A culturally diverse nation comprised of more than 100 ethnic groups, Nepal is renowned for its world-class trekking and mountain climbing. Kathmandu Valley is the nation’s historical center, sitting on the crossroads of ancient Asian civilizations and home to an impressive seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Resting on the Indian and Eurasian plates, whose collision created the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau, eight of the world’s ten highest mountains arise in Nepal, including the tallest and most legendary, Mount Everest, which shares its summit with Tibet. Beyond impressive peaks, Nepal’s diverse biomes, ranging from tropical savanna to grassland to coniferous forest, lend themselves to outdoor activities like rafting, bungee jumping, mountain biking, paragliding, and canyoning. Chitwan National Park, Nepal’s premier wildlife reserve, is home to more than 500 species of birds, wild elephants, one-horned rhinos, and the royal Bengal tiger. The largest sovereign Himalayan state is also home to medieval cities, iconic Buddhist stupas draped in prayer flags, and cultural traditions that co-exist alongside modern-day life.
Nepal took early action to protect some of its most precious, and visited, natural regions by establishing national parks and conservation areas that cover 23% of the country. Entrance fees to the Annapurna Conservation Area - the most popular trekking region - fund ecotourism initiatives that engage its culturally diverse communities in sustainable development. In collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund, Nepal has also spearheaded effective anti-poaching initiatives that have been particularly successful. The repopulation of one-horned rhinos in Chitwan National Park, once on the brink of extinction, is a notable example of this, made possible by networks of community-based anti-poaching units, whose efforts now extend to monitoring wider wildlife trafficking. Managing large numbers of visitors is an on-going area of concern and effort.
Nepal developed a Community Forestry Program some three decades ago to address two goals: forest conservation and poverty reduction. About 70% of the country’s population depends on agriculture for their livelihood. Community management of forests has proved to be an important intervention. The program has evolved from protection and conservation to a more broad-based strategy that includes forest management, community empowerment and the income improvement. By April 2009, one-third of Nepal's population was participating in the program, directly managing more than one-fourth of Nepal's forest areas. The immediate livelihood benefits derived by rural households allow local communities to sustainably manage forest resources. Community forestry displays traits of political, financial and ecological sustainability as well as positive developments toward a strong legal and regulatory framework. An ongoing challenge is to insure the equitable distribution of benefits to women and marginalized groups.Why the Tiger Ranking?