SISTEER Nepal Day 13: Outdoor Lesson by ForestAction

ForestAction was invited by the government and local community to assist in the management of the forest and community due to the need for intervention in the numerous issues that profilerated between the parties. As most of the households in the community were agriculture-based, the need for water, fodder and firewood from the forest was constantly increasing, which proved to be unsustainable and detrimental for the community and forest. Additionally, it was noted that there was constant conflict between the government and local community and within the local community itself. With the tragedy of the commons, people were working for their own self-interest, without an efficient governing body, resulting in unsustainable and inefficient practices within the community. Hence, ForestAction was invited to manage and resolve the many of issues faced by the community. 

ForestAction adopted a community-driven approached by empowering the community and encouraging a mindset of active citizenry and participation. A forest management committee was formed as a governing body for the forest and to deconflict issues between the government and local community. ForestAction also visited every household to understand and learn more about their problems faced and personal needs. By doing so, ForestAction can better understand the community, allowing them to implement solutions to tackle specific important issues faced. Training and education was provided to the community to empower and teach them on the importance of environmental conservation, hence allowing the locals to understand the repercussions of irresponsible forest practices. Additionally, the community initiated the planting of 5 different tree species in the forest and laws were put in place to punish illegal deforestation and harvesting of resources. Also, an annual assembly was introduced where locals and government officials were encouraged to attend and voice out issues freely. It can be seen that the presence of conflict within the local community aggravated the destruction of the forest. Hence, through the education and empowerment of locals, ForestAction provided sustainable and efficient solutions to solving conflict and issues faced in the local community,

An alarming problem that Banepa faces is the lack of supply to drinking water. Banepa employs the concept of Siviculture, which is the growth and cultivation of trees to act as a main source of water supply for the community. This improves the water collection area, not just for the purpose of timber. However, there are only 4 different areas of water resource. 55 households collect water from the area of Banepa while 35 collect water from outside the committee. No system was in place to convert or transport drinking water to accessible areas for the household. Hence, this led to a prevalent problem of insufficient and unfair distribution of drinking water. The absence of management of water resources caused people to simply install a pipe from the main water resource to their homes. This caused conflict between the lower and upper caste within the committee of Banepa and almost complete inaccessibility of drinking water for the locals belonging to the lower caste. Thus, Forest Action's intervention by creating more points for water collection and a simple but multi- purpose system of regulating and filtration to drinking water largely resolved the issue of accessibility of drinking water for the Banepa community. Their smallest water catchment point consists of simple set up with the usage of hoses for transportation of water, a tap and a brick tank( measuring 80cm x 80cm x 50 cm) was able to contain and transport water to a significant number of households. The simplicity allowed for minimum usage of resources but maximum efficiency which left a deep impression on us. The innovation and appropriateness of the design to suit Banepa's environment not only resolved the issue of lack of drinking water but also encouraged the continual efforts in conservation of the forest. 

In hopes of achieving sustainability and equity in their management of water and the forest, ForestAction works towards cutting majority of their pine trees, replacing them with different species of plants. This is due to the large usage of water for the growth of the pine trees, which hinders the supply of water to be converted for proper drinking usage. To increase the supply of drinking water for the locals residing in the Banepa, plans to cut the water resource from the outside committee are in discussion. In addition, ForestAction is creating a big water tank, striving to provide each household with a water tank to Ensure access and convenience of drinking water.

In conclusion, ForestAction aided in instilling responsibility of the locals, highlighting the need for  active citizenship to resolve the issues that the Banepa community was facing. Organising a governing community enhanced communication amongst the locals and its leaders hence contributing to the efficiency in the ForestAction's efforts to solve the several issues such as the need for drinking water. We have also witnessed the use of social innovation in the design of the water tank in transportation and filtration of water which taught us that even in simplicity, efficiency can be maximised for the Long term. Thus, the visit to Forest Action at Banepa has taught us to not only be appreciative but how active citizenship plays a significant impact in the success of efforts from external parties.

Written by Pei Yi & Kenneth Cheo