Biodiversity finance integrated into university curriculum in Nepal

By Rohit Tandon
By Rohit Tandon

By Sneha Verma, BIOFIN intern

University students in Nepal are now being equipped with a deeper knowledge of how conservation finance can help protect and restore nature thanks to a partnership between UNDP-BIOFIN and Tribhuvan University.

During the process of implementation of BIOFIN in Nepal, various stakeholders were consulted about its feasibility. The consultations included academia and, as a result, an opportunity was identified to increase national capacities in biodiversity finance. Since 2019, conservation finance solutions was introduced as a subject matter in university curriculum at the Institute of Forestry and School of Forestry and Natural Resource Management, Tribhuvan University, Nepal.

BIOFIN Nepal project coordinator, Dr. Bijendra Basnyat, worked closely with the university. “Nearly 300 students have participated in this course in the last two years,” he said. “Natural resources, harnessed in a right way can offer sustainable long-term opportunities for economic development in Nepal, yet today too little investment is being made in biodiversity to unlock this potential. Hence, by investing in young people today, Nepal will reap the benefits in the near future in terms of protecting nature and generating livelihoods.”

For students, it has been a rewarding process. “It was the first time I got introduced to the BIOFIN programme and different types of biodiversity finance solutions, helping me to understand that economic development of a country like Nepal and biodiversity conservation can go hand in hand through biodiversity positive investments,” said Sneha Verma, a student of M.Sc. Wildlife Management and Biodiversity Conservation from the school of Forestry and Natural Resource Management of the university as well as BIOFIN intern.

Nature underpins all economic activities and human well-being. It is the world’s most important asset, yet humanity is destroying biodiversity at an unprecedented rate. Addressing the problem requires investment and financing to be directed into biodiversity to reach national and international biodiversity targets. And just as important is having governmental and institutional capacity to unlock and catalyse biodiversity financing opportunities.

“It is important to provide necessary information, knowledge and skill to the students to encourage them in the sector biodiversity finance and produce human resource at National level,” confirmed Dr. Rajesh Rai, a professor from School of Forestry and Natural Resource Management.

Unlocking the many opportunities for nature

A payment for ecosystem services, or PES, mechanism has been adopted successfully in watershed areas of Nepal, gaining the attention from government and other institutions, as well as from students. While it is a positive development, there are more than 150 financial solutions potentially available, as found on BIOFIN’s Finance Solutions Catalogue. As such, a course focused on BIOFIN and conservation finance solutions is a significant way to introduce students to other related financial mechanisms.

“I found the Natural Resource Economics subject very useful as I get to know more about the various types of conservation finance solutions and its application in other countries as well as in case of Nepal,” said Santoshi Pandey, a student of M.Sc. Forestry from the Institute of forestry of the university.

Currently there is massive online open course available on Biodiversity Finance, with over 4,500 students enrolled.