World Wildlife Fund (WWF) - Integrating Population & Health into Forest Management Agendas (2006 – 2008)
The Terai Arc Landscape (TAL) in Nepal and India encompasses one of the most biologically diverse habitats on Earth. Its alluvial grasslands and subtropical deciduous forests support 86 species of mammals, 550 species of birds, 47 species of reptiles and amphibians, 126 species of fish, and over 2,100 species of flowering plants. TAL covers the only remaining natural habitat on the southern slopes of the Himalayas for the Royal Bengal tiger, Asian elephant and one-horned rhinoceros.
With 40 years of presence in Nepal, WWF has transitioned from an early focus on species conservation, protected areas and research, to a more collaborative approach that promotes participatory involvement of local people in conservation in broad landscapes. To do this, WWF works in partnership with donors, stakeholders, interest groups, and local people. WWF/Nepal is building on this platform by integrating health and population activities into the ongoing community forestry user group (CFUG) activities in the Khata area near Bardia National Park in the southwest of Nepal, with support from Johnson & Johnson and USAID. With Johnson & Johnson funding that started in 2003, support has been provided to: establish a health clinic promote biogas and improved cook stoves; and improve of water supplies. The project also collaborates with the Nepal Red Cross Society to train women health workers in family planning and reproductive health work, and to promote awareness on reproductive health care among adolescent groups through peer education.
The USAID-funded project complements and expands this work, aiming to test the use of community forestry institutions to plan, implement, and monitor community-based and integrated population, health, and environment (PHE) activities. WWF will participate with the Nepali NGO RIMS and will receive support in Reproductive Health and Family Planning from International NGO Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in this project.
A recent demographic analysis by WWF Nepal in the Terai Arc revealed that the population in the landscape has more than doubled since the 1970s (from 2.5 million in 1971 to 6.7 million in 2001). Population growth rate during 1991 – 2001 was 2.83%, compared with the national rate of 2.25%, and future projections for the Terai estimate that population size will reach 8.8 million by 2016. This will cause increased pressure on the Terai’s already threatened natural resources and biodiversity. In communities already working with successful USAID/Nepal projects targeting forestry user groups, high levels of unmet need for family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) are observed. Provision of FP/RH is hampered by a lack of appropriate local institutions. Noting that user groups are often the only viable local institutions in much of rural Nepal, this follow-up USAID-funded Project seeks to build the capacity of these user groups to respond to the FP/RH needs of their members and the environmental challenges posed by increasing population pressure in forest corridors and buffer zones.
With over 14,000 CFUG and federations operating nationwide, and the presence of large conservation projects covering several globally-significant protected areas, national forests and nature reserves in Nepal - the potential for rapid scale-up of successful PHE approaches on a district-wide, landscape-wide or ecoregion-wide basis is promising and unique in the developing world. WWF/Nepal brings years of programming experience, partnerships with key Nepali government and local organizations, and an extensive existing PHE programming platform to this project. WWF/Nepal’s own capacity to deliver different aspects of FP/ RH programming will be strengthened, and in turn will build FP/RH extension capacity of local user groups. ADRA will support WWF in building both their own and user group capacity to deliver FP/RH extension.