Addressing conservation and livelihood issues in Bhutanese communities

Staff Reporter

The second regional edition of the Eastern Himalayan Naturenomics forum was held in the College of Natural Resources in Punakha on January 28.

About 50 leading academics, community representatives, senior government officials and civil servants discussed the key issues in community-driven conservation and challenges in the mountainous terrain of the country.

The forum is a flagship conference series of the Balipara Foundation.

President of the college, Phub Dorji (PhD), talked on the importance of knowledge-sharing platforms from where conservation begins. Karishma Ahmed of the Balipara Foundation shared about the need to derive common goals and complementary action for conservation across the region by creating socioeconomic mobility and access to universal basic assets such as education and water among forest-fringe communities through natural asset generation.

Sonam Wangyel Wang (PhD) highlighted the importance of the Gross National Happiness index in shaping development strategies and community-based conservation in mountain landscapes, while Dasho Paljor Dorji spoke about the importance of cooperation across borders in conservation, and focusing on the needs of local communities while debating solutions.

Raising the question of education in the upcoming editions, lecturer of the college, Om Katel (PhD) shared about how education and resources are crucial in community-led conservation.

Community representatives presented a thought-provoking case study on water source protection and the importance of balancing community and environmental needs.

Addressing the question of corporate social responsibility (CSR), a researcher, Rinchen Dawa, highlighted how conservation goals can be achieved through collaborations with the private sector and CSR support.

Recipients of the 2019 Balipara Foundation Social Recognition Awards for Habitat Restoration, Tanzema Elephant Friendly Village, then presented a case study to the forum on their initiative to restore elephant habitats and resolving human-elephant conflict within their village.

It was followed by a panel discussion on conservation in Bhutan’s protected areas such as the Royal Manas National Park. The session was moderated by Jigme Dorji from Zhemgang Forest Division.

Launched in 2019, the regional editions of the Eastern Himalayan Naturenomics forum seeks to bring together local stakeholders in community conservation and livelihoods to debate pressing issues and opportunities for action.

Through this, the forum seeks to generate grassroots level practical solutions to create rural futures across Eastern Himalayas and empower local communities to be the steward of their natural assets.

The next edition of the forum will be held in November in Guwahati.

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