Improving livelihoods, addressing gender inequality and adapting to climate change in a women-led community forest in Bishnupur, Nepal

Published: 26 November 2021
Last edited: 26 November 2021
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In 2014, RECOFTC established a project in Bishnupur to show how community forestry empowers women and supports adaptation to climate change. Community forestry is a broad term for approaches that empower local people to manage, protect and benefit from forests. The project was developed with Bishnupur’s women-led community forest user group. RECOFTC, local government and sectoral agencies supported the group to apply participatory approach in assessing climate vulnerability, and identifying and implementing priority actions. They protected farmland from floods by planting trees, installed bio-embankments to stabilize collapsing river banks, invested in wells to improve water supplies, and introduced agroforestry and beekeeping to diversify livelihoods. The community improved resilience and reduced its vulnerability to climate and other shocks. The project empowered women as leaders, decision makers and financial beneficiaries. The transformative impact led to women in neighbouring communities adopting similar practices.


South Asia
Scale of implementation
Forest ecosystems
Freshwater ecosystems
River, stream
Tropical deciduous forest
Disaster risk reduction
Gender mainstreaming
Local actors
Sustainable livelihoods
Erratic rainfall
Increasing temperatures
Land and Forest degradation
Shift of seasons
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Ecosystem loss
Invasive species
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Lack of technical capacity
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 7: Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge
Target 20: Mobilizing resources from all sources
Sendai Framework
Target 2: Reduce the number of affected people globally by 2030
Target 3: Reduce direct disaster economic loss in relation to GDP by 2030


Sarlahi District, Janakpur, Nepal



Sugarcane production reduces soil quality and water availability. Deforestation and land-use change exacerbate impacts of climate change. These impacts include annual flash floods that erode riverbanks, and have led to the loss of around 30 hectares of land. Irregular seasons and variable rainfall compound the insufficiency of water resources. Invasive species threaten native species in the forest.



Gender inequalities are marked in Bishnupur, with unequal household workloads between men and women. This gap has widened as water sources have diminished and women have had to spend up to extra two hours daily collecting water. Women also have limited voice in decision making spaces. Unequal access to water resources between relatively well off and poorer households has created social tension.



Poverty is widespread. Incomes are falling from the main cash crop—sugarcane. Reliance on agriculture increases vulnerability, as farm productivity is declining.


  • Eleven women leading the Bishnupur community forest user group and 63 families (359 people) who are members of the group
  • 778 people active in community-based enterprises supported by other projects. 


How do the building blocks interact?

The building blocks are the three major phases of community-forestry-based climate change adaptation. They follow a sequence. First comes the vulnerability assessment and identification of adaptation topics. Next is the feasibility assessment for specific adaptation options. In this second phase, the potential integrated adaptation options are identified, and priorities and financing opportunities are explored. As part of this phase, project proposals are then developed and engagement with partner institutions takes place. In the third and final phase, interventions are implemented. Activities prioritize poor households, disadvantaged ethnic groups and castes, and women. Participatory monitoring takes place throughout all three phases of the process. The process is completed by conducting an evaluation.


The project increased tree cover and diversified incomes by providing 300 mango and lychee trees, 1,000 butter trees (local name chiuri) and 500 Indian bay trees (local name tejpat). Annual incomes rose by an average of 45,000 rupees (US$450), or around 18 percent, for six families that received beehives and technical support to produce honey.


Boring a deep well improved access to water for 64 households for domestic and agricultural use on 30 hectares, reducing vulnerability to variable rainfall. Relations with local authorities improved as a government-led irrigation project co-funded the well.


The project stabilized a 1-km-long stretch of riverbank, using sandbags and stone reinforced by bamboo plantation, to reduce erosion during heavy rain or flash floods. Since 2015, there has been no riverbank erosion despite annual flash floods. There has been less silt and debris deposited across the village’s 45 hectares of forest, farm and settlement.


The project enhanced community cohesion, mitigating social tension over water access. It reduced gender inequality and empowered women as climate adaptation leaders. The preparation and implementation of a climate change response component in the community forest management plan helped mainstream adaptation and ensure the forest stores an estimated 888 tons of carbon. Another 39 communities in three districts are now replicating these efforts



Mausami Uprety and her husband Wakil Mainali live in Bishnupur with their two young daughters. Before the Regional Community Forestry Training Centre for Asia and the Pacific (RECOFTC) implemented its project there, the family was living in extreme poverty.


“We grew vegetables and worked on others’ farms for our livelihoods,” says Uprety. “It was very difficult in the past. There was no work and no source of income that could be used in times of need.” 


Climate change added to the family’s precarious existence. Uprety says that her community had been affected by increasingly worse flooding and land degradation. But when she joined the Bishnupur community forest user group, other women members told her about the opportunities that beekeeping could bring. With technical and management capacity building support from RECOFTC, Uprety and five other new beekeepers were able to ensure that their businesses were sustainable. 


“I found beekeeping is a low input and high-income enterprise,” she says. “It provides regular income. This is good for poor families.”


“I had only one goat before,” she adds. “After I started to earn from beekeeping, I was able to increase the herd of goats. Honey has also been a source of nutrition for my children.” 


Beekeeping and other agroforestry practices mean that farmers like Uprety no longer have to rely on only one source of income.


“Instead of planting sugarcane, I started planting mango on my land,” says Bishnu Mahat, executive committee member of Bishnupur women’s community forestry user group. “Sugarcane uses too much water and is drying the land, while reducing productivity. I am expecting that mango will provide a better return than sugarcane and will diversify my income source.”


The success of RECOFTC’s Trees and Bees project in Bishnupur has spread. Government-led programs are replicating the project in neighbouring Siraha and Saptari districts. The programs now support others who are struggling to sustain their livelihoods by providing training and technical assistance to start beekeeping.

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Mila Shopova RECOFTC

Other contributors

Hariwon Municipality
Harion Municipal Government