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The Phd Interview

Food production and forest exploitation can be combined

Researcher Lila Nath Sharma’s thesis shows that the conservation of biodiversity, food production and forest exploitation is possible to integrate in the same geographical area, but only by a broad environmental and biogeographic approach.

Lila Nath Sharma
NATURELOVER: As a son of a farmer Lila Nath Sharma have always loved to be outdoors. After he studied plant science in Nepal he wanted to know more.
Photo:
Camilla Ahamath

Why did you want to do a PhD?

“I got some opportunities to work with several researchers from around the world, when I studied my Master’s degree in Plant Science and Biodiversity Management in Kathmandu. There I met some researchers from the University of Bergen, which has a collaboration in Kathmandu as part of Norad’s Programme for Master Studies. From 2008 I assisted researchers from Bergen to collect data in fields in Nepal. The contact with the researchers motivated me to continue my education. In 2013, I moved to Bergen and started my PhD.”

Why did you choose resource management and biodiversity conservation for your topic?

“First of all I love to work in nature. At Tribhuvan University of Nepal, were I am from, I studied Botany and Biodiversity conservation and management. When the opportunity to study in Bergen emerged, I wanted to do something that could have an impact on my home country. In Nepal people depend on Natural Recourses for subsistence. We are told that the biological resource extraction as mountain pasture and fodder in the forest is negative for biodiversity. I wanted to look further into this thesis.”

How did you carry out your research?

“As a son of a farmer I have always loved to be outdoors. I love to collect data in the forest and mountains. After I studied plant science my perspective on nature changed. I like to collect plants, perform case studies and to analyse primary data. Fieldwork is essential for my research.”

What, in your opinion, is most important in your research?

“Conventional conservation has tried to limit human impact on nature to protect biodiversity. Yet, many endangered species are not included in conventional management. A geographical overlap of high biodiversity and vital resources, such as livestock forage, creates conflict between locals and conservation interests, especially in economically deprived areas such as Nepal. My research and thesis shows that by integrating biodiversity, food production and forest exploitation you can improve conversation in a geographical area, but only by a broad environmental and biogeographic approach.”

What did you want to achieve with your PhD?

I want my discoveries to translate into resource management and conservation in areas where people depend on Natural Recourses for subsistence. People of Nepal, my home country, depent on Natural Recourses. Nepal’s need to manage the resources in a more scientific way, to get more resources to use. My PhD can be a theoretical guide to change the future. Everything around us keeps changing, therefore we need to change as well. We don’t know how and when things will change, but we know it will. People’s relationship with economy, food, a more globalised world, migration and so on will always change, and we need to balance our consumption of resources with a need to preserve future resources.”

Why, in your opinion, is it important to continue to study this topic?

“The most important thing is to get and give some insight in how to integrate human impact in nature conservation. My findings can give some perspective, and we all need to increase our consciousness around nature. I believe we can manage conservation where people live. I think it is important to get out there, that conservation and food production can go together. It is no longer true that you can’t combine conservation of biodiversity, food production and forest exploitation, in one area.”

What has it been like, being a PhD student at UiB?

“This has been a great opportunity for me. This is a very nice place and the University of Bergen has a good working environment. It has been very inspiring to be here. The people are very helpful, and I have benefited for being in a resourceful university like this. My supervisors are very supportive ans have made my stay and studies a lot easier. Bergen is very different from Nepal; The physical development, general differences in levels and fields and Nepal is a developing country with social democracy like here, but its not the same. Another thing and maybe the biggest differences is the caste system in Nepal. There, people are discriminated for their place in the caste system. You don’t have that here in Norway. We have a lot of work to do to reduce iequalities. Personally I don’t believe in the caste system.”

Where do you see yourself in ten years from now on?

“It depends. Sometimes we just have to see what happens. I want to be a field ecologist and work on development in Nepal. I will probably continue to work on what I’m doing and love today. I also want to develop my study and maybe apply for some grants, but for now I’m open to whatever comes along.”