Session Discusses Biodiversity Education Projects from the Global RCE Network

The session at the Sustainability Research & Innovation Congress 2022 discussed projects from Kenya, Nigeria, and the Philippines.

On 21 June 2022, UNU-IAS held an online session of the Sustainability Research & Innovation Congress 2022 focused on innovative biodiversity education projects. The session discussed projects from Kenya, Nigeria, and the Philippines, developed by Regional Centres of Expertise (RCEs) on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). Participants from RCEs shared reflections from the field and ideas for upscaling the projects across regions.

In opening remarks, Nancy Pham (Senior Communications Associate, UNU-IAS) explained how the RCE model — encompassing multi-stakeholder networks — could provide a more coordinated and effective approach to working with communities on biodiversity education and conservation initiatives.

Philip Vaughter (Research Consultant, UNU-IAS) presented an overview of the UNESCO-led ESD for 2030 framework and the Global RCE Network. He provided a trend analysis of the network’s projects during the Global Action Programme on ESD during 2015–2019, noting that 135 projects were completed across 30 countries, focusing on either SDG 14 (life below water) or SDG 15 (life on land). Most of the projects used a species-centered approach, followed by themes including forests and trees, traditional knowledge, and agriculture. Nearly three quarters (74%) of the projects took a community approach, implementing messaging that was accessible by and involving the whole community.

Anna Liza Santillana (RCE Cebu) introduced a community-based mangrove rehabilitation project along the coastal area of Cadiz City, the Philippines, which suffered devastation by Typhoon Yolanda in 2013. Led by Philippine Normal University Visayas, it served to build awareness of mangrove conservation among students, fishers, and local residents, with activities including mangrove planting, survival rates assessments, and biodiversity mapping. Through this project, fishers were able to share indigenous knowledge on mangrove conservation, and teachers were upskilled on using instructional materials for a reading enhancement and conservation programme.

Adamu Ahmed (RCE Zaria) presented a project to restore and protect species in the Zaria region, Nigeria, which were endangered due to vegetation cover change. A spatio-temporal analysis of land cover change in the city region was conducted over five years, creating a database of geo-tagged locations and attributes of endangered species. The project also developed a policy framework and strategy to protect the species and expanded the stakeholder network. The project found that when communities understood the cultural, social, and historical values of endangered species, they were more receptive to the conservation of natural resources.

Brian Waswala (RCE South Rift) discussed a project addressing challenges in the Rift Valley in Kenya, including competing alternative land uses, poor waste management, and conflicts related to climate change and natural resource use. It involved research and training on conservation and management practices, and educating community members in areas such as restoring degraded grasslands and sustainable agriculture. Experiential learning incorporating practical elements was a key focus, with youth engaging in citizen science and using apps for biodiversity monitoring and reporting.

A discussion led by Jonghwi Park (Academic Programme Officer, UNU-IAS) highlighted the ongoing impacts of the projects. RCE Zaria’s project has expanded to bring in more stakeholders, including primary and secondary schools and NGOs. There are opportunities to upscale the project across the entire state comprising 23 local governments, as well as throughout Nigeria, with other RCEs in the country expressing interest. RCE South Rift has developed a proposal to establish seedlings in schools so that youth can be actively engaged in tree planting, in addition to working on policy design and the incorporation of agriculture, wildlife conservation, sustainable tourism and ecosystem management into ESD curricula. For communities wanting to replicate the projects in their regions, Anna Liza Santillana stressed the importance of understanding the cultural background and needs of the community, ensuring a sense of ownership, a sustained source of livelihood, and contributions to a habitable environment.

Closing the session, Philip Vaughter noted that the projects had been implemented in ecosystems not generally covered in formal curriculum, including coastal areas, drylands, and grasslands, illustrating the diversity of RCE initiatives to protect and restore ecosystems, habitats, and species.

Further information on these projects is available in the publication Engaging Communities for Biodiversity Conservation: Education for Sustainable Development Projects from the Global RCE Network (April 2022), and an introductory video.

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