Conserving biodiversity – a development potential for Nepalese smallholder farmers

Nepal is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of plant biodiversity. The wide range of altitudes, spanning from300 m.a.s.l. up to the highest peak, the Mt. Everest at 8848 m.a.s.l., give to the country a big climatic and micro climatic diversity. This has spawned an incredible array of biodiversity, which is the greatest wealth of the country.

In recent decades, the uncontrolled trade of medicinal plants contributed to deplete wild plant biodiversity. India’s expanding middle class consumes increasing amounts of Ayurvedic raw materials leading to plant over collection. The Ayurveda medicine uses about 1 250 plant species, of which 400 are of major importance. Of these, 200 species are now listed as threatened. Some are protected, but regulation are largely ineffective and illegal harvesting is common.

Each year, Indian traders buy great quantities of wild raw materials from Nepalese traders who call on Nepalese villagers to collect from native forests. Unrestrained harvesting is fuelled by the lack of alternative livelihoods opportunities, causing more and more indigenous plants species to be lost. Climate change exacerbates the situation. Seasonal weather patterns are in transition, leading to unpredictable rainfall and increasing erosion damage.

In short, the biodiversity of Nepalese Himalayas is highly vulnerable due to population growth, poverty and lack of livelihood alternatives, conventional agricultural methods and climate change.

According to its principle and in the context of developing a fair business strategy, OneWorld aims to contribute in re-establishing the rich biodiversity of the areas in which it is operating. Along with our non-profit arm, The Himalayan Biodynamic Developments Trust (HBDT), we support a number of activities aimed at protecting the environment as well as improving livelihoods. Communities are trained to certify forest areas for sustainable wild harvesting and smallholders are supported in the transition to biodynamic farming and undergo the internationally recognized Demeter certification. Certified products are sold at higher prices in western markets helping them to earn higher incomes as well as to produce healthy foods household consumption. These action are conceived to enable people to find a way out of poverty. Farmers who previously used conventional farming methods are now proud to practice sustainable farming practices that will benefit future generations. We believe in this as an effective strategy to protect and enhance local biodiversity.