Conservation initiatives without tangible benefits to local communities are seldom sustainable in the long-run. Realizing this fact, Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (LI-BIRD) is piloting a market-led approach for sustainable management of agrobiodiversity. The project is being implemented in watershed area of Lake Cluster of Pokhara Valley (LCPV) from June 2019 to May 2022 with funding from Darwin Initiative Round 25 (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, UK). The project site comprises of nine lakes, namely Phewa, Kamalpokhari, Gunde, Neureni, Khaaste, Dipang, Maidi, Begnas and Rupa of Pokhara valley. With rich biodiversity, culture and economic importance, the LCPV has been designated as 10th Ramsar Site of Nepal on 2 February 2016. It is located at the central section of Lower Himalaya (28°08’02’’ N 84°59’18’’ E) and it together has 261.6 km2 of basin and 8.97 km2 of water cover.
The project inception workshop was successfully organized on 19 July 2019. The programme was chaired by LI-BIRD Executive Board Chairperson Mr. Krishna Prasad Baral, with the Honourable Minister Lekh Bahadur Thapa Magar from the Ministry of Land Management, Agriculture and Cooperative (MoLMAC) of the Gandaki Province as chief guest. A total of 67 persons (55 men, 12 women) from different sectors: public (MoLMAC, Pokhara Metropolitan-Agriculture section, Seed Lab Pokhara, Annapurna Rural Municipality); private (Pokhara Chamber of Commerce, The Bazar); research and educational institution (Institute of Forestry, Nepal Agricultural Research Council Fisheries Research, Regional Agricultural Research Station Lumle, Council of Technical Education and Vocational Training Technical College); and civil society organizations (Machhapuchhre Development Organization, Nari Sewa Kendra, Lake Conservation and Management Committee) and agricultural cooperatives were present in the workshop.
LI-BIRD’s Operations Director, Mr Pitambar Shrestha welcomed the participants and talked about the objective of the inception workshop. Dr. Balaram Thapa, LI-BIRD’s Executive Director then gave an overview of LI-BIRD’s work with special focus in Gandaki Province. In the final presentation, Dr. Ram Rana, Principal Investigator, highlighted the project’s conceptual framework to capitalize on the increasing demands of agrobiodiversity products in regional market by sourcing products from local producers thus directly contributing to their livelihoods.
The market-led approach, Unified Landscape Branding (ULB), was highly appreciated by the forum. In this approach, local fresh produce, processed products from the LCPV will be marketed under – Unified Landscape Brand – in local, regional and national markets to generate income. The mechanism of investing certain percentage of profit generated from the business will be established in watershed and biodiversity management in the region thus creating a self-sustaining mechanism for conservation of natural habitat of lakes, which is at the centre of wetland biodiversity.