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International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management, 2015 Vol. 11, No. 2, 145–155, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21513732.2015.1027793 Ecosystem services and livelihoods in a changing climate: Understanding local adaptations in the Upper Koshi, Nepal a b c d, Laxmi D. Bhatta , Bob Eric Helmuth van Oort , Nigel E. Stork and Himlal Baral * a b International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development ICIMOD, Post Box # 3226, Kathmandu, Nepal; CICERO-Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research-Oslo, P.B. 1129 Blindern, 0318 Oslo, Norway; Environmental Futures Research Institute, Griffith School of Environment, Griffith University, 170 Kessels Road, Nathan, Brisbane, Queensland 4111, Australia; Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), P.O. Box 0113 BOCBD, Bogor 16000, Indonesia (Submitted 9 March 2014; accepted 26 February 2015; edited by Berta Martin-Lopez) Mountain ecosystems are increasingly being affected by global environmental change, challenging the ubiquitous agro- ecosystem-based livelihoods of the people. This article uses participatory research methods to document and analyse (1) local and regional impacts of climate change on ecosystem services (ES) and livelihoods, and (2) the main current adaptation strategies of local peoples in the mountains of central Nepal. Major observed impacts include reduced precipitation and an irregular rainfall pattern, affecting paddy cultivation and winter crop production. Production is also affected by increased pest and pathogen prevalence. Other impacts include increased livestock disease and reduced forest regeneration. Our results confirm earlier findings of a decrease in the district’s forest cover in past; however, substantial efforts in forest conservation and management at the local level have gradually increased forest cover in recent years. Despite the increased potential for forest ecosystem services, the availability of forest goods, in particular fuel wood, fodder and litter, have decreased because of a strict regulation on forest goods extraction. Additionally, new invasive species are colonising these forests, preventing regeneration of preferred and local forest vegetation in some areas and, as a result, the densities of tree crops are changing. Most users cope with these changes by short term, reactive solutions. However, a number of local adaptation strategies, such as changing both agricultural practices and water harvesting and management, are increasing efficiency in resource use. To increase the adaptive capacity of poor households, we suggest it is essential to incorporate climate change adaptations within the local planning process. Keywords: climate change; adaptation; vulnerability assessment; cropping pattern; livelihoods; local adaptive capacity 1. Introduction tial definitions that are frequently cited in environmental literature and associated classification systems. Ecosystem services, the benefits that humans obtain from Global climate change scenarios suggest that there will ecosystems, are vital for rural livelihoods. Mountain agro- be considerable impacts on ecosystems and their associated ecosystems not only provide agricultural commodities ecosystem services with serious consequences for the liveli- such as food and fibre, but also help protect biodiversity, hoods of communities, particularly in the most economically water, carbon storage, and landscape amenity. However, challenged parts of the world (IPCC 2001;Agrawal &Perrin recent environmental change coupled with other stressors 2008;ICIMOD 2010; Van de Sand 2012). The Millennium is affecting the ability of mountain agro-ecosystems to Ecosystem Assessment (2005) recognises climate change as continue to provide the quality and quantity of ecosystem one of the major drivers of ecosystem change and argues that services required for sustainable rural livelihoods (Gentle ‘ecosystem degradation tends to harm rural populations more & Maraseni 2012; Shrestha et al. 2012; Baral 2013). For directly and has its more direct and severe impact on poor this reason, the effects of changing climate on provision of people’. Poor communities mostly rely on ecosystem ser- ecosystem services is becoming an increasingly important vices for their subsistence livelihoods and often have limited area of investigation (MEA 2005; Shrestha et al. 2012; capacity to adapt to change, which makes them more vulner- Baral 2013; Baral, Keenan, Sharma, et al. 2014). able to climate change and other forms of changes (ICIMOD Ecosystem services are defined and classified in a variety 2010). Limited access to resources, lack of diversification of ways as has been extensively elaborated elsewhere options for subsistence livelihoods, and lack of health and (MEA 2005; Boyd & Banzhaf 2007; Wallace 2007; education, are some of the critical factors limiting the adap- Fisher & Turner 2008, Fisher et al. 2009; TEEB 2009). tive capacity of developing countries to climate change (Smit Baral, Keenan, Stork, et al. (2014) outlined some influen- *Corresponding author. Email: email@example.com © 2015 The Author(s). Published by Taylor & Francis. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/ by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way. 146 L.D. Bhatta et al. et al. 2000; Boon & Ahenkan 2012). The fourth assessment 1.1. Climate change adaptation in context of report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change development and rural livelihoods in Nepal (IPCC 2007a) projected a severe impact of climate change on Adaptation to climate change in the context of development mountain ecosystems, particularly because of their sensitiv- has been much discussed in recent years, with the discourse ity to warming. The report also suggests that countries in focussing primarily on whether adaptation is part and parcel Asia are likely to suffer from many extreme events, including of the development process in developing countries (IPCC glacier melts, flooding, and droughts, and will have severe 2001; Adger et al. 2003;Holmelin & Aase 2013). It has impacts on natural resources and the environment. been argued that it is impossible to separate adaptation from Nepal is very vulnerable to the impacts of climate development (Cannon & Muüller-Mahn 2010). Adaptation change because it is spread across many altitudes from to climate change, as defined by the IPCC, constitutes an ≈70 m a.s.l. to the tallest peak of the world, and this then ‘adjustment in natural or human systems in response to threatens its economy which is so highly dependent on actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which land-based industries in particular agriculture. Between moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities’ (IPCC 1982 and 1996, the average annual mean temperature 2001, 2007b). The term ‘adaptation’ in the context of has increased by 1.5°C with an average increase of 0.06° climate change impact is now mostly considered to be C per annum (Shrestha et al. 2012) and, depending on synonymous with the ‘capacity to cope with changes, which scenario is selected, recent projections indicate that reduce vulnerability, and improve livelihoods’ (Agrawal this warming trend will accelerate, especially at higher 2009;Orlove & O’Brien 2009). Adaptive capacity is con- elevations and during the summer (Xu et al. 2007; IPCC textual and varies among various segments of communities, 2007a; Shrestha et al. 2012). Although there is consider- countries, and societies, and individual, and changes over able spatial and seasonal variation in the Himalayas in both time and scale. climate and phenology, rainfall, growing season, and eco- Chambers and Conway (1992) describe livelihoods as a systems are changing in the Himalayas (Practical Action system comprising of assets, capabilities, and activities for a 2009; Shrestha et al. 2012). In general, precipitation is means of living. Different combinations of capacities and projected to decrease in the dry season and increase during activities form different household level livelihoods strate- the rest of the year for South Asia, while the reverse is true gies, which not only generate income but include many other for Central Asia (IPCC 2007a). elements, including social assets (Ellis 2000). The livelihood The impacts of these changes are well documented for approach is further discussed by Hahn et al. (2009)who the mountains of Nepal (Gentle & Maraseni 2012). For combine the IPCC vulnerability framework with livelihoods example, increasingly erratic rainfall, water scarcity and approach (Chambers & Conway 1992;Scoones 1998). drought, flood, and soil erosion are affecting livelihoods of Livelihoods are considered sustainable when they can cope rural communities, primarily through their impact on the with and recover from such stresses and shocks and maintain agriculture, forestry, and pasture resources (Cannon & or enhance their capabilities and assets both now and in the Muüller-Mahn 2010). Regmi (2007) reported a reduction future, although not undermining the natural resource base in crop production in the year 2005 by 12.5% because of (Carney 1998). This definition strongly argues for and sup- reduced early monsoon rainfall. While eastern Nepal ports enhancement of the adaptive capacity of rural commu- received less rainfall in the same year, western Nepal nities to ensure sustainability of their livelihoods. suffered from a large flood which reduced crop production Rural communities are mostly dependent on ecosystem by 30% in the area (Regmi 2007). services such as water, forest products, grass, and fodder for The remoteness of mountain communities often means livestock, fisheries, for their livelihoods, although the priority that they have limited communication and transportation, and ecosystem services may vary depending on different interest as a result, mountain communities are marginalised and more groups (Paudyal et al. 2015). Paudyal et al. (2015) found that vulnerable to environmental impacts. Mountain communities in Dolakha district, rural women’s main concern is forests as a also have limited access to other resources, which means they source for firewood, while men are more concerned about have a relatively low capacity to adapt to these changes. timber production. Recent changes in local and regional cli- Although many studies discuss impacts of climate change mate, however, coupled with other drivers are affecting the on rural livelihoods (e.g. Ellis 2000; Boon & Ahenkan continuous or sufficient supply of many ecosystem services. 2012), studies on the impacts on livelihoods in montane Availability and supply of such services is in large part ecosystems are still very limited. In particular, in Nepal, the weather-dependent and may be seasonal. Evidence shows impacts of climate change on livelihoods need further under- that communities that have been practising adaptation to var- standing, both contextually and locally. This article attempts ious changes in these resources for a long time have developed to fill some of this gap and is based on research carried out in management decisions to cope with these changes (Dovers such remote communities in the mountains of the Dolakha 2009; Alexander et al. 2010; Berrang-Ford et al. 2011;van district in Nepal. It documents and analyses (1) major climate Oort et al. 2014). However, these adaptation measures and change impacts on agro-ecosystems and linked rural liveli- practices vary widely and are contextualised. In particular, in hoods and (2) the main current adaptation strategies used by developing countries and rural communities, these practices local communities to cope up with these changes. need to be understood and documented when aiming for a International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management 147 broader and more effective policy development (IPCC, overall HDI ranking of 42 out of 75 districts in Nepal (UNDP 2007a). The study presented here is part of the Himalayan 2004;CBS 2011). From 2001 to 2011, the population Climate Change Adaptation Programme (HICAP, www.ici- decreased by about 8.65% (CBS 2011). mod.org/hicap), which links scenarios of climate change and Dolakha is considered to be one of the richest districts hydrology to an assessment of vulnerability and adaptation, for natural resources in Nepal. Estimates of land cover impacts on ecosystem services, food security, and gender vary from different sources but are roughly comparable issues in the Hindu Kush Himalayas. The HICAP project with ongoing monitoring efforts aimed to improve the has a particular focus on local level impacts and adaptation quality of these data (see, e.g., www.franepal.org for cur- linked to sustaining livelihoods. rent forest cover assessments). Forest and shrubs cover 47–55% of the area, followed by agriculture (≈26%) and pastureland (≈13%), unproductive land (barren/snow cov- 1.2. Ecosystem, livelihoods, and climate change in the ered: ≈12–19%), and water bodies (≈0.19%) (Charmakar research area 2010; CBS 2011). Agriculture is the main source of Dolakha district is a mountainous district of Nepal, varying income with about 67% of the population directly in altitude from 723 to 7134 m above sea level (see Figure 1). involved, followed by small scale enterprises and busi- The district has a human development index (HDI: 1 = best, nesses. In recent years, remittances from outside the coun- 0 = worst) of 0.450, life expectancy at birth is 63.5, human try have increased. Rain-fed agriculture is dominant with poverty index is 44.0, and adult literacy is 51.10, with an limited irrigation facilities for major crops, such as rice, Figure 1. Map showing land uses in the study area, Dolakha district, and its location in Central Nepal (marked area in the inset figure). Figure adapted from (http://www.mofald.gov.np/). 148 L.D. Bhatta et al. wheat, millet, maize, and potato. Besides agriculture, non- change. Five FGDs, typically consisting of 12 invited timber forest products (with possible added value through persons, were organised in parallel including (1) forest processing) are an important form of natural resource use user groups, (2) water user groups, (3) women groups, (DFO 2012). Production of Nepali handmade paper and (4) groups from the minority caste (mostly Tamang), and aromatic and essential oils are major forest-based enter- (5) groups from other castes (mostly Brahmin, chhetri). prises providing additional income to local communities. VACA surveys were carried out at household and commu- In recent years, agriculture- and forest interface-based nity level throughout the Hindu Kush Himalayan region livelihoods have been changing along with a change in the between 2011 and 2013, covering a total of 366 villages rainfall pattern and increased drought periods (Charmakar and 8048 households in four countries, 120 villages and 2010). Reduced precipitation and an irregular rainfall pattern 2311 households of these being in Nepal. For this article, have directly adversely affected the highly rain-dependent we limited the VACA analysis to 385 households in the paddy cultivation. In addition, increased impacts from various Dolakha district in Nepal, with a focus on local percep- insects pests were noticed in rice, potato, and millet, reducing tions of the climate change impacts on community liveli- total production (Paudel 2013). For example, with prolonged hoods, what local adaptation measures had been used to drought, the incident of blight in potato is increasing. cope with these changes, and whether there were local Similarly, with decrease in snowfall, caterpillar attack in social institutions to support such adaptation processes. Nepali alder (Alnus nepalensis) has increased. Charmakar To understand the significance of local contexts, the (2010) also reported on the direct impact of prolonged drought VACA analysis was complemented by five semi-structured and less rainfall on the reduced production and quality of focus group discussions and five key informant surveys in winter grass (Gaultheria fragrantissima) used as a medicinal one ward within the Lakuridanda Village Development plant and an important source of cash income. There are a Committee (VDC) of the Dolakha district. Additionally, number of reasons behind the decrease in production, both in an ethnographic analysis was conducted through a ques- agriculture and forest crops. These include (1) changes in tionnaire to all households located within the ward. The rainfall patterns, (2) longer periods of drought, (3) decrease VACA survey was based on a random sampling design in soil moisture, (4) increased crop intensity with increased use across seven representative districts and several villages in of chemical fertilizer and pesticides, and (5) consequential soil the Koshi river basin. In the VACA, the head of house- degradation. Importantly, forest cover in the region had hold, which in most cases was male, was the informant for decreased substantially between 1978 and 1994 (FAO 1999) questionnaire. However, if the head of household was not but has increased since then due to the community forestry available, the next most senior person was interviewed. programme (Niraula et al. 2013; Paudyal et al. 2015). The Finally, historical meteorological data comprising daily issues described above provide the background for the current and annual maximum and minimum temperature and pre- paperandthepressingneedtounderstandhow climatemay cipitation data from the local meteorological station at Jiri impact on local agro-ecosystems and natural resources and were compared with local perceptions of change. This how local communities are adapting to these changes. comparison provides an indication of how recent climatic changes, if any, have been experienced, what impacts are attributed to these, and what adaptation measures (if any) 2. Methods had been implemented. This approach ‘validates’ qualita- Various tools have been developed to assess the sustain- tive experiences with quantitative measurements. ability of land use and livelihoods and to understand the Here, we use the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment role of stresses, risks, and vulnerability of communities to (MEA 2005) definition of ecosystem services ‘the benefits people obtain from ecosystems’. Community surveys indi- climate change. These include the Poverty and Vulnerability tool (PVAT) and the Vulnerability to Resilience framework cate the ecosystem services that are recognised and priori- (Marshall et al. 2009; Pasteur 2010;Macchi et al. 2011)and tised at the local level as those that affect livelihoods. As a number of participatory rural appraisal (PRA) techniques such, we particularly consider provisioning services (pro- and tools (Chambers & Conway 1992;Chambers 1994). ducts) from forests and agro-ecosystems, and water. Water The International Centre for Integrated Mountain has become a key issue in the research area and has Development (ICIMOD) developed a Vulnerability and multiple impacts, particularly on the production of forest Adaptive Capacity (VACA) Assessment tool, a refined ver- and agriculture products. Changes in these services were sion of the earlier PVAT. The ICIMOD developed VACA is covered through questions regarding perceptions of based on theoretical framework on vulnerability as function change in the VACA survey and the complementary of adaptive capacity, exposure, and sensitivity. In each focus group and key informant discussions. dimensions of vulnerability, a number of indicators are used to assess their significance. 3. Result and discussion In this study, we used PRA tools such as community 3.1 Changes in climate and natural hazards resource mapping, developing seasonal calendars for agri- 3.1.1. Changes in temperature cultural and forest products, and participatory rapid assess- ment of forest ecosystems and Focus Group Discussions Temperature data from the Jiri meteorological station over (FGDs) to document local knowledge and perceptions of the period 1980–2010 show an increasing trend with an International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management 149 Figure 2. Variation in mean annual maximum and minimum temperatures 1980–2010. The figure shows variation in (a) annual average maximum temperatures; (b) annual average minimum temperatures; (c) seasonal average maximum temperatures, and (d) seasonal average minimum temperatures. While winters and autumn have become warmer on average, the variation in temperatures has increased: average maximum temperatures increased by up to 2°C, but minimum temperatures decreased by ~1°C. Source: Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, Government of Nepal. increase of approximately 1°C in the annual average max have become colder. Meteorological data shows that the temperature. Since there is also a decreasing trend of the average minimum temperatures in winter indeed have same order of the annual average minimum temperature, decreased by ≈1°C. However, the maximum temperatures this indicates that the annual average temperature has in winter have increased by ≈2°C, so on average winters remained the same, but that temperature variation has have in fact become warmer by ≈1°C, which conflicts with increased (Figure 2a and b). A more detailed examination the general perception. This misconception that winters of the data (Figure 2c and d) shows that the increasing trend have become colder (instead of warmer) may be due to of maximum temperatures is mainly due to increasing people referring to night-time or daily minimum tempera- autumn and winter maximum temperatures of about 2°C. tures, which have indeed decreased over time, and not to Spring and summer average maximum temperatures the simultaneous increase of day-time or daily maximum increased as well, but only by about 1°C. The annual decrease of minimum temperatures is mainly due to a decrease of winter minimum temperatures, of about 1°C. Community perceptions and opinions, emanating from discussions on climate change directly and in the context of water availability and changes in phenology of some agriculture and forest crops, were in agreement with observed meteorological changes. Both indicate an increasing trend in maximum temperature. VACA data (Figure 3) indicate that 380 out of 385 household members answered positively on having noted a change in overall temperature, with most stating that the hot seasons have Figure 3. Top five perceived changes in temperature over become hotter. Another perception was that colder seasons 2003–2013 (in %). 150 L.D. Bhatta et al. Table 1. Changes in average rainfall patterns (in mm) from 1980 to 2010. Range (in years) Average annual Winter (Dec–Feb) Pre-monsoon (Mar–May) Monsoon (Jun–Sep) Post Monsoon (Oct–Nov) 1981–1990 5.843 0.561 3.113 14.271 1.004 1991–2000 6.597 0.527 3.512 16.035 1.453 2001–2010 6.640 0.619 3.498 16.127 1.409 Source: Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, Government of Nepal. temperatures. Finally, people experienced climate as more 3.2.2. Forest products availability and change pattern variable than before, which was also reflected by the Focus group discussions, and also timeline analyses, indi- increasing difference between observed annual mean mini- cated a changing trend in both rainfall intensity and snow- mum and maximum temperatures (Figure 2a and b). fall. Local communities observed that snowfall regulates the pests in forests. With decrease in snowfall and increas- ing temperature trend, more pests and diseases in tree crops were witnessed. Additionally, heavy rainfall in 3.1.2. Changes in precipitation short bursts increases surface run-off with little increase Table 1 shows the recorded change in precipitation for in soil moisture. Whether related to the above or not, local the last 30 years. The mean annual precipitation in observations suggested that seedling survival in regenerat- Dolakha district from 1980 to 2010 is 2636 mm, which ing forest has become very reduced in recent years with is greater than the national average (Ministry of resulting lower cash income for commercially valuable Environment 2010). The monsoon precipitation has nontimber forest species, such as Lokta (Daphne species). seen a slight increase over time, especially from the With changes in climate and especially precipitation, ‘80s to the 90s’. The data also show that there has been community perceptions suggest that the productivity of an increase in the total annual precipitation in the first forest crops has reduced, although these links need further decade of the current century and that this was due to scientific investigation. Perceptions and observations increased precipitation in the winter and the monsoon, resulting from the analysis of focus group discussion are while the pre- and post-monsoon periods have been dryer presented in Table 3. One of the participants of focus than in the ‘90s’. group discussion at Lakuridanda mentioned changes in Ninety-nine per cent of household members noted a tree phenology and altitudinal shift as follows: change in precipitation over the last 10 years, agreeing with the climate measurement observations (Figure 4). I have noticed early flowering of some plants like Guras There was also a perceived increase in annual precipita- (Rhododendron species), Painyu (Prunus ceracoides). tion, but with rain being more intense and spread over Similarly, plants like dudhilo (Ficus nemoralis), bhimsen- fewer days. Also, rainfall was said to be less in both pate (Buddleja asiatica) were previously only found on summer (monsoon) and winter (dry period), and more lower altitude but nowadays they are found at higher altitudes. It has been nearly 10 years since we have wit- erratic. nessed the change. (Dawa Lama, Lakuridanda FGD) Although, forest cover in the area has been increasing at 3.2. Perceived impacts on livelihoods an average rate of 2.0% per year (Niraula et al. 2013), extraction of forest products from community forests is 3.2.1. Major natural hazards to livelihood resources strictly regulated, hence restricting local community access Communities identified eight major hazards affecting the to these new resources. The increasing spread of invasive availability and quality of their livelihood resources weed species such as L. camara and Eupatorium reduce (Table 2), including (ranked by severity of impact) erratic natural regeneration of local species, although the impacts rainfall, increased pests and pathogens in agricultural of these invasives on forest regeneration needs further crops, livestock disease, and drought (particularly affect- investigation. ing paddy crops and vegetables). The changes in climate increase the hazard and risks. Increases in temperature and decreases in snowfall increase the risk of pests and patho- 3.2.3. Effects on agriculture practices and production gen. Similarly, erratic rainfall and hailstorm destroys the crops and increase flood risks. Single events may also Perceived impacts of a changing climate on agriculture have an impact on the response. For example, in 2012, practices and production are key topics of discussion in frost damaged potato crops in some of the potato growing communities. Local observations of a decrease in water areas, such as the Lakuridanda VDC. The severity of availability attributed to increasing temperature and with impact was perceived from minimal to very high, with reduced snowfall are considered to be major reasons for some communities experiencing (and being impacted by) current changes in agricultural practices and cropping pat- frost more than others. terns. For example, communities in Lakuridanda VDC International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management 151 in the village ‘Oon bechi sun lagau’ which literally means ‘sell wool and wear gold’, but now the situation has changed with the decline in sheep farming in the area. Rearing of sheep and Himalayan goat has drastically declined in recent years because of decreasing availability of grass/pasture for rearing. Farmers claim that the grass gets dry earlier or alternatively that there is a reduction in growth of grasses due to the drought. The VACA analysis shows that there is a reported decrease in production of major cash and staple crops Figure 4. Top five perceived changes in rainfall pattern over over the last 10 years. With a decrease in production of 2003–2013 (in %). major crops, farmers have been introducing improved hybrid varieties of crops (see Figure 7). Data show that 7% of households considered use of hybrid seed as part of Table 2. Major climatic hazards to livelihoods resources and their perceived severity in percentage. their adaptation strategy, as productivity from native vari- eties continued to decline. Major Perceived severity of impact on Percentage of hazards livelihoods resources respondents 3.2.4. Change in water availability Drought Medium to high 13 Erratic High 54 Reducing water availability appears to be the key issue rainfall impacting local livelihoods in the area. Members of the Crop pests High 11 water management committees indicated in focus group Livestock Medium to high 42 discussions that many natural springs were drying up and disease Hailstorm Minimum to medium 29 that water availability has been reduced by ≈25%. Key Frost Medium (very high in 2012) 12 informants indicated that one of the reasons for drying up of water springs was the increase in areas of monoculture Source: Household Survey, 2012 Dolakha district Nepal. pine plantation. According to them, pine plantations were introduced about 25 years ago when there were many used to cultivate wheat and paddy in downstream sites natural water springs. Many of the water springs within when there was sufficient water available. However, they pine forests are now dry. Local communities perceived now no longer cultivate paddy as there is insufficient that pine trees absorb a lot of water, reducing the under- available water, reflecting the observed reduction in rain- ground water level. Additionally, they mention the effects fall over the last 10 years. Similarly, some of Tamang of increased surface water runoff because of the unders- community members mentioned that production of wheat tory of pine needles. Other studies on this topic in forests in winter is reduced because of increasing winter drought. in Nepal suggest that planted pine forest has a greater Some of the participants of the local focus group discus- evapotranspiration rate than natural forest or degraded sion mentioned a 50% reduction in production of winter land and that this could be the reason for drying water vegetables. These potential impacts of climate change on resources in the middle hills in Nepal (Baral 2011). VACA cropping patterns and reduced production are reflected in results suggested that availability of water for household an increased market demand, resulting in an increased use is still sufficient to meet demand, but not for agricul- focus on cultivation of vegetable crops instead of cereal ture. Of 385 respondents, 257 households have sufficient crops in an area that in fact may not be suited for this. water for agriculture for less than 6 months in a year. Potato is one of the major cash crops for many poor Figure 5 provides details on perceived water availability families, but its cultivation also may be at risk due to water for agriculture in a year. shortage and heavy rainfall events. One of the key infor- mants during the interview stated; 3.3. Local institutions and governance Success of ecosystem management in developing coun- Before, due to the heavy snowfall and frost, the soil used to be moist throughout the year but nowadays soil has tries is dependent on sound governance structures at var- become drier causing difficulty even for potato cultivation. ious levels, in particular at the local level. Good Moreover, in few years to come the possibility of water Governance is discussed by many scholars as central to shortage has been sensed to increase such that the farmers successful adaptation. Cannon and Muüller-Mahn (2010) are less hopeful for better cultivation (especially potatoes). Even during rainy season when the potato plants are big used the term ‘adaptive governance’, which they consid- enough, they often get destroyed by heavy and erratic ered part of institutional planning and argued for the need rainfall. (Key Informant, Lakuridanda VDC) of critical assessment. Ribo (2011) considered good gov- ernment is important and governing requires checks and Livestock farming has been an important source of income balances. The checks and balances come from synergy for majority of population. There is a very famous saying and collaborative efforts while supporting government 152 L.D. Bhatta et al. Table 3. Major forest products for community livelihoods and their changing trend on availability. Major forest products (Ecosystem goods) Average use pattern per household Change trend on availability Timber for house As per requirement (once at the time of house construction). However, Stable construction there is limited timber available in Community Forests (CF). Timber of other use As per requirement, need to pay royalty to Community Forest User Group Stable committee (CFUG). Fuelwood CF opens twice a year, normally at the time of pruning, thinning for Stable fuelwood collection. Leaf litters (3) CF opens 1–2 times per year for 1 month. Leaf litter is also supplied from Slightly declining private land. Pine needles, leaf litter As part of leaf litter. Slightly declining for compost Ningalo (Arundinaria Limited Ningalo (Arundinaria species) available in CF, mostly in private Heavily declining species) land. Medicinal and Many species of medicinal and aromatic plants available. Some species such as Nagbeli aromatic plants (Lycopodium clavatum) declining Grass/fodder Oak is primary fodder species supplying major fodder for livestock in the Declining area. Kutmiro (Litsea poliantha Dudhilo (Ficus nemoralis) are available in private land. Lokta (Daphne Two species available. Major source of income of poor households. Raw Sikre (Daphne bhaula) declining species) material for Nepali Handmade paper. institutions as they are mandated to manage local forest resources. VDCs are also important institutions in pro- viding services in managing ecosystem services and providing support for local adaptation strategies. However, participants of focus group discussions and also the key informant survey suggest that VDC plans are mostly focusing on infrastructure development. The district plans also fail in providing local adaptations in managing ecosystem services. Implementations of the activities from district line agencies, such as soil con- servation, are in isolation from rather than being part of Figure 5. Perceived water sufficiency for agriculture use during coherent and collective planning. There is a strong need the last 12 months (in %). for integrated planning and long-term capacity develop- ment of stakeholders at the local level to cope with recent environmental challenges. actions by various actors collectively rather than working in isolation (IPCC 2007b). Nepal’s national adaptation 3.4. Major adaptation practices plan of action identified six thematic areas of urgent focus to address issue of climate change while emphasis- Global discussions on climate change are shifting from an ing the need for an integrated approach between the var- emphasis on vulnerability (Orlove & O’Brien 2009), and ious actors and economic sub-sectors. However, both active adaptation has now become central to the global vertical and horizontal coordination is often an issue climate change debate (Dovers 2009). Adaptation is now while implementing at the local level (Gentle & discussed as enabling communities to cope and improve Maraseni 2012; Ojha 2013; Bhatta et al. 2014). Focus livelihoods in the light of climate stress and shocks group discussants also highlighted the need for synergy (Agrawal 2009; Orlove & O’Brien 2009). Local commu- and collaboration among various institutions working in nities have been practising various adaptation measures the areas for collective action to achieve concrete out- based on their immediate needs. Some times this has comes for local livelihoods in adapting to climate change been referred to as unplanned or autonomous adaptation. and other forms of changes. However, greater adaptive planning is needed to increase There are number of institutions providing services the capacity of communities to cope with decreased water to the communities in the research area, for example, availability, crop failure, and the resulting decrease in food village development committees (VDCs), Community production. forest user groups (CFUGs), water management groups, Focus group discussions suggested that communities saving and credit groups, and the agriculture service are concerned with the immediate and short term, as well centre. CFUGs are considered to be very important as in developing long-term coping strategies. Their ability International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management 153 to adopt these strategies is mostly based on their ability in it have started to make investments in small-scale irriga- terms of economy and external support form society and tion schemes. other actors. Examples of short-term solutions during times of scarcity include selling of household property 4. Conclusions and livestock, reduced spending on clothes, consuming seed stocks, and looking for labouring jobs in other vil- Community perceptions and experiences, supported by lages (Figure 6). Also rainwater harvesting has been intro- meteorological data, reveal that changing climate is nega- duced by some of the households. A majority of tively impacting on the provision of various ecosystem households borrowed money as a loan and considered services and the livelihoods of local communities in the this as a short-term and immediate strategy to deal with research area. Erratic rainfall, snowfall, and prolonged crop failure and scarcity. drought are the major climatic hazards which pose greatest Major long-term adaptation strategies (Figure 7) were risk on agricultural production, the major source of liveli- found especially in the relatively wealthy households who hoods. Additionally, forest products, in particular commer- owned land for agriculture, but some changes of practices cial nontimber forest products, and livestock rearing, appear to be independent of the state of the economy. particularly sheep and Himalayan goat, are also under Long-term solutions indicated by households included threat. These threats and risks increase the vulnerability exploring improved varieties of seed, use of different of low income farmers, in particular those who do not agriculture practices requiring less water, and giving up have the capacity for short- to long-term adaptation. growing some crops which require more water. Water, particularly for agricultural use, has become a Sustainable management of these ecosystem services scarce resource and often more so at some times of the must be introduced to secure sustainable rural livelihoods year. With the observed drying up of natural springs, water and to avoid further unsustainable water- and land use and availability has reduced substantially, forcing farmers to soil depletion. Additionally, some of those who can afford either change their agricultural practices or abandon agriculture. Farmers have been practising a range of both short- term and long-term strategies to deal with climate change impacts. The strategies cover both immediate and reactive solutions motivated by an imminent crisis (coping) as well as adaptation strategies, which involved planning and are part of a more continuous process. The majority of farmers have borrowed money to cope. However, access to loans is limited and there is a need to diversify available financial services. Shifting agriculture practices from cereal crops to vegetables and introducing new varieties of agriculture crops are other major long-term adaptive strategies. We suggest that investigations of more drought-tolerant vari- eties of crops might be a useful alternative adaptive strat- egy rather than the introduction of new exotic varieties of agricultural crops. The increasing impact of invasive weeds and insect pest species, in particular in reducing natural regeneration of forest crops, is a major threat to the Figure 6. Major coping mechanisms to deal with changes over 2003–2013 (in %). supply of forest products. The degree of the impact of these species, however, needs further investigation. Adapting to climate change is not just a technical issue and cannot be addressed in the same way as some dimen- sions of development and governance. We suggest climate adaptation needs to be considered in a wider context within the development dimension rather than in isolation. To increase the adaptive capacity of poor households, we suggest incorporating climate change adaptations within the local planning process. Additionally, local develop- ment infrastructures play a crucial role in increasing the adaptive capacities of communities, and local governments can play crucial role in developing such infrastructures. The development dimension of climate change adaptation should focus on (1) increased provision of agriculture services, including access to financial institution, (2) crop Figure 7. 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Participatory assessment and mapping of ecosystem services Kathmandu: ICIMOD.
International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management – Taylor & Francis
Published: Apr 3, 2015
Keywords: climate change; adaptation; vulnerability assessment; cropping pattern; livelihoods; local adaptive capacity
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