Beahrs ELP Blog

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.

Some thoughts about personally tests

by Mette Dam, Denmark, ELP 2015
Written on July 17, 2015.

Last week, I had the pleasure of spending three days together with Susan Carpenter. This was not just a pleasure because of Susan Carpenter’s delightful personality, but just as much due to the interesting program about collaborative leadership for sustainable change she had planned for us. We discussed what a good leader is made of and what kind of challenges a collaborative leader can meet and how to address them.

During the three days Susan Carpenter introduced us to a lot of different things and subjects we, as environmental leaders, need to address and take into account in our daily work. I especially enjoyed the session about different personalities and how to get the best out of it.

We started out by taking a personality test, showing that all people can be divided into 16 groups and 4 overall groups and how this also relates to our professional behavior. The division was based on, among others: the preference to either include details and facts in their work or to simply work with the overall picture and how they feel about deadlines.

By using the personality test as an example, Susan started a debate about how important it is to be aware that people differ and get motivated by different things. A good leader should know how to get the best out of each colleague.

It turned out that I am an idealist, which is a relative rare type as only 15 to 20 percent of the population is in this category. Idealists are described as people who always strive to discover who they are and how they can become the best possible self. Moreover, we like to focus more on what might be rather than what is, paying more attention to the overall picture instead of the details. Another important thing about the idealists is that we value relationships with other people high and we further believe that friendly cooperation is the best way for people to achieve their goals.

I really like to take these kind of tests and I was not surprised by the result as I get bored when I have to work with too many details; instead I prefer to work with the overall picture. What really drives me is to look for opportunities where I can develop my skills and become even better. However I do not believe that this is some kind of whole truth and that it actually is possible to divide people into certain groups.

However I still think this knowledge will be an effective tool for me in my further work, as I will pay more attention to the fact that everyone is not like me and I need to be more aware that we have different preferences and react differently. This simple test really showed the importance of knowing your colleagues and other people you interact with, in your professional career, and be aware of differences in preferences and how to appreciate and motivate them.

After the workshop with Susan Carpenter, I started to notice that our speakers fall into two overall groups: those who clarify their points by using a lot of detailed data and those who make the presentation way more personalized by constantly sharing their own experiences and stories in relation to the topics. I prefer the last one while one of my friends prefers the first approach. We can barely agree on which speaker did best. I have to remember this and incorporate way more data and details into my presentation in order to meet different types of people.



Management effects on Calf Performance in Smallholder Dairy Farms in Tanzania

by Jelly Chang’a, Tanzania, ELP 2015
Written on July 17, 2015.

In Tanzania, smallholder dairying is recognized as an important instrument of social economic improvement. The industry increases milk production and empowers women and youth in income generation. Despite the important role of the industry, farmers have continued to experience sub-optimal performance of their animals.


The future of small-scale dairy production depends, among other things, on the successful raising of calves and heifers for replacement. Important aspects in the calf rearing are health management and calves’ nutrition. Poor calf rearing practices, including underfeeding, have shown to result in high mortalities and poor growth rates. The overall effect is a lack of potential replacement heifers leading to low rate of herd growth and improvement. In Tanzania, calves, unfortunately, tend to be a neglected animal category on many small-scale dairy farms. Many of the smallholder dairy farms are smallholdings where farmers often lack the resources to develop the most effective rearing systems for young stock. Instead, their attention is primarily directed towards milk production, emphasizing feeding and managing their milking cows. Young stocks may receive insufficient attention because they do not generate income for many months. The use of farm-grown legume forages and home garden fodders can both satisfy the nutritional needs of the calves and also reduce calf-feeding cost. This is particularly relevant for resource-poor farmers. Fodder shrubs can also provide a range of other services, including soil conservation.



My passion is to provide training to smallholder farmers to manage their animals more effectively using low cost ingredients and establishing home garden fodders so as to achieve high productivity.


Connecting with Your Roots

by Gabriela Ponce Guerrero, Ecuador (in Switzerland), ELP 2015
Written on July 4, 2015.

“Take risks and follow your passions.” – Brittany Berger

gabi1The Muriqui monkeys are endangered species found only in the Atlantic Rain forest of southeast Brazil. Similar to humans, Muriquis work together and protect each other. They have been characterized as easygoing and highly cooperative. As with many other species, they have been severely affected by deforestation and forest fragmentation. Observing them in their natural environment and knowing their story was one of the most influential experiences for Brittany, which led her to love the forest and devote herself to several social and conservation programs.

gabi2Brittany is the Environmental and Social Project Coordinator of the Ibitipoca Reserve, recently appointed social director for REDE Ibitipoca, a unit of SEBRAE (Brazilian service of assistance to micro and small enterprises), and co-founder of the NGO Muriqui Institute for Biodiversity. All of these happened by chance. Brittany is a citizen of both the United States and Brazil. She was raised in the US and did not have the opportunity to connect with her roots until recently. After finishing college she decided to travel for six months in Brazil. She never imagined that she would end up staying.

Brittany believes ecotourism is a framework which can improve the quality of life of local communities and preserve the environment. In her own words, ecotourism is for travelers, not tourists, looking to experience nature and culture without leaving negative impacts behind. The community of Ibitipoca is just outside the national park and has greatly benefited from ecotourism. They all have a great love for the land and the financial benefits provide an additional incentive to protect the environment. The rapid urban growth has caused some problems due to the lack of planning and little government support.

Ecotourism is a promising approach as a fast growing sector. However, it requires travelers to be very careful with greenwashing and make sure that ecotourism is more than just a marketing strategy. Brittany recommends to take some time to research, to look for the mission statement, and to find out who owns the place and what kind of activities are offered.

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