IPS is pleased to name Manipadma Jena as the Star of the Month

Manipadma Jena

When the district administration said media vehicles wouldn’t be allowed into left-wing extremists’ areas where village councils were deciding if they were going to allow Vedanta Aluminum to mine bauxite in their Niyamgiri hills in 2013 in India, Manipadma hitched a ride in this government vehicle carrying packets of bleaching powder to disinfect dug wells, walked through two swollen hill streams, up one hill to be told by Dongria medicine man Dasru Jakesika, “We will do or die, but never will we leave our god Niyam Raja to be gouged out.” Within days, each of the 12 village council had delivered a resounding “No” to the mining Goliath.

Reporting from the ground for IPS since 2009 from India, Manipadma’s stories give voice to people affected by inequity, deprivation, corruption and human rights violations. A professional photographer as well, she deftly weaves together local and global issues that find resonance with readers across countries.

In 2016, Manipadma’s best environmental reporting state award citation said, ‘In appreciation of your hard work and dedication for keeping alive the dream for a fairer world.’ This in essence defines her journalistic career.

Since 2008 (at a time when climate change was being hotly debated), Manipadma has traveled across India to visit indigenous farmers in remote regions, often without roads and where few journalists venture, to investigate the effects of increasingly erratic rainfall and warmer weather. Her findings highlight that most indigenous communities have had traditional resilience practices in place for hundreds of years.

Her IPS report on climate-smart heirloom seeds conserved by tribal ‘seed-mothers’ won Manipadma the 2012 Asia-Pacific Adaptation Network (APAN) international award for best climate change story.

Manipadma Jena

Manipadma Jena

Extensively covering the struggle of Dongria Kondh tribe to keep Vedanta Resources Plc, a global mining giant, from their sacred Niyamgiri hills, in 2013, India’s top court scrapped the bauxite mining project. Manipadma hopes her reports and photo-stories contributed to this historic decision.
“The trust and responsible freedom that IPS gives its journalists have over the years helped me explore latest defining global issues and grow professionally,” Manipadma says.

Reporting from international conferences across Asia, she has brought to IPS readers one-on-ones with several of the UN’s top leaders on emerging issues of the times, including Achim Steiner on the green economy in 2012, Luc Gnacadja on desertification in 2011, Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias on biodiversity loss in 2013, William Lacy Swing on climate change and migration in 2016, among others.
She has authored a book of ‘Folk Tales from the Hills and Fields of Orissa’ on tribal and rural folktales, retrieved from their oral form, the reason why many have been lost already, Manipadma says. Sitting around evening fires with indigenous community elders and medicine men, coaxing them to remember and narrate these stories, she has transcribed the collection from tribal dialects into English with tribal art illustrations. “It’s a work of passion,” she says.

She has held media fellowships from UNCCD, Bonn; UNEP, Nairobi; World Bank-South Asia, PANOS – South Asia; Centre for Science and Environment – New Delhi among others.

Manipadma writes on a range of climate change and sustainability issues including gender, migration and conflict, water, renewable energy, biodiversity and land rights. She also writes for Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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