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Mongabay’s What-To-Watch list for October 2021

  • In September, Mongabay covered news from India, Brazil, Mongolia, the U.S., and the oceans about agroforestry, climate change, extractive projects, and ghost fishing gear.
  • We spoke to farmers about their views on agroforestry and mining in surrounding regions, and with scientists about oil palm monoculture and climate resilience using traditional knowledge.
  • Add these videos to your watchlist for the month — you don’t need a Netflix, Prime or Disney+ subscription; watch these for free on YouTube.

Farmers across the world are exploring agroforestry, an ancient agricultural system that combines trees with shrubs, crops, and livestock. This is a sustainable system that produces food, supports biodiversity, builds soil horizons and water tables, and sequesters carbon from the atmosphere. Last month, Mongabay spoke to farmers in Pennsylvania, U.S., and Assam, India, about how they are using agroforestry to improve their lands and livelihoods and about its positive influences.

In Brazil and other parts of India, however, we saw that farmers and communities in regions close to major extractive projects have been living in bleak conditions. Watch how the railway line and mine projects in Brazil’s Bahia state are adversely affecting the local communities, and how open cast clay mines in West Bengal, India, have caused dust pollution and pushed farmers to sell their lands.

In Mongolia, conservation scientist Tunga Ulambayar explained to us the impact of climate change on the country’s environment and how traditional knowledge of the pastoralists can help understand conservation. We also spoke to farmers in India’s Mizoram state and biodiversity expert T.R. Shankar Raman about the Indian government’s plans to expand oil palm plantations in the country’s highly biodiverse northeast region and islands.

Mongabay’s continued series, Mongabay Explains, explained why fishing debris, or ghost fishing gear, are the worst marine polluters and what we can do about it. Our other series Candid Animal Cam showed us some hippos doing hippo things as host Romi Castagnino told us about their amphibious calls and paddle-like tails.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel to make sure you never miss a video, and in the meantime here are all the videos to add to your watchlist:

Palm oil in Mizoram, India: a balancing act between ecological threat and economic promise

In Mizoram, palm oil has been considered a crop of immense economic promise. The state has 78 percent of the total land under oil palm cultivation in northeast India. The state and central government are encouraging the expansion of palm oil cultivation in Mizoram. However, threats to biodiversity, groundwater levels and soil fertility due to palm oil, have environmentalists, economic planners and farmers divided regarding the expansion of this crop in the biodiversity-rich state.

Read more: Mizoram’s balancing act with palm oil’s ecological impact and economic benefits

Scientists warn that the Mongolian steppe is creeping toward a tipping point

Tunga Ulambayar, country director of the Mongolian office of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), has pioneered environmental conservation in Mongolia since the early 1990s. She is currently involved in research and monitoring projects on pastoral community institutions, community-based natural resource management and wildlife conservation.

Read more: On the Mongolian steppe, conservation science meets traditional knowledge


What is the problem with fishing gear?

Ghost fishing gear or fishing debris is the biggest plastic polluter in our oceans. Fishing nets and other equipment represent 10% of all plastic lost at sea. Lost and abandoned fishing debris is deadly to marine life, so different initiatives are looking for solutions to this problem.

Read more: Will ‘ropeless’ fishing gear be seaworthy in time to save endangered whales?


Farmers are using agroforestry to clean waterways in Pennsylvania

Farmers in Pennsylvania are planting trees in their stream-side lands with the support of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Scientists and regulators are working with farmers to create these natural barriers to improve the riparian corridors’ water quality.

Read more: In Pennsylvania, agroforestry holds a key to cleaning up waterways and Chesapeake Bay

Agroforestry initiative in India could help farmers earn all year in a more eco-friendly way

A recent initiative in Assam, India is helping farmers switch from mono-cropping to agroforestry. Agroforestry is a farming system where a mix of trees and plants are grown side by side. This mix of crops can help maintain nutrients in soil and provide farmers with more diverse revenue streams.


Railway connecting mine to a new port in Brazil may impact local communities

Construction of the FIOL railway line linking a deep-water port in Bahia state to the BR-153 highway in Tocantins state is fully underway following a successful bid by the region’s largest iron ore miner. Besides transporting 18 million metric tons of ore per year, the railroad will have capacity to transport an additional 42 million tons of cargo, including grain grown in the Matopiba region, Brazil’s fastest-growing agricultural frontier in the Cerrado biome.

Read more: Railroad and mine projects stir up anxiety in rural Brazil communities

In the dark world of white clay (China clay) mining

Kaolin or China clay or white clay remains a largely untapped mineral resource in West Bengal. The state has 14% of the country’s China clay reserves. But in the existing mining and processing activities raise questions on its impact on the environment, human health, and rights of the workers. Though clay mining is being done for decades in districts such as Birbhum district in West Bengal, it has continued without following measures for ensuring the protection of the environment and the people. Local communities complain about impacts to health, water and farmlands but are forced to live with the conditions, as the mining sector gives them direct or indirect employment.


Why are hippos recorded at night?

Common hippos live in sub-Saharan Africa and are the third-largest living land mammal, after elephants and white rhinos, weighing as much as 3 tons and about the size of an average car. Newborn calves can weigh up to 50 kg.

Banner image: Woman milking a cow in western Mongolia. Image by bobglennan via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).