Tourism in a Sacred Landscape: Political Economy and Sherpa Ecological Knowledge in Beyul Khumbu/Sagarmatha (Mount Everest) National Park and Buffer Zone, Nepal
Project Duration 2004-2011
This project, funded by a Graduate Research Fellowship from the U.S. National Science Foundation, assessed the influence of political and economic forces on Sherpa ecological knowledge inside the protected area. A stratified random sample of 100 households and 12 monks was selected and demographically profiled. One individual from each household participated in structured and semi-structured interviews on plants, mushrooms, mammals, birds, place-based spiritual values containing taboos on resource harvest, and landscape knowledge of various locations. Results of a Multiple Regression Analysis generally expressed that the more market-integrated, younger cohorts, females, and the educated had less knowledge of these various domains, although there were exceptions. These findings suggest that the loss of Sherpa ecological knowledge by these various demographics may influence decision-making resulting in less sustainable environmental interactions. The documented overharvests of tree and shrub species on the Park periphery and in alpine areas may be indicators of these knowledge changes. These results were presented back to the participants, local institutions, Park staff, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, Nepal, and various national and international non-governmental organizations. To date, we conducted additional studies on local perceptions of non-biodegradable litter and edible mushrooms. Findings for all projects were also applied to tangible outcomes, including a documentary film, interpretive exhibits in the visitors center and school curriculum. I also assist with review of the site’s World Heritage status when needed.
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