Global Diversity Foundation

GDF has a dual mission. Through our regional programmes, we support indigenous peoples' and local communities' efforts to protect their biocultural diversity, and peacefully achieve just and autonomous decision-making regarding their territories, resources and futures. In collaboration with diverse institutions, we provide support for communities to elaborate their own research, development and advocacy programmes. Areas of specific focus depend on community interests, although they tend to be community access to lands and resources, community-led conservation, advocacy and campaigning for social and environmental justice, the continuity of ethnobiological and biocultural knowledge, and he...
Jan 23, 2015

How to choose an emerging environmental leader

Daniel, a participant of GESA 2014
Daniel, a participant of GESA 2014

The first stage of the GESA 2015 application period, from 15 October 2014 – 15 January 2015, seemed to go by in the blink of an eye. Expressions of interest flowed in from around the world, and we were pleased to receive far-flung applications from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Guatemala, Jamaica, Latvia, Mongolia, Sudan, Yemen, Zimbabwe and other nations that are typically underrepresented in international courses. We have a record number of candidates vying for a spot this year, over 500 from 93 countries, up 63% over last year. Now comes the hard part: choosing the finalists from this talented set of applicants.

The good news is that we have a stellar jury to help us with the tough choices we have to make. We are pleased that many GESA alumni have agreed to help select their future peers, and this gives international breadth to the jury. For the 2015 lineup, we have Daniel (Dominican Republic), Rishi (Nepal), Chryl (United States), Manoj (Bangladesh), and Eda (Turkey). Their enthusiasm in taking on this task is an inspiration. Of this undertaking, Rishi said, “I take this as our collective responsibility to make GESA a dream academy for change-makers and I am honored to volunteer to achieve this mission.” Chryl agreed to these sentiments, responding, “I would be honored to serve on the jury as GESA has a special place in my heart.”

The other jury members are GESA coordinators and resource people: Gary Martin (United States), Sarah-Lan Mathez-Stiefel (Switzerland), Emily Caruso (United Kingdom) and Susannah McCandless (United States).

Many have asked us how we go about making the decision of who attends the summer academy each year, and we would like to make the process as transparent as possible. The jury members choose their preferred candidates based on the leadership capacity communicated by their personal statements and CVs, ensuring that the resulting class has a good balance of men and women, mixture of nationalities (with no more than 2 people from the same country), regional spread, age range and multidisciplinarity. As we want to continue expanding our network globally, we also take into account if the candidate is from a country not previously represented in GESA.

Photo descriptions:

Daniel, a GESA 2014 participant, will assist in the shortlisting process this year.

Group photo taken during GESA 2014: A great mix of participants is an important feature of GESA.

Group photo taken during GESA 2014
Group photo taken during GESA 2014

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Dec 9, 2014

Digging deep and moving forward

Japanese students dig hole for septic tank
Japanese students dig hole for septic tank

Ulu Papar communities’ continued enthusiasm in engaging with partners was apparent through their active participation in planning for and being involved in the DISSOLVA Borneo Project 2014; a visit by a group comprising predominantly Japanese undergraduates, joined by Malaysian students and supervised by leaders from their respective institutions. Apart from regular daily interactions, the Dusun communities from Buayan and Kalanggaan shared their traditional knowledge by involving their visitors in hunting activities, giving theatrical performances in their local language, and teaching the art of bamboo weaving. Through collaborative efforts, the toilet and septic tank for the Biocultural Heritage Centre was successfully constructed during the visit, a project led by social enterprise, Arkitrek. 

Community researchers from Ulu Papar have built on their experiences in a variety of ways. Some have to gone on to pursue other priorities, leaving their homefront for gainful employment. A select few, however, maintain their aspirations as environmental and cultural champions in the local sphere. One step they and other community members took recently was the inauguration of a youth committee in Buayan village, followed by initial discussions to outline specific aims relating to preserving their biocultural heritage. One of the committee members, Raymond, trained over the years in various participatory research methods including community filmmaking and participatory mapping, notes that his employment at the local district office allows him to utilise his in-depth knowledge about Ulu Papar to contribute towards upholding the traditional values that define the people of Ulu Papar.

(Photos courtesy of Arkitrek)

Taking time to learn about each other
Taking time to learn about each other's culture

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Nov 11, 2014

Dar Taliba boarding house, 1999 - 2014

Dar Taliba girls planting a new tree
Dar Taliba girls planting a new tree

In our previous report, we described the diverse gardens we have planted at Dar Taliba, a girls’ boarding house in the foothills of the High Atlas mountains. Just 45 minutes from Marrakech, we have collaborated with Dar Taliba’s staff and the girls in residence to create aromatic herb, ornamental and vegetable gardens along with a fruit tree orchard. As we have noted, our latest initiative is an ethnobotanical garden created with support from the Montreal Botanical Garden.

Understanding the importance of these school gardens requires a little bit of history of Dar Taliba itself. The boarding house was founded in 1999, as Morocco was going through an important transition. King Mohamed VI had just taken the throne, and one of his first official visits was to Dar Taliba in the Ourika valley. This was a symbol of his commitment to improving the situation for girls and women in Morocco, including enhanced educational opportunities in rural areas.

When Gary Martin, Director of the Global Diversity Foundation, first visited Dar Taliba in 2002, he met several girls from the first generation of students. Among them was Jamila, a young achiever from the remote village Ait Lekak nestled high in the Atlas mountains. Originally monolingual in Amazigh (the local language), Jamila went on to learn Arabic in primary school, French in secondary school when she was resident at Dar Taliba and then English in university, where she studied communications. After a few years studying in Morocco’s capital city, Rabat, and additional years working in its largest city, Casablanca, Jamila was invited to return to Dar Taliba as its new director. Martin says, “Having Jamila return to the rural boarding house where she was a resident for three years is an incredible opportunity for Dar Taliba, and you can see on the faces of the current residents that they are embracing their good fortune in continuing their studies in a nurturing environment”.

Jamila is an enthusiastic collaborator in our ethnobotanical and horticultural projects. In our next report, we will describe one of our new initiatives that she is leading: recontacting and interviewing many of the 750 girls who have passed through Dar Taliba over the last 15 years about the impact that access to education has had on their lives.  

Photo descriptions:

One of the residents in Dar Taliba takes of photo of other girls planting a new tree in the ethnobotanical garden (Credit: Inanc Tekguc). 

Dar Taliba Director Jamila interacting with members of the Pacific Horticultural Society who came to visit the gardens (Credit: Inanc Tekguc).

Jamila interacting with visitors to Dar Taliba
Jamila interacting with visitors to Dar Taliba

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