Can non timber forest products really help to reduce rural poverty and if so, how can they be more effectively used to balance human and conservation needs? Hills and mountains of Nepal's Himalaya are a treasure-trove of Non Timber Forest Products (NTFP) and Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (MAPs) and associated indigenous and traditional knowledge wealth. Have they been given adequate attention to cope with issues such as unsustainable harvesting and habitat loss linking conservation with livelihoods?
These are the pressing questions that a multi-stakeholders' workshop organised in Nepal on exploring ways to equitable benefit sharing sought to answer so that lessons and scenarios confirm to the national and international obligations of sustainable management of natural resources.
Inaugurating the workshop, chief guest and acting secretary of the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation Dr. Krishna Chandra Paudel said that the policies, programmes and strategies for developing a vibrant and sustainable community-based NTFP sector should be based on the foundation of people-centred, livelihood-focused and biodiversity-enriching principles. The vision has to be based on the long-term goal of providing equitable access, fair share of benefits and conservation through the sustainable use to the local communities.
Prabhu Budhathoki, Country Representative of IUCN Nepal, said that millions of people living in poverty depend heavily on NTFPs as a major contributor to their livelihoods. "IUCN Nepal's practical innovations for inclusive conservation of NTFPs and sustainable livelihoods project in Doti district believes that sustainable use of natural resources can only be achieved if poverty reduction is at the core of conservation approaches," he remarked during the welcome address.
Delivering his note, Director General of the Department of Plant Resources and Member Secretary of Herbs and NTFP Coordination Committee (HNCC) Dr. Lokendra Raj Sharma said that the government has been implementing a more holistic approach that reflects the realities on the ground and that supports the livelihoods of the rural poor in a way that supports the balance between people and nature.
During the workshop, four leading thematic experts delivered though-provoking presentations from diverse perspectives - managing NTFPs and MAPs for sustainable livelihoods relating to MDG and Nepal's obligations to CBD; micro-enterprise promotion; and sustainable management and harvesting practices.