Humans, Economy and Biodiversity Conservation – Sustainability in the Centre

Tales from the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve “Upper Lusatian Heath- and Pond Landscape” – EM-41 excursion, June 6, 2018

As challenging and complex as it might seem, the heath- and pond Landscape of Upper Lusatia has managed to embrace both, biodiversity conservation and human well-being, yet no doubt anyone can be convinced the project is sustainable, the secret being including people in the scheme: “by the people for the people”.

It started about 800 years ago when the Slavic people first arrived in the area which was almost 20% swampy landscape. Due to scarcity of land for cultivation, the monks tried to drain the area to suit cultivation. As a result there was influx of German people in the area. Due to the agricultural activities over the last 8 centuries most of the indigenous plant species were lost. To date only 1% of the plants are endemic in the natural habitat.

The success story begins with zonation to cater for the conservation, residency and economic activity in harmonious manner.  ‘Designation as a UNESCO biosphere reserve means much more than protection of the natural landscape, because it also envisions sustainable development of the region. Economic development should be promoted whilst the cultural value of the landscape should be preserved.’ Walter Hirche, President of the German Commission for UNESCO

(i) Nature/Biodiversity Conservation

Although the heath- and pond landscape of Upper Lusatia has a long history; it was until 1992 when it was formally set aside as a conservation area with 30.102 hectares.  In 1996 the area was recognized and approved as UNESCO biosphere reserve. The aim is the protection of natural ecosystems and their long-term productivity and functional capacity.

Today the area is a home to 1.100 plant and 3.600 animal species. This reserve is important for conservation in Germany; for example it is the only place where Bog Violet (Viola uliginosa) is found, furthermore it hosts more than 50% of Moss Grass (Coleanthus subtilis). Regarding fauna, the site hosts 20% of Saxony’s (about 5% of Germany’s) wolf population (Canis lupus)  and an estimate of 5-10% of European otter (Lutra lutra) just to mention a few. In addition to this, the presence of 350 ponds in the biosphere reserve covering 125 hectares host 1000 breeding pairs of over 90 bird species making the site incredibly important and uniquely beautiful attracting lots of local and international tourists.

(ii) Economic Sustainability

Support should be targeted towards sustainable development options in the various sectors of the economy, e.g. organic farming, ecologically adapted forest management, and environmentally and socially compatible tourism. Fish farming, crop cultivation, cattle keeping and tree plantations are some of the viable economic activities in the Biosphere reserve.

Carp is one of the fish species farmed in 12 of 305 ponds at “Gutter Teiche” fishery ponds. Carp farming goes hand in hand with reeds management giving best scenic views to tourists who visit the area while bringing income to farmers and healthy meal to consumers. The whole view of ponds with associated species, e.g. reeds, ducks and other water birds are breathtaking!

 

(iii) Heritage Crop and Variety Project

With increasing healthy eating and lifestyle, the village Kreba-Neudorf has been keen and ventured to engage in crop cultivation. The project only grows old and seriously threatened grains of rye, wheat, oats and spelt. The cultivation follows the organic farming standards with no external agricultural inputs, the yield are said to be a rich source of vitamins, minerals and taste better. Rye bread is particularly good for people allergic to gluten.  Furthermore products diversification and value addition chain has been in place by installing grinding mills, bakeries and specialty local brew brand.

(iv) Research and Sustainable Development

For sure this projects would not be successful without investing and collaboration between researchers with an interdisciplinary outlook aiming at hands-on sustainable development through constructive participation.

Acknowledgement

IPicture7t is said seeing is believing. We would like to thank CIPSEM team, especially Tamara Karp, Susanne Barisch and Dirk Weis from the Biosphere Reserve, and the Ladusch family for facilitating this field training to EM41 participants on 6 June 2018 which convinced us that it is possible to embrace conservation also at the same time it is possible to practice other economic activities in a compatible manner while restoring the degraded area. At the end of the day environment is conserved, better income, healthy and happy living.

 

by Francisca J. Malembeka (Tanzania) & Dr. Liu Zhao (China)

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An excursion to the BMUB and 3rd German Future Earth Summit in Berlin

After a month of studies in Dresden at CIPSEM, we (EM41) had an opportunity to go to Berlin for a visit to the Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) and attending the 3rd German Future Earth Summit. As scheduled, we left Dresden in the early morning of February 7th heading to Berlin by train. As soon as we arrived, on the way to our first stop, we encountered an old piece of the Berlin Wall and the line that used to divide the city. We got to the Ministry of Environment. Ms. Königsberg received us and told us about the history of the house, Berlin and The Wall. She showed us maps and old photos from that time. We did a tour of the building, through the patios and the standing Wall. We proceeded to the conference room where we met with Mr. Contius, head of the division “United Nations, Agenda 2030, Cooperation with Developing and Newly Industrialized Countries” at the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB).

Mr. Contius talked to us about Germany’s Multilateral Work for Sustainable Development and its relevance on the national level. He explained that the main goal of his division involves narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor, and help businesses go green. That way, there will be a change of course in order to achieve as many SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) as possible by 2030. Germany mainly focuses on 3 issues: energy, agriculture and traffic; through the “5 Ps”: people, planet, prosperity, partnership and peace. After having lunch at the Ministry, we went to the greywater recycling project station at Block 6. Mr. Nolde, manager of the project, explained the history and the overview of his project on how it operates. The facility is a decentralized recycling station, which according to Mr. Nolde is the best way for water treatment and reutilization in order to maximize energy efficiency. In the evening, Dr. Lindner gave us a quick tour around Brandenburger Tor and the Reichstag, on the way to a wonderful dinner at Hopfingerbräu im Palais.

On the following 2 days, we joined the 3rd German Future Earth Summit – From Knowledge to Action at the Umweltforum. This summit provides a platform for researchers, scholars, NGOs, practitioners to discuss and figure out the challenges, especially in science, regarding the agenda 2030 of Sustainable Development. This year, the focus of the Summit was on KANs or Knowledge-Action Networks, in order to build bridges between the scientific community and other stakeholders and decision makers.

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During the summit, we were divided into different roundtable discussions and sessions according to our professional and academic expertise and interests. This helped us understand, discuss and share ideas among all attendees. It was a great opportunity for us, EM41 Fellows, to meet many scholars and researchers, and build networks with them for future cooperation.

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Overall, the Berlin Excursion gave us a great opportunity to understand Germany’s Environmental Policy, build networks and explore a vibrant city.

by Josefina Achaval-Torre (Argentina) & Chandara Yem (Cambodia)

Conference ‘Where are we steering the planet – New goals for a more sustainable development worldwide’

Within the framework of the UN ‘2015: Time for Global Action’ campaign, the Federal Environment Ministry (BMUB) organized a conference dealing with different aspects of global sustainable development. After the opening speech given by parliamentary state secretary Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter (to watch the video, click here), and a speech by the Federal Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development Gerd Müller, three international panels consisting of experts from different fields discussed the significance and implementation of the Post-2015 development agenda.

(Photos: A. Lindner)