East Himalayan Yew (Taxus wallichiana) of Nepal

Title of the project: Mainstreaming conservation and sustainable management of East Himalayan Yew (Taxus wallichiana) through operational plans of community forests of Central Nepal.

Donor:  Audubon Naturalist Society

Project timeline: September 2020 to September 2021

Background

Endangered gymnosperm ‘East Himalayan Yew (Taxus wallichiana Zucc.)’ had been heavily exploited all around the range for its’ leaves and bark to produce a chemical called ‘taxol’ which is used to produce the anti-cancer drug ‘paclitaxel’. Along with the unsustainable harvesting of leaves and bark, cutting of trees for timber and firewood, grazing, and forest fire are other contributing factors for resource depletion in Nepal. Depletion of up to 90% of resources had been recorded from the country. Despite the ever-growing threats, this species had received low conservation priority in Nepal. Parbat and Baglung districts constitute the westernmost part of the distribution range of the species in the country. Forests of all four proposed project sites are being managed as community forests. Community forestry is one of the most successful participatory forest management approaches in Nepal. Community Forest User Groups (CFUGs) are responsible for conducting forest management and resource harvesting activities prescribed in the operational plan (OP). Operational plans are prepared by CFUGs with technical assistance from Division Forest Offices. But, due to the lack of expertise and awareness of CFUGs, the Taxus wallichiana conservation, and sustainable harvesting plan had not been incorporated in the OP of CFs. Due to the lack of sustainable conservation and harvesting plan, exploitation of resources is high. All four isolated populations are in the blink of extinction due to heavy exploitation for leaves and timber, grazing, and forest fire. But, concerned government agencies and NGOs are not taking any action to promote conservation and sustainable harvesting. Sustainable harvesting practices are necessary to ensure the long-term conservation of species and constant flow of cash to the community in long run. Also, CFUGs are not aware of the potential of commercial farming of Taxus wallichiana to contribute to the uplift rural economy. So, this project is planned to conduct resource inventory, sensitize and build the capacity of CFUGs for sustainable harvesting and commercialization and provide technical assistance to CFUGs to mainstream Taxus wallichiana conservation through the operational plan of CFs.