Promoting Community-based Conservation
RSPN has always considered people central to biodiversity conservation. In Bhutan, most rural communities live within or close to diverse ecosystems that contribute greatly towards the Kingdom’s ecological richness. Certain conservation practices and strategies can often limit local economic opportunities and community advancement. While we remain sensitive to local traditions and values and the broader conservation agenda, safeguarding local and regional biodiversity through inclusive sustainable livelihoods approaches has been a key of RSPN’s focus on programs.
One such initiative is the Community-based Sustainable Tourism (CBST) program in Phobjikha valley, one of the wintering habitats of Black-necked Cranes and the largest high-altitude wetland in Bhutan. In 1998, RSPN initiated the first Black-necked Crane festival to create awareness on conservation of Black-necked Cranes and to further conservation efforts. RSPN also established the Black-necked Crane Visitor Center (BNCVC) to accommodate visitors interested in crane ecology and local values systems.
CBST also promotes organic agriculture practices to enrich the homestay experience. From a total of 500 households in the valley, 21 households have started operating homestays. In 2016-2017, about 500 visitors availed the CBST services and benefited these homestays, which has motivated other households to join the program.
Considering the success in Phobjikha, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) supported its replication in Haa, Western Bhutan. RSPN aims to expand similar programs to Central and Eastern Bhutan where the potential for nature-based tourism is high. While the CBST program is not without challenges, it has been recognized by the government, donors and other stakeholders in the tourism sector as a model program. This model is inclusive of communities, youth and gender and has the power to positively impact low-income communities.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE
At RSPN, we believe a single grain of sand can tip the scale. You can be the grain that tips the scale towards improved environmental conditions and conservation efforts in Bhutan. RSPN has set a target to raise US$ 1.5 million for next 10 years.