Mountain societies, land use and food security

Protected Areas and People's Livelihoods

What happens when people have limited livelihood choices and then highly valuable medicinal fungi Ophiocordyceps sinensis (Nepali: yartsa gunbu) began to be commercially harvested in the remote Barun valley of the Makalu-Barun National Park and Buffer Zone, eastern Nepal? Commercial harvesting of Yartsa gunbu has brought important economic benefits, but that it has often been accompanied by a corresponding increase in negative environmental impacts such as alpine shrub destruction, wildlife poaching, and improper garbage disposal. In this study, we explore both social and environmental implications--both the positive and negative impacts--of Yartsa Gunbu harvesting and their future scenarios.

Related publication

Byers, A.C., E. Byers, M. Shrestha, D. Thapa, & B. Sharma. 2020. Impacts of Yartsa Gunbu Harvesting on Alpine Ecosystems in the Barun Valley, Makalu-Barun National Park, Nepal. HIMALAYA, the Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies 39(2): 44-59


Smallholders, Mountain Agriculture and Land Change

My dissertation (Smallholders, Mountain Agriculture and Land Change in Lamjung District, Nepal) integrated ethnographic and spatially-explicit survey data with remote sensing and GIS applications to study: (a) the household conditions and community contexts under which mountain smallholders change their agricultural land-use strategies, and (b) how their land-use strategies are linked to the district scale land-cover change patterns identified from multi-temporal Landsat images. Although I targeted a particular culture and place—Gurungs living in the foothills of the Mt. Annapurna range—my findings contributed to the general relationships underlying subsistence behavior of mountain smallholders, livelihoods and food security, their dependence on land and forest resources, and the extent to which their behaviors are historically influenced by the changes in demography, livelihoods, local economy, and institutions. This research was funded by the NSF Dissertation Improvement Grant (BCS 0350127) and my graduate training leading up to this research was supported through a NASA Earth System Sciences Fellowship (Grant no. NNG04GQ16H) and a University of Georgia Graduate School Dissertation Completion Award.

Related publication

Shrestha, M. 2014. The Changing Dynamics of Mountain Agriculture and Land Use in Lamjung, Nepal. Global Environmental Research, 18: 173-182=