Inside CIPSEM – a look behind the scenes …

… of the ongoing 77th UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International Short Course on Ecosystem Management – Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Services

Well, the course already started August 29th and a lot happened inside and outside the classroom. Here are some insights …

by Ms. Moselantja Rahlao, Lesotho:

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Hello I am Moselantja Rahlao and I work for the Department of Range Resources Management, Ministry of Forestry and Soil Conservation, Lesotho. Welcome to the Kingdom in the Sky in Germany. Lesotho is a tiny country enclaved by another in Southern Africa.

It takes courage and passion to write application essays for the 77th UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International short course on Ecosystem management- Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Services. Biophysical assessments are energy demanding. I do that on horseback, yes I am a rider. During data collection, I find myself staying uncomfortably in poky shelters of Lesotho. However, streams of passion to learn and be exposed never run dry. Usually after a completion of a hectic day, one wants only a good bath, food and sleep or entertainment at least. When everyone else prioritized the aforementioned and took a well-deserved break, I chose to sacrifice and compromise to achieve. However, my inquisitive nature coupled with thirst for knowledge sets me apart and makes me competent. I thrived because I dreamed, planned and acted “If you want to live your dreams, deny yourself any type of excuse”. I always apply effort and energy in things that I believe in for my growth. Then I work to proof myself to myself not anyone.

It was a heap of applications received (off course I knew this on arrival at CIPSEM) with very slim chances of being selected. This is a challenge of survival of the fittest measured by how logical one is, relevant content matters and what CIPSEM decides. Once this phase is passed, one can celebrate yippee. It was a moment of excitement and boosted confidence.

Logistically ready and hip-hip hooray! I landed in Dresden. The first day was tiresome after about 20hours flight (including layovers). A brief orientation done blah-blah-blah… and my heart began to palpitate faster. Next day, as the sun rose, I smiled and patted myself as I whispered “well done you are finally here”. Now ready to meet my fellow participants and the CIPSEM team. I take pride in my achievement to represent the Mountain Kingdom in Germany and interact with international fellows on the short course. It is exactly twenty (20) countries represented, namely: Indonesia, Cameroon, Guatemala, Mexico, Vietnam, Georgia, Turkmenistan, Ghana, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rwanda, Haiti, Argentina, Brazil, Bhutan, El Salvador, Malaysia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Armenia and of course Lesotho. Wow! What a diversity of culture, experience and knowledge.

Now anxiety and enthusiasm knocks daily to learn, network, exchange knowledge through participation throughout the course. We are here, stood out to be counted. Thinking individually but together towards conservation of biological diversity for enhancement of human wellbeing. The program runs from lecture hall with various experts to field excursion to get in depth knowledge. It is impossible to walk in nature and be in a bad mood. My best highlight was the stay on Isle of Vilm. The simulation on CBD-COP negotiation was eye opening to all participants. It went from just a practice to real emotional involvement, very defensive and argumentative. It takes the trophy. It was also a pleasure to celebrate my birthday at Baltic Sea Island. Surely, the course objectives will be accomplished by end of September, 2019. Yes, the course will end but never the memories with a good company. Never! We will go back to our countries and apply the knowledge, skills and experience gained. Lastly, “in a changing environment one either adapts, moves or die”. What an honor to be swimming in this pool of knowledge. A well-organized course and great gratitude to the sponsors. It would not be possible without them. Salute!

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Nature Talks – Experiencing the International “Nature” of Negotiations

by Ms. Fitria Rinawati, Indonesia et.al.:

“You cannot negotiate with people who say what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable” – John F. Kennedy

One among many highlights of the CIPSEM 77th UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International Short Course on Ecosystem Management – Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Services is how we can experience such negotiations related to biodiversity conservation in international events. This time we had the opportunity to do a negotiation simulation “CBD-COP decision on biofuels”. What a topic! It is so current that most countries are paying attention to it. Including small – fragile – island countries which are not necessarily able to produce it but might be impacted from it.
The simulation was set to get an agreement of the drafted decision text. Participants were grouped as delegations into 6 countries that have the right to vote: Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, European Union, Ethiopia and Tuvalu, and 2 observers consisting in the United States and Greenpeace. One can imagine the dynamic of such a simulation when biofuels talk is involving the main producer countries like Indonesia and Brazil, the opposer of biofuels production – Saudi Arabia (main fossil fuels producer) and free riders such as the United States and Tuvalu – a very-very small island country that might face sinking due to climate change as a result of biofuels production practices.
Negotiation skills, wording the talks, emotional statements, creative compromises, building up pressure…were among the things we practiced and learned. Another main thing we learned was that every country has its interests and the delegations try to defend them – as it is well said in JFK above quote.
Further, we watched the movie “Guardians of the Earth”, a movie on UNFCCC – COP21 (Paris Agreement) which pictured clearly the above described negotiation processes. An interesting point, raised from a Bahrain young woman negotiator in the movie, was that all the international nature talks and negotiations were not about nature but but on economic interests of each country. Above all, we understand the great responsibility of the delegates to defend their country’s interests as well as the chairman – the president – the secretariat to come to such consensus and agreements. Last but not least, the importance of NGOs and other parties that influence these talks is also something that we can’t diminish.
I believe that among us the participants of CIPSEM 77th International Short Course, – there are possible future leaders of our countries. Thus, with the skills we learned, the knowledge we gained and the senses we built up through this course, we would be empowered to negotiate more reasonable in an international event and manage the ecosystem and the earth in a better way.
“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate” – John F. Kennedy

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The “CBD-COP decisions on biofuels” negotiations – simulation chaired by Dr. Axel Paulsch (photo by Mr. Yew Aun Quek)
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Isle of Vilm: An iconic conservation hub to visit

by Mr. Ngawang Dorji, Forestry Officer, Jigme Khesar Strict Nature Reserve, Bhutan

participant of the 77th UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International Short Course on Ecosystem Management – Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Services

I have visited numerous conserved and protected areas in different parts of the world. The best place I have ever visited till date, to say, is the Isle of Vilm where the International Academy for Nature Conservation is housed. It is located about 250 km from Berlin, Germany in the Southern belts of Baltic Sea.

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Encompassing an area of about 94 hectares is truly a conservation jewel in Northern Germany consisting all types of coasts and coastal vegetation that is purely untouched to human interference. Vilm island is positioned in such a majestic location which is accessible by train till the coasts of the Island of Rügen and then with ferries giving an amazing point to enjoy the beauty of nature, especially during the hours of sunset and sunrise.

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It isn’t just the sights that makes the visit enthralling, but also the lush of winds combined with the songs of birds bidding farewell and welcome to the setting and the rising sun, though hidden in the buds of giant Oak and Beech trees.
Vilm Island is not just for nature lovers. The peace and tranquil night with cool winds blowing from the sea around makes it so special to the times spend there. It is the place where the water meets the land and forms a beautiful shore that will interests any artists to draw on the paper and cherish forever. Photographers will never regret visiting this Island and the best landscape photo of nature can be captured in this area. Oh! The meals served are diverse and purely German origin. The staffs working there are so friendly with good manners and personalities. One can easily become friends. So, anyone wishing to try German cuisines and make friends can plan a visit there.
However, our four days of visit only felt like a fraction of seconds and we had to retrace our path back to CIPSEM. But it was certainly an experience that I would never forget. If you are in Germany, you should definitely visit the Vilm Island and make a memory in your life. It’s a unique experience with full of fun, enjoyment and satisfaction.

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The SC77-course with Ms. Kathrin Bockmühl (BfN, front, 2nd from left) and Prof. Dr. Dudel (TUD, front, center)

Wet and Wild Summer Cycling Tour in Dresden

by Waste Warrior Walim Mardassi (Tunisia) and
Sustainable SME Master Jun Piong (Philippines)😄

As the CIPSEM program nears the end, the participants also get crazier in excursions. At the end of this blog post, you will know what we did last summer.

We have shared in a previous blog entry how cool it is to cycle around Dresden ( Cycling and Picnic along the Elbe). Yet, the German municipalities are continuously developing platforms to encourage bicycling as a healthy lifestyle and as a mitigation measure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. On 14 June 2019, the CIPSEM administration, led by the cycling enthusiast and transport psychologist Dr. Angela Francke and assisted by Fabian Heidegger, organised a biking tour for the CIPSEM EM-42 participants to show how the City of Dresden established an enabling environment towards the integration of cycling in the transport and mobility system and how the residents participate in advancing this cause.

Angela objectively selected the cycling route for the critical experience and analysis of the participants on the infrastructural planning and development of the cycling road network and facilities. The group took off to its first stop, the Grosser Garten. There, the participants learned the importance of the park and its natural landscapes as a healthy place for cycling and recreation. The tall trees and the chirping birds on them, the long network of roads and its road signs, and the beautiful scenery of the Palais Grosser Garten castle all make up a good environment for cycling, especially for families.

 

The next stop was in the residential area at Comeniusstrasse,where Angela and Fabian demonstrated the safety measures for pedestrians and cyclists in street curves and crossroads by freeing the road sides from obstructions of parked cars. This was reinforced by implementing strict compliance to maximum speed of 30 kph for cars. From this stop, the group then went on to the Johannstadt Nord, an area where trams, buses, cars, and bicycles converged. Here, Angela shared how the cycling enthusiasts lobbied the safety measures for the cyclists through the installation of road signs, clearing the road sides from illegal parking, and improving the road markings.

The group then moved on to the next stops by cycling across the Kaethe-Kollwitz Ufer down to the Elbe Radweg. The Elbe Radweg (English: Elbe Cycling Route) is part of an international network of cycling routes all over Europe. It is integrated in the system of currently 37 river cycling routes in Germany and is claimed to be the most popular route for cyclists in the country. Here, Angela showed a cyclist counter installed in the cycling path to gather data on the number of cyclists passing the Radweg. Gathering the data will aid the City authorities improve accessibility for cyclists and the needed infrastructure support.

En route to the supposedly another stop, we made a stopover at the Faehrgarten Johannstadt which is situated directly on the side of the Elbe river. The original purpose was for a toilet break but the sight of locals drinking beer and frolicking on ice creams and refreshments enticed the participants to have a shot and join the locals in enjoying the refreshing sight. And to the surprise of everyone, especially Angela, the participants immersed with time that they forgot their fellows using the taxi waiting in the next stop. (Yes, non-bikers used the taxi in joining the cycling tour). Realising about this, we hurriedly finished our beers and refreshments, grabbed the bikes and cycled to the last stop that summarises the whole trip… the Altstadt Centre, in Post Platz.

There, the EM-42 participants went wet and wild as if they finished a Formula 1 race. But instead of the sparkling wine being popped, the participants frolicked like kids under the cold shower of the red square arc… a well-deserved finish after the grueling cycling under the warmth of summer.

 

CIPSEM alumna gives maiden lecture

On Wednesday, July 17th 2019, Dr. Adejoke Olukemi Akinyele had the honor to deliver the maiden lecture for the newly created Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria – the lecture titled “Achieving sustainable development through silviculture: Focus on tree domestication”.

Dr. Adejoke Olukemi Akinyele was a participant in the 60th UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International Short Course on Environmental Management for Developing and Emerging Countries – Climate Change Adaptation: The Soil-Water Nexus (SC-60), which took place from October 9th to November 8th 2013 in Dresden, Germany.

She works as a senior lecturer in the Department of Forest Production and Products at the newly created Faculty. Congratulations and keep up the good work!

 

42nd UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International Postgraduate Course on Environmental Management – Closing

On Friday, July 12th 2019 the 42nd UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International Postgraduate Course on Environmental Management for Developing Countries came to an end with 21 fellows representing 21 countries, receiving their postgraduate diplomas, but having so much more in their minds and hearts (and probably also their suitcases) to carry back home – certainly, a cohort of new experts in environmental management, but also CIPSEM ambassadors was formed during this past 6 months in Dresden and Germany.

 

The fresh CIPSEM alumni were accompanied in their celebrations by friends, family, course facilitators, the CIPSEM team, representatives of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and the German Environment Agency (UBA) and not least by the rector of Technische Universität Dresden (TUD), Prof. Dr. Hans Müller-Steinhagen. In his opening address he not only emphasized the general urgency to tackle environmental challenges for a global sustainable development, but also how these CIPSEM courses on environmental management fit into the Research Priority Area “Energy, Mobility and Environment” at TUD and furthermore towards the Internationalization Strategy of the university.

 

The potential impact CIPSEM courses can have was highlighted in a video message by Mr. Erik Grigoryan, Minister for the Environment in Armenia and CIPSEM alumnus (30th UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International Postgraduate Course on Environmental Management for Developing Countries in 2007). He congratulated his follow-up peers and encouraged them to implement the gained knowledge confidently.

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This years “Best Final Paper Awards” for this course were given to:

Ms. Oleksandra Lohunova (Ukraine), for
“Land use planning aspects regarding tailings management facilities safety”

Ms. Urvana Menon (India), for
“Towards effective conservation of transboundary ecosystems – the case of Indo-Bhutan conservation region”

Mr. Marcio Alvarenga Junior (Brazil), for
“Payment for ecosystem services: an alternative for the Brazilian Amazon”

Additionally, warm words were also provided by representatives of the course itself. Hence, Ms. Saba Raffay (Pakistan) and Mr. Ireneo Jr. Silverio Piong (Philippines) summarized the time at CIPSEM in general, but each also with a very personal and also funny note respectively.

 

… and what better occasion there is than to close here with the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything.

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A little bit about the Research Centers in Germany…

Energy from biomass?

Yes, it is possible!

On the morning Monday of May 20th, EM42 fellows headed to the central station of Dresden, bound for the beautiful city of Leipzig. After a short trip and a small break, at 1 pm they arrived at the “German Centre for Biomass Research (DBFZ)”.

During the visit to DBFZ, they learned about the different processes to produce energy from biomass; and after a short explanation about the organization with international colleagues from China, Spain, Canada, Brazil, and Italy and the vision of sustainable resource basis, smart bioenergy – innovations for a sustainable future, they proceeded to visit its installations and laboratories that are divided into five departments: biogas, refinery, hydrothermal carbonization, heating technologies, and wood combustion.

Additionally, they had the opportunity to meet some of the researchers of the institution, as they explained to them; DBFZ with approximately 250 employees researches how to generate energy from biomass resources. In this regard, DBFZ works in joint collaboration with public and private institutions around the world.

Something that 30 years ago seemed impossible, now is a reality thanks to institutions like DBFZ that bet on studies based on the applied researches that develop practical solutions to current problems related to the integrated bioenergy provision.

The second day in Leipzig at 09:30am, EM42 fellows arrived at the “Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)”, they were welcomed by Mr. Andreas Staak who introduced the visitors the UFZ installations, along the day some researchers explained in more detail the projects that UFZ is developing; as is the case of the “Center for Advanced Water Research (CAWR)” presented by Prof. Olaf Kolditz and Mr. Lars Bilke from the Visualization Laboratory; whom explained some projects developed for Asia (China and Jordan) related to water sustainability, at that time, the 3D animation developed by UFZ for the spatial planning was one of the most incredible experience that the fellows tried that day.

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After the lunch at UFZ canteen, Prof. Martin Volk presented the topic “Assessing and governing synergies between food production, biodiversity, and ecosystem services”; Additionally the Department of Urban and Environmental Sociology and the Department of Ecological Modelling presented some of the projects that UFZ is developing related to food-waste-energy sustainable environment; and impacts of the new policy instruments, technologies and change processes on pastoral land use as a social-ecological modeling approach.

Finally, the fellows had the opportunity to enjoy the game “NomaSed” developed by the Department of Ecological Modelling in order to create awareness to the stakeholders about the land use in agriculture activities. Of course, there were winners in this game!

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Time was relative short those days, however, the fellows tried to spend time together with a big Vietnamese dinner in the beautiful city of Leipzig during their free time.

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See you soon beautiful Leipzig!

by Ms. Magaly Beltran (Bolivia) and Ms. Tam Thanh (Vietnam)

Human and Nature in Harmony

The term “Biosphere Reserve” (BR) has always fascinated us. Particularly because to an optimist of conservation and sustainable development, it is a realizable model striking a balance between fulfilling the requirements for nature conservation while meeting the needs of human. BR are the model region of sustainable development where the conservation and human development goes hand in hand, benefiting both. This excursion to the Upper Lusatian Biosphere Reserve (BR) epitomizes this idea. The Upper Lusatian heath and pond region between the Upper Lusatian plains in the south and the Upper Lusatian mining region in the north is a part of the Saxon lowland region with an altitude 80–180 m above sea level. The region has evolved over many centuries as a result of human use, with the first documented evidence of the building of fish ponds dating as far back as 1248.The region, with an area of about 30,102 ha was recognized as a BR in 1996. Every BR represents a mosaic of landscapes – in this case, it was primarily forests (50%), agriculture (40%) and ponds (8%)

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The forests of the Upper Lusatian heath used to be mainly mixed forests of oak, pine, birch and hornbeam. In the Biosphere Reserve, we also still find them as pine and oak forests, which were once characteristic of the Upper Lusatian Heath, as berry bush and pine forests. The major pine forests are gradually being transformed into mixed forests suitable for the area. Management is now aiming at the development of wild forests. Along with the forests, the meadows and the ponds form important components of the mosaic. Meadows containing streams and rivers, fast-flowing and slow running water, fordable places and deep scour pools and steep and flat banks form ideal living conditions for many animals and plants in the BR. The flat ponds with their wild banks, silted areas and strips of reeds with their gradual transition to meadows and forests, provide a home for plants and animals which have long disappeared in other areas.

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The governance and administration of the BR is guided by three objectives- a) use of natural resources in alignment with environmental protection, (b) target oriented research and development and (c) environmental education for tourists, visitors and the youth. Environmental education is at the heart of the BR philosophy and management. More than 700 events are organized each year for the public. Concepts of ecological, economic, social and cultural integration into planning sustainable development is the foundation of the message delivered. Each of these programs are customized to cater to different target groups.  We could see some kids attend a workshop near the pond landscape and being thrilled to be in this landscape. Seeing them rejoice being in the lap of nature is always a good reminder of how much man has to transform its practices to leave behind healthy ecosystems to secure their futures.

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It was also interesting to note how the BR administration works closely with local farmers in promoting sustainable agriculture as well as promoting education on agriculture and farming. The local farmers in the region grow local varieties of crops which is supported by BR office (provision of seeds) and farmers in turn extend support on conserving birds and their habitat. Significant weightage is given to the re-introduction of crops that are local and representative to this area, for instance winter Rye, which is used both for the feed and food, has also the benefit of requiring less fertilizer and crop protection measures.

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Around 80% of the local farmers are participating in the Saxony government are being supported with projects to eliminate non-environmental friendly agricultural practices. Farmers are incentivized with financial compensation to discourage the use of chemicals and pesticides. Similarly, partnerships of local tourism providers and farmhouse owners with the BR authorities was working successfully to reap benefits for the reserve. Witnessing these practices form important impressions that our group members hope to translate into action back home (with support of partners and authorities).

One of the most unforgettable moments of the excursion was undeniably the stop at the Eco-farm for lunch. The farm produced vegetables, meat, oils and seeds along with a range of other products were up for sale. Being in that farm and eating that locally grown food cooked with tones of love and compassion for nature, we felt a deeper sense of gratitude for just how much the earth has borne to cater to needs of humankind. It surely is time to give back.

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by Urvana Menon (India) and Kamal Thapa (Nepal)