The Dhanushadham Bird Park
One of the hallmarks of our joint Pipal Tree/Mithila Wildlife Trust (MWT) project work in Nepal is how we merge disciplines and activities towards achieving high-impact outcomes, while doing so imaginatively and cost-effectively. There can be no better example of that than our new Dhanushadham Bird Park project that we have been very pleased to launch this month. Over the next two years, we will create a Park that will become a habitat for the exotic and endangered birds that inhabit the southern plains of Nepal (the Terai) while also attracting and enlightening the local, national and international tourists that will make the project sustainable. We will also use the Park to educate schoolchildren from across Nepal and inspire them to become artists and eco-warriors of the future!
Project aim and objectives
Our formal project Aim is: "An outreach and education programme for schools and young people in Nepal to engage them in advocacy and practical action relating to rewilding and towards addressing the Climate Emergency." The tangible focal point of the project will be the rewilding of an open-grazing public space, creating a showpiece "tiny forest" using the "Miyawaki Method" - a first in Nepal! Ours will become a demonstration site for a method that has a high environmental return where only a small area of land is available, such as in the urban environment. It has already proven its worth elsewhere in the world, including in the UK. This will be in conjunction with the siting of some mosaics of local birdlife as striking public artworks in juxtaposition with the real thing. In parallel, we will develop teaching resources and prepare for future field trips to the project area of Dhanushadham, Province 2, southeast Nepal. We estimate that up to 200 children and adolescents from local schools can be involved in the sapling planting activity alone.
The project site
The chosen site is close to the MWT's head office and one over which the MWT has excellent control. Currently 6,134m2 is available for reforestation and under phase 1 we can reforest 2,540m2 (the area of ten tennis courts) in the western section, involving planting 12,150 saplings. These will be provided free by the Department of Forestry.
Phase 2 reforestation of the eastern part of the site will involve a further 3,594m2 (14 additional tennis court areas) and 16,800 saplings although, since this is also a demonstration site, 100m2 will be set aside for a conventional plantation with spaced saplings, as a "control" to illustrate the increased growth rate achieved with the Miyawaki method. We expect in five years' time to be able to present a remarkable difference in growth rates.
I have been an enthusiastic mosaic hobby artist for the past 15 years. In 2006, while living in Nepal, I used my new-found (albeit limited) skills to rehabilitate child trafficking survivors using mosaic as a form of art therapy. This was very well received and in due course older trafficking survivors went a step further, reaching a standard that allowed them to sell their works through the domestic market in Nepal. In those days, the medium was ceramic (bathroom) tiles that were sectioned and reassembled into eye-catching pieces.
Now back living in the UK, I work entirely in more unique media. Instead of using ceramic, my tiles are handmade glittering glass "smalti" that come from Venice and Mexico. Besides that, I am also experimenting with fusing and combining coloured glass in a little electric kiln that allows me to make larger elements in the midst of the "brick-building". In the case of birds, these include beaks, eyes, legs and sometimes distinctive parts of plumage. The constituent parts are mounted on a styrofoam base that together with a water-resistant grout-adhesive, allows these to be mounted outdoors, even in the extremes of weather that are experienced in south Nepal.
Over the lifetime of the project, I will be making a series of mosaics of "birds from the Terai" (the Terai is Nepal's southern plains) that will reflect the birds that are to be found in the forests, including in the future Dhanushadham Bird Park. These will also acknowledge the generosity of our supporters as individuals (including in memoriam of some who have passed away), schools, corporates and Foundations. A bird mosaic with an associated brass plaque can be commissioned from Pipal Tree for a minimum of £500, to be sited on a brick pillar at the forest as an enduring recognition of love for Nepal, its people and the natural environment.
The first of my mosaic birds is the India Pitta Bird (see below) that will recognise the core funding support of The Jephcott Charitable Trust in this exciting project. The next will be in memoriam of Mr Milan Khadka, a young Nepalese worker who died in an industrial accident on a construction site in Qatar in 2019. His UK employer made a very generous donation towards our work in his memory and we will be honoured to commemorate Milan in a lasting way that his family, friends and colleagues will no doubt appreciate. This mosaic should be completed by the end of this month and I will present that as a postscript to this blog post.
How you can help
Would you like to commission a mosaic for a minimum of £500? As an individual, you can do this as a personal gift, or to recognise a special occasion such as a birthday, marriage or anniversary or in memoriam of a loved one. As a school, it could be part of an overall fundraising effort towards supporting Pipal Tree. For corporates or Trusts, it could be the basis of a grant.
In return, we will be very pleased to update you (or the recipient of the gift) on progress through fabrication up to the point of delivery. And agree with you an appropriate text for the associated brass plaque.
If you would like to discuss this exciting opportunity to leave your mark in Nepal, please drop me a line.
Alternatively, you can purchase a "treecelet" (= tree + bracelet) that has been made by a one of the young deaf women at our "Lily's Leaves" social enterprise in Kathmandu. This has been crafted to a design by British silversmith Felicity Denby and comes all the way from Nepal, suitably boxed as a gift. The beads are seeds from the Pipal Tree and the silver fastener incorporates our logo. For each treecelet we sell at £20 (includes UK postage and packing) this will not only give good employment to the worker but also cover the cost of 1m2 of reforestation. That equates to planting nine saplings using the intensive Miyawaki Method. What a lovely present for a celebration or as an unusual and meaningful Christmas present!
You can commission a mosaic, purchase a treecelet or, if you prefer, make a simple donation using the button below. Please note that if you purchase a treecelet, this does not qualify for Gift Aid if you are a UK taxpayer. That is because you are getting something in return for your gift. The other options, including commissioning a mosaic (since this goes to Nepal) do qualify!
Project update 19th September 2021
Our colleagues at MWT have been busy in the meantime. Before doing anything, Dev Narayan Mandal, Founder/Chairman of MWT, met with the community leaders to explain the project, how it will provide work through planting and protecting saplings, and its future potential to underpin livelihoods through sustainable use of forest projects and from ecotourism. This will require a commitment from the community to provide security and monitoring to prevent any risk of loss through wildfires.
The agreement gladly given, work commenced with preparing cement posts and the chain link fencing necessary to secure the site - goats and saplings are not the best of mixes! This fabrication has had to be all done by hand with posts made by pouring cement into moulds and links being made individually by bending steel wire. The good thing is that once these fencing materials have been made they can be re-used after the saplings have reached an acceptable stage of maturing and to enclose a new area of re-forestation.
Project update - 8th October 2021 - Birds of a feather!
Beyond marking out the park boundary and securing it, as described above, the initial work has involved some excavation and levelling, including adjusting the course of a small river to stabilise the site. But even with that, to our surprise birds are already checking us out. See the pictures below received today showing egrets (common in Nepal), the red-wattled lapwing, the lesser adjutant stork and, most exciting of all, the woolly-necked stork. The latter two are endangered species and Dev tells us that this has been the first time he's seen woolly-necked storks in his village area.
Let's hope that, with your help, these and other birds will become regular residents or visitors!
Project update - 12th October 2021
My second mosaic in my "birds of a feather" series has now been completed. It is of the White-throated Kingfisher, which is a commonly seen resident in the area. I will install this at the Bird Park in January in memory of Mr Milan Khadka (see above).
Later this week, my kiln will be in operation once again as I prepare the fused glass inserts for elements of the next subject that will be in memory of the late Carys Brown, a keen supporter and friend from Bridgend Soroptimist Club, whom we lost earlier this year.
Watch this mosaic space!
Project update - 19th October 2021
Here are drone images received today of the project site. By correlating these with the plan shown above, you should be able to recognise the western section that has been excavated and the eastern section that awaits funds to allow us to begin. Also the channel that has been cut to divert the river and stabilise the site and the area that has been set aside as a "control". This being the first time that the Miyawaki Method has been used in Nepal, it is important to be able to demonstrate the increased growth rate compared to a conventional plantation.
I am very pleased to hear that other birds are starting to announce their interest such as Lesser Whistling Ducks and Little Cormorants.
Please help us through the donate button!
Project update - 9th November 2021
We are very pleased to share with you that the Welsh registered charity The Penycommin Trust has joined the project as a funding partner. The Chairman of Trustees, Mike Stammers, wrote to us in response to our grant application:
Small, community-based schemes that have achievable outcomes and are supported by the local community tick all the boxes as far as we are concerned. The work you are doing in Nepal sounds very exciting, and we would be very pleased to be a part of it. The added benefit of educating the local community through the schools and education system is absolutely what we would wish to pursue; it is vital that the younger generations can be included in your project and that they can be encouraged to include other, and older, members of their communities.
The Penycommin Trust has awarded us a £2,000 grant towards Phase 2 of this project. This means that we still need to find £7,500 to launch this Phase - that should be achievable within the available timeframe. We look forward to a very mutually rewarding partnership!
Project update 17th December 2021
The Phase 1 groundwork has been completed, with manure/compost buried at the site (using an excavator) and the land sealed off to prevent sapling nibblers! Tomorrow, local people and schoolchildren will be planting the saplings in what will be a very exciting day of community engagement. The story will be reported on by the Nepali Times - that report and pictures to follow. But meantime, here are some images of the ground being prepared - literally ground-breaking work in Nepal!
Project update 18th December 2021
Today, 114 local people, including 59 students from three colleges, took part in the planting of the first saplings at the Park. Altogether they planted 2,200 saplings from 66 native species, including those that would ultimately provide timber, fruits, flowers and herbs. Under the expert supervision of the Divisional Forestry Office staff, the plants selected will offer in due course six layers of forest by height and canopy cover. Over the next two days, a further 5,000 saplings will be planted at the site, keeping them tightly spaced (60 cm between saplings) in line with the Miyawaki Method.
There has been tremendous community buy-in today with participants including senior local politicians, businessmen, academics and the most senior representatives of the DFO - ingredients to future success just as surely as irrigation and weeding. And the education of children and students can continue over the coming months and years.
All in all, a big step forward for Nepal's environment today!