Beahrs ELP Blog

My Experience at the ELP

by Ana Herrera, Mexico, ELP 2015
Written on July 18, 2015.

ana 2As an economist I have worked on Poverty and Climate Change issues for 5 years. At the beginning, I worked only in macroeconomics and statistics issues. However, I gradually became interested in environmental and poverty issues and the impacts that climate change has on the most vulnerable people. It made me conscious about the importance of studying the effects that climate change produces in human life. At the same time, that led me to focus on the causes and consequences of conflicts between human and environment. Over the last years I have been involved in activities with an NGO in Oaxaca State (Mexico). During this time, the understanding of social organization among environmental activities made me think about the importance of the participation of local communities in climate change issues. I find this experience as one of the most wonderful experiences in my career.

The first time that I heard about the ELP was in 2012, when my thesis adviser attended this course. Since the beginning, I found this program very interesting so I started to prepare myself for the application. Being a participant of the ELP was a great experience in my life, especially because this summer was the 15th anniversary of the program. The ELP gave me the opportunity to know wonderful people, share knowledge and improve my skills of communication and collaboration. Furthermore, I observed and comprehended many of the problems that each of us was facing in our projects, and it was very nice to see how everybody helped each other to solve it.

ana 1I have to say that ELP participants inspire me to keep going on, and I am very sure that all the tools that I got from the meetings in this course will help in my current and future work in climate change issues. Specifically, it will be an essential key to do activities with different kinds of stakeholders (communities, public and private sectors, universities, NGOs, and so on). On the other hand, I see my experience as an opportunity to share this new knowledge with more people in my country. This program generates a friendly space to discuss, exchange ideas, and make new friends from around the world. At the same time, the ELP gives us the chance to interact with many professors from UC Berkeley in order to share our experiences and face our challenges. ELP, thank you very much for this effort that you make to meet us. We have a lot of work to do about climate change, now it is time to take action.

Are we really sure that children can influence their families’ environmental behavior?

by Chiara Manghetti, Italy, ELP 2015
Written on July 28, 2015.

chiara 1
In the marketing world children’s “pester power,” the power that children have on parents to determine certain choices, is well known and used to address consumer choice. Just watch the advertisements on TV and you will realize that the main target of most products like breakfast cereals, snacks, clothes and schools supplies are children, not adults. Consumer research has reveled some time ago that kids have significant influence over decisions about products that they will primarily be using (Mangleburg, 1990).

But not only the marketing industry is using kids’ power to influence their families’ choices. Environmental educators are often targeting children, especially through school projects aiming to change environmental behaviors in adults. But are we really sure that this strategy works?

In the last years, different researchers have tried to answer to this question. While it has been proven by different researchers that parents’ knowledge of a certain environmental issue increases when their children are participating in environmental education projects (for example: Rakotomanonjy et al., 2015), it is difficult to find empirical evidence to substantiate that the children will also influence their parent’s behavior. Studies like “Impact of an environmental education program on students’ and parents’ attitudes, motivation, and behaviors” (Legault et al., 2000.) conclude that environmental education programs in schools do not have any impact on students’ parents’ behaviors. Moreover, school programs that deliberately extend action from kids to parents (for example one involving kids as “green police” and asking children to “punish” parents that do not comply certain environmental behaviors) have instead caused some adults to become defensive by creating an oppositional relationship. We all know that shame rarely motivates and leads to behavioral changes.

So as environmental leaders, should we give up the plan to change people’s behavior through environmental education programs? As an environmental educator, I would never say that. I truly believe in the power of education, both short term and long term. But I definitely think that as leaders we should be less naive about the power of education programs targeting schoolchildren and be more skilled on defining an environmental education strategy to target our audiences. In my opinion, if we really want to change families’ environmental behaviors, we should involve families directly in our programs, encouraging dialogue and building skills. An idea would be to have parents participating actively in locally restoring actions with their kids and local community, or simply having parents as helpers during programs in the field.


Legault, Louise; Pelletier, Luc G.Canadian “Impact of an environmental education program on students’ and parents’ attitudes, motivation, and behaviors.” Journal of Behavioural Science/Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement, Vol 32(4), Oct 2000, 243-250.

Mangleburg, T. “Children’s Influence in Purchase Decisions: A Review and Critique”. Advances in Consumer Research 17 (1990): 813-825.

Rakotomamonjy, S. N., Jones, J. P. G., Razafimanahaka, J. H., Ramamonjisoa, B. and Williams, S. J. (2015), “The effects of environmental education on children’s and parents’ knowledge and attitudes towards lemurs in rural Madagascar”. Animal Conservation, 18: 157–166. doi: 10.1111/acv.12153

Refreshing and Generating Knowledge to Well-Managed Water Service and Marine Protected Areas in Madagascar

by Luciano Andriamaro, Madagascar, ELP 2015
Written on August 6, 2015.

As the person in charge of one department at an international NGO, Conservation International…

As the person responsible of at least 3 associations working on environment and health…

As a member of the international platform and network belonging to UNEP and a national representative of international convention…

After my self-evaluation, I am convinced that I am still weak at leadership, even though all activities that I was leading reached the desired outcomes. This is the beginning of my story with the ELP because the summer course offered by UC Berkeley corresponded to my need.

From the ridge to the reef
With my background in freshwater biology, my organization assigned me as the head of an entire project on wetland conservation and marine activities. This role did not carry me on to the sinking or drowning but allowed me to become closer to local communities in the wetland and marine sites where CI has been supported. I was working with Birdlife International and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust for the protection of the natural infrastructure from the watershed to the coastal ecosystem in the Western (Mahavavy-Kinkony Complex), Southern (Mangoky-Ihotry Complex), Eastern (Nosivolo River) and Northern (Ambodivahibe) regions of Madagascar. My adventure required a passion and a big convection because all of those sites are not easily accessible and some of them are only reachable by at least two days of walking. Because of their importance to biodiversity and natural capital, those wetland and marine sites represent the wealth of our country. From the Sakalava Rail and Madagascar Fish Eagle to the Songatagna and Napoleon fish, the diversity of wildlife in the four sites is breathtaking. This is why the protection of those sites is very crucial. Despite the long process for protected area implementation, since three months ago, these sites have definitive status of protection.

luciano 1

Bottom-up approach to becoming Ramsar sites and LMMA1
My main occupation during this project supporting wetland and marine sites is to work closely with local communities. To convince people in the remote areas with different cultures was not a gift, but my satisfaction during my fieldwork was the local community’s ownership of all activities undertaking in those sites. Can you imagine the youngest and the oldest people to “slam” endangered species and the importance of conservation during the World Wetland Day or during the fishing opening? All initiatives came from them and they are jealous of their wealth. This motivation has led to the nomination of Nosivolo River in September 2010 and the Kinkony Lake in June 2012 as Ramsar sites. For Ambodivahibe, after an exchange-visit of local communities in Andavadoaka, south of Madagascar, they decided to implement LMMA in 2009. Keeping incentives and sustainability of livelihood for the local communities is a way to involve them in the management of the sites and remind them that those four sites are protected areas.

luciano 2

I was grateful to be with ELP Program, a way to improve my work…
Given this stage is completed in developing a country, the current situation deserves to be improved, acknowledging the progress of technology and the universal approaches. So, what a good reason to attend this summer course, the ELP, at UC Berkeley! With detailed information on environmental policy, different faces of economic development through agriculture and farming, climate change and carbon, I can improve my approach on working with local communities with sustainable livelihood activities. Our main concern in the site is around the market access for community products, so the workshop on corporate and company with marketing sessions might help me to solve these problems with communities. Apart from the lectures, exchanges with participants from all continents in the world was the richest for me in terms of extent knowledge about the water-food-energy nexus with a representative from UN-Water in Germany and seascape and marine world heritage sites with a UNDP representative from Belize. The group of 40 multidisciplinary people was total in strong cohesion because the common interest is “Mother Nature.” They promised to keep in touch after the course, not only to continue the reflection as ELP Alumni, but also to share important documents and other exchange opportunities.

luciano 3

Particularly for me, being very far away from Berkeley, most of the participants only know my country through the movie “Madagascar.” My attendance was an opportunity for them to discover another shape of my island, rather than just the lone song “I like to move it, move it.”

1 Locally Marine Management Area

Reconciling agriculture and biodiversity conservation: the ‘land sparing, land sharing’ debate

by Catherine Gresty, United Kingdom, ELP 2015


One evening, towards the end of Susan Carpenter’s Collaborative Leadership training, I entered into a discussion with fellow ELP delegates from 8 different countries around the world. The focus of the discussion, one of the most important challenges facing environmental leaders today: how best to manage our agricultural land to meet food security objectives while limiting further detrimental impact on ecosystems.

The expansion and intensification of agriculture has had a pervasive effect on ecosystems throughout the world. Croplands and pastures now constitute one of the largest terrestrial biomes on the planet, occupying 40% of the total land surface at the loss of 70% of the world’s grasslands, 50% of savannas and 45% of temperate deciduous forest (Foley, 2011) (Ramankutty, 2008). Over the next 50 years, the global population is forecast to rise to 8-10 billion and food demand will increase 2-3 fold (FAO, 2003). Ecosystems and the biodiversity they harbor provide a range of services of direct importance to agriculture including nutrient cycling, climate regulation and pollination. As we enter the next episode of global agricultural expansion, it is crucial we develop strategies to conserve and protect these ecosystem functions services alongside meeting the growing demands of the global population.

I am an ecologist by training, currently completing a PhD at Oxford University on how best to manage farmland to conserve bee populations. My fellow ELP participants were economists and I decided to introduce to them the debate on ‘land sparing’ versus ‘land sharing’, which dominates the ecological literature on this topic. It provides an interesting framework for conceptualizing the potential solutions to this challenge and my fellow participants encouraged me to share it more widely with the ELP community.

In the ecological literature, two alternate strategies have been proposed for managing land to reconcile agricultural production and biodiversity conservation: ‘land sparing’ and ‘land sharing’ (Balmford, 2012). ‘Land sparing’ strategies focus on intensifying existing farmland, capitalizing on these yield increases to spare as much unmodified habitat as possible from conversion (Goklany I. M, 1998). In contrast, under ‘land sharing’ biodiversity conservation is integrated into agricultural management by making existing farmland more hospitable to wild species, for example by retaining habitat elements such as hedgerows and shade trees and minimizing the application of pesticides and fertilizers (Balmford, 2012) (Tscharntke T, 2012).

Figure 1 Diagram displaying gradient of land management strategies from land sharing to land sparing (Balmford et al, 2012)

Figure 1 Diagram displaying gradient of land management strategies from land sharing to land sparing (Balmford et al, 2012)

There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches and the optimum strategy, will inevitably vary according to the landscape and agricultural production system in question. In areas where there is still an abundance of natural habitat, land sparing may be a prudent strategy and has been demonstrated to be more effective in conserving specialist species that struggle to survive in sub-optimum habitat (Phalan, 2011). However, for land sparing to be effective, it is imperative that appropriate policies are put in place to ensure any gains in production from intensification on pre-existing farmland are actually translated into increases in the area of natural habitat being protected.

On the other hand, in areas where very few isolated and degraded patches of natural habitat remain, land sharing may be the best strategy to restore ecosystem functioning and service delivery at the landscape level (Tscharntke, 2012). Land sharing has the additional advantage of potentially creating greater levels of ecological connectivity across agricultural landscapes, facilitating the dispersal and migration of species. This is really important for maintaining the resilience of wild populations and facilitating range shifts in response to climate change. The major disadvantage of land sharing is that it is generally associated with decreases in agricultural yield, necessitating further conversion of unmodified habitats (Balmford, 2012).

Figure 2: Land Sparing – landscape of high yield farmland with protected areas of natural habitat set aside for biodiversity conservation

Figure 2: Land Sparing – landscape of high yield farmland with protected areas of natural habitat set aside for biodiversity conservation

Figure 3: Land Sharing example - coffee agroforestry, coffee grown in high diversity system that mimics natural forest structure

Figure 3: Land Sharing example – coffee agroforestry, coffee grown in high diversity system that mimics natural forest structure

Introduction to this debate ignited a really interesting discussion, exploring how these land management strategies might best be deployed to better reconcile agricultural production with environmental objectives. Most of my research has been in conducted in the UK where farmers are being encouraged to adopt land sparing strategies at the farm level (see figure 1c). It was fascinating to hear the opinions of my fellow ELP participants on the relative potential of these strategies to be deployed within their respective countries and crucially, how popular they might be with farmers.

Why stay and go until the end?

by Francisco Beduschi Neto, Brazil, ELP 2015


When I got the opportunity to come to Berkeley and study here, I was very excited. Firstly, I’ve always wanted to come to the USA to know more about this country and improve my English. Secondly, I would have the chance to study at a great university. Thirdly, this course will allow me to improve my skills in the areas that I need to lead in the coming years with the NGO that I work for. Finally, I had everything that I needed: I was accepted and had the money to come. So, with all these things, why did I want to give up and leave?

At my first day at UC Berkeley, I met a large group of my colleagues. Many of them had Masters or Ph.D. titles, and I thought that I would have to do my best to be among them. After this meeting, Professor David Zilberman took us on a short tour around the campus and talked a lot about Berkeley and how hard it is to study here, how rigorous they are with their students, and all the great awards their students bring back (like Nobel Peace Prizes). At the end, I was shocked and said to myself, “OH, this will be a tough challenge.” At the second day, we had the Three Bridges Tour of San Francisco and I had opportunity to pay attention to what people were talking about, their experience and their studies. By the end of the day, another thought came to my mind… “I will not be able to follow this group or our professors; I will only shame myself if I stay.” Since I had a plane ticket to visit a cousin in Montana, it would be much easier to give everything up, spend some vacation days in the United States and then go back to Brazil. Once I got back, I would think about repaying my employers for the money they spent on my education. All of this was going through my mind that Sunday.


However, when I woke up Monday morning I decided to at least experience the first class and see what would happen. After this, I did not give up, I persisted and went on with my studies and with each passing day, I felt more and more confident to participate, ask questions during class discussions with my colleagues and share my opinions. As I continued, more colleagues came to me to ask about my work and how Brazil is addressing environmental and other issues. By the end of the second week, I caught myself thinking, “Not only can I learn many things from the professors, the ELP staff and colleagues, but I can also contribute to others’ learning process”.

Now that we are at the end of the course, I think that I came for selfish reasons but stayed for much better ones. I did not want to disappoint my boss, a person that I really admire. He trusted me when he appointed me to come and said the office would pay for the costs. I want to be fair with my wife since I gave up family vacations so I could be here. Moreover, I want to be a strong and beautiful example for my daughter: life is tough and can really challenge you, but you can do the right thing if do your best and find what really motivates you to go on. My daughter was born with dyslexia and has huge problems with numbers and dates/timing, and this is something that she will need to deal with for her whole life. It will be much easier if she gives up and asks for help for everything, but this is not the future that I want for her, so I must do my part.

Here I have learned a lot, improved my skills, made a great network and great friends, but the most important thing that I learned here is about behavior. It does not matter what you are doing, you will find many reasons to give up, and most of them will come from yourself; but YOU NEED JUST ONE GOOD REASON TO GO ON, SO FIND IT AND FOCUS ON IT!!!

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