Our conservation programs mobilize local people in environmental stewardship while improving their livelihoods through alternative income streams and resource preservation programs.
The people living in our project areas in Nepal are on the frontlines of conservation and our most important allies for saving the red panda. They are often rural communities, living in poverty, who depend on a wide range of natural resources and ecosystem services for their well-being. Unfortunately, this means they are more vulnerable when biodiversity is degraded or lost.
But the environment and economy are interdependent. As the forests and wildlife are protected, pressure on forest resources is alleviated and the livelihoods of local people improve as well as their resistance to environmental and climatic changes.
Economic opportunities in the high-mountains are scarce and those that do exist often contribute to the degradation and loss of red panda habitats. RPN's community-based programs provide sustainable livelihoods while reducing dependency on forest resources and fostering environmental stewardship.
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RPN works closely with local communities to develop conservation programs that help support their economic well-being and preserve the environment. The Forest Guardian program is the centerpiece of our efforts. Forest Guardians work with their communities to monitor and protect red panda habitats and educate their communities. The Forest Guardian program is directly supported by donations from people like you! Learn how you can help support our Forest Guardians.
Gender inequalities in rural Nepal make it difficult to mobilize women to join our conservation efforts.
Despite these challenges, we are committed to empowering local women in red panda conservation through capacity-building and sustainable livelihood programs. Our partnerships with Community Forest User Groups (CFUGs) in red panda range allow us to prioritize recruiting female Forest Guardians and CFUG members.
Forest Conservation Nurseries
RPN has established a Nursery Guardians program to create nurseries in degraded forest areas for growing bamboo, and medicinal plants. These nurseries help generate jobs, increase local incomes and reduce pressure on forest resources by providing a sustainable source of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) for the local communities.
We help communities earn a living and support their families by purchasing sustainably sourced handicrafts and products and selling it through the RPN online store and our wholesale partners.
RPN distributes seeds and provides "poly houses" (a type of greenhouse) to help improve local agricultural yield. These high-value crops help farmers increase food production for their families, and offers sustainable income generating opportunities by allowing them to sell to their communities.
RPN ecotrips are not only incredibly popular with tourists, but also gives our local partners a sustainable income source, by providing homestay services and serving as nature guides during ecotrips. We provide guidance and training to our homestay owners, and have expanded our ecotrip program to now offer opportunities to experience Himalayan culture and wildlife in five different geographic areas.
Bio-briquettes are used with improved cookstoves to help reduce consumption of firewood, offering an alternative fuel source for cooking and heating. RPN provides educational and technical training for the rural communities in Nepal on converting dry biomass into char powder that can be used to make quality charcoal briquettes. Once pressed, the bio-briquette becomes a much more efficient and less polluting energy source. Locals can also produce briquettes to generate income by selling them in local markets.
Nettle Fiber Extraction Training
The Allo (Girardinia diversifolia), commonly known as the Himalayan nettle, is an abundant plant that produces a fiber that can be woven to produce goods for sale. RPN leads trainings with marginalized families, so they can develop the skills needed for extracting the fiber to create new income streams and opportunities.
Improved Cookstoves (ICS)
RPN provides locals with fuel efficient cookstoves that reduce firewood consumption and air pollution. ICSs can also be easily dismantled and transported to new locations (a particularly useful feature for herders). These cookstoves have contributed to a 50% reduction in fuelwood consumption and local deforestation, reduced indoor air pollution, and improved space heating.
The Drinking Water Project
Many families in the PIT corridor that have little-to-no access to clean drinking water, and often need to travel into red panda habitats to gather water. RPN has launched a drinking water project where we are providing reverse osmosis (RO) filters. Access to clean drinking water will help protect families from health risks and reduce human encroachment into red panda habitats. RPN is also restoring ponds and other fresh water sources to reduce competition between people and red pandas over water supplies.
Plant A Red Panda Home
Forest degradation and fragmentation are major threats to red panda populations in the PIT corridor. RPN, in collaboration with local organizations and government agencies, is restoring degraded forests by planting trees and vegetation (including bamboo) to rebuild red panda habitats and regenerate food sources. Learn more about this important campaign.
Forest Fire Fighting Teams
Forest fires are a significant risk to both red pandas and local communities. RPN organizes community forest firefighting teams consisting of Community Forest User Group (CFUG) members trained in combating forest fires and educated on fire types, causes, effects and preventive measures. RPN also provides forest firefighting tools to the team members. These efforts have helped increase awareness among CFUGs on how to prevent fires, and the adverse impacts on biodiversity.
Livestock herders need timber regularly to build and maintain herding stations, and are a major cause for red panda habitat loss and degradation in Eastern Nepal. Additionally, livestock that graze in the forests directly compete with red pandas for food sources. RPN is working with local herders to reduce their dependency on timber. We have designed an improved goth (livestock shed) that includes a portable canvas tent and modern cooking stoves to replace the inefficient herding stations.
We're working with local herders to diversify their income and achieve sustainable livelihoods.
In order to earn enough income to survive, herders have to manage large herds of livestock which requires multiple pastures and herding stations which they rotate seasonally throughout the year. Herders clear-cut forest to create grazing land and cut down trees to build their stations.
The income herders receive from goth-stay tourism allows them to have smaller herds and fewer herding stations — resulting in decreased deforestation — while offering visitors a unique experience in red panda habitat.
Livestock Herding Management Committee
RPN is also supporting sustainable herding practices by working with CFUGs to form a livestock herding management committee that supports the adoption of more environmentally sustainable herding practices. This committee helps educate herders on modern herding methods including stall-feeding, improved sanitation, and proper management and disposal of livestock waste. RPN also provides fodder seedlings to local herders to encourage stall feeding and reduce the need for forest grazing.Learn more:
Feral, hunting and herding dogs have been identified as major threats to red pandas in Eastern Nepal. We have received reports of these dogs killing red pandas. Dogs can also carry rabies and canine distemper virus which are fatal to red pandas. RPN has partnered with the District Livestock Service Centre of Ilam and Taplejung to implement a neutering and rabies vaccination program for these herding, feral and pet dogs.
Learn more: Free-roaming dogs: a major threat to red pandas.