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)

The Natural Paradise of Vilm

If Helen of Troy is the beauty that lands a thousand ships, the Island of Vilm is the charming  paradise that captivates the generations of Europeans.

This 94 hectares island in the Baltic Sea was estimated to be inhabited by humans in the early Stone Age. Then the Slavic people built a temple there for spiritual purposes and in the Middle Ages it became a place of pilgrimage for Christians. In 1959 and until the dissolution of the GDR, the Council of Ministers of the German Democratic Republic made the island exclusive, with its eleven (11) guesthouses, administrative and farm buildings used as private retreat for high functionaries, including the GDR heads of state Walter Ulbricht and Erich Honecker. Today, the island is known as former summer residence for aristocrats.

The beauty of this island has also charmed the CIPSEM EM-42 participants during their excursion to the Vilm Island on 13th-18th May 2019. But rather than feeling the hype of the past aristocrats and experience the paradise as vacationers, the participants were also there to attend the module on international nature conservation. The trip from Dresden to Vilm took 8 hours but the participants were not tired because of the island’s healing landscape and warm welcoming  breeze of the wind. Around 6:20Pm, the participants were briefed with a short introduction of the Insel Vilm by Dr. André Lindner (CIPSEM) and Ms. Kathrin Bockmuhl (International Academy for Nature Conservation) followed by a joint dinner which captured the attention of participants. They appreciated how environmental friendly the International Academy for Nature Conservation is. The food was vegetarian from day one and a special fish which can be found only in that region and solar energy is used as a source of energy in Vilm Island. Most of the participants were amazed by watching the sunrise and sunsets in this part of the Biosphere Reserve South-East Rügen.

Vilm Island was a nature reserve since 1936 and it is a core area of the Biosphere Reserve since 1990. During its guided tour around the allowed perimeters of the island, Ms. Kathrin explained that the area is a special reserve, because since 1812 the protection against forest logging in this Island started and since then there was no logging in the area which means this island has  special old beech trees which barely can be found elsewhere.

The week-long excursion was also full of energy-boosting indoor activities, with a constant and fruitful exchange of knowledge and experiences from the German specialists, CIPSEM EM-42 fellows, and four (4) German colleagues from the Master on Biotechnology and Applied Ecology. As one of the focus of the International Academy for Nature Conservation, we had an introduction to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), how the CBD Conference of Parties works and which are the subsidiary bodies. This led us to a simulation game about negotiations on the CBD, when we could know firsthand how difficult, exhausting, and rewarding (all feelings at the same time) negotiations can be. As a complement, during the first night the participants watched and exchanged thoughts on  the movie “Guardians of the Earth”, about negotiations that led to the Paris Agreement in 2015. During this first day, a special reference was done to the IPBES’ 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, whose findings (e.g. one million species are facing extinction) compelled the participants to take urgent actions.

The second and fourth day brought the participants to very important topics. First was the exploration on how benefits from the use of biological diversity could be shared. In this regard, Dr. Ute Feit and Ms. Gisela Stolpe described The Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing as a mechanism of the CBD to promote fairer distribution of benefits, taking into account local knowledge. For this, the conflict on Teff (Eragrostis tef) between Ethiopia (where this grain has been adapted and produced for centuries) and a Dutch company that tried to patent teff processing allowed us to discuss fairness, local knowledge, market development, among other key issues for our countries. Later, we became owners of fishery companies to explore our own behavior on the use of natural resources, fish in this case. After ups and downs, we realized how individual and mercantilistic decisions can lead us to ecological catastrophes, which was the situation for cases such as the anchovy in Peru during the decade of 1970. We also had lectures on the IUCN Red List, marine nature conservation and the approach of Integrated Conservation and Development Projects.

On May 16th (fourth day) the participants had the privilege to visit the Conference Centre of Naturerbe Zentrum Rügen, walk through a canopy walkway and explore the National Park Jasmund. A great surprise was seeing how the infrastructure in the canopy walkway was inclusive and provided enough accessibility for people in wheelchairs. The participants also enjoyed how interactive several elements in the canopy walkway and information centre are, making the experience more fun and complementing explanations for the specialists who kindly explained the history, current state and governance system around these areas, which led to discussions and comparisons with the reality in our countries.

Days in Vilm Island were so fast for the CIPSEM EM-42 participants. The proof was their feedbacks of the module, stating that they enjoyed their stay in this Nature Reserve where they used to have parties and karaoke after classes which made the stay more fun and exciting. A special thanks to Ms. Kathrin and the whole team of Vilm for making the stay so good and in a special way. They cared for the Muslim participants who were observing Ramadan by making sure that they got what to eat in their favorable time. That was so much appreciated and the kindness of Kathrin was so touching from day one till the last minute to the boat, saying goodbye to her brought tears of joy to the group. On their way back, the group had lots of reflections and lots of photos from the nature paradise.

by Ms. Liliane Umukunzi (Rwanda) and Mr. Juan del Castillo (Peru), with contributions of Mr. Jun Piong (Philippines), EM-42

photos by Ms. Haili Zhou (China), Ms. Sreymoch Bun (Cambodia), Ms. Hasmik Barseghyan (Armenia), Ms. Thanh Tam (Vietnam), Mr. Juan del Castillo (Peru), and the International Academy for Nature Conservation (INA)

A journey to biodiversity conservation – excursion to the island of Vilm

The journey began on Sunday morning to the Isle of Vilm, a very beautiful nature paradise at the Baltic Sea coast. The story goes back to some 6,000 years ago from the waves of the rising sea Litorina which created an island from Moraines that glaciers had left during the years of ice age some 12,000 years ago.

During the brief introduction given at the same night we arrived, it was clear that the academy for nature conservation working at the isle gives its all to protecting the natural biodiversity in and around the area. The biodiversity rich nature reserve in the island has about 300 species of flora accompanied by a rich variety of fauna ranging from birds, bats and insects with a pair of white tailed eagle nest on this very island.

IMG_6050.JPGAt 9 am the following morning the lecture began with staff members of the Academy by picking out the most pressing issues in conservation and biodiversity. We started with biodiversity and ecosystem services (ES), and brief insights to the convention on biodiversity (CBD) by Horst Korn and Kathrin Bockmühl. This part of the CBD gave us how things really go at the convention and the challenges we face when it comes to the real deal of keeping nations interested in a common goal.

On Tuesday evening, we took a walk through the places of the island and learn/witness the beautiful forest first hand, dominated by aged beech trees of approximately 250-300 years. The spectacular view at the rugged land towards the sea gives a sensational feeling to the soul and it says a lot about the endless beauty of nature. On the way back we had the chance to see the photos of trees with their spectacular structures taken at this very island being kept in a gallery for quite some time (15 years).

After spending almost 3 full days at the world class guest houses and conference rooms accompanied by staff members of the academy and CIPSEM secretariat; a journey awaited for us on Thursday to depart froT the isle to Jasmund national park located at the South East Rügen biosphere reserve. On our way inside we also visited the Konigsstuhl national park center which is found at the center of national park Jasmund on the island Rügen opened in 2004. It provides information about the national park by also making visitors’ experiences easier and fun. With its 2,000 sq.m exhibition on the theme ‘journey back in time’ took as back to the past of the ice ages. Without the need of tour guide it was amazing how information is passed through the headphones provided at the entrance. The last visit for the day was at the ‘Naturerbezentrum Prora’. On the way through we saw the ‘eagle nest’ viewing tower that enables to see the island and marine sceneries.

Authors: Gerald Lifa and Hilina Yohannes

Excursion to the island of Vilm

For one whole week the EM38 course escaped the rush of the city life and headed to one of the remotest areas in Germany: the island of Vilm in the Baltic Sea. As part of the Southeast Rügen Biosphere Reserve, the whole island is designated as nature reserve and a dream for nature-lovers, especially as access is strictly regulated and limited. Without shops, television and other distractions, Vilm is the perfect location for our course attendees to fully focus on different aspects of conservation and restoration ecology. Talks, simulation games, group work, discussions were on the schedule, all in the context of topics such as ‘Biodiversity and the CBD’, ‘Marine nature conservation’, ‘Protected areas’, and the ‘financing of nature conservation’ .

Of course outdoor activities did not go short and the group also explored the island’s exceptional nature. The last logging on the island took place around the year 1527, which led to the development of undisturbed, mixed forests consisting of impressive individuals of beeches, oaks and sycamore maples and a remarkable biodiversity: 1312 different species were found during an assessment in 2002, considering the island is less than one km² in size, an astonishing number.

(Photos: A. Lindner)