The KTK-BELT project (www.belt-project.org) was formally launched in 2015 as a collaborative platform for farmers, teachers, and youth in eastern Nepal to carry out community-based biodiversity conservation. KTK-BELT, a non-profit organization registered in New York and Nepal, operates from an assumption that local farmers possess deeply embedded place-based knowledge of their environments and, therefore, are in the best position to steward local biodiversity and habitats. To implement, we work through Nepali partners called 'Learning Grounds,' which are non-profit cooperative associations, led by women and minority groups.
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Nepal occupies only 0.09% of world’s landmass, but harbours enormous diversity of flora and fauna due to the extreme changes in topography from the lowland Terai region to the Himalayas. Despite being one of the smallest countries in the world, it is ranked 21st on the global biodiversity index and 11th in Asia. Today, this biodiversity is facing direct threats from rampant urbanisation of the countryside resulting in complex socio-ecological changes: increased de-agrarianisation, growing human density, declining rural livelihoods and growing youth out-migration. Between 1990-2005, Nepal lost around 25% of its total forest cover, approximately 91,700 hectares per year totaling 1.2 million hectares of forest.
As forests dwindle, the youth population continues to swell. Nepal is also experiencing a demographic youth bulge with 40% of the population being within the ages of 16 and 40. Nearly 40% of this youth population--more than 5 million young people--are unemployed. Many are migrating overseas to take low-pay, low-skill jobs often in dangerous working conditions in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. The lack of sustainable livelihoods for youth in rural regions is further exacerbating deforestation, land fragmentation and illegal poaching as youth search for ways to survive economically.
KTK-BELT project was formed in direct response to this social and ecological crisis in 2014. Led by Kumar Bishwakarma, a research was carried out in Yangshila VDC, located in the Siwalik or ‘Churia’ foothills of eastern Nepal in northern Morang district, to map the intricate relationship between local communities and their environments. In just a 20 km2 area, 412 unique plant species spanning 96 plant families were identified and their uses were described. It became evident that this habitat and species diversity was rooted in the sharp-rising topography from 180 masl to 1950 masl, and the numerous wetlands, cloud forests, and other unique habitats found along the dramatic topography. Inspired by the possibility of activating this hidden layer of indigenous knowledge, the KTK-BELT project was formed as a platform for farmers, teachers, designers and environmentalists to build community-based biodiversity conservation strategies throughout the eastern region of Nepal.
We are an interdisciplinary group with an interest in employing participatory and sustainable approaches to design and planning in order to catalyze environmental conservation. We are looking for a senior-level registered architect starting September 1st. S/he will be working on construction drawing, detailing and drafting of architectural projects.
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