A River Drained: Fish, Rice, and Food Security in the Mekong

Country/area: Singapore

Organisation: Kontinentalist, Open Development Mekong

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 26 Jun 2020

Credit: Loh Pei Ying, Joceline Kuswanto, Dylan Ng, Gwyneth Cheng

Project description:

This comprehensive, map-driven piece takes the reader through the Mekong terrain, its key staples such as fish and rice, and how infrastructure developments and climate change are endangering food security for the region. The story covered a wide range of topics, from fish migration, rice cropping, biodiversity, hydropower, climate change, poverty, and more. 


Impact reached:

The project was done in partnership with Open Development Mekong to draw attention to some of the less obvious, but pressing developments of the region that will ultimately affect the most disadvantaged. It also attempts to highlight potential remedies and ways forward for communities in the region to follow and mitigate the impact of climate change. The story received good attention amongst the NGO and OpenData community, and explained in simple and accessible language what the key food resources are in the Mekong.

Techniques/technologies used:

This story mainly made use of the storytelling template by Mapbox, and allowed the datasets to drive the story, as opposed to playing an accompaniment role to the narrative. The datasets were sourced mainly from Open Development Mekong, but extensive research was done to find suitable and relevant data from other research and non-governmental organisations. Some of the data were prepared on QGIS prior to rendering on Mapbox.

What was the hardest part of this project?

The hardest part of the project was in writing a cohesive narrative around datasets, and ensuring smooth movements on the map that would draw meaningful attention to terrain and geography for the reader. It’s fairly straightforward to write a linear narrative, but it was challenging to pace it and structure it such that the reader is never overwhelmed by either text or data at any one juncture, and they can always understand and process what’s being shown to them.

What can others learn from this project?

Geographical data can appear daunting and difficult to use or explain in a story. However, utilising maps allows the reader to develop a lot of empathy and perspective for the topic. It does not talk about places or regions in remote terms, but brings them front and center.

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