From September 15-18, 2019, the RLC Campus Bonn brought together 18 PhD students from 12 countries in Africa and Asia for an interdisciplinary workshop at the Center for Development Research (ZEF) in Bonn. Together with two Laureates of the Right Livelihood Award (“Alternative Nobel Prize”), they worked on sustainable agricultural and forestry in drylands.
Australian Laureate Tony Rinaudo gave insights into agricultural restoration methods, including the prime example of Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR). Apart from the technique itself, Tony reported on his work with farmers, who adopted and spread FMNNR in Niger and beyond. “You want to bring beneficial changes to communities where there might be centuries of conflict and cultural differences. The change with the help of technology will not come over night. It doesn’t matter how good the science is, the technology, the super species of tree we are planting, it won’t work unless we listen and learn with patience”, Tony said.
Wycliffe Matika, Executive Director of the Kenyan The Green Belt Movement, funded by “Alternative Nobel Prize” Laureate Wangari Maathai, reported on his grass-root-work towards converting the ecological debate into mass action for reforestation and livelihood security. “You cannot change the people unless you empower them. You have to understand the issues around their livelihood security and also give them tools so that environmental actions and efforts are more sustainable”, Wycliffe said.
The four-day workshop was facilitated by Laurens van Veldhuizen, rural innovation specialist at the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) in Amsterdam, who used interactive and participatory approaches for strengthening the participant’s knowledge and understanding of forestry concepts in a development context. PhD students presented their topic-related empirical research findings and gained valuable advice from the invited Laureates.
The RLC Campus Bonn workshop was a unique opportunity for both PhD students and “Alternative Nobel Prize” Laureates for mutual exchange of expertise in research and practice.“It is crucial to link what is theoretical or more academic with experiential learning. The Awardees, like The Green Belt Movement, are bringing years of experience and the nexus of practicability. But also we need knowledge on innovations, so that we drive sustainable”, Wycliffe commented. Tony added: “If the Award I received and the work that I have done can be used to inspire and perhaps to guide and to give council to others, then bring it on, let’s have more of it, because young people can really benefit from programmes like this”.
The workshop was embedded in a series of cultural events, press meetings, and a Public Talk at the Old Town Hall of the City of Bonn. This event titled “‘Alternative Nobel Prize’ for Greening the Future in Africa” was moderated by Dr. Irene Quaile-Kersken (Deutsche Welle) and attracted more than 130 guests.
The RLC Campus Bonn is supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). The Public Talk was organised in cooperation with the City of Bonn.