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The people living in our project areas in Nepal are on the frontlines of conservation and our most important allies for saving the red panda. They are often rural communities, living in poverty, who depend on a wide range of natural resources and ecosystem services for their well-being. Unfortunately, this means they are more vulnerable when biodiversity is degraded or lost.
But the environment and economy are interdependent. As the forests and wildlife are protected, pressure on forest resources is alleviated and the livelihoods of local people improve as well as their resistance to environmental and climatic changes.
Economic opportunities in the high-mountains are scarce and those that do exist often contribute to the degradation and loss of red panda habitats. RPN's community-based programs provide sustainable livelihoods while reducing dependency on forest resources and fostering environmental stewardship.
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Forest Guardians are the heart of RPN’s community-based efforts. They are local people hired to monitor and protect red panda habitat and educate their own communities on the importance of conservation. The Forest Guardian program is directly supported by donations from people like you! Learn how you can help support our Forest Guardians.
RPN has established a Nursery Guardians program to create nurseries in degraded forest areas for growing bamboo, and medicinal plants. These nurseries help generate jobs, increase local incomes and reduce pressure on forest resources by providing a sustainable source of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) for the local communities.
RPN distributes seeds and provides greenhouses to help improve local agricultural yield. These high-value crops help farmers increase food production for their families, and offers sustainable income-generating opportunities by allowing them to sell to their communities.
Bio-briquettes are used with improved cookstoves to help reduce consumption of firewood, offering an alternative fuel source for cooking and heating. RPN provides educational and technical training for the rural communities in Nepal on converting dry biomass into char powder that can be used to make quality charcoal briquettes. Once pressed, the bio-briquette becomes a much more efficient and less polluting energy source. Locals can also produce briquettes to generate income by selling them in local markets.
We help communities earn a living and support their families by purchasing sustainably sourced handicrafts and products and selling them through an online store and our wholesale partners.
RPN ecotrips are not only incredibly popular with tourists, but also gives our local partners a sustainable income source, by providing homestay and gothstay services and serving as nature guides during ecotrips. RPN provides guidance and training for these opportunities that bolster livelihoods while fostering environmental protection among local communities.
Learn more about gothstay tourism here.
The Allo (Girardinia diversifolia), commonly known as the Himalayan nettle, is an abundant plant that produces a fiber that can be woven to produce goods for sale. RPN leads trainings with marginalized families, so they can develop the skills needed for extracting the fiber to create new income streams and opportunities.
RPN provides locals with fuel-efficient cookstoves that reduce firewood consumption and air pollution. ICS can also be easily dismantled and transported to new locations (a particularly useful feature for herders). These cookstoves have contributed to a 50% reduction in fuelwood consumption and local deforestation, reduced indoor air pollution, and improved space heating.
Forest degradation and fragmentation are major threats to red panda populations in the PIT corridor. RPN, in collaboration with local organizations and government agencies, is restoring degraded forests by planting trees and vegetation (including bamboo) to rebuild red panda habitats and regenerate food sources. Learn more about this important campaign.
Livestock herders need timber regularly to build and maintain herding stations, and are a major cause for red panda habitat loss and degradation in Eastern Nepal. Additionally, livestock that graze in the forests directly compete with red pandas for food sources. RPN is working with local herders to reduce their dependency on timber and have designed an improved goth (livestock shed) that includes a portable canvas tent and modern cooking stoves to replace the inefficient herding stations.
Learn more in A New Life for Herders and Red Pandas in the Himalayas
RPN is also supporting sustainable herding practices by working with CFUGs to form a livestock herding management committee that supports the adoption of more environmentally sustainable herding practices. This committee helps educate herders on modern herding methods including stall-feeding, improved sanitation, and proper management and disposal of livestock waste. RPN also provides fodder seedlings to local herders to encourage stall feeding and reduce the need for forest grazing.
Water scarcity is a problem in Nepal's red panda habitat. Many families in the PIT corridor have little-to-no access to clean drinking water, and often need to travel into red panda habitats to gather water. RPN has launched a drinking water project where we are providing reverse osmosis (RO) filters. Access to clean drinking water will help protect families from health risks and reduce human encroachment into red panda habitats. RPN is also restoring and creating waterholes for wildlife and to reduce competition between people and red pandas over water supplies.
Forest fires are a significant risk to both red pandas and local communities. RPN organizes community forest firefighting teams consisting of Community Forest User Group (CFUG) members trained in combating forest fires and educated on fire types, causes, effects and preventive measures. RPN also provides forest firefighting tools to the team members. These efforts have helped increase awareness among CFUGs on how to prevent fires, and the adverse impacts on biodiversity.
Feral, hunting and herding dogs have been identified as major threats to red pandas in Eastern Nepal. We have received reports of these dogs killing red pandas. Dogs can also carry rabies and canine distemper virus which are fatal to red pandas. RPN has partnered with the District Livestock Service Centre of Ilam and Taplejung to implement a neutering and rabies vaccination program for these herding, feral and pet dogs.
Hectares of Community Forest area managed with red panda conservation measures.
Water ponds created or restored in red panda habitat.
Feral dogs vaccinated with anti-rabies vaccine.