NEPAP (HMGN 1993) was the first government document that recognised rangelands and the need to comprehensively manage rangeland ecosystems. NEPAP I recommends that rangeland management needs greater support to maintain existing biodiversity and sustain viable rural economies and livelihoods.
Management responsibility for rangelands is unclear. Rangelands are owned by MFSC while their utilisation by local communities implicitly associates them with the Ministry of Agriculture through pasture development and livestock improvement services. To complicate matters further, the Department of Livestock Services, Department of Agriculture, and Nepal Agricultural Research Council have also played significant roles in rangeland management. Moreover, significant northern rangelands are located within protected areas under the jurisdiction of the DNPWC. NEPAP I (HMGN 1993) proposes that a greater emphasis be placed on designing appropriate incentives and regulations for pastoralists to invest in rangeland development and sustainable livestock management practices.
Although there are no well-defined legislative measures to manage rangelands in Nepal, the ForestAct, 1993 implicitly covers rangelands. The Forest Regulations, 1995 do not explicitly deal with rangelands, but Rule 19 suggests licensing for grazing animals such as yaks, and Annexes 8 and 9 deal with pasture charges and licences for pasturage.
3.4.2 MAJOR ACHIEVEMENTS
The Department of Livestock Services has been promoting fodder and pasture development through various means, including production of fodder and pasture crops, seeds, planting implements, distribution of seeds and planting implements, and marketing facilitation (Table 3.9).
Table 3.10 Production of forage/pasture seeds by the Department of Livestock Services
Over 7,242 hectares of high altitude pastureland have been developed and 2,000 hectares of private land have been transformed for various forage crops. Government and non-governmental organisations and the private sector have become active in the production of forage/pasture seeds and in other forage and pasture development activities.
The Nepal Agricultural Research Council has established a number of research centres: the National Pasture and Grassland Research Centre, Khumaltar, Lalitpur; the Regional Pasture Research Centre, Dhunche, Rasuwa; the National Sheep Research Centre, Jumla; the Agricultural Research Centre, Pakhribas; and the Agricultural Research Centre, Lumle. These centres have all been producing forage and pasture seeds. A number of farmers’ groups are also involved in seed production.
3.4.3 LESSONS LEARNED
Awareness and social understanding of natural resource conservation and economic realities influence interest and initiatives in forage and pasture development programmes. However, attention needs to be given to the production of quality seeds.
Joint efforts between the Department of Livestock Services and the Department of Forests or the DNPWC are needed to improve grasslands both outside and within PAs.
Protection of pastureland: Community pasturelands are considered as common property. As a result, there is no identifiable entity to accept management responsibility and most of the community pasturelands are overgrazed and deteriorating.
Traditional pastureland management: The traditional systems of pastureland management do not allow for the increasing number of livestock and the declining productivity of the pastureland.
Determining carrying capacity: Numbers of livestock per unit of pastureland are too high relative to the carrying capacity of the pastureland.
Pasture vegetation: The component of legumes, which is important for quality feed as well as for improving soil fertility, is very low.
High cost of development: Most pasturelands are situated on steep slopes and lack of trails or drinking water for livestock. Moreover, unwanted plants and weeds quickly invade improved pasturelands. The construction of trails and drinking water facilities and the eradication of weeds are costly and not carried out.
Lack of biological knowledge: Despite their extent and importance, the vegetation dynamics are not well known; there is a serious lack of information on ecological processes of grasslands at high altitudes (Miller 1989; 1993).
Poor representation of grasslands in the tropical and temperate zones: Grassland ecosystems of the subtropical and lower temperate zones are very poorly represented in existing PAs.
Poor infrastructure and extension staff: Major constraints regarding forage development include the lack of suitable and improved forage species for many rangeland areas, the lack of technologies for low-cost forage development, the high cost of forage seeds and fertilisers, insufficient extension staff, and poor communication between experts and managers.
Gap in management: Political, socio-economic, and ecological transformations have cumulatively degraded many previously remote, pastoral areas and have placed heavy pressure on Nepalese herders. Institutional interactions between researcher, technician, farmer, and the public and private sectors to address these issues are still being developed.
Lack of inter-sectoral policy: As rangeland management is multisectoral because of its many uses, there is a distinct need for the MFSC and the Ministry of Agriculture to jointly develop, in consultation with local communities, rangeland policies and appropriate management strategies that reflect multiple use.
Management of high altitude rangelands/grasslands: Forage-related programmes of the past focussed on subtropical and temperate rangelands and neglected high altitude rangelands because of their remoteness, harsh climate, and sparse settlements. However, Nepal’s high altitude rangelands must be given major focus as they contain valuable biological resources.