“What is conservation - if not forthe people? It must be viewedonly as a means, the end being theimprovement of the quality of ourvery existence.” PrinceGyanendraThe Annapurna Conservation AreaProject (ACAP) operates underthe guidance of the NTNC,Nepals leading non-profit, non-governmental environmentalorganisation. It is self-funded byentry user fees but receivesadditional support from theWorldwide Fund for Nature(USA) and the German AlpineClub.The project was set up in 1986and has undertaken an innovativeand successful approach tonatural resource and tourismmanagement in the Annapurnaregion. ACAP practices a multipleland use method of resourcemanagement, combiningenvironmental protection withsustainable communitydevelopment and tourismmanagement. Income fromtourism is used to integratetraditional subsistence activitiesinto the framework of resourcemanagement and to develop small-scale conservation and alternativeenergy projects in order to raisethe living standards of the local
people.ACAP has a grassroots philosophyand approach that involves localcommunities in all aspects of theconservation and developmentprocess. ACAPs role is that oflami, or matchmaker, betweenlocal communities and sources ofappropriate skills, knowledge andtechnical and financial assistancewhich enables these communitiesto improve the quality of theirlives.Recognising that the breakdownof social structures contributesto environmental degradation,ACAP also strives to strengthenthe cultural integrity of the area.At the heart of ACAPs programis conservation education. ACAPbelieves that without increasingthe level of awareness of bothvillagers and visitors, lastingenvironmental protection andcultural diversity cannot beachieved.Objectives of ACAP To conserve both natural andcultural resources for the benefitof the local people of bothpresent and future generationsby implementing rationalmanagement policies andprograms.ACAPs long term objective is to
benefit the 100,000 inhabitantsliving in the 7000 sq. km ACAP byproviding a viable means to helpthem maintain control over theirenvironment.Principles: ACAP bases itsactivities on three principles:Peoples participationTo havelong lasting efforts inconservation in the Annapurnaregion, the interests of the localpeople and their needs must beconsidered first. Unless thesepeople really felt that thebenefits of conservation and thatthe resources belonged to them,the support of the local peoplecould not be obtained. Thus, theproject considers the local peopleas the main beneficiaries andincludes them in the planning,decision-making and delegatesmore responsibilities for themanagement of the conservationarea to them. Thus, variousmanagement committees (forestmanagement committee, kerosenedepot management committee,health centre managementcommittee), selected andnominated by the local people, areformed in order to manage thevarious ACAP activities. Thus, theproject is administered by only afew staff, most of them hiredlocally.Catalytic role ACAP uses
grassroots methods to help thevillagers maintain control overtheir local resources as well ashelp them to identify theirimmediate needs and priorities.ACAP considers itself a lami(matchmaker) that will bringtogether resources from outsidein order to meet the needs of thelocal people.Sustainability One of the mostimportant characteristics of theproject is sustainability. Many ofthe foreign aided developmentprojects in developing countriesfail because they do not have anyprovision for sustaining them oncethe donor agency leaves. Theseprojects once completed canneither be maintained andmanaged by the local people norby the government - creating agreat loss of time, energy andresources. ACAP has to befinancially self-reliant once thefunding from WWF-USA andother donor agencies isexhausted. Hence, an entryusers fee of about US$7 islevied on all the internationaltrekkers visiting the Annapurnaregion.