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...
Jun 12, 2015

A tribute to Mohamed El Haouzi, pioneer of Marrakech School Gardens

Fadma speaks on supporting a community nursery
Fadma speaks on supporting a community nursery

Mohamed El Haouzi, Moroccan Projects Director for GDF, takes pride in his experience building school gardens with children in Marrakech’s public schools. The gardening activities he leads are participatory and play an important role in getting children involved in conservation efforts from an early age. Mohamed believes that “nature needs to be understood in order to be preserved” and that gardening activities serve as a platform for explaining the natural world to children. To him, gardening represents a holistic and hands-on learning experience during which students work as a team, learn skills and become knowledgeable on irrigation techniques and plant names all while having fun.

Mohamed laments the fact that gardening activities are not institutionalized and not included in public elementary school curricula. One of the challenges Mohamed has to repeatedly overcome while initiating gardening activities is the public school system’s lack of a standard procedure for implementing such activities. He has had to work with every school on a case-by-case basis, catering to the different circumstances of each administration and student body. Mohamed is also very much aware of the potential lack of maintenance threatening the gardens after the initial excitement of their inauguration wanes and the schools can no longer fund their upkeep.

Despite the challenges, lack of funds and dependence on personal initiative and volunteers, Mohamed is thankful to the dynamic and motivated school staff he has encountered during his work and their commitment to providing students with gardening activities and the green spaces these produce. He is grateful for the support of like-minded individuals who understand the educational value of gardening activities and the learning benefits associated with exposure to green spaces. Most importantly, Mohamed is happy the students and dedicated public school staff are able to find an ally in the Global Diversity Foundation, which is invested in continuing to provide children with gardening activities.

Here is a short excerpt (translated from French and edited) of some of Mohamed’s own reflections that he shared during a workshop on best practices in biodiversity conservation and local livelihoods in Morocco held from 27-29 May 2015 in the High Atlas mountains:

“School gardens are no small task! School gardening is a complex notion because it involves many factors, including students, teachers and the administrative staff, all with their own circumstances. In all schools, participants are always enthusiastic and embrace with wide open arms the creation of a new garden within their establishment or the restoration of an already existing one. However, the enthusiasm expressed when creating or restoring a school garden is one thing and the maintenance of these gardens through the regular gardening activities necessary is another!

Some teachers are very dynamic and highly motivated regarding educational gardening activities (which encourages outside partners to invest, both emotionally and financially, in activities related to the environment), but others are less so and some aren’t at all (they consider such activities more work!).

Fortunately, the administrative staff of some schools considers gardening among the institution’s priorities. In these cases, we see very clear participation on the part of both the school’s teachers and students. A part of the establishment’s budget is devoted to gardening or at least great efforts are made to forge partnerships with funders and non-profits like GDF. In these schools, we are able to establish and maintain green spaces that enhance the learning experience of students.”

Mohamed, pioneer of our school gardens project
Mohamed, pioneer of our school gardens project
Apr 24, 2015

Latin American Academy of Socio-Environmental Leadership

GESA alumni collaborate to create regional academy
GESA alumni collaborate to create regional academy

A brand new initiative is now taking form in the hands of six driven, committed Global Environments Summer Academy (GESA) alumni. After four successful Academies since 2011 (with the fifth now being planned for this summer), we are excited that a regional focus on Latin America will solidify the Global Environments Network (GEN)’s aim to train and bring inspiring and dynamic environmental leaders in a global action network.

The Latin American Academy of Socio-Environmental Leadership (ALLSA) 2015, or in Spanish, 1a Academia Latinoamericana de Liderazgo Socio-ambiental, will be our 1st regional academy. Entitled Transformative Environmental Learning: Our relationships with biocultural landscapes, this Academy will gather around 25 environmental changemakers from Latin America who are passionate about improving the relationships between society and the environment.

A regional focus enables GEN to recruit and support emerging changemakers who are not proficient in English, a gap recognised during our selection processes for GESA (see previous report on GESA selection process). Alumni from Chile (Antonia), Dominican Republic (Daniel), Mexico (Edgar, Thor and Yolanda) and Spain (Ana Elia), having experienced the transformational power of the GESA learning program and, knowing the potential of many in Latin America, are now joining forces with the unconditional support of GDF to create ALLSA. This pioneering event will be held in the Dominican Republic this November in partnership with Instituto Nacional de Formación y Capacitación del Magisterio de la República Dominicana (INAFOCAM). This strong collaboration amongst GESA alumni is a testament to the durable connections formed during GESA and the importance of the Network.

ALLSA aims to broaden and deepen knowledge, learning methodologies, social networking and communication skills of graduate students, professionals and activists interested in the human dimensions of environmental problems. It is designed for Spanish-speaking people studying or working in the field of arts and humanities, social sciences and natural sciences - as well as people working for the defense of the environment and social justice, audiovisual communication, policy and advocacy – focused on the relationship between environment and society. Community leaders are welcome to apply to ALLSA. Interested candidates can apply here.

Photo caption: Spanish Ana Elia, who joined GESA in 2014, is now working with fellow GESA alumni on the 1st regional academy in Latin America. ALLSA is designed for Spanish-speaking participants studying or working in the field of arts and humanities, social sciences and natural sciences - as well as working for the defence of the environment and social justice, audiovisual communications, policy and advocacy – who are focused on the relationship between environment and society.

Apr 21, 2015

Crocker Range Biosphere Reserve and the fight against the Dam

Natural resources are a livelihood source
Natural resources are a livelihood source

Almost a year has passed since approval was given to designate the Crocker Range in Sabah as a Biosphere Reserve, making it, at 350,584 hectares, the largest protected area in Malaysia. This Reserve includes areas inhabited by Dusun communities with whom Global Diversity Foundation has been collaborating for over a decade. Through a combination of training, participatory action research and community-based conservation education activities, the communities have provided input in the process of its nomination. Given recent uprising against the controversial Kaiduan Dam, it is timely to reflect on the processes used to achieve gazettement, and the core characteristics of Biosphere Reserves. It is crucial to gauge the level of our commitment to this reputable designation.

A key characteristic of Biosphere Reserves is the use of a multi-stakeholder approach, strongly emphasising local community involvement in management. Dusun communities in the Crocker Range are not new to asking that their rights be met, a call backed by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. A collaborative project that began in August 2009, the third in a sequence of projects carried out in the Buayan-Kionop area, was actually designed as a response to community request asking for assistance to strengthen community institutions and build grassroots capacity that would allow them to meaningfully engage in the conservation agenda of Sabah Parks, which included the nomination of the Reserve.

During the three year project, community research groups successfully raised awareness on Biosphere Reserves and other aspects of community conservation among communities living in Ulu Papar and governmental institutions in Sabah. The Ulu Papar Biocultural Community Protocol was developed, a document representing the voice of the Ulu Papar community about the importance of their way of life and culture, ancestral lands and territories, especially in relation to the use of natural resources as a livelihood source for the community and the conservation of biodiversity. GIS maps and participatory 3D models of Buayan-Kionop and Ulu Papar were created from new knowledge to display livelihood patterns and resource use of each community. Since the project officially ended in 2012, the community also pushed ahead with constructing a community outreach centre in Buayan village through fresh partnerships with both local and foreign organisations. This was partly funded through generous donations made by GlobalGiving donors.

Having collaborated with the Ulu Papar community, Sabah Parks, Sabah Biodiversity Centre and PACOS Trust throughout the project, the Global Diversity Foundation continues to appreciate local community efforts in preserving their traditional ways. Dusun communities in the Crocker Range continue to push their way into the forefront to make their voices heard. They have called out to local authorities to consider other solutions to the water shortage in Sabah. They make repeated requests for satisfactory consultations to be carried out with those who would eventually be displaced if the construction of the Dam proceeds. These requests are, after all, in line with a second characteristic of Biosphere Reserves, stated as fostering dialogue for conflict resolution of natural resourse use.

 

Photo by Rabani Ayub. Natural resources are a livelihood source for the Dusun communities of Ulu Papar in the Crocker Range.

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