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State of dichotomy: Being a Safeguard Specialist in conservation sector, belonging to natural resource dependent indigenous community in Nepal - IIAD
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State of dichotomy: Being a Safeguard Specialist in conservation sector, belonging to natural resource dependent indigenous community in Nepal

State of dichotomy: Being a Safeguard Specialist in conservation sector, belonging to natural resource dependent indigenous community in Nepal

I belong to Chepang community; one of the most marginalized and disadvantaged community in terms of access to education, health care services, basic infrastructures and other basic requirements for day-to-day living. Majority of Chepang’s are found to be living in 4 districts of Nepal: Chitwan, Makawanpur, Gorkha, and Dhading. Still, a large percentages of Chepang community do not have citizenship card of Nepal. Hence, they lose the chance of being member of their own country officially. When one does not have citizenship card they will not be having lands in their own name where they have been farming passing from generations to generations.

Despite coming from backward socioeconomic background, I was selected to study in one of the reputed schools in Nepal: Budhanilkantha School up to 12th standard. With all the persistence and hard work I also received Erasmus Mundus Scholarship funded by European Union for Masters of Advanced Development in Social Work. I graduated from University of Lincoln, England on June, 2018.

Currently, I work at WWF Nepal as Environment and Social Safeguard Specialist. This write up brings out insider perspective being a member of indigenous community, where lots of our community members are residing in protected areas as well as standing in an authority that looks on safeguarding indigenous peoples rights as one part in the conservation program. I stand at the edge of the fenced wire being a conservationist at one side and I myself being a member of indigenous community at the other side.

The role as a safeguard specialist clearly defines the task to identify, avoid and mitigate any negative social and environmental impact that conservation program might cause to local communities in protected areas. As a safeguard specialist I have an obligation to look after planning, implementation and compliance system that safeguard environment and people throughout conservation program cycle. I am in that position that monitors the standards and policies of safeguard that needs to minimize risk, prevent undue harm, uphold human rights, and ensure conservation projects deliver better outcomes to the communities and nature. Social policies at WWF substantiates the role of safeguard specialists to protect the rights of the most vulnerable, including indigenous people and local communities, in areas supports.

A fair and equitable approach in conservation can be achieved if we ensure the conservation of biodiversity along with protection of rights of local people living nearby. WWF shows the respect towards indigenous peoples and their rights through its statement of principle prepared in 1996 and updated in 2008. People should always be at the center of the conservation work to achieve conservation goals. Failure to do so will continue to face mounting environmental, economic and physical risks to vulnerable populations such as indigenous and local communities residing in and around buffer zone periphery.

As a safeguard specialist I am the focal person to compile and forward the concerns from the field, hear them and find out the best measure to respond to their issues. Hence institution has grievances mechanism to be accountable for what we do. Grievance mechanism was developed in 2018  to address affected people’s concerns and complaints promptly, using an understandable and transparent process that is gender-sensitive, culturally appropriate, and readily accessible to all affected people.

In conclusion conservation benefits when people benefit from conservation. WWF Nepal is committed to working with local communities and indigenous people to help mitigate the restrictions on livelihoods that result from the designation and management of protected areas through the provision of alternative livelihood options. So should I.

Overall, standing at the edge of barbed wire, that protects wildlife, forests (as a specialists) and indigenous community member on the other side gives me ample space to think from dichotomous perspective; will I be able to meet both the expectations?

A Chepang woman grazing her goats in the conservation area.