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...
Nov 18, 2013

My Experience in Buayan

Treating bamboo
Treating bamboo

Last month, I had a wonderful opportunity to spend a few days in the beautiful, remote village of Buayan. I set off on the 2-hour road trip with Ching, an Arkitrek volunteer, both of us putting our trust in James, who skilfully manoeuvred his 4WD along the muddy, gravel road, and landed us safely in Buayan. With the back of the car packed with building supplies, we were greeted by Tom, who continued on in Buayan even after the departure of the rest of his team of Arkitrekkers to push for the completion of the community bio-cultural centre the team co-designed and built with the community.

I pitched in to help. It was my first experience in ‘construction’, and I have to say that I have a renewed appreciation and admiration for the Ulu Papar community and the group of Arkitrekkers who have worked so hard to get the Centre to where it is today. I was completely exhausted at the end of each day from the physical effort it took to paint timber frames and cut bamboo; I cannot even begin to imagine carrying 12-foot long bamboo the half-mile from the river!

While basic creature comforts are all available in Buayan (including satellite dishes marking the existence of cable TV in some of the houses), one quickly gets used to the Buayan way of life, a life independent of much of the modern technology we are all so accustomed to. It is a life that puts relationships with family and friends first and foremost; a life that depends on the rich resources of the area to stay vital.

Communication with the outside world is possible via mobile phones, but only if one stands at specific ‘spots’ and holds very still so that the connection does not get cut off. My addiction to being glued to a smartphone was replaced by total serenity during my time in Buayan.

The Buayan lifestyle, and that of those living in the other villages that make up Ulu Papar, is one that many will never experience, even those of us living within the boundaries of Borneo. As I listened to the passionate words of my host mother, Angela, describing her love for Buayan, I deeply understood the implacable objections that the Ulu Papar community have towards the planned development of the Kaiduan Dam. The proposed megadam would flood and displace most Ulu Papar residents, unmaking communities whose lifestyles and traditions are completely meshed with the place they have called home for so long.

Descriptions of photos

Treating bamboo: Treating the bamboo that was cut and carried from the riverside by the community. Tom and Ching fill the bamboo with Timbor to prevent the bamboo from rotting. 

The roof goes up: Tom works with Alex, a skilled roofer from Buayan, to set the sustainable roofing materials (onduline) in place.

Traditional cooking hearth: Our host mother Angela’s kitchen; using firewood to boil water. (Photo by Ching)

Local vegetables: The vegetables prepared during our stay were either grown in the garden, or harvested from the forest nearby. (Photo by Ching)

The Crocker Range: The scenic view of the Crocker Range during our journey to Buayan. (Photo taken by Ching)

Treating bamboo
Treating bamboo
The roof goes up
The roof goes up
Traditional cooking hearth
Traditional cooking hearth
Local vegetables
Local vegetables
The Crocker Range
The Crocker Range


Oct 7, 2013

Urgent! It is planting time in Marrakech!

Mohamed, r, overseeing the marking of gravel paths
Mohamed, r, overseeing the marking of gravel paths

The girls from the Lalla Aouda Saadia school are proud of their emerging garden! They are dreaming of cultivating an even greater diversity of edible and ornamental plants in the beautiful green spaces that are already affording them some peace of mind and moments of tranquility.   

When asked what should be the next steps, they reply in unison that they would like to see more vegetation in the empty spaces in between the orchard trees. They are keen to participate in the work it will take to finish the garden: planting aromatic herbs and flowers, weeding, painting the new benches and organizing bins for composting, and recycling at specific points on the grounds.

GDF’s project director Mohamed El Haouzi has the merit of possessing enormous faith and tenacity, qualities that allow him to love his job and believe in it passionately. Over the past four years, he has worked hard to change the forlorn landscape of this unique girls-only college in Marrakech. The school’s garden, which was a large open space littered with trash, has gone from a neglected shambles to an actual garden. Although the process has been long and onerous, there is very little left for the job to reach a successful conclusion.

Mohamed has thought out his approach carefully, creating large pathways covered with gravel to clearly define the boundaries between the garden and the walking areas. Following the advice of a landscaper friend, he has made a point of enlarging the gravel areas to delimit the green areas, and consequently decrease both the use of water and maintenance while creating more space for the girls to mingle. The Seville orange trees spread evenly throughout the garden have been duly pruned to insure that they continue growing high and strong. Eight benches have been added to give the girls moments of peace in shaded areas. Mohamed has even taken his job to another level, guiding an ethnobotanical study of local useful plants with 30 girls from the school, during which they collected specific herbs to concoct five traditional recipes to treat diverse ailments.

These steps have been possible thanks to the support of the Global Diversity Foundation. Already the girls can be seen sitting on the benches gazing pensively at the trees, waiting for the opportunity to put edible and ornamental plants in the ground and watch them grow and produce...                                                                            

Pending: planting of edible and ornamental plants
Pending: planting of edible and ornamental plants
Aug 19, 2013

Beautification of Lalla Aouda Saadia Continues

The second stage of the regreening of the Lalla Aouda Saadia school garden is now complete. One important progress made during this stage was the fixing of the water pump that services the school well. After discovering that cracks along the pipes caused the malfunction of the well irrigation system, 32 meters of pipes leading into the well were completely replaced with newer ones of higher quality. This success means that there is now sufficient water to irrigate the entire school garden. 

Several other aspects were improved to enhance the overall condition of the garden, providing a pleasing environment for the students of Lalla Aouda Saadia. Eight new metallic benches were built and placed in the garden, increasing the number of available benches for the girls at the school. A new irrigation system was set up to replace the old one that, over time, had become old and was characterized by leaks. This new underground system is a vast improvement over the old one, which had visible pipes running along the grounds, aesthetically displeasing to the eyes.

As efforts were carried out during stage two, more components of the design of the garden, visualized by two landscape architects, have become a reality. These include the widening of paths covered with gravel, and the preparation of suitable sites between paths reserved for plants in a way that will ensure maintenance is easy and inexpensive in the future.

What remains now is the purchase and planting of a diversity of plants in the designated areas, and the painting of the metallic benches.

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