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?

The Last Drop of Hope

by Bernis Cunningham, Nicaragua, ELP 2015
Written on July 27, 2015.

When I was accepted to attend UC Berkeley, I knew it was a great opportunity. The College of Natural Resources at Berkeley is ranked number one in the world. I knew I was going to one of the best institutions of higher education on earth. I packed my bag and I flew from Managua, Nicaragua to San Francisco. I then took the BART to Downtown Berkeley. Some hippies helped me on my way to Foothill where I would be living, because my phone was off and I had no directions. I went to UC Berkeley to learn how to stop environmental destruction.

We all know that the world has a big problem. Between climate change, global warming, and environmental destruction there is a lot to be done. This process is going forward; humanity is not going to stop until we have irreversible devastation and destruction.

In this reality I decided to become an environmental lawyer, to protect and defend the interest of the natural resources. My clients are water, trees, air, soil, birds, living things and biodiversity. I work as CEO of CAC Consultora Legal. We are trying to use the rules of the capitalist system and the law of the market to benefit the protection and conservation of the environment and human sustainable development. We are developing business projects such as (recycling, sustainable tourism, sustainable construction, agroecology, etc.)

In Nicaragua we have many problems with solid waste management1. The system of waste management and garbage trucks only work in 75 of the 153 municipalities in the country. In these 75 municipalities, 94% of the solid waste is discarded in open waste dumps or they are burned to reduce their volume. They do not have any special waste treatment programs in place. We are challenged to develop a business model that is profitable, successful and can be duplicated. We are going to start the project in two schools in the city of Granada. We have approximately 2,000 students that will be participating in the program. We will teach the students how to recycle and reduce the solid waste. We are going to emphasize the importance of recycling in the entire country. The company has plans to produce energy with compost that is collected weekly. We are also looking to produce new products with aluminum and plastic bottles as well as recycled paper. We have the land, a business plan and a 3-year strategy to start cleaning the lakes, educating children and making money at the same time.


In the Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program I was given the opportunity to learn about other programs that are being developed all over the world. I learned collaboration skills, how to negotiate with different stakeholders, how to communicate efficiently and how to develop a marketing strategy.

The best thing I got from the experience at UC Berkeley, besides the knowledge and skills, was the relationships that began to develop while I was there. I met Professor David Zilberman who is an example of academic excellence as well as a caring human being. The ELP Team (Anita, Renata, Mio, Mariko, Megan, and Donna) made the experience perfect by making me feel at home. I also met Dean Keith Gilless, great man, full of history, knowledge and humility. Also, Professor Thomas Azwell has given me the best advice and changed my mindset in relation to waste management and the recycling process in schools. Of course I can’t forget my classmates, my new friends.

I learned that there are no African people, no European people, no Latin American people, no Asian people, they are just people. People that cry, people with love, people with dreams, people that scream, people that live. These environmental leaders taught me so much; they taught me that in the world there is still one last drop of hope.


Lactating Mother and Environmental Leadership

by Mphatso Chapotera, Malawi, ELP 2015
Written on July 16, 2015.

The reality is: I gave birth to a beautiful girl on May 13th, 2015 and left my six-week old baby with my mother in Malawi to attend a summer course in Sustainable Environmental Management, the Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program, at UC Berkeley. I feel that it was one of the most challenging decisions I have ever made in my life. Right now, you may be asking yourself many questions as to why I sacrificed my family priorities for the sake of my career.

I still remember the day, back when I opened my inbox and downloaded a letter of offer for an advanced science training from AWARD (African Women in Agricultural Research and Development) to come to UC Berkeley. At that time, I was heavily pregnant. After opening the email I did not know what to do. I went home and shared the news with my family in order to get an answer because AWARD was waiting for my acceptance email. Nobody gave me a concrete answer. The next day I took courage and shared the good news with my boss, he was very supportive and wondered how I will manage to attend the course with a baby on my way. After negotiations with my family, I decided to go ahead with my decision of building my career.

During the three weeks of ELP, I have formed bonds, relationships and funny enough, potential collaborators and business partners. We laughed, hugged, cried together and exchanged great ideas with people from all over the world. We did not just learn to be collaborative environmental leaders; we also learned how to be better versions of ourselves. Before ELP, I thought that I had found my passion, my path in life and my destiny, but I was greatly mistaken. I have just awakened the sleeping giant in me. I have been opened up to a “new me.” I am going back a motivated person ready to compete with men for top leadership positions better than before (my profession is male dominated). Last but not least, I would like to thank AWARD for sponsoring me to go to the ELP summer course this year. Though I am excited to hold my beautiful daughter again, I will always remember that “you never really graduate from ELP.” That is why I sacrificed my family priorities for the sake of my career.

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