Wild animals - biodiversity or pest? Creating local dialogues for dealing with farming-wildlife conflicts in rural Himalayan landscapes

Last changed: 06 March 2023
Community forest meeting in Nepal. Photo.

Interdisciplinary project investigating the links between conflicts of interest and the socio-economic dynamics of agricultural decline and forest expansion in multicultural mountain communities in Nepal.

Mountain areas are of central importance for the majority of ecosystem services, and are very important for biological diversity. They are also often inhabited by people who are both poor and socially marginalised. The areas are affected by regularly recurring natural disasters. The Himalayan ecosystem provides livelihoods for millions of people and the current assessment is that the Himalayas will experience at least three times the impact of climate change than any other region.

This research focuses on the Nepalese part of the Himalayas which is a clear example of how poverty and environmental change are problems that are often linked. The Nepalese Himalayas harbor a high biodiversity and the deforestation was rapid in the area in the 1950s and 1970s. Since then, a so-called community forest programs, and an extensive migration from the countryside in recent decades has brought about major changes in agriculture and forestry. This in turn, has led to a remarkable regrowth of the forest. But in the wake of forest recovery, a second generation of problems has arisen; namely an increase in wild animals in agricultural areas. Farmers describe how the number of monkeys is growing and refer to them as pests. Similarly, birds which used to come in small groups, now appear in flocks of thousands. However, this does not mean that the diversity of wild animals has necessarily increased, rather that there is a selective expansion of the animals that benefit from or adapt to agricultural land.

Our ongoing research indicates yield losses of 20-80 %, which is a driving force to stop cultivating agricultural land. The problem is not evenly distributed across Nepal's different populations and landscapes. Nepal is a society with deep economic and social disparities, and the increasing intrusion of wildlife is particularly noticeable in the higher mountain areas, where the poorest and most socially marginalised populations live.

The Nepalese government's forest and wildlife-related policies have not helped the farmers. It operates a strict line of conservation of all types of wildlife, including those that become pests, and all hunting is illegal. Their approach tends to be technical without dialogue with the affected population, and relevant civil society organizations have also not engaged with the problem.

The challenges of wildlife in agricultural landscapes are now so great that it is an existential problem for subsistence smallholder farmers. It is therefore extremely important to understand how the situation with heavy intrusion by wild animals has arisen and the consequences for both livelihoods and ecosystems in the countryside. However, this issue is poorly researched.

This interdisciplinary research project aims to examine the links between these conflicts of interest and the socio-economic dynamics of agricultural decline and forest expansion in multicultural mountain communities in Nepal. We also explore policy and practical measures to deal with this problem that many Himalayan villages face.

The research is based on various forms of interviews and field trips, combined with trials of practical measures and dialogues between local communities and officials at different levels. In doing so, we intend to contribute to knowledge and constructive dialogues for policy and practical solutions that contribute to preserving both agriculture and biological diversity within the same mountain landscape.


Project leader

Dil Bahadur Khatri, Researcher, Division of Rural Development, SLU,+4618672911, 0097715550631
Send an email to: dil.khatri@slu.se

Project participants

Kristina Marquardt, Associate Professor, Researcher, Division of Rural Development, SLU, +4618672099
Read more about Kristina Marquardt on her CV page
Send an email to: kristina.marquardt@slu.se

Dinesh Paudel, Associate Professor, Sustainable Development Department, Appalachian State University, Boone
Read more about Dinesh Paudel on his presentation page
Send an email to: paudeld@appstate.edu

Bishnu Hari Poudyal, PhD, 

Lila Sharma, Researcher, ForestAction, Nepal

Project time


External funding

Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development - Formas