Course theory in a reality check

or

“How a role play by the International Academy for Nature Conservation (INA) helped coping with convention negotiations”

by Mr. Mamadou Welle – Senegal

Alumnus of the 39th UNEP/UNESCO/BMUB International Postgraduate Course on Environmental Management

From 29 May 2017 to 2 June 2017 I had the opportunity to participate to the 53rd standing committee of the Ramsar Convention in Gland, Switzerland. More than 100 delegates hailing from 50 countries, representatives of Ramsar’s six International Organization Partners (IOPs) and several independent observers attended this event. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. It is named after the city of Ramsar in Iran, where the convention was signed in 1971.

The work was organized around regional meetings, subgroup meetings and plenary sessions. A series of documents, compiled by the Secretary General of the Convention, served as the basis for exchanges between the delegations of the contacting parties, observers and representatives of the IOPs. Issues relating to the structuring of the convention, management procedures, action plans and strategies for sustainable management of wetlands were discussed in depth. Regional meetings gathered every morning delegates of each region of the world. This helped them harmonize their positions and discuss relevant issues specific to their region. Draft resolutions were proposed, discussed, validated or rejected during plenary. The principle of consensus has been the rule for making decisions.

As it was the first time I attended such international meeting, the acuity of the issues, the diversity of participants and their commitments in defending their views could have been daunting.  Luckily it was manageable for me to deal with all raised points and to be a fair but determined negotiator on behave of my home country, and other West African countries, which are represented by Senegal  in the Ramsar committee. Actually I did not have to start from scratch! I felt rather at ease because I could fall back to the tips that I had received during the role play about international convention negotiations in the International Academy for nature Conservation (INA) on Vilm Island during the 39th International Postgradudate Course on Environmental Management for Developing and Emerging Countries during my time at CIPSEM!

The 13th conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (COP13) will be held in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates from 21 to 29 October 2018.  Let’s make an appointment there!

We all are linked

by Andrea Amelia Vera Arabe

For more than 50 years, Colombia has faced an internal armed conflict which has restricted access to protected forest areas, affecting the management of natural resources. Two years ago, I was performing stakeholder consultations for a REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) project when I saw an elderly couple entered the class room. They had walked for more than four hours to attend the workshop, only motivated by the hope that the potential project would help them conserve their forest lands and improve their agricultural productivity. They walked because there is no infrastructure in these rural areas. No adequate roads, no technical assistance, no presence of the State.

In the country, we still are fighting against the lack of a land-use planning framework at national, regional and local levels. There is no intersectoral and intergovernmental articulation. The growing population requires the development of infrastructure and the provision of electricity, water, transportation and other resources. However, if there are no planning instruments to ensure adequate quality of life, national climate change targets will not be achieved, and natural resources will be rapidly exploited.

We, as professionals, should be able to response to these needs. The rural communities have the knowledge, and we (researchers, technicians, politicians and business) have the tools and resources to develop and address these needs. The projects should be developed under a community-based approach, amplifying the voices of rural people, facilitating poverty reduction, strengthening governance and empowering women. Participation at all levels is required to lead better-designed projects with targeted benefits and cost-effective implementation.

“…There is no more scalable or more innovative solution than the pursuit of peace” (Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia). It is expected that with the signing of the peace agreement (2016), environmental opportunities will begin generating social and economic benefits in the regions affected by the internal conflict through initiatives for conservation and the protection and sustainable management of natural resources while contributing to the mitigation of GHG (greenhouse gases).

This elderly couple always reminds me that there is no age limit for conservation; we all must work together at all levels, from communities to national governments. We all are connected, we all are linked.

Robles REDD+ Project. Hoy (today), Mañana (tomorrow-future).

Tragedy in a Pristine State

by Benrina Demoh Kanu, Sierra Leone

 

It was once thought to be an infinite resource

It was the source of income  food and joy

Healing power emanated from the environment

It served the whole community, a common purpose

Symbiosis?  Even though they had little to offer to the resource

The need to have more than the others crept in

Instead of one craft he had two; instead of a line he had a net

Looks good as he celebrate his new found wealth

Without asking how he got it, his neighbor doubled

So they became the icon and occupy the gossip chat

Eventually the whole community invaded the resource

With gluttony, greed, selfishness and covetousness

The resource was invaded ignoring its dos and don’t – Tragedy!!!!

The Oak Connection!

by Jaya Upadhyay, India

It was in 2009, during my first trekking expedition to the famous Mussoorie hills in Western Himalayas, I encountered this magnificent, graceful and legendary beauty of the forest. Awestruck by its beauty, I looked up and found myself under the vast canopy of the legend. The hills slopes of Mussoorie were indeed the abode of such legends, commonly known as Oak forest (in English). Later during the trek I met a few Garhwali women on the way to their village, each one of them carrying a bundle of dry twigs and branches of the Oak trees. I greeted them and was responded by rather shy smiles but eventually one of them invited me to her house for a cup of tea. It was during the tea conversation I came to know about their dependence on the Oak forest for their survival besides their cultural and religious ties to manage the forest sustainably.

An Oak tree at ‘Isle of Vilm’ (Taken by Kebaabetswe Keoagile)

A few years later after completing my studies, I travelled to the remote locations in Eastern Himalayas and came across the Monpas, an agro-pastoral tribe of Arunachal Pradesh (India), who live amidst the diverse mountain landscape dominated by various species of Oak in the montane temperate forest. Their livelihood is also very much depended on this tree, from using the leaves for mulching in agrifields, young leaves are also used as fodder to the cattle, the wood as firewood and timber, the bark of some species as medicine etc. Some of the pure Oak stands are also kept as private property with strict rules and regulations against trespassing. It was fascinating to me how a single species could be so valuable and whether the species will be still available with the changing needs and values. I have spent a considerable amount of time conducting my research and working with the local communities to conserve the primary oak forest in the Himalayas.

Oak leave collected in agrifield to be used as mulch in Arunachal Pradesh, India (Photo by Jaya Upadhyay)

But today, I am far off from the Himalayas, in a very small island name the “Isle of Vilm” located in Central Europe. Hiking along the coast line of Baltic sea, in the famous beech forests of the island I was yet again awestruck by the magnificent and graceful legend of the Island- another living Oak tree.

Posing in front of the Oak tree during field work in the Eastern Himalayas ( Photo by P.J.Borah)

Ask the locals, they know best

by Joyce Kiruri, Kenia

Wangari Maathai, Nobel Laureat 2004, “You cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them, and you help them understand these resources are their own, and that they must protect them”.

Many a times, we feel like science, research and technology has all the answers and solutions to everything, especially when it comes to environmental management. What we forget though, is that indigenous knowledge has been in practice for centuries, and that local people have lived with environmental resources to sustain their livelihoods for decades. Often, government and key decision makers tend to overlook indigenous knowledge systems and do not involve local people when developing solutions to environmental management.

More often than not, effective solutions can also be found within the local communities and it is important to actively engage the locals in environmental management. When locals are engaged, they feel empowered and they own the process, therefore being in the forefront to protect the environment. That said, ask the locals, they know best!

For instance, some years back there was a conflict between farmers and the park authorities of the Aberdares National Park in central Kenya, due to elephants invading farms adjacent to the national park and destroying crops which farmers relied on for their livelihood. Despite the authorities constructing an electric fence, invasions still persisted. Some farmers even took matters into their hands and laid traps for the elephants to protect their farms. As a result of the constant conflict, the park authorities decided to seek a collaborative solution to curb the menace, by consulting the farmers for an applicable local or native way out. After numerous consultations with elders, the farmers settled on installing bee-hive fences around the farms to keep off the elephants. Once this idea was implemented, conflicts reduced dramatically!

By engaging the community, a win-win solution was achieved for both the farmers and park authorities, with the farmers benefiting more as they could now harvest honey. Subsequently, this idea has been replicated in other regions with similar challenges hence reducing conflicts. Please follow this link to read more on Beehive Fences in Kenya.

Elephants play at the Maasai Mara game reserve, about 300 km (186 miles) southwest of Kenya’s capital Nairobi, October 31, 2012. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Conservation for future generations

by Reem Gasim Omer Fadlelseed, Sudan

I believe in sustainable use of natural resources so that the future generations will be able to benefit as well and again pass the resources for their future generations. It is not an easy process especially in my country (Sudan) where the only sustainable things are civil wars and armed conflicts. In addition to all the hard situations which we’re facing, we have to deal with climate change and its impacts such as droughts and floods events. So in order to be able to live in this situation people have to use resources in a sustainable manner (Especially natural resources). Unfortunately, the opposite is happening and people consume natural resources in a very high rate without any idea about the impacts of their consumption on the future generations.

One truck load of about 700 or more tree stumps staked in order to be used for fuel, South Kurdufan, Sudan.2016.

Fuelwood is the major driver for people to cut down forests o supply them with energy especially in rural areas and also over grazing of pastures.

Missiriyah tribe families during their seasonal-annual movement from down south parts of West Kurdufan to Northern parts. Sudan. 2016.

The over consumption of the natural recourses of course has an environmental outcome resulting in biodiversity loss due to changing of land use and habitat loss. Also insecurity issues which result from the over consumption of the natural recourses can be raised in term of conflicts over (the limited) natural recourses between different players (farmers – pastoralist) and (small farmers – mechanized farmers).

Black Crowned Crane (Balearica pavonina) , West Kurdufan. Sudan.

In order to enhance the situation in my country and for a better situation for the future generations we need to start from the policies level and develop regulations which can ensure the sustainable use of the natural resources. In addition to that, we need to develop alternative sources of energy for the rural communities to conserve the forests areas. Finally we need to set a land use plan especially in rural areas to reduce to conflicts which are arising from the utilization of the limited natural resources.

All is not well… but all is not lost….

by Ms Kebaabetswe Keoagile, Botswana

All is not well…

From cutting of trees to energy power stations to mining activities and clearing the land for developments, the future generations will not get to know how the environment was before. More pressure is put on the environment by different drivers ranging from social, economic and ecological.

But all is not lost…

What we need is working towards a single goal of environmental protection and management. Putting our heads together for a common goal will go a long way. It starts with setting our priorities right in balancing conservation and development which can be through the maintenance of the factors and practices that contribute to the quality of environment on a long-term basis. Having integrated policies and legislations that are turned into actions and implementable hence sustainable Environment; an environment that can keep itself as close to its natural condition as possible, and is capable of supporting human life.