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Rivers for Life

by Gabriela Ponce Guerrero, Ecuador (in Switzerland), ELP 2015
Written on July 18, 2015.

One of the lectures I enjoyed the most was the one given by Professor Vincent Resh on water and environmental leadership. I consider managing freshwater resources to be one of the most vital, not only environmental, but also social problems we are currently facing. I have had the opportunity to research the impacts of river regulation and fragmentation on the ecological integrity on riverine ecosystems. Despite being familiar with many of the concepts presented, I found it fascinating to hear more about the biological components. Once you understand that leaves are the main energy source in rivers, you realize how important it is to protect the riparian vegetation. After briefly going through some of the science behind the differences between rivers and lakes, Professor Resh shared some of the principles necessary for a community based water management: (1) having a “shared vision of a community’s water future”; (2) putting limits on water consumption; (3) allocating specific amounts to each use; (4) investing in water conservation to its maximum potential. We also had a lively discussion around the principles based on the challenges and insights some of the participants have encountered in their carriers or studies. Building on that, I would like to share some of my thoughts on freshwater management.

Impacts on the world’s large river systems due to fragmentation and regulation by dams [Nilsson et al., 2005]. Source: GWSP Digital Water Atlas (2008). Map 25: River Fragmentation by Dams.

Impacts on the world’s large river systems due to fragmentation and regulation by dams [Nilsson et al., 2005]. Source: GWSP Digital Water Atlas (2008). Map 25: River Fragmentation by Dams.

Rivers have been extensively altered to support economic and social development. Modifying rivers has provided benefits such as reliable water supply, reducing flood hazards, and generating hydroelectric power. Environmental and social implications were often not taken into consideration during planning and construction phases, causing the displacement of 40 to 80 million people worldwide and leading to significant degradation and loss of species and ecosystems. Furthermore, there are major challenges river scientists will have to face like adapting the science and practice of water management to climate change and its consequences. Moreover, growing population will result in higher pressure on water resources. It is crucial to recognize the water needs of riverine ecosystems themselves. Failing to see rivers as legitimate water, users could undermine their integrity leading to their deterioration which will result in rivers being unable to provide their multiple ecosystem services. It has been suggested that one of the most effective ways of tacking these challenges is to restore rivers, since healthy rivers are naturally more resilient to change.

The History of Modern Wildlife Conservation in Ethiopia

by Kumara Wakjira, Ethiopia, ELP 2015
Written on October 26, 2015.

The beginning of the modern wildlife conservation movement in Ethiopia back in the 1960’s laid down a foundation for the birth of modern concepts of nature and natural resource conservation, including the thought of cultural conservation in the country.

At its 12th session of the General Conference that was held from November 9th to December 12th, 1962 in Paris, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopted two motions with regard to the conservation of nature and natural resources. The first resolution was concerned about the economic development and conservation of natural resources, flora and fauna. Its essence was to consider the importance of natural resources conservation, flora and fauna, for sustainable economic development of countries and the benefits of their population. Thus, the General Conference urged all member states, particularly the developing countries to pay due attention to the conservation, restoration and enrichment of their natural resources, flora and fauna, while UNESCO and the competent international organizations should give their fullest support to the developing countries in the conservation, restoration and enrichment of their natural resources at their request. The second motion was concerned about the safeguarding of the beauty and character of landscapes and sites, with consideration to their aesthetic and cultural values.

The Ethiopian Delegations to the General Conference of UBESCO had given their fullest support to these motions through the then minister of Agriculture and head of the delegation, H. E. Mr. Akalework Habtewold. Subsequently, the minister requested assistance from UNESCO in the field of natural resources, flora and fauna, conservation in Ethiopia. In his letter, the minister pointed out that “it is our wish to manage and develop national parks and wildlife reserves to ensure the preservation of our flora and fauna, to provide centers of biological and ecological research and contribute to the growth of the national economy, especially through tourism development and game cropping.” UNESCO decided to support the request, and organized five members of the mission to Ethiopia following the invitation of His Imperial Majesty the Emperor.

Right after attending the 8th General Assembly of IUCN which was held in Nairobi, the group proceeded from Nairobi to Addis Ababa on Sept 25th, 1963. The mission was comprised of Sir Julian Huxley, a former Director-General of UNESCO from London (the head of the mission); Prof. Th. Monod at the Museum of National d’histoire Naturalle of Paris and Director of the Institut franqais d’Afrique noire, from Paris and Dakar; Mr. L. Swift, former Director of the Division of Wildlife Management, U.S. Department of Agriculture; Dr. E.B. Worthington, Deputy Director of the Nature Conservancy of London; and Mr. Monsieur Alain Gille, UNESCO Science Officer for Africa. The mission was received by His Imperial Majesty the Emperor and exchanged ideas. Also, the mission visited some relevant institutions in Addis Ababa, including the Institute of Archaeology, the Office of Tourism, the Haile Selassie I University and the Ministry of Agriculture. For seven consecutive days, starting on September 26th, 1963, the mission conducted intensive field trips across the countries, encompassing Awash, Jima, Maji, the north end of Lake Rudolf, Omo River Delta, Lake Stefanie, Rift Valley Lakes, the Blue Nile Gorges, Lake Tana and Mount Simien Massif. Mr. Wolde Michael Kelecha, the then Director of Forestry and Game accompanied the mission on all its field visits.

Then, the team realized that Ethiopia supports a remarkable varieties of wildlife species, including extraordinary landscape features and unique cultural values, but lacked appropriate technical expertise to deal with the conservation matters. Thus, the team recommended given the country’s endowments with such high endemism and tremendous potential of natural resources which can be the basis for flourishing tourist industry, immediate and long-term conservation plans should be developed and implemented with the support of international organizations.

Following these recommendations, a semi-autonomous conservation organization came into being under the Ministry of Agriculture in 1965. The first national park, Awash, was created in 1966. An English man, John Blower, was recruited from East Africa to advise on wildlife conservation and management in Ethiopia. Then after, about 55 wildlife Protected Areas were designated with respect to the criteria of the IUCN management categories, comprising of national parks (22), sanctuaries (2), wildlife reserves (6), controlled hunting areas (18), biosphere reserves (4) and Community Conservation Areas (3). According the existing wildlife act, regulation and policy, inside the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, human activities including hunting, cultivating, grazing, settling in, burning vegetation, deforestation or exploiting other natural resources is strictly prohibited. Inside the rest of the Protected Areas, access to natural resources use may be allowed under regulatory procedures on sustainable basis. In total, the current size of Protected Areas System represents about 6.7% of the total land mass of the country. All of the ten major ecosystems of the country have been represented in these Protected Areas Network, providing environmental goods and services for the citizens, and even including the population beyond the political boundary. These Protected Areas are managed by Governments (Federal and Regional), communities and hunting companies, including co-management partnerships with NGOs, following the principles of participatory approaches. In general, the current wildlife policy and strategies of Ethiopia allow both modes of wildlife resource uses: consumptive and non consumptive utilizations pertaining to the stipulation of the existing rule and regulation.

A reflection about leadership tools for the battle against climate change in the electricity sector

by Ioana Bejan, Romania (in Denmark), ELP 2015
Written on July 21, 2015.

“Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system.” ( Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis, Summary for policymakers)

Renewable energy sources continue to expand their shares globally. Yet 80% of total energy consumption still comes from fossil fuel combustion There are encouraging developments globally especially due to recent innovations and cost decrease for solar and wind power technologies.

I arrived confident at UC Berkeley few weeks ago. After all, I am studying in Denmark and working in Germany. Both Denmark and Germany have set ambitious targets both in terms of GHG reduction and renewable energy deployment and statistically, both countries are on the right path to achieve their goals.

Without any doubt, the energy transition in Germany serves as an important test case for the rest of the world. However, part of the success in statistics is overshadowed by the increasing dissatisfaction in some communities, where onshore wind farms have been built.

In the second week of the ELP I found myself challenged by Dr. Ernesto Sirolli’s speech: “you shouldn’t go where you are not wanted.” I was intrigued because I never doubted that climate change is a serious threat and that renewable energy deployment should have priority. Can we afford to wait for communities to ask for clean electricity?

The answer to my question came during Susan Carpenter’s lectures on Collaborative Leadership for Sustainable Change. A key component is often missing from project planning. It is not enough to identify project sites and give incentives to the private sector to develop the projects. In order to accept change, the community has to be integrated in the process.

A collaborative process involves all major stakeholders, is context specific and focuses on participants’ interests rather than their positions. Participants show mutual respect, educating each other about the problem and the leadership is committed and facilitative. Decisions should be made in consensus as opposed to voting. Following these key principles, stakeholders will own the process and the solution. It is therefore critical that not only public and private actors, but also community representatives are involved in the process and decide for themselves whether a project is acceptable or not. Using a collaborative approach requires that more time be allocated in planning renewable energy projects. However, sustainable local practices create acceptance and avoid future tensions.

This is the most important lesson that I will take with me from the ELP. I strongly believe that in the case of renewable energy deployment, local solutions solve global problems.

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?

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