UNESCO Biosphere Excursion: Making use of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves as platforms for environmental education and cultural exchange

November 2016 marked the first round of the UNESCO Biosphere Excursion. A total of 16 young participants from Ethiopia and the United Arab Emirates were selected to join this excursion to UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in the two countries. After visiting the Kafa Biosphere Reserve and the Lake Tana Biosphere Reserve in Ethiopia in November 2015, the same group will meet again in April 2016 in the United Arab Emirates.

The goal of the UNESCO Biosphere Excursion Programme is to offer an in-depth understanding of the challenges and solutions of environmental management through first-hand experiences. In Ethiopia, participants had the chance to visit project sites with environmental NGOs and government representatives, and to discuss possible solutions to deforestation and promoting tourism.

Small research assignments in groups covering topics such as wetland management and tourism development enabled close interaction with the concerned local communities in each biosphere reserve. Additionally, training sessions with local and national experts were held to ensure a more detailed understanding of efforts towards environmental protection and options for livelihood improvement in Ethiopia.

The diverse cultural and professional backgrounds of participants made Part 1 of this event a special experience for everyone involved. During the 16 days of travel through Ethiopia the participants worked together closely on joint efforts and shared unforgettable experiences.

This educational and cultural exchange was made possible by the generous funding of the Global Citizen Foundation and other in-kind support from Emirates, the Horn of Africa Regional Environmental Center and Network and the Hope College of Business, Science and Technology, as well as the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Ethiopia.

Community-based forest management in Kafa zone, as practised by the the Manja ethnic group visited, has shown us exactly why engaging local communities is the best way for both livelihood improvement and environmental sustainability.’
Tesfau Bekele, participant from Ethiopia

Planting coffee needs the shade of the forest which makes it a good environmental practice that decreases deforestation. Farmers gave us a good explanation during the visit and the tour in the planted areas.’
Zulfa Rasheed, participant from the UAE