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‘Province 1 meeting to declare the new 176,000-acre Lumbasumba Conservation Area Convenes in Kathmandu’

Since early 2017, KTK-BELT and our incredible local partner, Sankhuwasabha Learning Grounds (SLG) have been leading the charge to create a 176,000-acre Community-Based Conservation Area in the Lumbasumba that will link Kanchenjunga Conservation Area and Makalu-Barun National Park, the 3rd and 5th tallest peaks in the world. This new habitat connectivity would allow nature & culture to thrive, giving new protection to the incredible national treasures of this region which include snow leopard, red pandas, hundreds of unique medicinal plants such as Bikhuma, Panchaule, and Kutki, and splendid birds like the Satyr Tragopan, Steppe Eagle, Silver-eared Mesia, and Wood Snipe– all threatened with extinction. The project is supported with a five-year grant from the Rainforest Trust, 2017-2022.

Until now, we have been working on the ground, building household level consent, assessing local views on the concept. Our team, which includes district coordinators, community mobilizers and youth fellows, spent a year doing the arduous work of carrying out household-to-household surveys, going door to door, to get complete consent for the idea. This incredible work by Wang Chhedar Bhote, Mohan Pandey, Kamala Rai, Tsering Dorje, and Gandema Bhote has paved the way for the local Rural Municipality chairpersons to endorse and now champion the concept, as we move to the province and national level.

The Lumbasumba, a region of notable floristic and faunal diversity, has been facing critical threats such as habitat modification and fragmentation, unsustainable use of natural resources, forest fires, infestations of invasive species, and loss of traditional knowledge and weakening of the cultural factors that buttress conservation. These trends underscore the need for the creation of this new conservation area.

This past December, we hosted our first province-level gathering in Taragaon Museum to build further consent for the concept. State Minister Honorable Ram Kumari Chaudhary was the chief guest. We were heartened to see so many female lawmakers stand up and speak in support of the Lumbasumba.

Also in attendance was special guest, Purna Prasad Rai, Member of the Provincial Assembly for State 1 who had the following to say: “The herders know EVERY detail about these landscapes, all of the habitats of wildlife, the behavioral ecology of the organisms there and their prey status. They also possess knowledge about the poachers’ routes. So, local farmers and herders must be at the core of the conservation of the Lumbasumba region.”

Our next step will be to hold a similar gathering in Biratnagar within State 1 in March 2019, before proceeding to the national level thereafter. Our approach from the beginning has been to move from the ground level up, so that all of the local stakeholders are helping shape this new conservation area, giving it lasting power.

KTK-BELT and SLG would like to thank ALL of the local government participants:

Chief Guest: Honourable State Minister Ram Kumari Chaudhary, Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development

Special Guest: Honourable Purna Prasad Rai, Member of Provincial Assembly, Province 1

Other Notable Guests: Provincial Assembly Members, Province 1 – Sarita Khadka and Umita Baraili; Secretary of House of Representatives-Gopal Nath Yogi; Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Forest, Tourism and Industry, Province 1- Krishna Prasad Poudel; Co-Chairpersons of the Makalu Rural Municipality and Bhotkhola Rural Municipality- Chameli Rai and Panjam Bhote; Deputy Secretary of NGO Federation Nepal-Dinesh Chaudhary; President of the FECOFUN Sankhuwasabha- Badri Sapkota; President of the FECOFUN Taplejung – Krishna Ojha

Co-Chairperson of the Makalu Rural Municipality and Bhotkhola Rural Municipality- Chameli Rai
Secretary of the House of Representatives, Mr.Gopal Nath Yogi
Chief Guest Honourable State Minister Ram Kumari Chaudhary, Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development and Special Guest, Honourable Purna Prasad Rai, Member of Provincial Assembly, Province 1
Provincial Assembly Members, Province 1 – Sarita Khadka (foreground) and Umita Baraili (background)
Provincial Assembly Members, Province 1 Umita Baraili shares her views on the Lumbasumba at Taragaon Museum December 19, 2018 gathering of provincial leaders
Special Guest (Bishesh Athithi) Honourable Purna Prasad Rai, Member of Provincial Assembly, Province 1
All participants at the discussion program.
Chief Guest Honourable State Minister Ram Kumari Chaudhary, Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development stressed the importance of indigenous knowledge and having local people lead in conservation of natural resources.
Provincial Assembly Members, Province 1 Sarita Khadka
District Coordinator Wang Chhedar Bhote briefs participants on the history and evolution of the Lumbasumba concept.
Community Mobilizer Kamala Rai takes notes
Co-Chairpersons of the Makalu Rural Municipality and Bhotkhola Rural Municipality Panjam Bhote
Screening of indigenous knowledge video

A neighbourhood boy and his forest classroom

While conducting an outdoor class one day, a boy staring in the class caught my attention. He was the same age as the rest of the students in the class but didn’t have a uniform on nor seemed to know anyone in the class. Seeing him of the same age of the rest of the students of the class, I asked him to join in with the rest of the students. He introduced himself as Pasang Sherpa, an 11 years old boy, living with his single mother who worked in one of the farms near the Sikti forest. Pasang walked in and started to attend our outdoor education classes on a daily basis. As we came to know more of him, we realized that he was not a proper resident of the village and had migrated from a village nearby. Due to this, he missed the school enrollment and was waiting until next year for new admission to join other students and study in a classroom again. 

Within a short period of time, Pasang displayed intelligence and great interest in the things taught in the class. What most stood out of him was his detailed knowledge of the Sikti trail landscape, an area he has travelled too often with his mother, who worked for villagers to make ends meet. As the trail was the classroom in our Outdoor Education, the boy never hesitated to give any known information about the landscape in the class. He quickly caught everyone’s attention and became good friends with the rest of the students as well. 

We recently discovered that his mother had married off to another village and he has been living with his relatives. The boy, despite the hassle going on in his life, is still attending all the outdoor classes with the same level of enthusiasm and passion for knowledge. He patiently awaits for the year to end, so that he can finally join his now classmates in their school to study what they are studying, wearing the same uniform and laughing at the same joke. For now, we hope he is content with the classroom he has found in our outdoor education class every week. 

As Pasang walks into the class every week, he might be unsure about it yet, but as I briefly gaze at him, I know, that he is walking towards a better future tomorrow.

Students like Pasang, who are keen to learn should be motivated towards knowledge, be it science discovered on the other side of the world, or the local landscape and the existing nature. After all, with proper guidance today, it is these enthusiastic kids who are inclined to be the future of conservation tomorrow. 

Beads Bazaar, Asan – Ganga Limbu

Beads Bazaar, Asan from Ganga Limbu on Vimeo.

I have just finished the workshop ‘Immersive stories innovative mediums’, which was held in collaboration with and Kathmandu Triennale. It was a great exposure for me to meet multi-talented artists such as Prasiit dai, Kishor dai, Diana, Alok Siddhi Tuladhar, teammate Sandhya Shrestha and other artists from various mediums.

For our project, our team decided to work in Potey Bazaar (beads market) in Indrachowk, Asan. Locals also called the area “Kashmiri bazaar”, probably referring to the Muslim heritage. It was really surprising to learn that the beads makers and sellers were all Muslim even though potey (beaded necklaces) are primarily seen as a symbol of Hinduism. The history of the area dates back to the Malla era when the Malla Kings had brought this community of artisans from India specifically to make the beaded necklaces. Similar to other parts of Nepal, I found that young people from the area had gone abroad. But even when they come back, they tended to work in the same trade making beaded jewelries after their ancestors.

Before doing this workshop, I had a very different understanding of Muslim community as being reserved, very religious and secretive. However, instead, I found young and old people who were welcoming and nice. Even during work time, they were interested in sharing their stories and experiences. They even fed me maybe 9-10 cups of tea throughout the interview process. Through them, I heard tales of royalties of Nepal and their interactions while making jewelries for the Ranas and Shahs.

Before coming here, I had also never thought about the actual process of making beaded necklaces or the people who were making them. During the documentation process, the artisans took time to illustrate the different steps. I realized that different people were involved in the different steps of making a necklace. Above you can see the final video that I produced showing the process of making beaded necklaces in the Bazaar.

During the workshop, we also visited different exhibitions where I found out about new mediums of expressions through photographs, performance art, videos, sound art, handmade crafts and sculptures. I also realized the importance of an instructor to guide the process of executing ideas into final pieces.

This was my first exhibit. And I am really grateful to have received this opportunity to be a part of it. It was also very interesting for me to observe how people were responding to it as well. Like myself, many confessed to never knowing the history about the area as well as the process of making potey.


We are expanding!

KTK-BELT is expanding its conservation team. We are looking to fill 6 very special positions immediately. Please have a look at the TOR and do apply if you have a suitable professional background in botany, ornithology, agricultural sciences, wetland ecology, conservation biology, agro-forestry, permaculture, and project leadership. (Nepalese nationals only. Early Deadline to apply: Friday, April 7. Duty Station is eastern Nepal with periodic travel to Kathmandu).