Broom grass — a boon for communities and ecosystems | WWF

Broom grass — a boon for communities and ecosystems

Posted on 27 November 2013
Participants of the broom grass training held in Amdanda of Devghat VDC
© DFO Tanahu/ Ram Babu Poudel
The steep slopes of Amdanda, Gaighat and Sinchangghadi in Devghat VDC were used for shifting cultivation – an agricultural land use system where land is cleared of forest and cultivated until its fertility diminishes, after which it is abandoned. This kind of land use system intensifies deforestation and forest degradation. This practice resulted in frequent landslide and soil erosion along the banks of Trishuli river adjoining Mugling-Narayanghat highway. Restoration in this area is particularly critical given that it serves as a forest corridor to enhance the ecological connectivity of the Chitwan Annapurna Landscape (CHAL).

In just a year, the degraded land is now transformed into a patch of greenery, replete with plantations of broom grass, locally known as Amriso (Thysanolaena maxima) along with other tree species. This change was brought about through the dedication of the members from 17 Leasehold Forest User (LHFU) sub groups, who planted 375 thousand Amriso rhizomes in 37.5 ha of land, i.e. nearly the size of 92 football fields. The plantation was carried out in 19 plots on June-July 2012 with the support of Hariyo Ban Program, WWF Nepal and District Forest Office (DFO), Tanahu.

Amriso is a popular non-timber forest product. It is used to make sweeping brooms, leaves provide good fodder and the stems provide fuel. It has mat-like roots that bind the soil firmly, preventing soil erosion. Amriso when planted with tree species stabilizes slopes preventing landslides and also helps to reduce the growth of invasive plant species like Lantana camara.

“Earlier, we practiced shifting cultivation and grew lentils and maize. But the backbreaking work brought us little yield. This year, we harvested around 275 kilograms of Amriso flowers in January and earned more than one lakh rupees," said Makan Bahadur Gurung, Chairperson of Ratpani LHFU. The earnings are shared among the sub-groups, which in turn distribute the amount to the households involved in the plantation.

Gaumaya Gurung, a member of Birauta LHFU sub group, says, “This year, I received NRs. 3000 through the sales of Amriso flowers and will plant Amriso in my own barren land too. I also have easy access to fodder right in my neighborhood, which saves me a lot of time and trouble.”

To further benefit from the plantation, Cottage and Small Industries Development Committee, Tanahu in coordination with DFO Tanahu trained several community members on broom making. The trainees will make brooms and sell them in the coming years, which will help them earn three times more than selling Amriso flowers directly. The yield, and thus the profits, will gradually increase in the upcoming years.

Once planted, Amriso can be used in the first year of growth and lasts for many years. Planting Amriso is an efficient method of rehabilitating degraded land and an effective way of enhancing the livelihoods of poor and marginalized communities dependent on forest and shifting agriculture.

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Disclaimer: The Hariyo Ban Program is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this article are the responsibility of WWF and its consortium partners and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

Participants of the broom grass training held in Amdanda of Devghat VDC
© DFO Tanahu/ Ram Babu Poudel Enlarge
Broom grass plantation
© WWF Nepal Enlarge
Broom grass plantation
© WWF Nepal Enlarge