Upper
Mustang (Sapkota, 2007).
Government of Nepal has programs and policies for
conservaon of various cultural pracces and ritual of
dierent ethnic groups and naonalies. Integrated
plans and programs are necessary for conservaon of
polyandry and their contribuon in natural resources
management. Regarding the nancial status of
polyandrous family in Upper Mustang, they are well o
compared to other families of the villages. It is due to
the sound management of household resources.
7. Conclusion
Polyandry system is a livelihood strategy of people of
Himalaya close to Tibetan boarder of Nepal. Upper
Mustang, where ethnic Gurungs dominate, polyandry
system is sll in pracce. It is adapted for the maintenance
of limited parental property right in the same clan,
and conservaon of scare and diminishing natural
resources. Women have a greater role to maintain
harmonies among the family members, especially
among the husbands. Conicts are increasing mainly
Polyandry Marriage System: Cultural Erosion
A case study in Upper Mustang, Nepal
Samriddhi, Journal of Development Studies due to modernizaon. Consequently, polyandry families
are reduced from 12 % to 5% in Upper Mustang within a
decade. Open society, specially controlled tourism, road
access and media, has brought the change in life style of
people and internal structure of society is changed and
direct impacts seen in polyandry pracces. Polyandry is
unique and very important culture. It has to conserve
and immediately appropriate acon has to be taken.
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