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As custodians of nature, people and communities matter in the making of a conservation collective. Importantly increasing evidence from across initiatives show us that to realize sustainable conservation, more people need to directly relate to and feel rewarded for their conservation ethic. It means that future conservation must seek to fully strengthen the economy of local communities, and their meaningful interaction with the environment and its resources. 

Understanding that natural capital, social capital and economic capital of any region must necessarily complement one another, NTNC has from its very inception maintained a people-centric approach. Using the integrated conservation development programme (ICDP) as a guiding approach, this has proved successful in diversifying livelihood opportunities for scores of thousands of households and families living within our designated working area. The resounding success of the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) in the mountains, and Baghmara Buffer Zone Community Forest in the terai are only among the many differences that conservation has brought about in people’s lives.

The value chain achieved through our efforts in promoting nature-based tourism services, community infrastructure, high value cash crop farming techniques, improved methods in harvesting of non-timber forest products (NTFPs), improved livestock rearing practices, local entrepreneurship development along with skills and capacity building, have been major drivers of the local economy. They have been key in mainstreaming our conservation agendas whilst also keeping with the broader sustainable development goals of eradicating poverty (SDG Goal 1) and fostering an environment for economic opportunity and growth (SDG Goal 8). 

Our concerted efforts toward economic empowerment aim to promote low carbon pathways—one in which conservation and economic value are able to complement one another. Respecting the right of communities to the traditional access of their lands and resources, as well as their changing aspirations, we see ourselves as agents that can make a difference in their overall economic and social prosperity. This is true also in relation to ensuring equitable sharing of economic benefits and opportunities, as well as access to resources.

But despite progress, keeping with local aspirations can come with unforeseen challenges. Securing communities from natural disasters, commonly flood and landslide-related, and increasing climate change resilience have severe economic costs. The 2015 earthquake has been a major setback to some of our perceived targets, especially in the mountain areas, that are still coping with post-disaster reconstruction work. Although the remoteness of some of our working areas come with inherent challenges, the pristineness of these environments offer tremendous opportunities for pursuing sustainable conservation practices.

Besides tourism-related potentials, there are tremendous opportunities to pursue innovation and strategy in a variety of other sectors. Promotion of green enterprises such as tea, coffee, cardamom, mentha and other high value cash crops, including non-timber forest products offer huge economic prospect, and are expected to be a game changer for all those conservation-related communities aspiring economic empowerment. But to do this, how we integrate skills and develop enterprise services will be important. That is why along with meaningful local participation, we aim for ensured economic incentives that promote equitable sharing of benefits and reduce marginalization, this along with the incorporation of traditional practices, local knowledge, and institutions in the design and implementation of our programmes. NTNC believes that creating these diverse economic opportunities will eventually help complement the natural and social diversity of our working areas.

Some Facts

Land, forests, minerals and water provide the livelihood base in Nepal for 90% of the population, representing almost 40% of GDP Nepal ranks 37th in terms of travel and tourism direct contribution to GDP among 185 countries (World Travel and Tourism Council, 2017)
Almost half of the entire tourists coming to Nepal visit protected areas (PAs) Nepal's tourism industry directly supported more than 427,000 jobs in 2016. By 2027, the industry is expected to support 1,325,000 jobs
NTNC is a pioneer of implementing the Integrated Conservation and Development Programme (ICDP) model in Nepal, which keeps communities at the heart of conservation actualization NTNC's economic empowerment principle is targeted toward a low carbon footprint economy; harnessing nature for conserving forests and ecosystems