Managing Community Resources for the Future

If one were to google the indigenous group Dura, an interesting but alarming fact about them is the near extinction of their language. In fact, the Dura language is spoken by a few, or nearly none at all. Being a marginalized group in Nepal, the Duras not only have to contend with this threat to their culture, but more so, to face the challenge of revitalizing and promoting their traditional knowledge and customary practices as a means to protect their natural and forest resources which are their lifeblood.

As traditional farmers in Lamjung, the Duras rely on their traditional  knowledge,  skills,  and  practices  to sustainably  manage their forests,  water  sources, and herbal  medicine. To enhance this knowledge, they had to learn new methods and innovations through the Community-based  Monitoring and Information  System  (CBMIS). This aided in raising their awareness and appreciation of the wealth of their own biodiversity and ecosystem. Adopting and integrating the CBMIS into their community life as a collective endeavour was a clear assertion and protection of their rights as indigenous peoples. Coupled with the concern on language at the brink of obliteration, the migration to  the  cities  and  foreign  countries  for  employment  and  education among the youth  is to be hurdled.  There are only a  few  youths left in  the  village  to  continue  the  traditional  knowledge  on  sustainable  resource management and  biodiversity  conservation. 

One component of the CBMIS was advocacy and lobby training which provided the community leaders including the women, the opportunity to study and appreciate the issues of indigenous peoples. With their capacities, they had the agency to engage local authorities on the matter of self-determined  development with regard to sustainable  forest  and  other  natural  resource  management.

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For broader reach and easier communication, the CBMIS Training Manual in English was translated to Nepali and printed for the community trainings which also included other indigenous groups and dalits in adjacent villages.

Enthusiasm for the project translated to harnessing support for the establishment of a CBMIS Center as local counterpart initiated by Dura leaders. This served as the repository of the participants’ Resource Inventory or Data Collection on medicinalplants and venue for learning of the future generations.

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As an integrative project, CBMIS conducted trainings on vegetable farming, bee keeping, traditional bamboo weaving and community exposure. Economic empowerment translated to livelihood activities that provided regular income, women’s financial independence, skills transfer to the youth, and higher motivation among community members.

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All  the participants in the communities reflected  a heightened  level  of  awareness  and  capacity  to  articulate their  issues  and  concerns not only on the community, but on the national  level  as  well. Equipped now with the learning on social  entrepreneurship, protection  and  promotion  of  their  traditional  knowledge  and  cultural  practices  for  sustainable  livelihoods  and  natural  resources  and  forest  management, the communities highly regard their role as resource monitors and stewards.

As in any community project, there were blocks and challenges that had to be hurdled such as  strike,  blockade, migration and monsoon weather, but these factors were dealt with flexibly and the project  was  implemented as planned, with adequate efforts to ensure balance and equal participation of men and women, youth, elders, caste and ethnic groups.

Influences may threaten the Dura language, there may be continuing migration of the youth, but the continued practice of traditional wisdom in safeguarding their natural resources might well be an assurance of persistence. The CBMIS is a template of stewardship that the Duras can be proud of.

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Promotion  of  Traditional  Knowledge  and  Cultural  Practices  for  Sustainable  Management  of  Forest  and  Natural  Resources  through  Community  Based  Monitoring  and  Information  System  (CBMIS)  was a project implemented by the Center for Indigenous Peoples Research and Development (CIPRED) and Tebtebba Foundation with support from PAWANKA Fund.