Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) Climate Change and REDD Program organized a Country Exchange Visit Program with the support and coordination of TEBETBBA. The visit duration was from 5th to 13th March, 2012 and included 9 participants representing 7 countries; two from the Philippines, two from Kenya, 1 each from Mexico, Peru, Vietnam, Nicaragua, and Indonesia. The program had two core components namely, field visit and sharing session with NEFIN secretariat, NFDIN, FECOFUN and with organizations related with climate change and REDD program. The country exchange visit focused on sharing and learning the experiences of Community Forestry in Nepal and the role of REDD+ among the Community Forest Users Groups (CFUGs) in Nepal.
Objectives of the program
a. To assess the policies and programs of Community Forestry in Nepal
b. To learn the experience of the Community Forest Users Groups and role of REDD+ in Nepal
c. To know the role of indigenous peoples in community forest Management in Khasure, Lamjung Nepal
On the first day of the program, an interaction meeting was held with the NEFIN secretariat. The participants had an in-depth conversation regarding the NEFIN structure and the Indigenous peoples of Nepal. After that, the Vice Chairperson of FECOFUN shared the structure of the FECOFUN and the status of the community forest of Nepal. He highlighted the importance of the involvement and effective participation of Indigenous people in community forest management. Subsequently, Mr. Eak Bdr Rana ((Project Coordinator, ICIMOD), representing REDD Pilot project of Nepal (FECOFUN, ICIMOD, ANSAB), gave a brief presentation on REDD pilot project of Nepal. Participants raised some queries regarding the FECOFUN structure and the role of Indigenous People in Nepal, REDD Pilot project, and NEFIN activities.
After lunch, participants visited Nepal foundation for Development of Indigenous Nationalities (NFDIN) which is the only government body working to support the Indigenous peoples of Nepal. Member Vice Chairperson of NFDIN, Mr. Jhak Bdr Thapa Magar, stated that the objectives of NFDIN is to uplift the Indigenous Peoples by formulating and implementing programs relating to social, education, economic and cultural development and to preserve, and promote the language, script, culture, literature, arts, and history of the Indigenous peoples of Nepal. He further explained the NFDIN structure, its program activities, and challenges. He also emphasized that NFDIN is part of the Government agency but due to insufficient budget, NFDIN has not been able to support all the indigenous peoples of Nepal.
After concluding the sharing with NFDIN, participants moved to NEFIN Climate Change and REDD Partnership Program office. Ms Pasang Dolma Sherpa (National Coordinator) shared NEFIN Climate Change and REDD Partnership Program activities and went over the country exchange program schedule. Mr. Dandu Sherpa (NEFIN Treasurer) also shared the activities and role of NEFIN
Participants visited NEFIN Climate Change and REDD Partnership Program Demo Area, Khasur Lamjung, to examine closely a case of community forest management by the Indigenous People. Participants were exposed to the following activities during the field visit.
Visit to NEFIN District Coordination Committee (DCC) in Lamjung
On the way to Khasur village, a traditional welcome event was organized and conducted by the NEFIN DCC in Lamjung District headquarter, Beshisahar on 7th March, 2012. NEFIN DCC gave a short introduction of Lamjung district and the role of NEFIN DCC. He also highlighted on the different indigenous groups of Lamjung district.
Visit to Khasur demo area of NEFIN Climate Change and REDD Partnership Program
On the very first day of the field visit (7th March, 2012) participants were welcomed by the villagers with the Nepali traditional musical instrument (Panche Baja) and garland. The villagers provided a typical Gurung food (Selroti, khole and meat) and gurung traditional dress shawl and Bhangra to the participants. Khasur community forest chairperson, Mr. Prithivi Man Ghale, welcomed all the participants by introducing the village and the villagers. Before dinner, he informed the participants about the lodging and food in the village.
Vist to Khasur Community forest and discussion with the CFUG
On the second day of the field visit (8th March, 2012) participants visited the Khasur Community Forest. Before visiting the community forest, CFUG chairperson, Mr. Prithivi Man Ghale shared the importance of the forest for the indigenous people and he also highlighted the custom, ritual, and value of forest for the indigenous people. He explained that they worship forest, wind, big trees, rock, and mountain once or twice a year for the water, for the good luck and for the peace of the village. Participants queried about the worshiping of the forest, water, and land and shared some of their communities’ beliefs and rituals. After the short discussion with the chairperson, team headed towards the Khasur Community forest. Participants were very enthusiastic to learn about the forest management activities and Indigenous people cultural aspect. Chairperson also shared the cases of cultural related to the forest.
Discussion and sharing with the Bhajakhet VDC 1-6 Lamjung.
An interaction session between the participants and the communities of 1-6 wards was held. In each ward, participants briefly shared about climate change and REDD program livelihood activities. Participants from the each ward were keen to know from the country exchange visit participants the position of the Indigenous in their community and country and the challenges they face. Each participant of the country exchange visit shared information about the status of Indigenous Peoples in their countries and REDD program. They emphasized that they have lots of challenges to establish Indigenous peoples’ rights in their countries and that they are still fighting for the right of the Indigenous people with the government.
Visit to Community Radio Marshyangdi FM, Lamjung
On 9th March, 2012 the country exchange visit team was taken to Marshyangdi FM, stationed at the headquarter of Lamjung district for a brief interaction with the community radio Marshyangdi FM office. Team met with the station manager Ms. Prem Kumari Ghale and Director Ms Mina Gurung and had an informal discussion on the roles and responsibility of the community radio. Participants were keen to know how the climate change and REDD program related to the Indigenous people program was running through the radio. They were also curious about the program making process, and the update news and the reaction of the program listeners. Ms. Mina shared the radio program activities and climate change REDD radio program to the participants. She also highlighted that the listeners have so far provided very positive reaction to the program through letters and online telephone conversation.
Community Radio Marshyangdi FM took interviews with the country exchange visitor Mr. Stanley Riamit Kimaren from Kenya, Ms. Jo-Ann from the Philippines and Mr. Dennish Mairina from Nicaragua.
Visit to the Dhudkosi CFUG, Chitwan district
The team visited Dudkosi Community Forest of Chitwan district. It was immensely important for the visiting team to learn the difference between hill and terai community forest management system. The team got to know that the communities manage the community forest by managing block of the forest to control fire by drawing fire line and silvicultural system of forest. Participants focused their discussion with questions on forest product collection and distribution and its benefits to the users groups. Participants found that key positions of CFUG committee lacked significant representation from the Indigenous communities. Committee members clarified that in the previous committee was chaired by an Indigenous person but due lack of time commitment he left the position.
After the interaction with the Dudkosi CFUG, the team visited the REDD Pilot Project network office in Shaktikhor and had a brief interaction with Mr. Man Bdr Khadka and Chepang Indigenous community. Chepang Community are one of the most vulnerable and marginalized communities of Nepal. Chepangs are landless community and many still don’t have the citizenship of Nepal. Shifting cultivation is primarily their livelihood. One of the REDD Pilot project (FECOFUN, ANSAB and ICIMOD) is on implementation in the Chepang area. The communities appeared confused about the REDD pilot project specifically on whether the REDD provided compensation by preserving the forest and whether the REDD forbade the right to practice shifting cultivation. They informed that the REDD Pilot project is forcing them to plant the Churi (wild fruit plant) in the forest for livelihood but since they don’t own the forest, they were confused whether they would be allowed to collect the fruit. The issue of citizenship and Chepang community was quite a revelation for the Country Exchange visit team which they found to be an interesting case.
Evaluation of the Exchange visit
On the last day of the country exchange visit program, interaction was held in Bhojangriha with the NEFIN secretariat, Indigenous CA member and Indigenous intellectuals. In the interaction program, participants efficiently pointed out the good qualities they found in the national level and local community level for established right of Indigenous people in the country. Participants also revealed the differences and similarities between Indigenous movement activities in Nepal and their countries. Some useful future activities were explored during the interaction. Participants expressed their deepest satisfaction regarding such program being held, which has enhanced their knowledge in many respects. Every participant expressed that such exchange visit program was valuable and pertinent in making people aware about a country’s situation. Everyone in the farewell program expressed that it was a great opportunity to learn and to share activities related to Indigenous people and thanked NEFIN for organizing such a learning exchange program.
Overall, the exchange visit program went well and the participants were very pleased to have such an opportunity to learn from each country. The participants underwent a critical reflection of the exchange visit and provided feedbacks like CFUG operational plan and constitution. They requested for a translated version of the work plan and constitution of Dudkosi CFUG for their understanding. The program was scheduled with the aim of providing more opportunity to learn about the issues of forest management, land tenure, livelihood, and climate change and REDD in Nepal. The schedule was too tight in the field and the participants felt tired. The discussions took longer than the scheduled time because of cumbersome translation process from Nepali to English to Spanish. The exchange visit program also consisted of some site seeing and exposure trips including a safari in Chitwan National park and to Nagarkot for the view of Himalayan range. Visit team also got a chance to observe the tradition local Tharu cultural show and their food.