India Film Scholarship

Our partners at World Nomads are offering an amazing opportunity for a lucky someone to get a Travel Film Scholarship for Kerala, India! Get on-the-job training with a top videographer and start your career in the travel photography industry!

Benefit from;

Free flights
Receive round-trip airfare from your closest international airport to Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, India.

12-day filmmaking trip
Capture the culture and communities of Kerala under the mentorship of professional travel filmmaker Brian Rapsey.

Post-production workshop
Your trip will include a 3-day post-production workshop where you’ll edit your film, continuing your mentorship with Brian Rapsey.

Audio gear
Record superior sound for your film with a new Video Mic Pro and VideoMic Me™ iPhone directional mic courtesy of Rode Microphones.

Nomad accessories
Be equipped with hyper minimalist smartphone and smartwatch accessories from Nomad.

Travel insurance
As always, we’ve got your back. You’ll receive travel insurance for the duration of your trip from World

 

Apply Now for your chance to win!
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5 Ways Volunteering Can Support Environmental Conservation

No matter what you do in life, the most rewarding experience you’ll ever have is volunteering. You’ll develop insight into a whole new culture, learn more about yourself, and make a genuine difference to other peoples’ lives.

A whole host of organisations are doing their bit for environmental conservation, but they’d be the first to admit that the ordinary folk giving up their free time are equally crucial to the cause. There are so many ways that volunteering can support environmental welfare, and listed below are five examples:

1. Enhancing landscapes and living standards

We’re used to our frantic urban lives, but swathes of the global population still live off the land. Millions are dependent on the wellbeing of their crops, livestock and water sources for survival, and volunteer participation in sustainable initiatives ensures these resources remain rich and well-preserved.

By taking part in a landscape sustainability scheme, you can actively contribute to the enhancement of living standards for a whole community. And that’s a truly magnificent thing.

2. Harnessing green technology

Whilst many of us are lucky enough to reap the privileges of the 21st century, other nations are not. This is especially true when it comes to technology, much of which we take for granted in the Western World.

As a volunteer, you can help to introduce better resources to less prosperous villages, towns, and nations. Renewable energy schemes are a great example – allowing you to conduct research into technologies that will help disadvantaged societies to develop.

3. Saving the ecosystem

Environmental conservation is not just about preserving the land itself – but also about protecting its inhabitants. There are a brilliant selection of wildlife projects that you can sign up for, which involve behavioural research, wild animal rehabilitation, and patching up injured pets in the local villages.

All of the above contribute to a well-balanced, much-improved ecosystem. Creatures can thrive where they belong, and you’ll swing the scale back, however modestly, to how our planet should be.

4. Raising awareness

Without the media, we would be largely ignorant of challenges facing third world countries. As a journalism volunteer, you can help to gather information on these deprived places, and show the wonderful work that’s rejuvenating them.

By sharing the story, you can raise awareness back home – which in turn will convince more people to join the conservation mission.

5. Safeguarding the future

The world is brimming with beauty from one hemisphere to the next, but what you might not know is that there are thousands of people working behind the scenes to preserve it. When you volunteer on a conservation project, they’re no longer distant figures: you’re becoming one yourself.

An environment preservation scheme helps to protect the local land for years (even decades) to come. Your input actively safeguards the future – regions are improved, whilst subsequent generations have a stronger chance of carrying on your example.

Take the most important and rewarding step of your life by signing up to a volunteer program with Global Nomadic today. If you have questions about any of our placements, visit our contact page to get in touch. Our team would love to talk to you.

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Running a biodiverse, organic tea plantation in China

Organic Farm in China

At Global Nomadic there are great opportunities to get involved in organic agricultural projects.

Organic farming is a fulfilling but challenging pursuit. In this article we have outlined some of the things you need to know to if you want to be successful in organic farming, based on our experience growing tea organically in China.

If it is these that interest you, read on!

An organic farm doesn’t use synthetic fertilisers or pesticides. This aim, of course, raises some challenges. The issue could be reduced yield when plants succumb to disease. Or maybe the problem is economic in nature – how do you market a salad leaf which a caterpillar has already chewed through? Either way, organic farmers have to come up with ingenious workarounds to stay competitive and face off against rivals who do use industrial techniques. Using chemicals is a quick fix and without this crutch to lean on, organic agriculturists have to take a proactive approach and treat potential problems before they become real issues.

Below, we’ll explore how our organic tea garden approaches the challenges of organic farming.

An organic tea plantation focusing on gourmet tea doesn’t come up against all the issues another crop might – we don’t need to till the soil or rotate crops for one thing, but still, many of the difficulties inherent in organic agriculture can be examined in light of our experiences producing organic tea.

The Difficulties

Economic and societal problems can impede the progress of a small-scale, organic farm and these difficulties are not few. Even organic certification is expensive enough so as to put it out of the reach of many small producers. This would make a fascinating article on its own, but for this post we’ll focus on practical matters – the farming techniques – as they are approached on the ground.

Fertility

Farming is elemental. It depends on sunlight, water, and soil. We control the water and sunlight by selecting the best location. For tea, high in the mountains is best: on the right mountain slope the sun only hits the plants for the hours we need; the rarified air allows the flavour of the plant to develop to its full potential; and the ground is well drained – vital for tea as its roots tend to rot in overly wet conditions.

The ability of soil to drain may be controlled by the location, but the ground where we grow our plants must also be rich in vital nutrients for our tea to thrive. To increase the presence of these essential nutrients in the ground industrial farmers use synthetic fertilisers, but of course organic farms can’t do this. Instead, we control erosion, add natural compost, grow cover crops, and introduce symbiotic associations to enrich the land. All these methods encourage soil fauna and flora and improve soil formation and structure.

Organic Farm in China
The soil is naturally nutrient rich, and we allow natural flora and fauna to populate freely.

For us, erosion isn’t a problem. Our tea garden is in a basin at the top of a mountain. Yet still, we use the same techniques a farm with an erosion problem might – namely, planting cover grasses, trees and vegetables to bind the soil. The length of time that the soil is exposed to erosive forces is decreased, soil biodiversity is increased, and nutrient losses are reduced, helping to maintain and enhance soil productivity.

To fertilise our farm, we use a mixture of pig manure and flaxseed – both locally sourced, from nearby organic farms. Many farmers plant cover crops, such as nitrate-fixing legumes, but we haven’t opted for this approach. Because we have low levels of soil erosion and the land wasn’t farmed before we started tending it, we have managed to protect and encourage a healthy soil microbiome (the bacterial ecosystem). Once this balance is met – even if the land was parched before the organic enterprise – soil fertility quickly recovers. Quickly, at least, in farming terms – usually it takes about 3 years!

From healthy soils come healthy plants and healthy plants are better at resisting predators and reduce the need for pest control.

Pest Control

Still, bugs like nibbling healthy plants – and who can blame them. Although our tea trees may turn out healthier in the long run, if we want a finished product that is palatable (to humans, not just insects) we have to protect them as best we can.

In large-scale farming operations herbicides, fungicides and insecticides are used. Yet there are simpler, less destructive techniques we can use to achieve the same end. Some organic farmers cover their crops with fabric that allows entry of light and water while screening out insects. However there are other methods.

First off, I should begin with a caveat: we have been very lucky. Before our tea gardens, the land was wild – a balanced ecosystem, and our farmers didn’t destroy this equilibrium when they planted tea. They left an old-growth forest untouched and between the terraces they have planted fruit trees: apple, pear and walnut. There is also a pond for ducks and geese.

Organic Farm in China
A praying mantis takes a rest amongst our Tie Guanyin varietal.

All this biodiversity gives more opportunity for insect-killing parasites to flourish and because we don’t use pesticides, predatory birds, lizards, and the many insects and arachnids help us out too: spiders spin webs among the grasses and ladybirds eat aphids.

Not all plants are created equal. Critters can be as picky as people when it comes to choosing dinner. As such, we allow flowering wildgrasses to grow between the rows of tea plants – a decoy to keep the little gluttons away from the tea.

As luck would have it, all the farms in our area are organic and as such we have to deal with fewer refugee insects fleeing toxic fallout in neighbouring plantations. Other start-up organic farms would have to be more calculated and work much harder to establish a balanced ecosystem and avoid devastating infestation.

Organic Farm in China
A high mountain, isolated location is ideal for growing tea.

As an aside, for tea farmers, not all insect bites are undesirable – there is a type of tea (Oriental Beauty Tea) where producers go out of their way to attract locusts. After being bitten the leaves produce a chemical which makes the finished tea taste honey sweet. So while we try to minimise exposure to pests, it’s not the end of the world if some leaves get bitten!

To Sum Up

Speaking about the organic process in such a simplified way makes it sound easy, but it is not. A huge amount of care, attention and labour goes into creating and maintaining a balanced ecosystem that not only feeds healthy plants, but also protects them from disease and infestation.

It is a difficult thing for an organic farmer is to watch a weak plant – into which you have sunk countless hours – succumbing to disease and there being nothing you can do do about it. Because weak plants aren’t propped up, only the strongest trees survive. We have a few trees on the farm which are on their way out. Anyone who has gone on holiday and allowed a window plant to dry and shrivel knows how this can feel.

Organic Farm in China
Some trees get sick, but we don’t save them with chemicals – we allow the weaker trees to die, allowing space for strong, healthy trees.

However, the results are worth the hardships. Leaving aside the myriad knock-on benefits a organic farm has for the environment at large. There is something immensely satisfying about understanding the complexity of system and working with that system, not against it to achieve your aim. Moreover, our tea simply tastes better for it. This is down to a number of factors, of course, granted processing and the breed of the plant play a huge role, but, all other variables being equal, truly organic produce has an extra intangible something which makes it all the more delicious. The tea we produce is more vibrant, fragrant and robust than anything we have encountered from non-organic farms.

Organic Farm in China
The strongest trees survive and thrive, naturally dominating over weaker plants.

If you have any questions about our methods here, or you would like to know more, drop a comment below and we will be happy to assist!

About the Author

A co-founder of Living Leaf Tea, Edward Allistone is a tea lover, who divides his time between martial arts, photography and teaching. Currently living in Moscow, getting to know Russian tea culture and exploring the city.

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Scams – 40 to be aware of!

pickpocket

It is always good to be aware of scams when travelling. Whilst it is quite unlikely for you to fall victim, it can ruin your trip, and the more aware you are, the better. Have a read through this list and become familiar with all of the most common tricks and scams aimed at separating you from your belongings and money. Whilst most of these scams are listed in various countries, variations of them can be found all over the world. Better to be safe than sorry!

 

40 scams to avoid when travelling
40 scams to avoid when travelling

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Trump withdrew from the Paris Agreement. Good.

trump climate change
Trump announced his intention to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement on Thursday the 1st of June. With a usual populist sentiment clouding his speech, he based his arguments on the typical ‘jobs versus the environment’ narrative.

The Guardian reports: “22 Republican senators whose campaigns have collected more than $10m in oil, gas and coal money since 2012 sent a letter to the president urging him to withdraw from the Paris deal”. The United States are shaping national and international policies based on lobbying and corporate interests. This is old news. And when the second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world decides to go rogue on their commitment towards a cleaner future, there is understandable cause for concern. But could the US federal government withdrawing from the Paris agreement be a good thing?

Firstly, the Paris agreement has often been criticised as inadequate. James Hansen, one of the world’s most respected climatologists called the agreement “a fraud really, a fake,” because “there is no action, just promises.” The goals set in the agreement are not legally binding and thus depend on the willingness of each country to go green. This is why Nicaragua, a country listed as the 4th country most likely to be severely affected by climate change, did not sign the agreement. Not because it does not believe in human-driven climate change, but because it is more of a political ploy.

As an opinion piece on the online publication The Hill argues: “The Paris agreement affords oil, gas and coal companies a globally visible platform through which to peddle influence and appear engaged on climate change while lobbying for business as usual.” The current US Secretary of State and close adviser to Trump, Rex Tillerson, is the ex-CEO of Exxon Mobil, the largest oil company in the world. With the US out of the agreement, such people will have less power and influence over the deployment and progress of the goals set out by the international community.

World leaders reacted in shock and disappointment at the news of Trump’s decision. Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada expressed his ‘deep disappointment’ towards the United States government. Interestingly, Justin Trudeau received a standing ovation at an energy conference in Texas in March after announcing that: ‘No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them’. Brazil expressed ‘profound concern and disappointment’ at the decision. At the same time, Brazil’s government, under pressure from multinational corporations, is once again deregulating the once-tamed deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull characterised Trump’s decision as “disappointing but not at all surprising”. The Guardian reports: “Along with half the other G20 nations, Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction targets committed to at Paris – making up Australia’s intended nationally determined contribution – were given the worst possible rating of “inadequate”.

World leader reactions to Trump’s announcement were not only stained with hypocrisy. Some were filled with optimism with promise. China, India and Japan have pledged their unwavering support for the protection of the environment and as CNN reports: ‘German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni put out a joint statement in which they pledged to implement the Paris climate agreement notwithstanding the withdrawal of the US’.

It becomes obvious then that the Paris agreement offers plenty of opportunity for its signees to use it as a political ploy while implementing a ‘business-as-usual’ economic and environmental strategy. But the importance of the agreement is historically unparalleled. Nearly every country in the world came together, recognizing the impact of human activity on the planet and tried to address the global challenges that lie ahead. The Paris agreement may be flawed, but it signifies the beginning of a new era. What feminist writer Donna Haraway terms as the ‘Cthulucene’, when and where the intersectionality of planetary processes and relationships is recognized. And we make kin with the earth and with each-other in an attempt to ‘stay with the trouble’, as Haraway explains, but also to fight for our common future.

Resisting the era of Trumpism is not just about reliance to political figures. It’s also about individual potential and grassroots activism – ‘A global civilisation which is increasingly aware of its importance as a formative force’-. From the fields of North Dakota to the gold mines of Greece, people engage in what Canadian author Naomi Klein coins as ‘Blockadia’ – citizen resistance to the ever-expanding forces of the Capitalocene-.

So whether it is about eating less meat, living minimally or organising on a political and social level, we need to find creative ways to curtail the process of creative destruction that is capitalism. We don’t need to talk about Trump – everyone is talking about him anyway-. We need to talk about the socio-political context that gave rise to a populist aggressor like Trump and created the necessity for an international agreement to bail ourselves out of apocalyptic-level environmental destruction.

Trump – and the vested corporate interests guiding his decisions – relies on our complacency. Get off the couch. Let’s rethink the future. Let’s do it together.

Photographs: Tassos Vrettos [https://www.facebook.com/Tassos-Vrettos-461824940571499/]

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