However, the role of tourism in rural development and poverty reduction has not been as satisfactory as revealed by the expectations to date. Though the entrepreneurs and residents of some urban areas like Kathmandu, Pokhara and Chitwan have taken advantage of tourism, the rural residents and local community at the vicinity of tourist destinations have not been able to benefit from it to match the expectations.

Of the many districts where Tourism for Rural Poverty Alleviation Program (TRPAP) has been working in Nepal, with the objective of reducing poverty through tourism, Rupandehi is one. Lumbini, which was included in the inventory of the world heritage in 1997, is in this district. Lumbini has been the sacred pilgrimage shrine for more than 400 million Buddhists of the world and a land of ancient civilization.

Thousands of tourists visit the peaceful and engaging spot of Lumbini every year. But most of them visit for a very short duration and return without having visited places that around the main markets. For this reason, the local communities have not been able to benefit from tourism in Lumbini area.

Keeping in consideration this very fact, different programmes have been launched by TRPAP in the area in order to prolong the stay of tourists visiting Lumbini and help contribute in poverty alleviation.

Introduced in 7 VDCs, peripheral to Lumbini since January 2002, TRPAP has been running different activities like rural trekking, distribution and sale of locally produced handicrafts, visit of watershed areas for birds watching, nature trek and Lumbini Buddhist circuit visit in assistance with the District Development Committee and Lumbini Development Trust.

Likewise, it is realized that due to the programs run by TRPAP on social mobilization, capacity building of the rural communities, environment conservation and development of physical infra-structures and Gender and social awareness campaigns, the area has started to improve in social and economic condition.

Tharu people of Khudabagar VDC-2, Sonbarshi, having 50 households, have taken to commercial fish keeping in financial and technical assistance of TRPAP. Pragati Fish Farming Group has been formed for the same purpose. Similarly, farmers of Ekala VDC, Sugadhiya have started commercial fish farming through the loan assistance from TRPAP.

The farmers of Khudabagar VDC, Lakadigadh have started commercial banana cultivation after being organized in a group. TRPAP has provided a pumping set free of cost to the group. Around 16 members of the group have grown banana in 30 Kattha land, according to the group chairperson Shesh Ram Yadav. TRPAP also took these farmers on a field visit to different parts including Shivabasti of Nawalparasi district, a famous spot for banana cultivation, where they learnt on how the stems of banana trees can be utilized in producing thread, after the fruit is plucked out. This has led them to the activity of extra income.

The programme has been providing training on producing different sorts of handicrafts, as there is a good market for them. This has benefited the members of poor and downtrodden families.

TRPAP has been running different empowerment schemes for women and has emphasized on their participation in tourism activities. The programme has given training to local women on knitting, making baskets and decoration items out of bamboo and rattan, tailoring and the like. Vishala Devi Yadav and Pushpa Mishra of Ekala VDC have started earning by selling the baskets, bags and other such decorative items.

Laxmi Aryal of Tilaurakot has started a grocery in the assistance of TRPAP. She says she earns up to Rs 150 per day from the shop. An intermediate in Education, Aryal has received the training of tour guide too in assistance of TRPAP.

A road has been constructed in Madhuvani VDC, through which tourists can easily reach to Hathewa Lake for birds-viewing. TRPAP provided Rs 0.45 million and the locals volunteered labour worth Rs 50,000 for its construction. Besides, the road has benefited more than 2,000 local people, says Gokul Tharu of the road Construction Users Committee.

TRPAP has encouraged and given awareness to the hotel and restaurant entrepreneurs and rickshaw drivers on hospitality and capacity building to offer quality services to the tourists. Notice boards have been set up at different places for providing information related to tourist activities.

Introduced since September 2001 by His Majesty's Government, TRPAP has been launched in six districts with technical support from UNDP, DFID and SNV Nepal. They are Taplejung, Solukhumbu, Rasuwa, Chitwan, Rupandehi and Dolpa. The program is targeted at benefiting about 0.16 million people of 48 different VDCs.