Nepal has been striving to improve its degraded forests and grasslands in the Terai and Mid-hills with plantations. As a result, a number of districts now have substantial areas of plantation forest comprising both indigenous and exotic species. Major species of planted forests in the Terai are Dalbergia sissoo, Eucalyptus species, and Tectona grandis, particularly in the Sagarnath and Nepalgunj Forestry Development Projects, which are implemented by the Forest Product Development Board. Pinus roxburghii, P. wallichiana, P. patula, and Alnus nepalensis are largely planted in the Mid-hills.
Non-Timber Forest Products Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) are defined as any kind of goods derived from forest species, both plant and animal, other than timber or phalloid. A narrower definition of NTFPs appropriate for Nepal includes all biological materials, other than timber, fodder or phalloid (Hammett 1993). Medicinal and aromatic plants and other minor forest products are among six primary programmes formulated in the Master Plan for Forestry Sector, Nepal (HMGN/ADB/FINNIDA 1988).
Recently, there has been increasing awareness of the importance of NTFPs as a result of factors such as the dependence of rural communities on NTFPs, site quality, new market preferences for natural products, increasing concern about the conservation of forests and their biodiversity, and the occurrence of many non-wood products amongst the biological richness and ecological complexity of natural forests (FAO 1994; Grimes et al. 1994). The value of these products can be far greater than that of timber harvests or the land converted to pasture or agriculture (Roque 1992). In Southeast Asia, at least 29 million people depend on NTFPs for subsistence income.
An identification manual published by the Forest Resource Information System Project (FRISP), under HMGN and the Finnish International Development Agency (FINNIDA), has illustrations, descriptions and other useful field notes for over 121 varieties of NTFPs in Nepal (Malla et al. 1997). Parajuli et al. (1998) have described 70 non-timber species together with information on the parts used, occurrence, conservation status, royalty rate, market price, active constituents and ethnobotanical uses. Similarly, a list of 139 vascular, non-timber plant species, with their vernacular name, habit, distribution, parts used and uses has been compiled by Chaudhary (1998).
Sustainable management of NTFPs is important because of their value as a perennial source of subsistence income and as a means of conserving biodiversity. Little attention, however, has been given to the biological, socio-economic and conservation importance of NTFP resources. However, a clear understanding of this resource is still lacking in Nepal.
126.96.36.199 Rangeland ecosystems Collectively, rangelands in Nepal comprise grasslands, pastures, scrubland and forests (MOPE 1998). The rangeland environment supplies forage or vegetation for grazing or browsing livestock. Nepal's rangelands have high biodiversity as they range from subtropical savannahs to temperate grasslands and alpine meadows, and include the cold, arid steppes north of the Himalayas. Nepal's total grassland areas are estimated to cover about 1.75 million hectares, or nearly 12% of Nepal’s total land area. About 70% of the rangelands are situated in the western and mid-western regions, and it is estimated that only 37% of rangeland forage is actually available or accessible for livestock (LMP 1993; Pariyar 1998).
Rangeland Resource Development Rangeland management has not as yet been comprehensively addressed by the government sector (Pariyar 1998). Most of Nepal's initiatives are targeted towards forage research and development. A programme was first initiated in the late 1950s with the establishment of cheese factories in north–central Nepal for processing yak and chauri (a yak-cattle hybrid) milk. A temperate cultivar evaluation-cum-forage production programme was launched in 1953, and FAO's Pasture, Fodder and Livestock Development Project was implemented in Nuwakot and Rasuwa districts in the late 1960s. Similarly, rangeland improvement programmes were strengthened with the establishment of a Pasture & Fodder Development Farm in Rasuwa district in 1971 and a Pasture Development Project at Khumaltar in 1978. USAID's Resource Conservation and Utilisation Project (RCUP) and the Swiss-funded forage improvement activities in Dolakha and Sindhupalchowk were implemented as external assistance projects and continued until the 1980s (Basnyat 1999).
Profound changes have taken place primarily through the expansion of agriculture land into rangelands. The transformation of traditional pastoral production systems and a general desiccation of alpine rangelands due to climatic changes are thought to be modifying the vegetation composition and reducing plant productivity (Miller 1993). Political changes in Tibet after 1959 also disrupted centuries-old transhumance patterns. Since then, there have been several negotiations on the issues of rangeland availability for both Nepali and Tibetan herds, and, in 1983, the two governments agreed that it would be prohibited to allow animals from each country to cross the common border to graze. These political, social, economic and ecological transformations have cumulatively degraded many previously remote pastoral areas and their environments.
Realising the severe impacts of such a border closure as well as the shortage of fodder, Nepal initiated the Northern Areas Pasture Development Programme in 1985, which focuses on rangeland management and fodder development in four critical districts - Humla, Mustang, Sindhupalchowk and Dolakha, and six other districts that are beginning to experience a forest/fodder crisis - Manang, Dolpa, Gorkha, Mugu, Sankhuwasabha, and Taplejung. Between 1987 and 1990, the High Altitude Pasture Development Project provided extensive support to the initiative, while the Himalayan Pasture & Fodder Research Network supported research. These two FAO/UNDP-funded activities supported HMGN's district level forage improvement programme aimed at reducing the fodder crisis.
The Hills Leasehold Forestry & Forage Development Project, 1992, was jointly implemented by the Department of Forests, Department of Agriculture, Nepal Agricultural Research Council and the Agriculture Development Bank of Nepal to alleviate poverty and restore degraded hill slopes in 12 districts through access to credit and technological assistance for poor farmers. This will help improve applied fodder and pasture research in degraded hill areas, but institutional relationships between researcher, technician, and farmer, and between the public and private sectors are still being developed.
The grasslands of Nepal, which are a component of rangelands, are divided into five climatic zones (Table 2.7), but a high proportion is located in the Mid-hills and Mountain regions. Grasslands contribute to biological diversity with various flowering plant species and habitat for wildlife, including black buck, nilgai, swamp deer, hog deer, chital, gaur and sambar in subtropical grasslands; and taking, musk deer and goral in alpine grasslands. In addition, these grasslands also sustain domestic livestock, which are another important biological resource.
Table 2.7 Grassland categories according to climatic zones
Grasslands grazed almost all the year round.
Non-palatable species such as ferns, stinging nettle, and Eupatorium species are becoming dominant because of heavy grazing.
Winter grazing for cattle, sheep and goats. Burning to improve grasslands is a common practice, causing increased soil erosion.
Seasonal grazing only because of heavy snow cover in winter. Burning of grasslands at the end of the grazing season and in early spring is common.
Grasslands are grazed only during the summer (June - September).
Plant Species in Rangelands Different types of grasses are the distinguishing characteristic of grasslands and provide forage for wild animals as well as for domestic cattle. Plant species found in the different rangelands of Nepal have been identified as follows:
Table 2.8 Plant species found in the rangelands of Nepal
Sources: Whyte (1968), Field & Pandey (1968), Stainton (1972), Pariyar & Shrestha (1984), Miller (1987), Archer (1990).
Rangeland Biodiversity and Endemism Nepal's high altitude rangelands are home to a unique assemblage of flora and fauna (Yonzon and Heinen 1997). About 131 endemic plant species (53% of the total number of endemic plants in Nepal) are found in the high altitude rangelands (Shrestha 1997). Of 41 key non-timber forest products, 14 species (34% of the total number of NTFPs in Nepal), primarily medicinal herbs, occur in alpine rangelands. Endangered wildlife species also occur predominantly in this region. They include the snow leopard (Uncia uncia), Tibetan wolf (Canis lupus), Tibetan argali (Ovis ammon hodgsonii), lynx (Felis lynx), brown bear (Ursus arctos), Tibetan wild ass (Equus heminonus), and wild yak (Bos mutus) (conservation status unclear). Although bird species diversity is low, 9 species are restricted to alpine rangelands and, of these, 5 species are of international significance: imperial eagle, Pallas’ fish eagle, Hodgson’s bushchat, lesser kestrel, Kasmir flycatcher (Inskipp 1989).
Although human activities have degraded wildlife habitat and contributed to the loss of biodiversity, primarily through poaching and trapping of wildlife and the over-harvesting of herbs and medicinal plants throughout Nepal, several mountain protected areas may safeguard rangeland biodiversity within their borders. Rangeland in the protected areas makes up 4,773km2, which is about 27% of the total rangeland in Nepal and about 18% of Nepal's protected areas. Such rangeland coverage, however, should not lead to complacency because there have not been any programmes in the protected areas system to specifically address rangeland biodiversity.
Rangeland Productivity Rangelands provide 36% of the total feed requirement for livestock in Nepal. Estimated forage production from high altitude grazing lands is comparatively higher, reflected in their carrying capacity (Table 2.9).
Table 2.9 Productivity of rangelands in different ecosystems
(TDN in tonnes/ha)
STOCKING RATE (LU/ha)
Subtropical & Temperate
TDN = Total Digestible Nutrient; LU = Livestock Unit
Source: Rajbhandari & Shah, 1981; Miller, 1989
188.8.131.52 Wetland ecosystems
Wetlands are sites distinguished by the presence of water, which often have unique soils that differ from adjacent uplands and support vegetation adapted to wet conditions. They comprise a wide range of inland, coastal and marine habitats characterised by the presence of flood-tolerant vegetation. The Ramsar Convention defines wetlands as “areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish, or salty, including areas of marine waters, the depth of which at low tide does not exceed 6 meters”, and which may include “riparian and coastal zones adjacent to the wetlands, or islands or bodies of marine water deeper than six meters at low tide lying within”.
Wetland Sites Nepal has many different types of wetlands that range from areas of permanently flowing rivers to areas of seasonal streams, lowland oxbow lakes, high altitude glacial lakes, swamps and marshes, paddy fields, reservoirs and ponds (Scott 1989) (Table 2.10). Wetlands in Nepal are rich in biological diversity and are known to regularly support more than 20,000 waterfowl during the peak period between December-February. They are broadly classified into two categories: natural and man made. The natural wetlands comprise lakes and ponds, riverine floodplains, swamps, and marshes, while man made wetlands include water storage areas and deep-water agricultural lands (IUCN-Nepal 1996).
Table 2.10 Total wetland areas in Nepal
ESTIMATED AREA (ha)
Source: DOAD, 1992, Fisheries Development Division
The systematic study of wetlands in Nepal is very recent. Surveys conducted over the last 15 years on the distribution of wetlands in three ecological zones (high mountains, Mid-hills and Terai) have contributed much to the knowledge of these (Shrestha & Nepali 1987; Scott 1989; Suwal & Shrestha 1990; Bhandari 1992; Shrestha 1992; Maskey 1992; Gurung & Pradhan 1992; Sah 1997; Jha & Lacoul 1998). In 1996, IUCN-Nepal prepared a detailed wetland inventory of 163 sites from the Terai and 79 sites from the hills and mountains (Table 2.11). HMGN has undertaken rapid assessments of the status of wetlands in the Terai (lowlands). In total, 51 sites were explored and 36 deemed of significant biodiversity importance (BPP 1995a) (Table 2.12). Additionally, Sah (1997) conducted a detailed study of the ecological and social features of wetlands in the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve.
Table 2.11 Number of Wetland Sites in Nepal
Number of sites (%)
Hills and Mountains
Source: IUCN-Nepal (1996)
The Koshi Tappu wetland is considered of international significance and was added to the Ramsar list of wetlands of global importance on December 17, 1987. New proposals for including other sites in the Ramsar list include Bishazari Tal (180ha) in Chitwan (Gitanagar VDC), Gaindahawa Tal (11 ha) in Rupandehi (Bishnupura VDC), Jagdishpur Reservoir (156ha) in Kapilvastu (Niglihawa VDC), Bidahiya Tal (100ha) in Bardia (Chailahi VDC), Ghodagodi Tal (150ha) in Kailali (Darkh Nidi VDC), Narcrodi Tal (100ha) in Kailali (Sandepani VDC), Rampur Tal in Kailali (Urma VDC), Deukhuria Tal in Kailali (Dhangadi municipality), Partiyani Tal (35ha) in Kanchanpur (Krishnapur VDC), and Belkot Tal (4ha) in Kanchanpur (Daiji VDC). Begnas Tal (Kaski) is acknowledged as one of the most seriously threatened wetlands in Asia but is too degraded to merit any special conservation effort (WCMC 1992).
Table 2.12 Wetland Sites in the Terai that Merit Legal Protection
Reason for listing
Large complex of oxbow lakes set in a very scenic environment. Of major importance as a particularly good representative of an oxbow ecosystem, supporting an appreciable assemblage of rare, vulnerable and endangered wildlife species.
Oxbow lake supporting small resident and wintering populations of several species of waterfowl.
Large irrigation reservoir supporting > 4% of the Asian population of Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca), (whose 1% criterion = 100) with 405 recorded. The same site almost reached the 1% criterion for the Lesser Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna javanica).
Large marshy natural depression supporting a large number of resident and wintering populations of several species of waterfowl.
Large complex of oxbow lakes set in a very scenic environment, surrounded by dense Sal forest. Of major importance as a particularly good example of an oxbow ecosystem supporting an appreciable assemblage of rare, vulnerable and endangered wildlife species. Important site for transient migratory species moving between Dudwa National Park (India), Royal Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve and Royal Bardia National Park. The resident population of Nettapus coromandelianus makes up nearly 1% of the total Asian population.
Large complex of oxbow lakes set in a very scenic environment, surrounded by dense Sal forest. Of major importance as a good example of an oxbow ecosystem supporting an appreciable assemblage of rare, vulnerable and endangered wildlife species.
Medium-sized complex of oxbow lakes set in a very scenic environment, surrounded by dense Sal forest. Of major importance as a particularly good representative of an oxbow ecosystem supporting an appreciable assemblage of rare, vulnerable and endangered wildlife species.
Kailali (Dhangadi Municipality)
Large lake set in a very scenic environment. Of major importance as a particularly good example of an oxbow ecosystem supporting an appreciable assemblage of rare (Sarkidiornis melanotos), vulnerable and endangered wildlife species.
Large oxbow lake of major importance as a particularly good representative of an oxbow ecosystem supporting an appreciable assemblage of rare, vulnerable and endangered wildlife species.
Very scenic lake of special value for maintaining genetic and ecological diversity.
Source: BPP (1995a)
Wetland Flora Wetland plants provide food, forage and cover for both domestic and wild animals. About 172 species of the major wetland plants are listed by IUCN (IUCN-Nepal 1996). Four endangered macrophyte species are often found in wetlands (Joshi & Joshi 1991): Spiranthes sinensis (orchid), Cyathea spinulosa (tree fern), Sphagnum nepalensis (sphagnum moss), and Pandanus nepalensis (screw pine). Plants growing in wetland habitats include Nelumbo nucifera (lotus), Nymphaea nouchali, N. stellata, Trapa quadrispinosa (water chestnut), Ipomoea aquatica, Pistia stratiotes, Nymphoides indica, Hydrilla verticillata, Vallisneria natans, Monochoria vaginalis, Acorus calamus, Typha angustifolia, Saccharum spontaneum, Persicaria hydropiper, Fimbristyis dichotoma, Ceratophyllum demersum,Lemna perpusilla (duck weed), Eichhornia crassipes (water hyacinth), Potamogeton crispus and P. nodosus. (Chaudhary & Singh 1996). Twenty-five percent of the estimated 7,000 species of vascular plants identified are somehow linked to wetland habitats (Bhandari 1992). Jha & Lacoul (1998) have summarised the common flora of the wetlands in different physiographic zones of Nepal.
Wetland Fauna Out of 833 bird species found in Nepal, 193 are known to be dependent on wetlands (Baral et al. 1996; Choudhary 1996; Halliday 1982; Scott 1989; Inskipp & Inskipp 1991; Suwal & Shrestha 1990; Perennou et al. 1994). Of these wetland-dependent species, about 187 are known to be dependent on the wetlands of the Terai. 180 species of water birds are reported from Koshi Tappu and the Koshi barrage (IUCN-Nepal 1996). Of the wetland birds in the Terai, 39 species are threatened on a national level. 11 species occurring in the Terai wetlands are described as globally threatened while another 11 species are identified as near threatened (Collar et al. 1994). The oriental darter that breeds in just 13 countries is a resident breeder in Chitwan, Koshi Tappu, and at Ghodaghodi Tal. The spot billed pelican, a globally threatened bird, is found on a seasonal basis at the Koshi barrage, while the wetlands in Rupendehi and Kapilbastu provide habitat for the saurus crane. The diverse wetland floras of the different ecological zones are significant producers in ecosystems that support indigenous populations of amphibians and fishes, and also attract many birds.
The gharial and marsh mugger, two species of crocodile, are the largest reptiles found in the Kali Gandaki River and the major tributaries of the Narayani River. The Gangetic dolphin is also reported in the Narayani River. A total of 185 species of fish are found in the wetlands of Nepal, out of which 8 are endemic. Three species of Schizothorax have been recorded in Rara Lake and as many as 43 species are found in hill streams (Shrestha 1995). About 5,000 species of insects may be found in Nepal; however, wetland insect assemblages are not fully understood.
Values Wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in the world. They are very important in terms of their ecological, economic, cultural and recreational values. These ecosystems support a wide variety of plants and animals of economic value, which provide a wide range of goods and services as well as income-generating opportunities. Wetlands are also one of the most threatened habitats because of their vulnerability and attractiveness for development (Hollis et al. 1988). According to Hussain (1994), the values of wetlands can be grouped into two categories:
(1) Ecological values or indirect-use values derived from the functions of wetlands as wildlife habitats and from their essential contribution to the maintenance of ecological balance in the immediate area and beyond.
(2) Economic values or direct-use values derived from the productivity of wetland systems and the sustainable harvest of their resources. Many ethnic groups depend on wetlands for their livelihoods (Box 2.1).
Box 2.1 People Dependent on Wetland Resources The major ethnic groups of people dependent on wetland resources for their livelihoods in Nepal are the following: the Sunaha of the Karnali River in far-western Nepal, the Khanwas (the Raji group of Sunaha are found in the Mid-hills whereas the Sunaha and the Khuna are found in the Terai), the Mallahs near the Gandak barrage in the southern part of Nawalparasi and from the districts around Janakpur in the east-central Terai, the Bote from Nawalparasi and Chitwan, the Mushahars from Nawalparasi and other eastern Terai districts, the Bantar (also called Sardad) from Sunsari and Saptari, the Gongi (also called Mallahs) from the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, the Mukhia (also called Bihin) from Rautahat, the Dushad from Parsa and other Terai districts, the Sahani from Rautahat, Sarlahi, Dhanusha, Mahottari, Parsa, and Bara, the Kewat from Nawalparasi, the Danuwars from Chitwan, Siraha, Dhanusha and Sindhuli, the Darai and the Kumal from Chitwan, Gorkha and Nawalparasi, the Barhamus from Gorkha, the Dhangar from Morang, Sunsari, Dhanusha, and Sarlahi, the Pode from the Phewa Tal area of Pokhara and from Panauti. Others include the Kushars and the Majhi from a number of Terai districts who depend primarily on fishing and aquatic resources for their livelihoods.
Source: IUCN-Nepal (1996)
Uses The wetland inventory for Nepal (IUCN-Nepal 1996) indicates that in the Terai, fishing occurs in 94% of wetland sites and animal grazing in 70%, and water for irrigation is extracted from from 69% of the sites surveyed (Table 2.13). These wetlands also serve as habitats for wild relatives of cultivated crops, endangered and threatened flora and some rare birds. Land uses around wetland sites include barren land, settlements, commercial establishments, cultivated land, pasture, grassland and open forest.
Table 2.13 Uses of Wetlands in the Terai (of the 163 inventoried by IUCN in 1996)
** Includes washing clothes and kitchenware and bathing in many wetlands in the Terai
*** Includes recreational use (13), travel routes (7), power generation (2), waste disposal (1)
184.108.40.206 Mountain ecosystems
The Mountain Agenda ratified during the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) is the most recent manifestation of international interest in conserving the islands of high biodiversity often found in mountain ecosystems. Chapter 13 of Agenda 21 also draws specific attention to the challenges and opportunities confronting mountain peoples and ecosystems. At the Fourth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity held in Bratislava in 1998, mountain ecosystems were listed as an item for “in-depth consideration” in the Programme for Work for the Seventh COP to be held in 2004. In light of this renewed interest and the fact that more than half of Nepal is above 3,000m, the NBS proposes initial policy and programmatic steps to specifically address the conservation and sustainable use of mountain biodiversity. Sustainable Mountain development is a must, and this can only be achieved by having a proper mountain perspective. In this context, Price (1988) suggested two programmes: (i) generating and strengthening the knowledge of the ecology and sustainable development of mountain ecosystems, and (ii) promoting integrated catchment development and alternative livelihood opportunities.
Nepal's landscape is predominantly composed of hills and mountains, covering about 83% of the total land area. Nepal has the highest mountain in the world, Sagarmatha (Everest). Ten of the world’s 14 peaks over 8,000m are found in the Himalayas. 127 peaks over 7,000m and 1,311 others above 6,000m are also found in the Himalayas (Pandey 1995). Snowline in the east is at 5,000m and in the west is at 4,000m. Geomorphologically, the high Himalaya is a cold desert where coarse debris, rocks and snow dominate (Jha 1992).
Biodiversity in Nepal varies with physiographic zone, with the Mid-hills, characterised by a subtropical to temperate climate, representing the highest number of species of many floral and faunal groups. Numbers of species decreases with altitude, but it is important to note that large numbers of endemic species occur in the high mountain zone, where the topography and cold climate have facilitated floral and faunal endemism.
Another important feature of mountain biodiversity is the diversity of levels or groups of biological organisation above the species level - genera, families, phyla, habitats, and ecosystems - showing high beta diversity. In general, there are more lichens, bryophytes, and ferns in the mountain zone than in the lowlands. The Himalayan mountain system is unique in the world (Singh 2001). Plants and animals have been reported above 5,000m by several biologists. Mosses and lichens are seen up to 6,300m, cushions of flowering Stellaria decumbens in Mount Makalu occur up to 6,135m and Ephedra gerardiana up to 5,200m. Mammals and birds are seen above 5,000m even in very harsh environments.
The International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) was established in Kathmandu in 1984 with the primary objective of promoting economically and environmentally sound development in mountain ecosystems and improving the living standards of mountain peoples in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan Region. In pursuing its mandate, ICIMOD works mainly at the interface between research and development and acts as a facilitator for generating new mountain-specific knowledge of relevance to mountain development. In this context, ICIMOD has established 28 areas of focus under five major themes. Six of these have been listed under the major theme of Sustainable Management of the Mountain Commons (ICIMOD 1999). These are:
People and resource dynamics in mountain watersheds
Governance and participation in the management of mountain commons
Management of forest resources
Management of rangelands and pastures
Sustainable development of mountain water resources
Conservation of biological diversity in mountain ecosystems
ICIMOD completed several activities related to biodiversity in the last few years and produced a number of documents including Banking on Biodiversity and Managing Agrobiodiversity. Banking on Biodiversity provides a broad framework for assessing and monitoring biodiversity change, describes the experiences of different countries, the drawbacks and complexities of current approaches, and identifies the need for new methods to be developed in order to improve present systems.
About 21% (3.2 million hectares) of the total land area of Nepal is used for cultivation, and the principal crops are rice (45%), maize (20%), wheat (18%), millet (5%) and potatoes (3%), followed by sugarcane, jute, cotton, tea, barley, legumes, vegetables and fruit. Crops such as rice, rice bean, eggplant, buckwheat, soybean, foxtail millet, citrus and mango have high genetic diversity relative to other food crops. Crop species in Nepal owe their variability due to the presence of about 120 wild relatives of the commonly cultivated food plants and their proximity to cultivated areas (Regmi 1995). Jha et al. (1996) have listed 60 food species (fruits, vegetables, cereals, legumes) and 54 wild relatives of food plants.
Table 2.14 Major cropping patterns in different physiographic regions of Nepal
Nepal has a high degree of agroecological diversity that is largely associated with the hills and mountains, where variations in factors such as topography, slope, aspect and altitude allow for an enormous range of biological environments, climatic regimes and varied ecosystems. Broadly speaking, farming systems in Nepal vary according to the three major physiographic regions of the country, namely the Terai, the Mid-hills, and the mountains. The major cropping patterns in each physiographic region (Table 2.14), the major landraces of important food crops (Table 2.15) and the crop diversity present in each ecological zone (Table 2.16) reveal that primitive cultivars of speciality cultigens and crop landraces are the major building blocks of traditional farming systems. This suggests that the promotion and continued existence of traditional farming systems are essential for agrobiodiversity conservation in Nepal.
Table 2.15 Major Landraces of Important Food Crops
Species diversity and variety dynamics Agricultural biodiversity is vital to marginalised mountain communities for maintaining food security. This is apparent from the 172 families, 294 genera, and 551 species/subspecies of agricultural crops that are grown in the Himalayas (Table 2.17). Furthermore, the genetic variability within each crop species is the only source of natural resistance to disease. Hence, agricultural biodiversity provides for both the immediate needs and the long-term sustenance of rural people.
Table 2.17 Estimated Percentage of Botanical Sources of Cultivated and Wild Food Crops
No. of FOOD
No. of SPECIES
Out of more than 500 plant species that are edible, 200 are cultivated. Crops such as rice (Oryza sativa), rice bean (Vigna unbellata), eggplant (Solanum melongena), buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum, F. tatricum), soybean (Glycine max), foxtail millet (Setaria italica), citrus (Citrus aurantium, C. limon, C. medica) and mango (Mangifera indica) have high genetic diversity. Similarly, the diversity in under-utilised food crops and tropical fruit species is noteworthy. This variability in crop species has been maintained through traditional farming systems and as a result of number of wild relatives found in proximity (Regmi 1995) (Tables 2.18 and 2.19).
Crop variety dynamics in Nepal are important. Rice is cultivated in diverse environments, and both quantity and quality of rice production is influenced by various levels of crop production management (Joshi et al. 1996a). Farmers in Nepal grow more than 95 local aromatic and fine rice landraces. Recent studies found more than 75 local landraces growing in the Seti River valley of Kaski district. However, only 11 varieties are widely cultivated and the rest are being replaced or discontinued for reasons such as the introduction of modern varieties that have high yield potential. Similarly, quantities of Samundraphinj, a suitable rice landrace grown in swampy lands around the lakes of Pokhara valley, is decreasing as the swampy land is being converted into ordinary agricultural land for which irrigated rice varieties have been introduced (Rijal et al. 1998).
Table 2.18 A few wild species of cultivated food plants
COMMON ENGLISH NAME
Oryza nivara Sharma et Shastry
O. rufipogon Griff.
O. officinalis Wall. ex Watt.
O. granulata Nees et Arn. ex. Watt.
O. sativa f. spontanea Roschev.
Wild rice (weedy rice)
Eleusine indica (L.) Gaertn.
Crab grass/Wild finger millet
Fagopyrum dibotrys (D. Don) Hara
F. cymosum (Trev.) Heisn.
F. megacarpum Hara
Rumex nepalensis Spreng.
R. hastasus D. Don.
Abelmoschus moschatus Moench.
Colocassia antiquorum Schott.
Amaranthus viridis L.
Pigweed (without thorn)
A. spinosus L.
Pigweed (with thorn)
A. blitum L.
Fumaria vaillanti Loisel. (F. paviflora Lam.)
Allium wallichii Kunth.
A. hypsistum Stearn
Saccharum beghalensis Retz. (S. arundinaceum Hook. f.)
Horticultural diversity Horticultural diversity is not well documented in Nepal. Several fruit and vegetable species and varieties have been introduced into the country, adding genetic diversity (Table 2.19). These include grape, strawberry, avocado, macadamia nut, olive, and coffee, as well as over one hundred high-yielding varieties of various fruit crops, such as apple, pear, plum, citrus, pecan nut, walnut, kiwi, chestnut and persimmon. There are 14 fruit and five vegetable development farms located in different ecological zones in Nepal contributing towards the production and conservation of horticultural diversity.
Table 2.19 Agroclimatic niche-based selection of fruit crops in the districts of Nepal