[INVNT GROUP]™ And World Air League® Partner On World-First Cultural, Sports And Entertainment Event, World Sky Race®

NEW YORK, NEW YORK, Oct. 19, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — [INVNT GROUP], THE GLOBAL BRANDSTORY PROJECT has entered into a strategic partnership with World Air League to launch World Sky Race, a world–first international race of airships for consumers, brands and countries that will fly over a live audience of more than two billion.

Launching in London in September 2023 and culminating in Paris in May 2024, the triennial World Sky Race will see up to 20 airships "" which use 75% less fuel than aeroplanes and do not require roads, harbours, railroads or runways "" embark on an around–the–world expedition, landing at 17 iconic destination cities along the way.

The race will commence with an opening ceremony in London, followed by fly–overs and stops in Berlin, Rome, Cairo, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, New Delhi and Mumbai, Burma, Singapore, Bangkok, Tokyo, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, New York, and finally, Paris.

Educational and VIP hospitality events will be held in each of these locations, where revellers will be immersed in race fun and festivities, meet the race teams, and more. In Paris, the final grand stage for centering the world's attention, the event will culminate with a triumphful celebratory closing ceremony, where the historic winning airship team with the fastest cumulative time will be awarded a $5 million cash prize.

[INVNT GROUP] is working with World Air League to raise awareness and build custom sponsor partnerships for the race. Its four brands "" Folk Hero, Meaning, HEV' and INVNT are providing a combination of strategy, content, logistics and production support.

Don R Hartsell", Commissioner "and Managing Director, World Air League said: “The World Sky Race is a race for the planet. It is a race for humanity. The Race will bring fans from all over the world together to engage in socially connected cultural, sporting and entertainment experiences unlike any other. Moving beyond the global distress of today that has changed and locked down lives everywhere, the World Sky Race will give people around the world a reason to go outside and LOOK–UP!

“We're thrilled to be working with [INVNT GROUP] to not only ensure this world–first race of airships is amplified and runs smoothly, but that it unites people around the globe and from all walks of life as we come together to watch each leg and the events that follow. The momentous closing celebrations in Paris, the City of Lights, will actually mark a new beginning for the world, a lighted path, a lighter–than–air path to a greener future.”

Scott Cullather, President & CEO at [INVNT GROUP] added: “When Don shared his vision, he had us at “World Sky Race” because it is a completely new and unique concept, one that pushes the boundaries and compels audiences around the world, whether witnessing the race physically or virtually, to stop and watch the action as it unfolds.

“[INVNT GROUP] and World Air League are the perfect partners, because we're both global, passionate about doing things differently, about doing good work, and about doing work that does good. We look forward to working with Don and the team ongoing to bring this incredibly exciting event to life, from the initial conception phase right through to the closing ceremonies and beyond.”

###

About World Air League and The World Sky Race
The mission and vision of the World Air League is to promote the advancement of lighter–than–air aviation for a sustainable future. The World Air League is creating the World Sky Race as an epic challenge to inspire inventors to invent and adventurers to compete. For strategic impact and purpose, the World Air League in embedding the World Sky Race to be included in the global educational system to provide the world's next generation with a path to explore with their destination an alternate greener, cleaner future. Do you want to know more? www.worldskyrace.com/

About [INVNT GROUP]
[INVNT GROUP], with offices in New York, London, Sydney, Detroit, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Stockholm and Singapore, was established in 2020 with a vision to provide consistent, meaningful, well–articulated BrandStory across all platforms. Headed up by President and CEO, Scott Cullather, [INVNT GROUP], THE GLOBAL BRANDSTORY PROJECT represents a growing portfolio of complementary disciplines designed to help forward–thinking organizations everywhere, impact the audiences that matter, anywhere. The GROUP consists of modern brand strategy firm, Folk Hero; creative–led culture consultancy, Meaning; branded content studio and content marketing agency, HEV', and the global live brand storytelling agency, INVNT. For more information about [INVNT GROUP] visit: www.invntgroup.com/

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Why Food System Transformation Needs Water

A farmer with his young turmeric crops in Tamil Nadu, India. Credit: Hamish John Appleby / IWMI

By Dr. Mark Smith
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Oct 19 2020 – The impact of Covid-19 on supply chains and food security has dealt a blow to the already faltering global development ambition of ending hunger.

More than ever, as the global population continues growing, we need to find a way to produce sufficient nutritious food for all. But with the world suffering from degraded ecosystems and facing climate change, the question is how?

Water is a critical component of food systems, from production through to consumption. And, with food security and the health of both people and ecosystems each dependent on water, our future food systems must be underpinned by a ‘systems-based’ approach to water management too.

What would a future food system that safeguards the world’s water systems and services look like? During production, farmers would withdraw less water from nature than at present but successfully produce more food with it.

They would focus their efforts in locations that have sufficient water resources to bear the burden. And the water that drains from their fields would be less polluted, because they would use fewer fertilizers and pesticides, and apply those they do need safely.

On the consumption side, everyone would have access to safely managed drinking water and sanitation services, helping them to live healthier lives and suffer less from water-borne diseases, to benefit from the nutritious food they eat, and to prosper.

Thus, the human right to water supply and sanitation is integral to successful food systems too.

How do we arrive at this future scenario? What will it take to transform food and water systems in this way? Enhancing production from the water used in agriculture – even by a small amount – could significantly alleviate water stress if water savings are available for use in other sectors or returned to nature.

Reliable data is critical: it can show how much water is available, where that water is being used, and if water productivity is low or high. And many innovative approaches and technologies are being developed that can assist farmers to grow more food with less water and fewer chemicals.

Delivering water for hygiene and sanitation (WASH), while meeting the needs of agriculture and other uses, demands careful management and collaboration between WASH providers, and other water and environmental agencies.

The ‘Multiple Use Water Services’ approach, rolled out by IWMI in more than 30 countries, exemplifies the kind of joined-up effort that is required. MUS systems are designed from the outset to provide water for diverse uses from fishing to cooking and can help communities to allocate water resources more effectively and equitably.

Taking a water-systems approach will also help us to manage risks from water-related disasters, such as floods and droughts, and build resilience to climate change.

This might involve extending irrigation to rainfed farmers to help them overcome dry spells, providing smallholders with drought- or moisture-tolerant seeds so they can maintain a good yield even when a season delivers unseasonably dry- or wet conditions, or using insurance to transfer risk in the case of an extreme weather event.

Our work in India and Bangladesh shows that taking such measures can help farmers overcome climate shocks and quickly return to producing food.

Around the world, farms of less than two hectares account for 28–31% of global crop production. We have to ensure that the poorest in society are not left behind, and that women farmers or tenant smallholders without land and water rights of their own benefit too. Women alone make up 43 per cent of the agricultural labor force globally and in developing countries.

Transforming food systems calls for collaboration between a wide range of actors, working at scales from farmer’s fields to global initiatives. We must not forget, for example, the energy sector that is involved in powering irrigation or the finance providers needed to help farmers buy seed or insure their crops against floods.

And with food production connecting people, nature and economy in complex ways, we must be mindful of trade-offs when adopting particular strategies.

Ultimately, we need to address weak and fragmented governance within water management. This is because institutions that can accelerate water productivity gains in agriculture, deliver safe water to people, reduce risks from floods and droughts, and sustainably manage water-rich ecosystems, are fundamental to successfully changing food systems for the better.

Ensuring our future global population is well-nourished calls for action on food production, climate change, health and biodiversity loss – and water flows through them all.

 


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NESFAS Partner Communities Celebrate World Food Day

World Food Day celebration at Pyngkya, East Khasi Hills

By Damica M Mawlong
Oct 19 2020 (IPS-Partners)

World Food Day, a day dedicated to tackle world hunger, is annually celebrated on October 16, 2020 globally. To commemorate this day, the North East Slow Food and Agrobiodiversity Society (NESFAS) along with its partner organisations — Society for Urban and Rural Empowerment (SURE) and North East Network (NEN), Nagaland — hosted several programmes across 27 communities in Meghalaya and Nagaland. It may be mentioned here that all government SOPs and measures were followed during the events.

In his message from Rome, NESFAS chairman and coordinator of The Indigenous Partnership, Phrang Roy said, “As we celebrate the World Food Day with our 130 indigenous partner communities of North East India and as we work to ‘grow, nourish and sustain, together’, let us remind ourselves that in areas where our traditional culture, our oral traditions, our living in balance with nature and with each other have been upheld, we have prospered.” He added, “ This World Food Day is therefore an opportunity for us, as indigenous peoples, to show and tell to our national and international leaders that our traditional indigenous food systems and our biological and cultural diversity are crucial instruments for a more caring and sustainable world.”

Keeping in mind the theme for this year’s celebration — Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together — at Pyngkya (East Khasi Hills), community members hosted a Food Group treasure hunt for the children wherein the participants were divided into three groups. The children were then sent to the nearby forest and cultivation fields, along with adults, to forage the 10 food groups under one hour.

In Khweng and Madanrtiang (Ri-Bhoi), Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) and Agroecology Learning Circle (ALC) members organised a drawing competition for children at their respective communities. An Agrobiodiversity (ABD) competition was also held where community members were asked to identify the different food plants at their communities. In the evening, a few Anganwadi workers along with some of the ALC members held an awareness programme and spoke about the importance to conserve agrobiodiversity and local foods.

Agrobiodiversity Hunt in Madanrtiang, Ri-Bhoi

To instill the importance of local foods in children, community members of Laitthemlangsah, Nongwah, Dewlieh, (all under East Khasi Hills), Umwang Nongbah, Khliehumstem (Ri-Bhoi) and Mawlum Mawjahksew (West Khasi Hills), held drawing competitions under various food-related themes. However, Mawhiang, Lad Mawphlang, Laitsohpliah and Laitumiong community members hosted indigenous cooking competitions throughout the day.

Indigenous Food Cooking Competition at Mukhap, West Jaintia Hills

The NESFAS team in Garo Hills, marked the occasion in Samingre, West Garo Hills along with other partner communities — Darichikgre, Daribokgre and Durakantragre — where in the community facilitators took part in a seed-exchange programme. The programme also included sharing of knowledge on the importance of the Indigenous Food Systems by the CFs from Darichikgre, Daribokgre and Durakantragre. Chenxiang R Marak, Associate of NESFAS (Garo Hills) said, “The CFs also spoke about the importance of seeds and right after that, there was an exchange of seeds between these four communities. These are all traditional and local seeds that were exchanged to ensure seed sovereignty.” The Samingre Self Help Groups also sold fresh local vegetables and value added products at the venue.

Indigenous Food Cooking compeition at Sasatgre

NEN, on the other hand, organised a cooking competition for rural youth at the NEN Resource Centre at Chizami, Phek District, Nagaland under this year’s theme. The event brought together 65 participants, mostly youth members from Chizami and neighbouring villages. The focus of the programme was to bridge the growing gap between young people and local food systems. It is an attempt to help the youth understand the significance of local food, rediscover and appreciate traditional recipes, explore and exchange innovative recipes using local ingredients.

World food day celebrations at Cham Cham, East Jaintia Hills

Three partner communities of SURE on the other hand celebrated the day hosting an essay competition and a recitation competition in Cham Cham (Jaintia Hills), an ABD walk in Thangbuli and a indigenous food cooking competition in Mukhap. Participants were only allowed to cook indigenous meals using traditional and local ingredients only.

Why a Zimbabwean Farming Project Failed: Lessons for Rural Innovation

Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By External Source
PRETORIA, South Africa, Oct 19 2020 – Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa commit resources to promote agricultural innovations. This is based on the assumption that rural livelihoods are mainly agricultural and that the innovations will increase agricultural production and household income.

As resources come under pressure from growing populations and natural resource degradation, governments and donors want to see that agricultural research and innovation has an impact. They want to see “success” and “value for money”.

But success is understood in different ways. It depends on how it’s framed and by whom.

Rural communities are dynamic and complex. Imposing innovations that don’t speak to the needs of these communities won’t achieve rural development. Our study showed the importance of developing innovations with communities as opposed to innovations for communities

Studying conflict in agricultural innovations can lead to a better understanding of the appropriateness of certain technologies in terms of how they’re designed, promoted and how they’re linked to rural livelihoods.

Conservation agriculture in Zimbabwe provides a good example of an innovation like this. This approach to farming has been widely promoted by non-governmental organisations, research institutes and the state. It’s also promoted in other countries of eastern and southern Africa.

The method is based on minimal soil disturbance, mulching soil with crop residues, and crop rotation. These are meant to conserve moisture, reduce soil erosion and build up soil organic matter to improve crop yields and rural livelihoods.

We wanted to know how this innovation was promoted and implemented in Zimbabwe and how its “success” was framed and assessed. Our study found that there were differences in how farmers and promoters of conservation agriculture defined its success.

These differences matter when investments are made in promoting agricultural innovations. It’s particularly important to understand the diversity of rural livelihoods.

 

The research

Our study was conducted in Gwanda and Insiza districts in south western Zimbabwe. Droughts are a common feature in the area, occurring on average every two or three years. We collected data via a household questionnaire survey, interviews and focus group discussions. Participants included farmers, NGO and government extension officers.

We found that innovation was understood by the majority of respondents as having three main attributes, namely, “novelty”, “adaptability” and “utility”. Despite novelty being mentioned more often than other understandings of innovation, some felt that it existed in theory and not practically.

For example, a farmer said interventions promoted in their communities weren’t new but rather repackaged existing technologies with different names. Some weren’t suitable for the area.

Conservation agriculture was identified as the innovation most often promoted by non-governmental organisations and government extension officers in the area. Huge investments were committed to promoting it – the Department for International Development set aside about US$23 million to promote it in Zimbabwe. Yet after the project’s three year lifespan, farmers mostly abandoned the practice.

The locals gave it the name “diga ufe”, which means “dig and die”, because it required so much physical labour. The manual digging of conservation basins during land preparation and the multiple weeding was labour intensive.

Farmers did find, though, that using the conservation agriculture techniques in their vegetable gardens yielded better results compared to bigger plots. Under crop production, farmers prioritised irrigated agriculture compared to rain-fed agriculture. Gardening was therefore identified as the second ranked important livelihood source after livestock production.

Respondents agreed that innovation was vital for sustaining food security and nutrition in the context of climate change. One farmer said innovation was about experimenting with resources at one’s disposal to come up with something new and suitable for the area. He also emphasised that innovation was a collective action that includes farmers, researchers, extension agents and the private sector. He said it was not only confined to new technology (hardware), but processes such as governance, that would yield positive results.

Climate smart crops such as sorghum, millet and cowpeas and climate smart livestock (goats and indigenous poultry) were identified by locals as potentially suitable in addressing dry spells in the area. But poor informal markets, limited bargaining power, shortage of grazing land, pests and diseases constrained productivity.

Diversifying out of agriculture was identified as an alternative response to climate change. It could boost the income of the household and help sustain food and nutrition security.

Government extension officers felt that innovations in the area should be targeted towards livestock production. The area’s semi-arid climate means it’s not conducive for rain-fed agriculture.

So, despite the efforts to promote conservation agriculture, dry land cropping was ranked as the lowest source of livelihood for rural people. People in the area prioritised livestock production. Promoting more livestock production related innovations would have been ideal for the area.

 

What does this mean for policy and innovations?

Innovation can thrive in rural areas. But this depends on understanding the communities’ perceptions and livelihood context to appreciate their priorities.

Rural communities are dynamic and complex. Imposing innovations that don’t speak to the needs of these communities won’t achieve rural development. Our study showed the importance of developing innovations with communities as opposed to innovations for communities.

People in rural areas don’t lack capacity. They need support to utilise available resources and innovate in a flexible manner that’s context specific. They should be key players in coming up with solutions, since they have a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within their communities.The Conversation

Eness Paidamoyo Mutsvangwa-Sammie, Agriculture Economist, University of Pretoria

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Carnegie Endowment Announces The Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Oct. 19, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace announced today the renaming of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut to honor Malcolm H. Kerr, the late American scholar of the Middle East and former president of the American University of Beirut. Henceforth, the center will be known as the Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center.

"Renaming the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut to honor Malcolm Kerr is deeply fitting," said Carnegie President William J. Burns. "Malcolm Kerr's intellectual honesty, generosity of spirit, and genuine belief in the promise of the region and its people have been an example to many scholars who came after. The Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center will carry on his legacy "" continuing to provide a public space for the next generation of Arabs to debate, discuss, and write their own future."

"My family and I are honored that the Carnegie center in Beirut is being named for Malcolm," said Ann Kerr, Malcolm's wife and American University of Beirut trustee emeritus. "The work being done there so closely reflects his hopes for the Arab region where he was born and raised. He would be happy to know that Arab scholars are deeply engaged in thinking about long–term solutions to Arab problems."

"Malcolm's visionary work more than half a century ago still serves as an inspiration to many who dream of an Arab world that can rise up to its full potential and develop new political and economic orders, guided by good governance and respect for diversity," said Marwan Muasher, Vice President for Studies leading the Endowment's work on the Middle East.

Malcolm H. Kerr was born in 1931 in Beirut, Lebanon, where he spent most of his youth. His parents, Stanley and Elsa Kerr, worked as volunteers for Near East Relief in Aleppo in 1919, helping thousands of Armenians flee genocide. They went on to settle in Beirut, raising their family in the city while working at the American University of Beirut""the same university their son Malcolm would eventually lead. Kerr received his undergraduate degree from Princeton University, before moving back to Lebanon to complete his master's degree at the American University of Beirut. During that time, he met his future wife, Ann Zwicker, with whom he had four children. He later completed his Ph.D. at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. After obtaining his doctorate, Kerr studied at St. Antony's College at Oxford and taught at the American University of Beirut, the University of California at Los Angeles, and the American University in Cairo. In 1982, Kerr was appointed president of the American University of Beirut, where he served until his assassination in January 1984.

The Carnegie Endowment advances international peace by leveraging its global network to shape debates and provide decisionmakers with independent insights and innovative ideas on the most consequential global threats and opportunities. The Carnegie Middle East Center was established in 2006 in Beirut.

Contact:
Maya Krishna–Rogers
Senior Media Relations Coordinator
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
maya.krishna–rogers@ceip.org | 202 939 2371

Low-cost Technology can Have Life-changing Impacts for Rural Women

Members of a women-farmers’ collective demonstrate use of a devices that sends daily bulletins on weather patterns, crops and other matters of importance to farming communities in rural India. Inexpensive technology can have a life-changing impact on rural women. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Members of a women-farmers’ collective demonstrate use of a devices that sends daily bulletins on weather patterns, crops and other matters of importance to farming communities in rural India. Inexpensive technology can have a life-changing impact on rural women. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Samira Sadeque
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 19 2020 – Access to technology which is relatively inexpensive to deploy can have a life-changing impact for rural women, social scientist Valentina Rotondi told IPS.

Rotondi shared her insight during a presentation of her research titled “Digital rural gender divide in Latin America and the Caribbean” to mark International Day of Rural Women on Thursday, Oct. 15.

At the presentation, Rotondi said her team studied the impact of the digital gender gap and access to technology on women’s health. Their research focused specifically on access to reproductive and sexual health for women in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Access to mobile phones can be a vehicle for improving health and reproductive health for women living in those remote areas,” Rotondi told IPS. “Women living in remote areas can get access to information regarding their pregnancy or their health. As a result, getting access to this information and reducing their travel time to hospital, improves the health status of their babies.”

The research was carried out by the University of Oxford, and the webinar was co-organised by  the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the Inter-American Development Bank  and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Manuel Otero, Director General of IICA, said in his opening remarks that the observation of International Day of Rural Women was to celebrate the far-reaching “direct implications” and “deep roots” that rural women hold in the lives of those around them. 

“Women in rural territories deserve and need to be applauded, because they are the ones that guarantee rootedness, and are also at the core of family and productive life,” he said.

Otero added that rural women played a key role in ensuring food security and, ultimately, the whole purpose of agricultural development and rural wellbeing.

And yet, often they remain invisible in larger society.

Calling them the “guardians of our rural territories”, Otero said that last week’s celebrations were a part of the framework to gain recognition for such a vital section of society.

“We want to encourage public discussion which is necessary in order to push for development and implementation of high quality policies that would, once and for all, improve the situation for the women who live out in the countryside,” he said. 

At the talk, Rotondi added that while it is very low-cost to implement the kind of technological access that provides women with information about reproductive health, their impacts can be life-changing.

“The impact of those kinds of technology, which are really cheap and [help] connect [the women] to others, are big enough and could really be a vehicle for sustainable development,” she said. 

According to their research, narrowing gender gaps in mobile phone adoption can further narrow gender gaps in internet access, which might be “pivotal” in terms of health of improvement.

Rotondi further cited research that found  access to mobile phones can improve women’s financial resilience , which in turn improves their outcomes.

She shared the findings of their study that support this analysis:

  • Women living in rural areas are the least “connected” group.
  • The digital gender divide, which hampers women’s ability to access information and communication technologies, was narrowing in Latin America and the Caribbean  until a few years ago
  • In 17 of the 23 countries analysed, women are less likely than men to report owning a mobile phone
  • Countries that report a narrow digital gender gap also have lower gender gaps in vulnerable employment, youth unemployment and labor-force participation

The digital divide between men and women has been further impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“In this pandemic situation, whereby schools are closed, people who have access to mobile phones and the Internet might be able to continue education, but those without this technology cannot,” Rotondi added.

Otero of IICA added that the current pandemic has made it more challenging  for the rural women who are even less connected, highlighting the invisibility of rural women and their work.

“It’s not enough to talk about access to land ownership, productive resources, finances, education, training, health, and justice” he said. “In particular, we [must] focus on the issue of connectivity. The pandemic has shown us that [having a] cell phone opens up almost every type of possibility, the ability to study, to sell or to buy – and therefore to work.”

Climate Change: New Threat to Nepal’s Rhinos

Nepal’s population of one-horned rhinoceros that survived hunting, a shrinking habitat and wildlife trafficking are now faced with a new threat: changes in their living environment due to a rapidly-warming atmosphere

Loss of their favourite grass due to the spread of invasive vines have forced rhinos to venture outside Chitwan National Park, like this one in Sauraha last year. Credit: SAGAR GIRI/ Nepali Times.

By Mukesh Pokhrel
CHITWAN, Nepal, Oct 19 2020 – Nepal’s population of one-horned rhinoceros that survived hunting, a shrinking habitat and wildlife trafficking are now faced with a new threat: changes in their living environment due to a rapidly-warming atmosphere.

Eight rhinos have been found dead inside Chitwan National Park since 11 July – half of them due to unprecedented floods on the Narayani River that submerged their grassland habitat.

The latest rhino to be washed up on the river bank on 7 October, followed two days later by a rhino that fell into the Balmiki-Gandaki irrigation canal and drowned.

The rhinos have overcome many threats, but climate change has brought about a new challenge – erratic weather, including heavy rains and floods during the monsoon and prolonged drought in the dry season have altered the rhino’s riverine habitat

One of the rhinos is believed to have been shot on 10 September by poachers taking advantage of the lockdown, the first such instance after four years of zero rhino poaching in Nepal. Rhinos have been rescued from the brink of extinction in Nepal’s Tarai plains, and now number 605 in Chitwan alone, with a dozen more in Bardia National Park.

“The rhinos have overcome many threats, but climate change has brought about a new challenge,” explains Shantaraj Gyawali, who did his PhD on rhino conservation. He says erratic weather, including heavy rains and floods during the monsoon and prolonged drought in the dry season have altered the rhino’s riverine habitat.

Rhinos, tigers and other species that need watering holes in the dry season are suffering because many of them have gone dry. Part of the reason is increasingly erratic weather with too much rain the monsoon, and too little in spring. The water table has also gone down due to over-extraction of groundwater by farmers outside the park.

The Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation has dug 500 ponds in the Tarai parks, with another 200 being readied for coming dry season. It has also tried to restore native grass in the floodplain grazing area of rhinos, and other ungulates that are prey for tigers and other carnivores.

The drowning deaths of rhinos this monsoon season has worried Chitwan National Park authorities, who blame unprecedented heavy rainfall probably due to climate change.

Eight rainfall measurement stations across Nepal this year registered record-breaking precipitation. Of these, seven were in the upper reaches of the Narayani River watershed in Kaski, Baglung, Syangja, and Parbat.

Kaski district registered a record-breaking 4,519mm of rain in July-September, 33% higher than normal. Lamjung and Kusma district also saw highest-ever rainfall ever recorded. Chitwan itself had 3,130mm of rain this year, much higher than the annual average of 2,450mm.

All this rain was funnelled down to the Narayani through tributaries, to inundate the grasslands and forests of Chitwan National Park, catching many wild animals unawares.

“When rhinos die of natural causes, we are not overly worried,” says Ashok Ram of Chitwan National Park. “But when rhinos drown, or are washed down to India by floods then it raises alarm bells.”

 

Nepal’s population of one-horned rhinoceros that survived hunting, a shrinking habitat and wildlife trafficking are now faced with a new threat: changes in their living environment due to a rapidly-warming atmosphere

The rhino’s favourite grasses are being over-run by invasive mikania vines. Credit: KUNDA DIXIT/Nepali Times

 

Indeed, in 2017 a sudden flood on the Rapti and Narayani rivers swept away wildlife, including rhinos, across the border to the Balmiki Tiger Reserve in India. Nine of the rhinos were repatriated to Chitwan a few months later. Another rhino that had been missing was finally traced, tranquilised and returned to Nepal in August.

There is no indication if whether this year’s floods also washed rhinos to India, but the increasing frequency and intensity of floods is worrying Nepal’s conservationists, who blame climate change

In addition, new invasive plant species have replaced the favourite grass fodder for rhinos, wallows have gone dry, driving rhinos out of the park into Chitwan’s tourist towns like Sauraha and Meghauli.

In fact, the sight of rhinos roaming through streets have become a tourist attraction. With it, there have also been instances of rhinos being electrocuted or poisoned by buffer zone farmers fearing loss of crops.

Ashok Ram of Chitwan National Park says he has noticed rhinos now moving from the east to the western edges of the park: “We do not know why this is happening, but they could be searching for better grazing or watering holes.”

The tall grass along the floodplains and oxbow lakes along the Rapti and Narayani Rivers are being replaced by invasive species like mikania vines, banmara, and new plant varieties that are favoured by rising global average temperatures..

Adds Ram: “Climate change threatens to undo Nepal’s success story in rhino and nature conservation.”

This story was originally published by The Nepali Times