Beahrs ELP Blog

Final Synthesis of the ELP

by Zhe Sun, China, ELP 2015
Written on July 18, 2015.

At the very beginning of my final blog post, I need to express my gratitude to the University of California, Berkeley who gave me such an excellent chance to learn the cutting-edge knowledge of environmental sciences and sustainable management. Thanks for the ELP (Environmental Leadership Program) that led me into the advanced leadership cultivation. Thanks to the directors and officers who have given me so much help. Thanks to all the participants who were so willing to communicate with me and thus have helped improve my English expression and listening skills significantly. Thanks to Berkeley, the charming city with fresh air and a comfortable temperature.


When looking back on the 21-day program, there are numerous stories that is worthy of being recalled over and over again. We held a series of extracurricular activities and parties to help us know each other more deeply. We attended various courses on environmental sciences, management, communication and marketing, which have developed a comprehensive learning system for me, and for us all of course. We participated in four field trips totally, which impressed us a lot. We enjoyed the class, the lecture, the group work and the beautiful scenery of San Francisco and Berkeley. We learned from the lecturers, from the professors and from each other.



When we were approaching the end of our program, I made Chinese Character Name Cards for every participant and ELP team staff member. It is a little gift from China, not only expressing my gratitude to everyone here, especially the “glue” – the staff, but also conveys my hope and welcome that all the participants in the program can leave for China someday. Without everyone’s special care for the most little rookie – me, I can never catch up with the professors’ lectures and the cooperative workshops out of my lack of proficiency in using English. With the countless help from any warm-hearted friends like Brittany Berger and patient program coordinators like Anita, Mio, Megan, Renata and so on, I believe I have made quite significant improvements in using English. Now I can understand the whole lecture easily, and express my own opinion smoothly and accurately.

It is the ELP who has taught me the “real” English in the round. It is ELP who has helped me to find my confidence both in English and environmental sciences back. It is ELP who has established firm relationship among over thirty countries. It is ELP who has lit me up, in my subject, and maybe in my career, in my life.

Institutional Innovations for sustainable use of water resources within the agricultural sector in developing countries

by Zipora Awuor Otieno, Kenya, ELP 2015
Written on July 29, 2015.

Agriculture is by far the largest sector with respect to water use, accounting for about 70% of all the worldwide water withdrawn from rivers and aquifers for agricultural, domestic and industrial purposes (WWDR, 2014). In most developing countries around the world, irrigation represents up to 95% of all the withdrawn water, and plays a major role in food production and hence food security. It is projected that by the year 2020, between 75 and 250 million people in Africa may be affected by acute shortages of water, thereby reducing agricultural productivity by up to 50%. In contrast however, climate change adaptation strategies of many developing countries, especially in the arid and semi-arid tropics continue to depend heavily on the possibility of maintaining, improving and expanding irrigated agriculture; this option may not be sustainable in the long-term. Ideally, as the pressure on finite water resources increases due to rapid population growth and industrial development, irrigated agriculture continues to face growing stiff competition from other water-use sectors and is becoming a threat to the environment in more and more regions.

It is against this backdrop that water-use efficiency within the agricultural sector is becoming an increasingly important issue. As a matter of fact, climate change adaptation strategies and technologies that focus on more sustainable and efficient water-use rather than the expansion of irrigated farmlands are undoubtedly required and must be explored. Even though scientists have attempted to develop innovations aimed at increasing water-use efficiency at the farm level, most of these have been technological in nature, with very little attention to institutional innovations. In particular, previous research efforts have focused on the advancement of soil-water conservation measures such as conservation tillage. While these and other techniques have played a critical role in reducing water loss, empirical evidence suggests that the adoption and utilization of such techniques is still relatively low in sub-Saharan Africa compared to other regions. Moreover, the potential for institutional innovations in water use efficiency still remains untapped, not only in Africa but in other parts of the world as well. A clarion call to develop institutional innovations for water resource management is therefore urgently required and must be explored.

At present, many developing countries (in Africa) continue to rely heavily on rain-fed and irrigated agriculture for food production, despite the evident water scarcity threat posed by the global climate change. This trend is particularly more pronounced in sub-Saharan Africa where agriculture is the main source of livelihood for most people. In view of the predicted negative climatic developments, such adaptation measures run the risk of being inadequate, and consequently require improvement and widening. Furthermore, in several parts of the world, it is clearly evident that the finite water resources such as rivers and lakes are at risk of depletion due to over-exploitation majorly by farming-related activities. If current trends continue, such practices may lead to serious consequences for the already stressed aquifers and hydrological systems. Some of the salient questions that the aforementioned research agenda ought to address include:

  1. Are technological innovations more effective than current and emerging innovative institutional models for water resource management in the agricultural sector?
  2. What strategies can be adopted to foster large-scale adoption of institutional innovations for water resource management in the agricultural sector?
  3. What practical model can be used to analyze the adoption of innovative institutional models for water resource management at the farm level?


by Bishawjit Mallick, Bangladesh, ELP 2015
Written on July 15, 2015.

The author holds a research associate position at the Institute for Regional Science at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany and also works as Foreign Research Fellow at Vanderbilt University, USA. He has long-standing research experience in Bangladesh and is an expert in environmentally-induced migration, social vulnerability and disaster risk-management. His present research includes disaster resilient societies, migration-poverty-adaptation nexus, and community resilience building through spatial planning.

I am not a blogger, I cannot write what I want to say, but I am forcedly motivated to write a blog. What I should write and how my story will be a story for others, I do not have any idea! However, I have seen in TV shows (American Idol) – that one IDEA can change your LIFE. This is TRUE for them, who are born leaders, but for a person like me, who always struggles to find the leader in myself to come forward –an IDEA is more than a DREAM! Anyway, I have to tell a tale. Truly speaking, I was thinking, should I write about my volunteerism as a photographer during the ELP, like “Learning behind the lens!” or should I write “Am I really qualified enough to be leader?” or should I write something about the “dreaming and drinking at UC Berkeley campus.” Are they important for the BEAHRS future fellow? I was at stake!

I started to think, why should I not share some experiences of my work.

I have learned about the aftermath consequences of cyclone Aila (2009) in Bangladesh ( It was not a big cyclone at all, but the aftermath inundation created creeping problems to the physical, social, economic and even cultural environment of the affected society ( My 6 data collectors and I were the victims of cyclone Aila and were not able to have any cooked food for 3 days!


During such a disastrous period, GOs and NGOs came forward. Usually they tried their best to reduce the causalities, fatalities and aftermath problems. I am not going to go into details of the role of the government here, but I am trying to dig out the role of NGOs, what I have observed, researched and noticed during my 6 month long field stay immediate after Aila. What were the roles of NGOs in Bangladesh to combat cyclone Aila?

There are more than 30,000 registered NGOs in Bangladesh, and all of them are contributing to the development process of the nation at their best level since their inception in mainstreaming to alleviate poverty of the country.

The devastation caused by cyclone Aila attracted many NGOs in the area. NGOs distributed potable water during the emergency as well as distributed tanks for rainwater harvesting. In fact, NGOs did far more than reported here at the household level. They built community structures such as PSFs and dug deep tube wells. Aila, especially, has been a wakeup call as a large number of ponds were flooded with seawater, destroying a vital source. It resulted in a heightened awareness of the vulnerability of these populations and the need to find solutions (


They provide both the monetary and material supports to the underprivileged people and also take the initiative to uplift the victims of natural disasters. However, their contribution is acknowledged most of the time separately or even not been controlled by the respective government authorities, as there exists very few cooperation amongst them and consequently overlap their activities. Accordingly, the poor segments of the disaster-affected communities are more privileged due to the mandates of the involved NGOs. Sometimes, the post-disaster activities help those NGOs to find new clients for their development programs, particularly for their micro-credit activities. Though the micro-credit program is very successful in Bangladesh and acknowledged by the novel prize (, it slows the social equality, disharmonizes the social structure and breaks up the community accountability. Actually, micro-credit ensures the upgrade of the livelihoods of those who have the capability to articulate and to manage that credit for small entrepreneurships development. But, those who fail to carry out these rationalities are victimized and fall into the circle of credit, and finally, have to leave the community. They are, sometimes, called ‘climate refugees’ ( The Asian Development Bank (ADB) reported that more than 30 million people were displaced last year by environmental and weather-related disasters across Asia ( Scientists also projected that tens of millions more people are likely to be similarly displaced in the future due to climate change induced extreme events, such as cyclones, drought, floods, etc.

All of these situations induced from disasters lead to a paradigm shift of risk management from vulnerability analysis to resilience building. However, there is more room than ever before for addressing the issues of risk reduction for the poor. This is also in consonance with the paradigm shift in the mainstream development practice, which is now characterized by an emphasis on good governance, accountability and a greater focus on bottom-up approaches. The development efforts undertaken and the services provided through NGOs satisfy some of the demands of the people and curtail pressure on the constrained budgets of the local government bodies. However, the rural development programs undertaken by different non-governmental organizations are scattered and uncoordinated. Though, a national NGO Coordination Committee on Disaster Management chaired by the Director General of the Disaster Management Bureau provides a mechanism for coordination of Government and NGO activities. If arranged methodically, volunteerism can make significant differences to the lives of the rural poor in a country like Bangladesh, where governmental resources are scarce but the people are basically altruistic.

How effective are private and NGO initiatives for disaster management? How are they perceived by the disaster mitigation program (DMP)? What types of activities are undertaken by the NGOs? What are the consequences of their DMP interventions to the society?

Looking at the Future

david 1
David Zilberman is a co-director of the Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program. He is a professor and holds the Robinson Chair in the Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics at UC Berkeley. He has served as a consultant to the World Bank, the USDA, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the Environmental Protection Agency, Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research and the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
by David Zilberman

As we celebrated our 15th anniversary, in human terms, the ELP is a teenager approaching adulthood. All together, we have had a happy childhood, with nurturing and supporting parents (the CNR, the Beahrs family and our other friends), and we have already built a wonderful alumni base. But that will allow us to expand, grow and contribute to the change. In addition, the ELP has a young and very dynamic sibling, the Master of Development Practice (MDP); there are synergies between the programs in terms of curriculum and personnel. The synergies between the programs will allow both of them to flourish. Finally, the ELP is now becoming part of CNR’s International & Executive Programs (IEP). The new home will bring an extended family that will include excellent environmental training.

Robin Marsh, Svetlana, and David Zilberman in Russia 2005.

Robin Marsh, Svetlana Chernikova, and David Zilberman in Russia 2005.

As we look into the future, it is clear that the summer program will continue to be a core event of the IEP, but I expect to see several other events that will enrich the ELP family and benefit the world. First, we have had several attempts to build affiliated ELP programs; the one in Russia was the most successful but unfortunately did not last, after the passing of Dr. Svetlana Chernikova. But we would strive to think about alternative models. For example, we may consider having two ELP annual programs, one in Berkeley and the other rotating across locations. The program does not need to be of the same length, and the rotating program may be specialized. I always welcome your input and suggestions for new programs.

Second, the current ELP mostly targets international students, and it is quite extensive, providing an excellent introduction to the Berkeley community. We may consider a shorter summer program that will be aimed at the ELP alumni and the whole Berkeley alumni community. It can be a one-week refresher of environmental and international problems that will combine cutting-edge knowledge with Berkeley fun! Such a program can integrate the ELP and CNR communities with the whole Berkeley community, and hopefully yield useful partnerships.

Third, the ELP as well as CNR’s IEP will aim to offer educational programs that will foster life-long learning opportunities to our alumni. The fast development in technology and policy, new tools, as well as emerging challenges require professionals to update themselves, and we believe that the CNR and the ELP can be in the frontier to provide the training, both on campus and globally.

Biotech Panel at ELP 2002.

Biotech Panel at ELP 2002.

Finally, this future vision is ambitious but achievable. A key immediate challenge is to improve the communication and collaboration among all of us; it is to take advantage of our means of communication like the blog, the newsletter, and encourage the members of our alumni to engage in initiatives that will allow us to come together and start new projects. I believe that the IEP, under the leadership of Mio Katayama Owens, and Dean Gilless, CNR and of course, Dick Beahrs and our other friends, will be supportive of sound initiatives that will allow the ELP to grow. We would appreciate feedback and concrete proposals on how to enhance communication and interactions, ideas for new projects and even identifying new sources for support. I believe that together, we can make the world a better place.

ELP’s Future with International and Executive Programs

mio 1
Mio Katayama Owens, Ph. D., is the director of the International and Executive Programs (IEP). Building on the outstanding success of the Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program, IEP functions as a mechanism for effectively linking academic and professional entities, developing non-degree professional programs in Berkeley and overseas.
by Mio Katayama Owens

Dear ELP Alumni and Friends,

This year marks both the Beahrs ELP’s 15th anniversary and its first year as member of International and Executive Programs (IEP). I am excited to join the ELP at this important junction in its history. Now more than ever, we need to prioritize global education, to connect thinkers and movers, and to inspire innovations in the face of critical changes to our natural and social environments.

The College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley has always produced groundbreaking research, but 15 years ago, ELP’s co-director David Zilberman had a realization that “many practitioners in the environmental field could benefit from the extra knowledge and skills that Berkeley has.” To meet this need, the Beahrs ELP was conceptualized and founded by David, Dick Beahrs, Robin Marsh and many other contributors. Their efforts were instrumental in nurturing the ELP from a 3-day program with 9 participants to the comprehensive, 3-week program it is today. The potential for growth was boundless, and the College decided to do more. In 2013, IEP was established to give the College more channels to extend its research to scholars, practitioners, professionals and executives.

IEP upholds the mission of the College of Natural Resources of “[serving] society by generating and disseminating knowledge in the biological, physical, and social sciences in order to provide the tools both to protect the Earth’s natural resources and ensure economic and ecological sustainability for future generations” through non-degree training programs. For example, we have organized programs on climate and energy policy and spatial data science, bringing practitioners around the globe to Berkeley and engage with our experts.

2015 UC Davis and Philippines

2015 UC Davis visit with representative from the Department of Agriculture of the Philippines

We also collaborate with government agencies and companies to design programs that cater to their specific needs. In 2013 and 2015, we brought representatives from the Department of Agriculture of the Philippines to Berkeley for two courses on the intersections between climate change, agriculture and livestock. With our colleagues at UC Davis, we organized field trips and workshops to bolster the livestock industry in the Philippines. This wonderful program was only possible because of Ruth Miclat-Sonaco, one of the ELP alumni who wanted to promote sustainable agriculture within her agency.

This fall, we are hosting buyers and managers from Costco Wholesale for a program on Organic Agriculture that is designed to support informed decision making regarding sustainable food. They are learning from our experts such as Claire Kremen and David Zilberman on issues such as diversified farming systems and drought. These programs allow us to translate CNR’s expertise into action to support the health of people, environments, and economies around the world.

The Beahrs ELP joined our family of programs this year. Through this union, we have increased ability to reach more professionals on the development of specific knowledge base and skills. Your advice will be invaluable to the development of new initiatives, and I am excited to hear from you about the types of programs that would allow you to acquire new skills and explore new topics. My hope is that IEP continues to expand and deepen its collaborations, to build on past successes and come up with creative ways to disseminate knowledge. I look forward to engaging with you as we celebrate this year, and many fruitful years to come.


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