Nepal Visit as part of PLuS Alliance Project
Dr Fiona Johnson recently visited Nepal as part of a PLuS alliance project. The project has two exciting aims. The first component of the project investigating methods to turn an invasive weed species into a useful resource. The weed, Mikania micrantha, is threatening the Chitwan National Park which is home to endangered animals including the One Horned Rhinoceros, Royal Bengal Tiger and Gharial Crocodile. The project aims to help villagers turn this weed into biochar. Biochar can be used to improve the availability of nutrient in the soil and increase agricultural productivity. It can also be processed to form charcoal briquettes for cooking and heating. The project will involve academics and students from Arizona State University (ASU) and UNSW Sydney. UNSW students will be investigating the sustainability of different biochar production techniques. ASU students are currently working on designing devices that can easily harvest the weed from the forest.
The second project in Nepal is based around solar powered community irrigation schemes. As part of the trip in March, the team visited a Climate-Smart Village where solar powered irrigation has allowed villagers to grow vegetable crops during the dry season. This gives them an additional crop per year and a valuable source of income. The Climate-Smart Villages are part of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security. ASU students will be going to Nepal in May to help with the installation of a new irrigation scheme. UNSW students will be investigating the long term water balance questions particularly with respect to climate change and providing a framework to incorporate such assessments into future project designs.