The Community Development and Knowledge Management for the Satoyama Initiative Programme (COMDEKS) was launched in 2011 as the flagship of the Satoyama Initiative, a global effort to promote the sustainable use of natural resources in the landscapes worked in and relied upon by rural communities. Delivered through SGP as one of its partnership programmes, COMDEKS is funded by the Japan Biodiversity Fund and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Ministry of the Environment of Japan, the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD), and the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS). SGP has provided co-financing and technical and human resources to oversee the implementation of COMDEKS and its grants portfolio. As part of COMDEKS, small grants are provided to local community organizations with the overall long-term objective to enhance socio-ecological production landscape resilience by developing sound biodiversity management and sustainable livelihood activities with local communities to maintain, rebuild, and revitalize these landscapes.
The Programme has been piloted between 2011 and 2017 in selected communities in 20 countries. The target landscapes and seascapes in these countries represent a wide variety of ecosystems, including watersheds in Cambodia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Slovakia; inland water systems such as lakes in Malawi, Niger, and Kyrgyz¬stan; agropastoral systems in Ethiopia, Cameroon, and Brazil; mountain ecosystems in Bhutan, Ghana, India, and Nepal; coastal seascapes in Fiji, El Salvador, Indonesia, and Turkey; and grasslands in Mongolia and Namibia.
The Gamri Watershed in eastern Bhutan is a significant watershed covering a diverse climate and containing an array of ecosystems ranging from alpine meadows to broadleaf forests, with about 30 percent of land used for pasture and agriculture by around 66 settlements. Agriculture, livestock (including yak) rearing, and weaving are the economic mainstays of the people of the watershed. The watershed was selected as the pilot landscape for COMDEKS activities mainly due to the significant biological diversity it contains and in recognition of the growing pressures on the landscape from grazing, over-extraction of fodder and fuel wood, landslides and the drying up of water sources. Besides from land degradation due to erosion and landslides, human-wildlife conflict is a major problem for local communities both mid- and downstream of the Gamri Watershed. This conflict with wildlife such as porcupines, monkeys and wild boars has considerably reduced traditional crop diversity and causes economic losses every year. In some cases, farmers have left their lands fallow due to their inability to cope with these losses and damages.
Through the supported project “Increasing productivity and rural income through sustainable agriculture landscape management” and with the technical support of the National Soil Service Centre and Dzongkhag Administration, Tashigang, the CBO Thongrong Sazhing Tshogpa helped 47 households in the Thongrong community to bring over 28 hectares of agricultural land under sustainable management by establishing hedge rows and check-dams. Farmers were also enabled to establish 4.5 km of solar fencing around their fields, which is expected to reduce crop loss due to wildlife and hence improve their production by at least 50%.
To further enhance livelihood opportunities in the Thongrong community, the project introduced mustard cultivation, which has already yielded over 3,000 kg of mustard seeds in the 2016 harvest alone. An oil expeller unit allows mustard oil production generating additional income and reducing household expenses on cooking oil. In March 2016, this machinery was officially inaugurated by Ms. Niamh Collier-Smith, the UNDP Bhutan Deputy Resident Representative. During this site visit, Ms. Collier-Smith noted the importance of this project as well as its far-reaching impact on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Congratulating the community group for their efforts and achievements, she highlighted that “the impact of what can be achieved here would go beyond this village, this country and across the world.”
Across the ten COMDEKS-supported projects in the Gamri Watershed, overall about 226 hectares of agriculture land have been brought under sound ecological production systems, benefiting over 895 community members. Moreover, about 465 ha have been brought under sustainable management practices, on 78 ha of which hedgerows have been planted and check dams were installed to prevent erosion on these steep slopes. 52 water sources have been protected, significantly contributing to the overall improvement of soil fertility and restoration of local ecosystems, and providing over 20,000 Gamri community members with access to clean drinking water. In addition, a total of 6,500 trees, 300 bamboos, 15,000 Napier grass clumps, 300 fruit trees, and 250 fodder trees were planted to rehabilitate degraded areas throughout the watershed.