Himalayan Orchids for Livelihoods of Rural Communities - Interview with Mr. Abishkar Subedi

Abishkar Subedi was 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 1995.
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.
  Foto/Photo: Sergio Araujo

ON: Mr. 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 orchids:
Bulbophyllum ambrosia subsp. nepalensis J.J. Wood (Epiphyte)
Liparis olivaceae Lindl. (Terrestrial)
Listera nepalensis N.P. Balakr. (Saprophyte)
Malaxis tamaurensis Tuyama (Teresstrial )
Oberonia nepalesnis L.R. Shakya & R.P. Chaudhary (Epiphyte)
Oreorchis porphyranthus Tuyama (Terestrial)
Pleione coronaria P.J. Cribb & C.Z. Tang (Lithopyte/epiphyte)
Eria pokharensis Bajracharya, Subedi & Shrestha (epiphyte)

Most important genera/species for ornamental, medicinal and aurvedic purposes of Nepal:
Species involved in floriculture trade (specific) and also for ayurvedic/medicinal trade

Genus and Total species in Nepal Species involved in Floriculture trade Species involved in ayurvedic or medicinal purposes
Cymbidium (12 species in Nepal) Cymbidium devonianum, Cym iridoides, Cym hokkerianum, Cym lancifolium, Cym aloifolium, Cym longifolium, Cym eryhtreum Cym iridoides, Cym aloifolium, Cym longifloium
Coelogyne (12) Coelogyne cristata, Coel nitida, Coel corymbosa, Coel fusseccens, Coel ovalis, Coel flaccida, Coel stricta Coel cristata, Coel nitida, Coel Corymbosa
Dendrobium (29) Den densiflorum, Den fimbriatum var. occulatum, Den nobile, Den formosum, Den transparens, Den amoenum, Den ochreatum, Den primulinium Den transparens and pseudobulbs of several species
Calanthe (12) Calanthe plantaginea, Cal puberula, Cal masuca and Cal tricarinata Cal puberula and Cal plantaginea
Pleione (5) Pln praecox, Pln humilis, Pln hookerianum Pleione praecox
Vanda (5) V cristata, V tessellata, V testacea V tessellata
Aerides (2) Aer multiflora, Aer odorata Aer multiflora
Cypripedium (3) Cyp himalaicum Cyp himalaicum
Rhynchostylis (1) Rhy retusa Rhy retusa
Satyrium (2) Satm nepalense Satm nepalense
Spathoglottis Spa ixioides  

Species involved in trade for ayurvedic or medicinal values

Genus and Total species in Nepal Species involved in ayurvedic or medicinal purposes
Dactylorhiza (1) Dact hatagirea
Flickingeria (1) Flkga fugax
Otochilus (4) Otochilus albus, Otochilus porrectus
Acampe (2) Acp papillosa
Bulbophyllum (37) Bulb careyanum, Bulb leopardinum
Luisia (4) Lsa trichoriza
Eulophia (12) Eupha nuda, Eupha flava
Pholidota (5) Phldt imbricata, Phldt griffithii
And 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 orchids.
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 construction materials)

A view of community orchid nursery conserving wild orchids

For details:
Mr. Abishkar Subedi, M.Sc. (Botany)
Programme Officer
P.O. Box: 324
Pokhara, NEPAL
e-mail: abishkar@libird.org

Photos from Mr. Abishkar Subedi's collection

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