On November 29, 2020, the government of Nepal, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Environment Facility–Least Developed Countries Fund launched a new $42 million (USD) climate adaptation project to help secure sustainable livelihoods and food security for vulnerable rural communities in east of the country.
Led by the Department of Forests and Soil Conservation, the project will introduce and scale-up integrated watershed management practices and climate-smart agriculture in four major watersheds (Dudhkoshi, Molung, LIkhu and Sunkoshi Canyon within the lower Sunkoshi basin) covering 782,68 square kilometers and benefiting some 121,606 people directly.
“With support from the GEF-Least Developed Countries Fund and UNDP, the government is pleased to see this important new project take flight today,” said Secretary of the Ministry of Forests and Environment, Dr. Bishwa Nath Oli.
“The ministry is committed for the smooth implementation of the project and we have even started internal preparation for this. We know that people and the planet are intertwined, and that the health of our watersheds is crucial to the resilience of communities, both up and downstream. This project will unite stakeholders at all levels – from national government and local government to sectors to communities – to restore them, thereby helping secure lives and livelihoods into the future,” he added.
Warming trends are increasing in Nepal’s highly vulnerable mountain regions, causing glaciers to melt at a faster pace than ever before. Rainfall is shifting. Communities face increasing floods, droughts and landslides with extensive economic, life and livelihood losses annually.
At the same time, agricultural production in the target watersheds has been falling drastically over recent years. As a result, seasonal and permanent migration is increasing, affecting village life significantly. The watershed processes that are important to sustain agriculture on already challenging topography and scarce land need to be brought back into equilibrium.
As well as focusing on enhanced watershed management, the project will strengthen hydrometeorological monitoring, while also investing in community involvement in land and resource management, including establishing community stewardship programmes and rolling out training to local forestry and water user groups.
In Nepal, COVID-19 has further complicated the challenges of climate change. While the spread of the pandemic has largely been contained outside of urban centres, rural communities are being impacted by its socio-economic fallout. The project will complete an analysis of how these flow on effects of COVID-19 will impact implementation and will support local government to make any adjustments necessary.
“The impacts of climate change add significant challenges to development”, and this project is timely, and this despite COVID-19 for us to work side by side the Government of Nepal, the Province 1 and the related municipalities around Khotang and Okhaldhunga and to safeguard the most vulnerable communities, their physical and economic assets from climate change induced disasters,” said UNDP’s Resident Representative in Nepal, Ayshanie Medagangoda Labe.
“This is a continuity of what UNDP has been doing in Nepal to mainstream climate change adaptation and managing climate risks for a number of years, since development of a National Adaptation Programme of Action, through support for adaptation planning, reducing flood and glacial lake outburst risk, and strengthening governance of climate finance . As Nepal is preparing for the enhanced NDC, ae are pleased to take a step ahead and continue our partnership and support for an Integrated watershed management approach, that will reinforce climate resilience, livelihoods of the men and women living in the vicinities of the four vulnerable watersheds of Sunkoshi river basin,” she continued.
“We are delighted to see this important project launch with support from the Least Developed Countries Fund,” said Gustavo Fonseca, GEF Director of Programs. “Through this climate adaptation project, Nepal will improve its communities’ livelihoods and food security, while also sustainably managing vital ecosystems. It is a good example of the multiple benefits climate adaptation support can provide.”
The project supports Nepal’s ambitions set out under its 15th five-year plan, the Climate Policy 2019 as well as under international frameworks including the Sustainable Development Goals and its Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement. A grant of USD 7 million from the Global Environment Facility and USD 0.9 million from UNDP join a national investment of USD 34,893,000 as co-financing from federal and local government.