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...
Jul 6, 2015

Indigenous communities suffer in the aftermath of Sabah's deadly earthquake

Dusun mountain guides help a young injured climber
Dusun mountain guides help a young injured climber

Dusun communities living in the hilly district of Ranau bore the brunt of the earthquake, measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale, that struck the Malaysian State of Sabah early in the morning on June 5th. Local and international attention quickly focused on climbers at the peak of Mount Kinabalu, trapped due to the destroyed trail caused by the earthquake. With the experience of having scaled the mountain countless times, local mountain guides emerged as heroes, braving risky conditions to lead and assist scared and injured climbers back to safety. However, alongside tales of heroism came deep tragedy. Eighteen lives perished at the hands of the quake, four of whom were Dusun guides from the nearby villages of Kiau, Bundu Tuhan and Kundasang.

Robbi, Joseph, Valerian and Ricky are among many from the local community whose livelihoods depend on Mount Kinabalu and its surroundings. As families and friends continue to mourn the loss of their loved ones, their immediate future is dismal. Livelihoods of Dusun mountain guides and porters (there are 250 mountain guides and 50 porters registered under the Kinabalu Mountain Guides Association) were crushed as climbing activities were brought to a grinding halt. While preliminary announcements have indicated that the mountain will reopen in September, the absence of climbers for three months translates to an absence of income for the community.

To the Dusun families, the natural environment is intertwined with their culture and traditions. Many of them play active roles in preserving this heritage which includes the revered Mount Kinabalu, a place deemed sacred as it is believed to be the site where the deceased rest before making their way to Libabou, their eternal resting place. Faced with disaster, this community has risen above all expectations. Those on the risky pathways put their own safety aside for others. Those at the foothills banded together to source and prepare food during search and rescue efforts. 

Adding to the immediate and severe impacts of the earthquake are the landslides and mud floods following heavy downpours of rain in the following weeks, causing further damage to property and the unavailability of clean and treated water. In the three weeks since the earthquake, the Meteorological Department recorded one hundred aftershocks. Life is, in a word, unstable. 

Earthquake affected communities are now challenged with restoring their lives and carving out a living for themselves. We channelled a modest amount of funds to support initial search and rescue efforts immediately following the June 5th incidence. We now urge you to consider making a contribution to ease the hardship felt by these communities in the aftermath of the earthquake.

* Note: All donations made to this project during the month of July 2015 will be channelled to support grieving families, families of those dependent on Mount Kinabalu who have lost their source of income, and other affected families in the process of recovering from the devastating effects of the earthquake.

* Photos courtesy of Julia Chan.

Local guides instrumental in search and rescue.
Local guides instrumental in search and rescue.
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.

 
   

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