Orchids for Livelihoods of Rural Communities - Interview with Mr. Abishkar
born in Nepal and had Master Degree in Botany.
He is deeply engaged in exploration, documentation, identification,
measurement and conservation of wild orchids Nepal Himalaya since
He is specially interested in taxonomy, diversity assessment and
developing participatory and community focused conservation strategies
for wild orchids of Himalaya region.
He added dozens of orchids to the Flora of Nepal.
Due to his contribution to wild orchids research and conservation
in Nepal he was awarded through 'Crown Prince Young Scientist
of Nepal in the year 2003' by Royal Nepal Academy of Science and
Technology (RONAST) which is highest award given to any young
scientist of Nepal.
Since 2002 he is professionally involving in national NGO called
Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (LI-BIRD).
As an programme officer of LI-BIRD he is leading several projects
related with In situ conservation of biodiversity of Nepal.
Abishkar Subedi, your lecture concerned the Orchids and Sustainable
Livelihood in Nepal. We would like to start this interview asking
you to tell a little about your country.
AS: Its population is over 20 Million and the
agriculture is the main source country economy. About 81% population
depend on agriculture to meet their daily livelihood.
ON:Which are the geographical conditions?
AS: Nepal is situated on the southern slopes of
the central Himalayas which represent one third of its whole length.
It has an area of 147.181 sq. km., East to West average length 885 km
and North- South width varies from 145-241 km. About 86% of its total
land has occupied by mountains and rolling hills. About 12% by the flat
lands of the Terai. Altitude varies from 60 meter above sea level (masl)
to 8,848 masl (Mt. Everest the highest peek of the world). 6 floristic
provisions (more influence of Sino-Japanese elements), 35 forest types,
75 vegetation types, Western Himalayas and Eastern Himalayas merge in
Nepal. Eastern Nepal is relatively wetter while western Nepal is comparatively
drier. In inner Himalayas many areas are rain shadow areas and receive
annual rainfall lees the 60mm However country receive highest rainfall
during July-August. The Central Nepal receive the highest rainfall of
above 5000 mm of rainfall.
ON: And about the climate?
AS: Temperature greatly varies as per latitude.
However June-July are the hottest month and November- December are
the coldest month throughout Nepal.
ON: What can you say about the biodiversity?
AS: Due to these above extreme climatic, geographical
and social settings Nepal is extraordinarily diverse in biodiversity.
Although it occupies 0.1 % of total land of the world it is within
the top 22 countries of the world for its rich biodiversity.
ON: You said that over 400 species of orchids belonging to 102 genera
have been reported from Nepal including 8 endemic species. Could you
develop this question? Which are the most important genera? Which
are the endemic species? Are they terrestrial and epiphyte?
AS: The completed indexing of status of Nepalese
is going on because still a large areas of far-western Nepal and Terai
jungles were never explored. However so far studied indicated over
102 genera and 400 species found in Nepal. These include nine endemic
• Bulbophyllum ambrosia subsp. nepalensis J.J.
• Liparis olivaceae Lindl. (Terrestrial)
• Listera nepalensis N.P. Balakr. (Saprophyte)
• Malaxis tamaurensis Tuyama (Teresstrial )
• Oberonia nepalesnis L.R. Shakya & R.P. Chaudhary
• Oreorchis porphyranthus Tuyama (Terestrial)
• Pleione coronaria P.J. Cribb & C.Z. Tang (Lithopyte/epiphyte)
• Eria pokharensis Bajracharya, Subedi & Shrestha
Most important genera/species for ornamental, medicinal and aurvedic
purposes of Nepal:
Species involved in floriculture trade (specific) and also for ayurvedic/medicinal
and Total species in Nepal
involved in Floriculture trade
involved in ayurvedic or medicinal purposes
(12 species in Nepal)
devonianum, Cym iridoides, Cym hokkerianum, Cym lancifolium, Cym
aloifolium, Cym longifolium, Cym eryhtreum
iridoides, Cym aloifolium, Cym longifloium
cristata, Coel nitida, Coel corymbosa, Coel fusseccens, Coel ovalis,
Coel flaccida, Coel stricta
cristata, Coel nitida, Coel Corymbosa
densiflorum, Den fimbriatum var. occulatum, Den nobile, Den formosum,
Den transparens, Den amoenum, Den ochreatum, Den primulinium
transparens and pseudobulbs of several species
plantaginea, Cal puberula, Cal masuca and Cal tricarinata
puberula and Cal plantaginea
praecox, Pln humilis, Pln hookerianum
cristata, V tessellata, V testacea
multiflora, Aer odorata
involved in trade for ayurvedic or medicinal values
and Total species in Nepal
involved in ayurvedic or medicinal purposes
albus, Otochilus porrectus
careyanum, Bulb leopardinum
nuda, Eupha flava
imbricata, Phldt griffithii
species belonging to Cymbidium, Coelogyne, Dendrobium, Calanthe,
Pleione (Table 1)
ON- Which is
the biggest danger to the orchids in Nepal?
AS: The continue habitat destruction, degradation
and fragmentation this case is severe in mountain areas of Nepal from
where highest diversity of orchids were reported. The selective logging
of Shorea robusta trees in Terai region, Schima wallichii & Castonopsis
indica trees in mountain region and Quercus & Rhododendron trees
in high mountain regions have severely threatened orchids of Nepal.
And the illegal collection of wild orchids and haphazard, unsustainable
mechanisms during extraction of orchids (see above table for the species
involved in illegal trade)
ON- What can be done for helping the conservation?
AS: From my experiences it’s need an integrated
approaches because conservation of orchids is very complicated in Nepal
due to extreme poverty and illiteracy rate. Conservation should able
to address these pertaining issues otherwise orchid conservation will
not be viable on the long run. For conservation of orchids we are focusing
at three interlinked levels:
At grassroots level: We are developing many participatory conservation
tools involving local communities' right from the goal setting to project
evaluation phase. Local communities have been encouraged to organize
'Orchid Diversity Fair' to see, locate and measure orchid diversity
in their area. 'Community Orchid Register' has been piloted to record,
document and monitor the orchid diversity and associated local knowledge
among rural communities. In various occasion, we have been organizing
Orchid Painting Competition among with school children, Orchid poets
and songs competitions among rural women. 'Community Diversity Blocks'
have been established to conserve the rare and endangered orchids. At
other hand, rural women have been established linkages with forest users
groups of the village to salvage the orchids from logged tree trunks
and from degraded habitats. 'Community Orchid Farming' has been already
initiated by rural women as small scale enterprises. However we need
technical support and fund on this aspect.
At national and international level: We are advocating for importance
of orchids and its conservation through organizing conferences, workshops,
and disseminating news in national newspaper, Radio and Television.
LI-BIRD hosted the third meeting of ISROSG-SSC/IUCN and organized South
Asian Orchid Show for the first time in the Indian Sub-continent region
(In Pokhara Nepal during 2003). We were able to bring orchid scientists,
orchid growers, government/non-government officials, policy makers and
universities from around the 10 different countries. For the first time
our efforts has established an orchid judging system for south Asian
At research level: Besides participatory research and conservation of
orchids we also do some basic research on orchids like orchid exploration,
documentation, assessment, taxonomy, ecology, population study etc.
ON: What is exactly LI-BIRD and what is its role?
AS: Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research
and Development (LI-BIRD) is a non-profit making and non-government
organization of Nepal established in 1995 for sustainable management
of natural resources and enhance rural people livelihoods of Nepal.
ON: Do you have a kind of government help for this?
AS: The Department Plant Resources (DPR) and Department
of National Park and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) under the Ministry
of Forest and Soil Conservation of HMG/Nepal are the responsible government
authorities of Nepal for wild biodiversity including orchids. We are
getting encouragement from the respective departments of government.
However, we still not getting any fund from government. Because orchids
are becoming less priority species for any formal and informal organizations.
Our organisation LI-BIRD hosted the third meeting of ISROSG-SSC/IUCN
in Pokhara Nepal in 2003 from the local public fund support and some
NGOs support. To run our programmes some amount has been received from
Small Grant Programme of GEF/UNDP Nepal. Most of the cost is being managed
by LI-BIRD own core fund. Due to this fund limitation our activities
mostly restricted to Central Nepal.
We need fund and technical capacity building trainings yet therefore
our efforts on orchid conservation would be more scaled up to many parts
of orchid hot spots areas of Nepal where orchid habitat destruction
and illegal trade of orchids are high.
ON: And the Government policy. What kind of comments you can do?
AS: Nepalese government has banned collection
and sale of orchids by putting all orchids under the CITES Appendix
II and Forest Act 1994. However there is no any implementation plan
for it. Further such restriction is becoming less effective and no support
to orchid conservation since a large amount of orchids still being illegally
traded. This kind of restriction will not promote to provide any benefit
to local communities who are actually custodian of rich diversity of
orchids of their forest and agriculture land areas. My views is that
we need to review CITES and Forest Act giving priority over utilization
of orchids through creation of sustainable harvesting plans.
ON: Thank you very much, Ms. Abishkar Subedi.
A banner with message of ‘Orchid Diversity Fair’
Community members sharing their views on conservation of orchids
during awareness raising programme
Local communities participating in Orchid Diversity Fair to see,
locate and know status, use-values of orchids of their areas
Mr. Subedi describing in details information about a rare orchids
(belonging to Goodyera ) of the area to the local communities
Rural poor women, involving in orchid conservation, identifying
valuable medicinal orchids and their use-values
Commutative stamps of Nepalese wild orchids released
during 4th Meeting of Indian Sub-continent Regional Orchid
Specialist Group-SSC/IUCN and First South Asian Orchid
Show hosted by LIBIRD in Pokhara Nepal during 2003
A community Orchid Nursery established by rural poor women with
the support from project (mostly using local resources for the
A view of community orchid nursery conserving wild orchids
Mr. Abishkar Subedi, M.Sc. (Botany)
P.O. Box: 324
Photos from Mr.
Abishkar Subedi's collection
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