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)

200 years of forest science in Tharandt

What are the main threats to soil functioning? What are the causes of soil degradation and salinization? What are the impacts of land use change and climate variability on watershed hydrology? What do you know about REDD+ in detail? What is the relationship between forests conservation and climate change mitigation? And how are the relations with developing countries towards those topics?

These questions and more where discussed by a group of outstanding researchers and scientists in Tharandt; the second eldest forestry faculty in the world since 1811.In addition; back at CIPSEM we had a brief introduction to some of ongoing research projects in Ethiopia, Peru and Bolivia as a joint collaboration platform in the context of climate change adaptation and rural development.We are grateful to Prof. Kalbitz, Prof. Kapp, Prof. Krabel and the PhD Students (Maxi Domke, Marolyn Vidaurre, François Jost and Hosea Mwangi) for giving the participants a practical insight into some key aspects of their research fields and methodological orientation by sharing their field experiences with CIPSEM.

Because of its comprehensive stock of temperate woody plant species, we also visited the Botanical Garden in Tharandt

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.by Hiba Mohammad (Syria)

Excursion to Saxon Switzerland National Park

Out of the classroom, CIPSEM participants visited the National Park “Saxon Switzerland”, a good example for successful environmental education.

The tour was not only enriched by the landscape, but also enriching the mindscape: at the National Park Centre we learned about the efforts being made to educate people and communities about the environment and its associated problems, raise awareness and motivate them to solve these problems.

We finished the day with a short walk in the wild.

Report by Hiba Mohammad (Syria), photographs by Hiba Mohammad (Syria) and Dulip Somirathna (Sri Lanka)

 

EM-39 halftime … but no break

The mid-semester mark passed on Tuesday 12th, April 2016, at CIPSEM as EM-39 activities continue in full swing. The course started 3 months ago and most uncertainties from the beginning disappeared. The teaching and learning process here is dynamic, combining lectures, excursions and group work. Quite recently we visited the Natural History Museum of the Senckenberg Society in Görlitz, where we could experience not only local and international biodiversity aspects in the public exhibitions, but also we able to look behind the scenes and learning about the contribution to science by the researchers of the museum.

Back at CIPSEM the next day, Dr. Dittrich from the Professorship of Biodiversity and Nature Conservation conducted a role play and the participants were brainstorming for a solution on biodiversity and conservation with evaluation of the priorities, monitoring and management in a mountainous area.

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I’m crazy busy. I’m busier than in any of my previous experiences here!” is a quote from one of the participants these days …

But there is a real sense of progress heading towards the second half of the course programme.

 

by Mehri Sadat Alavinasab (Iran)

Valuation Studies and Economic Instruments for Conservation

Within the module “Science-Policy-Interface” on April 5th a lecture and group work took place about “Ecosystem service valuation and payments for ecosystem services: How can they help nature conservation?” by Dr. Julian Rode, from the Department of Environmental Politics, Helmholtz-Center for Environmental Research – UFZ. It was explored how economic valuation studies and economic instruments such as payments for ecosystem services (PES) can be used to reach nature conservation objectives. The participants had to choose a specific context and conservation issue to further propose a valuation study or a sketch of an economic instrument that could significantly support conservation efforts. The handbook “Acting on Ecosystem Service Opportunities – Guidelines for identifying, selecting and planning economic instruments to conserve ecosystems and enhance local livelihoods” provided the participants with a conceptual framework and useful information.

Report and photographs by Mehri Sadat Alavinasab (Iran)

Some hopeful news for biodiversity and sustainable development?

Today is a day of farewell but also of new and hopeful beginnings. We are concluding the 65th UNEP/UNESCO/BMUB International Short Course on Ecosystem Management – Biodiversity and Restoration Ecology.

Here you see the participants and CIPSEM staff after the award ceremony.

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It is clear we face many challenges regarding

  •  species extinction and loss of diversity
  • drastic changes in biogeochemical cycles such as that of nitrogen
  • land use changes and the loss of ecosystems, fragmentation of habitats, the pollution of water, air and soil.
In the course we have discussed the overarching concepts of biodiversity as such, of restoration approaches, of putting a value on ecosystem services and many other approaches. The course has benefitted greatly from the experience and kind sharing of this group of highly motivated, diverse participants.
In their wonderful short speech on behalf of the group, Ms. Yetunda McLean from Jamaica and Mr. Mindaye Teshome Legese from Ethiopia have highlighted some of the characteristics which everybody contributed to help this group to grow and explore together. This gives good reason for hope, because there are a lot of issues to tackle.
Overall, this is a year of hope. On this very day the world leaders come together in New York to make sustainable development with its many interlinked aspects a top priority for all countries.
The 17 sustainable development goals are designed as one indivisible package. That two of the 17 targets address terrestrial and marine biodiversity directly, highlights the importance of this topic:
  • Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss (Goal Nr. 15)
  • Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development (Goal Nr. 14).

Let’s take our governments by their words. And also: let’s assume the responsibility we all have for how our circumstances develop, and let’s celebrate the small victories along the way.

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