WCP promotes alternative fuel for nomads

Grinding biomass produced charcoal
Grinding biomass produced charcoal

WCP successfully conducted two days training on producing biomass fuel and use of biomass based cook stoves for 35 nomads from Chhokhor Geog (block), Central Range in close technical collaboration with Watershed Management Division, Department of Forests and Park Services. The training is part of the Asia High Mountains project funded by USAID and routed through WWF Project in WCP. The cook stoves procurement was done with financial support from Bhutan Trust Fund (BTF-EC) in FY 13.

The objectives of the training were:

  1. To sensitize nomads on the destruction of the hardy Rhododendron and other shrubs and the adverse effects on forests and wildlife.
  2. To train nomads on production of biomass cakes, use of cook stove and charcoal grinding machine.
  3. To train nomads on general maintenance of the stove and accessories.
  4. To help nomads generate income arising out of sale of Bio-briquette to hikers, trekkers and tourists in future.

The Nomads of the Central Range of WCP consists of around 35 households and live in altitude above 3500 meters above sea level predominantly depending on yak herding as the major source of livelihood. Each household has around 85-90 yaks and 2-19 horses. Most of the herders have given up rearing of small stock (goats and sheep) in the recent past apparently due to the predation by the wild animals.

Additionally, around 1000 people congregate in the habitat areas of snow leopard during the month of April, May and June every year to collect the Cordyceps.  Consequently, Cordyceps collection has now become one of the most lucrative economic enterprises in the area. Currently, they use firewood chiefly Rhododendron and Juniper shrubs, amongst other, for the daily cooking purposes. The vegetation is rare in the areas they live, the households are not connected through on grid electricity and being located in very remote areas, LPG availability is almost non –existent. In such a scenario, dependence on available Rhododendron and Juniper shrubs, amongst other, as cooking fuel is very high.

With opening up of more alpine scrublands through the practice of clearing shrubs for fuel wood, habitat of the snow leopard, Blue sheep, Tibetan wolf and other species is impacted severely. And, since the habitat of snow leopard and other wildlife overlaps with the yak herders, the practice of fuel wood collection has been impacting the alpine ecosystem through mud-slides, loss of watershed, and local desertification, which places further pressures on the Nomads’ food security and livestock productivity. This further impacts the biodiversity in the area that comprises primarily of snow leopard, its chief prey Blue sheep and the co-predator Tibetan wolf.

The following are the outputs/Results of the training:

  • Alternative form of energy demonstrated
  • Members from 35 nomad households sensitized on the importance of conserving the hardy shrub species of Juniper and Rhododendron at high altitude.
  • Nomads trained on producing biomass cakes for use as cooking fuel and use of biomass based cook stove
  • Knowledge on linkage of alpine ecosystem conservation and snow leopard habitat increased

Contributed by Karma Thukten, IFS, Forest Officer, Conservation Development & Environmental Education Section (CDEES), WCP

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