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Nepalese lives changed by Lincoln master’s degrees

Media Release
12 April 2013
- for immediate release

Nepalese lives changed by Lincoln University master’s degrees

Today (12 April) 567 new degree, diploma and certificate holders received their Lincoln University qualification at the University’s graduation.

For two graduates, this was a particularly special and honourable occasion. At Lincoln University from Nepal on Mingma Norbu Sherpa Memorial Scholarships, Ana Nath Baral and Laxmi Gurung graduated today with a Master of Applied Science – First Class Honours in Parks, Tourism and Ecology and Master of Tourism Management – Second Class Honours, Division 1 respectively. They will take their findings home to affect change in Nepal.

The Mingma Norbu Sherpa Memorial Scholarship was established to honour the life of Mingma Norbu Sherpa, a graduate of Lincoln University who died in a helicopter crash in September 2006. At the time, Mingma was the World Wildlife Fund’s Washington-based director for South East Asia. The University was asked to play a role in building a fund that would enable Nepalese to study for a career in parks and recreation, tourism or conservation.

Arriving in New Zealand on the day of the February 2011 earthquake, Ana Nath Baral, along with his family, left Nepal for him to work on his thesis – Impacts of wildlife tourism on poaching of Greater One-horned Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) in Chitwan National Park, Nepal.

“Chitwan National Park is one of the most important global destinations to view wildlife, particularly rhinoceros. But the rhinoceros, the main attraction for tourists, is seriously threatened by poaching for its horn” says Ana. “My research identifies the impacts of tourism on poaching and causes of the poaching in Chitwan National Park”.

“The study shows that as wildlife tourism increases, park surveillance and anti-poaching operations (APOs) also increase. Movement of the tourism activities serve as a form of patrolling the park and in turn tourism generates money for the surveillance and the APOs.”

Before arriving at Lincoln University, Ana was working as a conservation officer at the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation in Chitwan National Park. After graduation, Ana will be heading home to Nepal and back to his job to apply his findings.

“The most important implication of my finding is for the management of tourism and the control of poaching through the integrated conservation efforts of the Park, the Nepal army, policy and buffer zone communities.”

From a remote village located in the high mountains of the Annapurna Conservation Area, Kagbeni, Nepal, Laxmi Gurung was working for an organisation called ‘The Organic Village’ that would purchase organic produce from local farmers and sell those produce at the capital city markets. She also looked after her family-owned small lodge with her brothers at the height of 2,500m in Kagbeni. These work experiences gave Laxmi the concept for her thesis on the linkages between agriculture and tourism as a mechanism for sustainable development at the village level.

“For several decades, linking agriculture and tourism to promote sustainable development has been a major focus of the Government of Nepal” says Laxmi. “Until now, however, the effectiveness of these efforts has not been studied.

“I considered it important to conduct a case study and I choose Kagbeni, where I’m from. The results of the field work enabled a comprehensive picture to be drawn of the economic, environmental, cultural and lifestyle changes occurring over time stemming from the increase in tourism. As tourism has increased so has the need for local agricultural products and workers.”

Both Ana and Laxmi were supervised by Professor of Tourism David Simmons and Dr Stephen Espiner, Senior Lecturer in Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

Although Laxmi plans to stay in New Zealand for another year in order to gain a work experience before heading home, she is looking forward to returning and making a positive difference. “I want to help create jobs for the local people and make Kagbeni a model village. By linking agriculture and tourism together at the grassroots level, we will make Kagbeni a sustainable village that then can be replicated around Nepal.”

Laxmi owes her success to the support and inspiration of many people, both here in New Zealand and in Nepal. However especially to the Mingma Norbu Sherpa Memorial Scholarship, its committee members, her supervisors, family, friends and her American parents Linda and Noel McIntosh.

“I felt blessed in receiving this scholarship and it is precious because it helped me to open an opportunity to the academic world and widen my knowledge. Nepal is a beautiful country but economically poor. We need to use this natural resource we have, look after it sustainably, while ensuring the people of Nepal thrive,” says Laxmi.

Ana was “very excited” when he heard the news that he had received the scholarship. “It was one of the happiest moments of my life” says Ana. He is very thankful for the Mingma Norbu Sherpa Memorial Scholarship, his supervisors, his wife Maya Kumari Subedi Baral and other family members (daughter Aayushma and son Aayush), relatives and friends, who deserve important part of his success.

“I have spent two years in New Zealand and I leave with the memory of the support of the Kiwi people who made my family’s time here wonderful. I will take all this knowledge home and carry on the work Mingma Sherpa was doing before he died.”

Ends

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