The terai is the most southern part of Nepal. It shares a border with India. It is different from the rest of Nepal because it is flat. The rest of Nepal is a large mountain range called the Himalayas.
As you already know, the terai is also my favorite place in Nepal because Chitwan National Park is located there. The people who live around Chitwan National Park depend on the park and an area that is called the buffer zone to live. The buffer zone is a large area that surrounds the park. It was given to communities to protect and use. This management strategy is a part of an important movement in Nepal called Community Forestry.
Before Chitwan National Park was protected by the government, people went into the park to hunt, fish, gather firewood, and find what they needed to survive. These activities hurt the jungle. The wildlife did not have access to enough food or living space.
When the Nepalese government realized how people were hurting the jungle, Chitwan National Park was formed. When the park was formed, people could no longer hunt, fish or gather from the jungle. Instead, the government gave the people the land that surrounds the jungle to help them to survive.
The point of community forestry is to give people the resources they need while also saving the natural wildlife of the area. Today, the community comes together to manage the buffer zone. In the buffer zone, they get the firewood they need, and also graze their livestock. They also make money through ecotourism activities like elephant rides and bird walks. Baghmara Community Forest is the most profitable community forest in the terai.
What makes this environment special or different?
The terai is the only flat and tropical region in Nepal. Before people developed the area, it was mostly jungle. The terai is still jungle but has villages every so often. The jungle is important because it is home to many endangered species. I have written a lot about this!
What parts of this environment help people to live here?
There is a long growing season here. It is nearly year round. I have met farmers that grow four rounds of crops a year. Exotic fruits such as mango, guava, papaya, and jack fruit grow here. Irrigation is easy because the Narayani River flows from the mountains, so people have access to water for their crops and water for drinking.
The jungle provides firewood for stoves. However, sometimes there is not enough firewood to go around. Instead, there is a new system called biogas. Biogas uses dung from cows to produce gas to operate a small light or a stove. Biogas is becoming popular in the terai because it lowers how much firewood people need. Also, the people in the terai have enough space to have cows to power the biogas. People who live in Kathmandu could not have biogas because they do not have enough space for cows.
What challenges do people face living in this environment?
Living near the jungle does have its drawbacks for the locals. When I am sitting in my room and a wild elephant or rhino walks into camp, I get excited because I am a foreigner. However, for a farmer growing rice, a wild elephant or rhino going into a paddy and eating his rice is not good. The rice is his livelihood. This is an example of a problem called human-wildlife conflicts. Another common human-wildlife conflict is tigers or leopards eating farmer’s cows. A cow is worth hundreds of dollars. People in Nepal do not have much, so losing one can be very bad for a family.
How have people been adapting to this environment?
The people in the terai are still adapting to living near the jungle. The most important adaptation I noticed is the understanding the people have about the environment. Locals have grown to understand that they cannot just use the forest any way they want. Future generations need the resources, too.
It is amazing to see how popular ecotourism is here today. I was told that 30 years ago, Sauraha was a town full of mud houses. Now there are many hotels, restaurants, and jungle safari businesses. I have always heard the saying, “Conservation is not possible without the support of the local people.” After living in the terai I understand the meaning of those words.