Mapping Rain for Collective Gain

by Rachel Nisbet | 28 February 2020
Image Mapping Rain for Collective Gain

Making Participatory Maps to Talk Water

Creating an Integrated Water Resource Management plan involves many community-based organisations. In our Nepali project with Kanchan Nepal, we liaise with mother’s groups, youth clubs, water user committees, cooperatives, farmer’s groups, and forest user groups to get communities thinking about how their water supply depends on both groundwater flow and rainfall.

To cultivate local hydro-wisdom, it is important to find a common language to talk about water’s flow through the landscape. A hydro-engineer and a housewife experience water differently. Making maps and storying-the-land are two ways of getting two such individuals to exchange their hydro-knowledge.

We are making two participatory maps to help this conversation along, one for the Kalika-Thulakot-Begnas zone, around the urban center of Pokhara, the other for the rural Rupakot-Thumki-Hansapur zone in the Rupa municipality.

To make a Water Use Management Plan (WUMP) for these areas, we will meet with local leaders, teachers, students and the above-mentioned community groups. Using our 3D maps, we will encourage participants to explain where natural resources including water bodies (springs, ponds, rivers, and stream), forests, barren lands, agricultural lands are located and then record this information topographically. We will also ask them to explain where paths, roads and infrastructure such as public institutions (schools, clubs, hospitals, temples and government offices) are located. Until now, WUMP approaches have used 2D maps. But our project will make it easier for people to relate to a cartographic map by showing them a 3D representation of their region’s geography. When people share their local knowledge in the form of stories, we can also map these aural narratives to document them. Storying the land in this way will helps us address the water-scarcity and erosion hazards faced by local communities, and to offer practical solutions.

Eating Nepali Ecosystem Based Adaptation

Our project will ensure that people appreciate the value of planting rain at the dining table. Until now, local communities have only used their local forest resources minimally. They fetch firewood, cattle fodder and timber. But the new sections of forest that we will plant in, collaboration with the forest user group network FECOCUN, will supply food and medicines as well. We are developing nurseries, so when we plant erosion-prone slopes with vegetation, the species we use will include herbal plants, fruiting shrubs and trees that provide animal fodder. Plants like phyllanthus emblica have culinary value, as people use their fruits in pickles and as herbal medicines. It is exciting that local communities will taste the benefit of our Integrated Water Resource Management Plan within a few growing seasons.

One potential challenge facing our project, however, is that forest management is under question in Nepal. The 1993 Forest Act mandated villagers to protect, manage and utilise their forests. At present, there are concerns that forest resources need to contribute more directly to the economy, which invites a more centralised approach to forest management. We are confident, however, that our collaboration with FECOFUN in Nepal’s Kaski District will demonstrate that local management of forests creates economic and eco-systemic good. Planting carefully chosen tree species on erosion prone slopes can reduce the hazard of landslides, increase groundwater levels and provide local communities with valuable water, food and fuel resources.


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