Geographically, Nepal is located in South Asian region. Like many other countries of South Asian region, Nepal is showcasing gradual growth in its economy although the earthquake in 2015 derailed its progress. On one hand country with growing economy cannot inhibit developmental activities where as on other hand as a least developed country Nepal has to deal with vulnerabilities associated with global climate change phenomenon. Also, the development in growing economies are bound to be centralized therefore development tends to leave large part of the poor rural populations. In Nepal, about 25 percent of the population is still below the poverty line. Major chunk of this population resides in rural sector of the country. These poorest groups of rural Nepal are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change; therefore interventions has to be made in a way that can address poverty reduction, mitigate or adapt climate change impacts and promote sustainable development of rural sector of the country while producing a result where development activities aimed at poverty reduction and climate mitigation/adaptation does not need to be in conflict.
The concept of “Eco-Village” for country like Nepal is very pertinent when we envisage impacts of climate change on small mountaineous country. Nepal does not have obligation to reduce the emission of GHGs since Nepal contributes about 0.027 percent in total global emissions of GHGs. Yet the impact of global emission resulting in climate change is affecting geographically and ecologically fragile landscapes such as Nepal where livelihoods are extremely sensitive to climate variances. Given that about 82 percent Nepalese are residing in rural parts of the country, the climate change impacts are more severe in rural Nepal. Moreover, the rural Nepal is inhabited by majority of poor population and communities. Other than, the geographical difficulties, difficulties to ensure food security, lack of access to energy and deprivation of information and knowledge makes these poor groups of people more susceptible to climate related impacts. All these problems have resulted in employment-based migration from rural Nepal to urban cities or foreign countries. Livelihood opportunities in rural Nepal are gradually diminishing. The development activities in rural Nepal are hardly gaining the desired pace. All these circumstance calls for innovative intervention in the form of Eco-Village Development (EVD) Concept.
The EVD concept involves the implementation of appropriate, affordable, renewable energy technology, climate resilient agro-practices and capacity building activities for climate change adaptation and mitigation in villages. Other than implementing solutions, the concept also advocates for improving existing livelihood based on indigenous practices that are closely associated with the culture of the rural dwellers, raising awareness and building capacity of people to mitigate and adapt impacts of climate change. With primary focus on promoting clean and renewable energy technologies and creating economic opportunities mobilizing youths in project villages, the concept advocates for a collaborative approach by deeply involving community members including women members and youths in the planning and implementation stages while also giving them the solutions to be climate resilient which are to be selected according to the climate, geography, livelihood and local resources prevalent in particular village. The bundle of EVD solutions includes mitigation technologies like small, household-sized biogas plants, smokeless stoves, solar-energy technology, improved water mills to generate electric power, stand-alone systems like pico/micro-hydro power for rural electrification, and solar based drying units. It also includes adaptation technologies such as organic farming, plastic tunnel farming, roof-rain water harvesting and water-lifting technologies like hydraulic ram pumps. The EVD concept also emphasizes on enabling women to take lead in various economic activities and making them self reliant. The concept encourages women member of the society to defy gender based discrimination, norms and taboos, bridging gender disparity and challenging general status quo. Eco-Village provides sustainable solutions for creating rural economic through systematic use of available indigenous knowledge, green technologies, climate resilient agricultural practices, gender mainstreaming and changing behavioral actions of people. EVD is an integrated approach of creating development focused, low-carbon communities of practice in pre-existing villages.
Eco-Village Development (EVD) Concept could be one such intervention that can address climate change impacts and sustainable development of rural sector. Center for Rural Technology, Nepal (CRT/N) has been piloting implementation of EVD concept to develop eco-village in three VDCs of Kavrepalanchwok district namely Sikrigyang-9 village, Chalal VDC, Ladkhu-Chanaute village Dhungkharkha and Chyamragbesi-2 village Chamrangbesi VDC of Kavre district as eco-villages. With an intention to reduce employment based migration from rural areas, EVD concept in these pilot villages has made effort to integrate income generation with various applicable EVD solutions. The rural inhabitants in the village were also provided trainings on organic farming and climate resilient agro-practice like tomato cultivation in plastic tunnel. Based on abundancy of resource avialable in villages new business ventures like fish farming were introduced in pilot eco-villages.
In the aftermath of the earthquake and also to reduce drawback of cooking food in traditional cookstoves which includes generation of heavy smoke, consumption of high volume of firewood, and exposure of women and children to unhealthy and toxic fumes, portable improved cookstoves were adopted by entire households of pilot villages. In post earthquake scenario within the project villages, the portability aspect of cookstove was widely appreciated and adopted by villagers. Besides, domestic use, the portable cookstoves has been professionally used for preparing tea and food in hotels in vicinity area. This has helped in forest conservations, controlled used of firewoods from community forest and significantly reduced health related issues.
After the occurence of the earthquake, access to electricity was major issues at rural level due to damage to transmission lines. Also, frequent power cut and heavy central load shedding led people to spend most of the night time in dark. The use of small solar home system was desired by the communities which has now enbaled them to work late hours at night. The household with solar home system now does not face any hassle to charge mobile phones thus enhancing communication facility in the village. The students can study for longer hours, cooking food at night has become much easier comapred to earlier days, youths and women are spending time in productive work and to some extent it has brought social harmony in the village.
The arduous walk for fetching water has been solved by the introduction and adoption of hydraulic ram pump technology. The technology is able to pump water from lower elevation to higher without using any external source of energy. The rain water harvesting integrated with micro-irrigation like sprinkler and drip-irrigation has improved irrigation facilities for the kitchen garden of villagers. In EVD project villages, efforts to link agro-practices with renewable energy has been giving outmost priority. The water lifting technology and behavioural change to collect rain water are measures that would address climate change impacts on water resources. These adaptation measures are not only fulfilling domestic water needs but are also fulfilling water needs for agro-practices. Similarly, presence of improved water mills have eliminated needs of diesel based agro-prcessing mills. These EVD solutions have not only contributed to address climate mitigation or adaptation measures but are assisting to uplift living standards of people. In these project pilot village, all these solutions were adopted through capital mix that includes support from project and community cash and kind contribution. These kinds of capital mix should also be replictated in other renewable energy or rural development project in order to develop sesne of wonership and sustainability of the adopted EVD solutions.
The results obtained from piloting EVD concept are astounding and the outcome does make a strong case for replicating the concept to other rural villages of Nepal. In the aftermath of earthquake when whole nation is working in order to ensure rehabilitation of Nepal Earthquake, 2015 victims, incorporating EVD concept in rehabilitation activities can contribute in resurrecting the lost livelihood of earthquake victims. EVD concept will be able to generate more localized solution reducing cost of implementation and generating greater output with values. When we talk about international debates on climate change, signing of ambitious goals for sustainable development only local actions like Eco Village Development Concept can yield result at grass root level. Obviously we need to think at bigger perspective but actions should start at regional and local level. The result from three villages of Kavrepalnchowk is evidence how much values EVD Concept can bring. The EVD concept should be taken to larger level into national policy, stakeholders like NGO’s, INGO’s and governmental institutions should actively participate in replicating throughout nation. EVD concept being low-carbon approach to climate solution and enhancing rural livelihood will defintely contribute in development of rural sector in climate friendly manner.