Maple Syrup Health Benefits

Maple syrup is a natural sweetener that is made from the sap of sugar maple trees. It has a similar consistency to honey, but contains less sugar and fructose than honey. It is often used as a flavouring agent or as a condiment for various dishes such as waffles, pancakes, oatmeal, porridge, or French toast. Let us discover more about maple syrup and determine if it is healthy or not.

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Community Development

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Community development is a holistic approach and an organized effort initiated to assist a group of people in a community to lead a better lifestyle. As the term suggests, it is the combination of community with a development that aims to enhance people’s living standards in a community. In this, people must have faith that working together can make a difference in making the community development programme successful.

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Understanding the Maple Syrup Industry

The maple syrup industry is witnessing significant growth, and the market was valued at USD 1.49 billion in 2021. The industry is expected to expand at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 6.2% from 2022 to 2028. The US is a major producer of maple syrup, and the growth of maple syrup can be attributed to various factors. Among other noteworthy countries, China is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.8%, followed by Japan and Canada at 3.2% and 5.2%. Let us discover more about the scope of the maple syrup industry in this article and understand the factors behind the growth of the industry.

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We Must Cultivate Our Garden

By Dan Robison

The last ten days appear to have shaken the world in general.  News junkies will have been aware of COVID-19 since the beginning of the year.  I made some long flights to and from in the US in late January, and I wore a face mask, even though only a couple of cases had been diagnosed in the US and none in Latin America.  I was not the only one, perhaps 1 in 20 were doing it.  However, the announcement of the World Health Organization on March 11 that there was an official pandemic coincided with the beginning of the drop in the stock markets worldwide. These came only a day or two after the first two positive cases were identified here in Bolivia.  Bolivia announced the grounding of flights from Europe, with the last one arriving Friday the 13th in the morning.

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Cape Horn and Tierra Del Fuego: The Southern tip of South America- Part III

By Professor Robert Fleming

In the eastern division,  the Argentine government has promoted development by offering substantial financial inducements to people to settle and work in this region, one that diplays relatively cold weather and long, dark winter nights. A good example of the success of the plan is Ushuaia, a settlement squeezed into space bordering the Beagle Channel. Starting with a town of only around 12,000 residents the population has now increased to a city over 60,000, and as this is a port of call, or the jumping-off site, for ships heading to and from the Southern Ocean and the Antarctic Peninsula, it is bustling with visitors in the summer months. Over 200 cruise ships dock here anually.

Ushuaia City on the Beagle Channel marks the southern border of the island.

These days tourism is a major economic driving force here and records show that back in 2015  over 300,000 visitors arrived on the island, the majority  (55%) from ArgentinaNumerous other business activities are promoted in this eastern part of the island including extracting oil and gas, as well as peat ‘mining,’ and logging. In addition, factories that produce textiles and plastics have been constructed in economic free zones  while raising beef cattle is important as this region is free of hoof-and-mouth disease.

As with most mountainous tracts, foothill areas rise up on both sides of the main spine and each altitude level comes with distinct biological constituents. In the case of Tierra del Fuego the eastern foothills of the Darwin Range lie on the dry side  where the lower slopes are home to a variety of herbaceous plants including beach strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis) and calafate (Berberis buxifolia), both of which were gathered by the Yaghans for food. Stands of trees grow where conditions allow, and among these is the conifer,Pilgerodendron uviferumin the cypress family, the southernmost cone-bearing plant in the world and one often found in association with subpolar beeches, Nothofagus sp., and Winter Bark,Drimys winteri, the bark used by early travelers to prevent scurvy.

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Cape Horn and Tierra Del Fuego: The Southern tip of South America- PART II

By Professor Robert Fleming

Only a few island groups on our planet have remained mostly free of human impact and with good fortune, a portion of the Tierra del Fuego Archipelago, below the Beagle Channel, is one of these. Here lies the small (244km2/94mi2) Cape Horn National Park, which encompasses both shallow marine habitats along with the island groups of Wollaston and Hermite. Cape Horn Island itself is a miniscule part of the reserve.

Some of the islands below the Beagle Channel are treeless andexhibit tundra formations as well as alpine habitats, these often intermixed with freshwater ecosystems such as peat bogs that are repleat with species of Sphagnummosses. Indeed, the whole region is a bryophyte hotspot, especially well known for its great diversity of cold-adapted liverworts and mosses.

Shaded areas on islands west of the Darwin range are conducive to fern and moss growth.

In addition, other islands in the region  are partly covered with a mixture of southern evergreen forests or subpolar deciduous forests. A main component of the former is the southern beech Nothfagus betuloides, and the white-flowered Drimys winteri (in the Winteraceae family). While the  deciduous forests are mostly composed of the southern beeches, Nothofagus pumilioand N. antarctica.

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Cape Horn and Tierra Del Fuego: The Southern tip of South America- PART I

By Professor Robert Fleming


I am the albatross that waits for you
at the end of the world.
I am the forgotten souls of dead mariners
who passed Cape Horn
from all the oceans of the earth.
But they did not die
in the furious waves.
Today they sail on my wings
toward eternity,
in the last crack
of Antarctic winds.

– Sara Vial


A  world of wind, waves, and swirling spray is home to the albatrosses of the Southern Ocean, the birds a fitting symbol for the spirits of the many mariners who have perished attempting to sail around Cape Horn (Cabo de Hornos) at the tip of South America.  These roiling seas hostmany oceanic birds including petrels, skuas, and shearwaters, but the primier species are albatrosses, their seemingly effortless flight beautifully adapted to the circumpolar winds that continuously blow east between 40 degrees and 60 degrees south latitude. Beneath the ocean’s surface, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current also circles east, little impeded by any land mass except where it has to squeeze through the 800km-wide Drake Passage between the Antarctic Peninsula and South America.

Cape Horn Island as seen when approaching from the south.

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Bioacoustics in Bolivia

Shane with a local friend.        Photo by Rommel

My name is Shane Palkovitz. I am a socioenvironmental specialist for the Songs of Adaptation research project at Future Generations University. The core investigations of this project focus on establishing an international baseline for biodiversity, while at the same time gathering knowledge from community members about human adaptation to climate change.

In March, I had the joy of traveling to Bolivia to work with local partners to establish a new research location. Our goal was to install four monitoring stations that will later serve as the beginning point for a larger research project.

We spent the first few days trekking through the jungle, looking for sites and gathering information before installing instrumentation. Pictured below, Alejo follows as other team members venture up a stream bed on El Chocolatal, an eco-resort.

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Sweet Opportunities for West Virginia

By Karen Milnes

Mike Rechlin, professor at Future Generations University, gives a tubing demonstration.

Everybody knows about Vermont maple syrup, and it’s time to put West Virginia on the map. With an estimated 0.04% (USDA—NASS) of the state’s tappable maples in production, there’s a lot of room for growth. And if this industry is doing anything, it is growing. And fast. According to a survey conducted by the Appalachian program at Future Generations, the number one component in helping our state’s maple industry expand is the need for more sap from more taps.

With ongoing innovations in the sap to syrup process, a growing number of West Virginia producers are capable of processing a lot more sap than they can obtain. Backyard syrup making is not only a mountain tradition in these parts, it’s a growing hobby as the farm and food movement sweeps across our nation. The Sweet Opportunites: Tapping West Virginia’s Maple Resource project at Future Generations University aims to start networking sap collectors and syrup producers, setting up a “hub” model, already popular in more established maple syrup producing states. What’s nice about this model is that it allows, for fairly minimal overhead, just about any landowner with maples on their property and a maple syrup producer nearby, to break into the industry with little risk. Oftentimes, sap collectors simply selling their raw sap are able to pay off the collection equipment in the first year. In a relatively short time, they can begin scaling up their operations and considering purchasing larger equipment to begin producing their own syrup.

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Inspiration in India

Our Learning Management Coordinator, Paula Smith, attended our field-based course in India in January. See what she has to say about the experience!

Why did you attend this field-based course on the Gandhian Method?

 I was thrilled to have the opportunity to attend the Gandhi course in India. I work with the Future Generations certificate program, so I’ve helped to plan and manage this course in years past, but it was such a rewarding experience to be there in person and see all the hard work come together for a great learning experience. It helped to give me insight on how to coordinate the student experience even better going forward.

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Making Maple Syrup in WV

By Mark Lambert

If you would’ve told me at this time last year that I, my wife, and our business partners would not only be producing, but delivering West Virginia Pure Maple Syrup across the state, I would’ve had to “lol.” Literally. Not just in a text or an email.

With the help of Future Generations Maple Sap Collecting and Syrup Processing certificate program, we’ve gone from wondering what our next step in the foodservice and transportation business world might be to learning how to collect sap on a commercial level. More than this, we’ve learned how to process that sap into syrup, label and bottle it for retail, and distribute not only our own finished product, but also other producers’ syrup, to retailers all over the state of West Virginia.

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Alumni Feature: Melene Kabadege

Melene Kabadege is a Rwandan health professional and practitioner who attended Future Generations University as a member of the Class of 2007.  A nurse with a Bachelor’s in Public Health and 16 years working for World Relief’s health and nutrition programs, Melene was seeking a way to become a true Community Health specialist.

When she met Dr. Henry Perry in 2014, a member of the Future Generations faculty at the time, and learned about the University, she realized that her dreams of bringing positive and sustainable change to her community were more achievable than she thought. She credits her education here with building her knowledge and skills in community empowerment, social change, leadership, and how to leverage and lead community successes. This empowered her to bring about lasting healthy changes in her community.

Through the Master’s program, Melene became more confident in her abilities as an agent of change and sustainable development. This inspired her to start Community Fountain Project, an NGO with the purpose of working hand-in-hand with the community to improve lives. Community Fountain Organization is currently implementing the INEZA Project, which aims to prevent under-nutrition and reduce stunting in the Kamonyi District of Rwanda.

Farmer Field and Learning School

A member of Future Generations Global Network, as are all Future Generations graduates, Melene succeeded in winning a small grant from the organization in 2017 with the purpose of implementing a Farmer Field and Learning School. Here farmers serve as teachers to their peers and join together in a farmers’ cooperative. The Project areas of intervention were: improving farming techniques, improving nutrition in the first one thousand days of a child’s life, and improving saving and learning skills. Melene’s group worked with local leaders to ensure proper project monitoring.

Hands-On Nutrition Session

After six month’s of project implantation, the team noted several behavior changes taking place in the farmers’ households. Notable outcomes include: couples participating in nutrition learning adopted better nutrition practices for pregnant women and children under age two, families have improved hygiene and feeding practices, men have taken on an increased role in child care, improved farming techniques have been taught and adopted, farmers have been mobilized towards the operation and maintenance of community works, erosion control plants have been put into place, and 25 saving and lending groups have been implemented that all remain operational.

Voluntary Savings and Loan Program

At the end of the first year, the program has been considered successful and highly appreciated by community members and leaders alike. The project was implemented in 3 out of 12 Sectors of Kamonyi District. Fundraising activities are currently ongoing with the aim to extend the INEZA Project to cover all sectors of Kamonyi District and to become a learning center for community partnership in reducing stunting and improving the life of the vulnerable people.

Congratulations to Melene on her impressive work, and our thanks for sharing her story!

Make sure to follow the blog for more stories on the inspiring work being undertaken by our incredible alumni!

Remembering John Campbell

Future Generations lost a friend when John Campbell passed away in November of 2018. He encouraged us to take risks; specifically to push against the limits of accreditation policies to achieve the true purposes of learning. Although no longer physically here to encourage us, his message endures. “Do the right thing,” he said, “then explain you broke the rules because not doing so would have been a worse thing.”

We first became acquainted with John a decade and a half ago when he came as a member of the Higher Learning Commission accreditation team, sent here to inspect whether Future Generations was meeting the requirements of higher education and deserved accreditation. His job was to ‘check the boxes’ and make sure we were following the rules. What set John apart was that in checking the boxes, he was searching for achieving the higher purposes of the regulations.

John spoke at length with our president, Daniel C. Taylor, and the message he gave was that to achieve learning requires going forward, building on the resources present in the place. The place of Future Generations University is the world, with students from around the world who learn from the world … and most importantly shape their local worlds into better places. John recognized the potential in our idea, which was new at the time, and remained in contact with the school until his death.

Please join us in remembering John’s remarkable life with the following account, kindly provided by his family.


John Roy Campbell, PhD, DSC, DLitt

June 14, 1933-November 17, 2018

John was born near Goodman, Missouri and grew up on a small farm. He was the first of his immediate family to graduate from high school, and credited the receipt of a scholarship from the Sears Roebuck Corporation as the impetus to enroll in the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU). There he earned a B.S. with honors in Dairy Science from MU College of Agriculture in 1955, working three part-time jobs while doing so in order to fund his education.

Also during this time, a friend introduced him to Eunice Vieten, who shared his background of having grown up on a dairy farm. The two married and remained happily so until his passing, raising three children and later becoming grandparents along the way.

After receiving a fellowship to pursue Master of Science degree in Dairy Manufacturing, he served one year in the Army reserves, having been in the ROTC during college. Following that, he served two years of Active Duty in the Army’s Seventh Artillery. After discharge from the Army, he returned to Columbia to pursue his PhD in dairy cattle nutrition and physiology at MU. He continued serving as a member of the National Guard Army Reserves Field Artillery for the next 22 years, rising to the level of Lieutenant Colonel and Battery Commander of his unit. In 1983, John received The Meritorious Service Medal from the United States Army for his service.

Following completion of his PhD in 1960, John joined the MU Dairy Science faculty where he quickly rose through the ranks to become a full professor in 1968. He received nearly every award available to faculty members during his 17 years teaching there.

John taught several courses relating to dairy husbandry and animal sciences, and co-authored two textbooks. He viewed students as “our nation’s most valuable resource.” He wrote his book In Touch With Students: A Philosophy for Teachers (1972) to share his teaching philosophies with others.

In 1977, John was recruited by the University of Illinois as College of Agriculture Associate Dean and Director of Resident Instruction. In this new role, he demonstrated a zeal for the land-grant philosophy of higher education – providing educational and career opportunities for the sons and daughters of the working classes. He gained support from private individuals and corporations to establish a merit-based scholarship program to help recruit, recognize and support high-caliber students to pursue careers in agriculture, home economics and related professional fields. He selected the name Jonathan Baldwin Turner (JBT) Agricultural Merit Scholarship Program in honor of one of the initial proponents of land-grant universities. The program has been highly successful with alumni holding prominent positions in industry and at universities.

In 1983, John was named Dean of the College of Agriculture at the University of Illinois. Innovation, dedication and cooperation with people, both within and outside the College of Agriculture, were hallmarks of his deanship. His leadership was central to the College obtaining $61.2 million for construction of five new facilities. Colleagues have referred to his time at Illinois as “a golden era.”

John was appointed the fifteenth President of Oklahoma State University (OSU) on August 1, 1988 and served until 1993. At OSU he continued his student focus, championed international involvement and inter-university partnerships, and expanded distance learning. He resigned as OSU president in 1993 to teach in the OSU College of Agriculture and resume writing. In 1998, he published his fourth book Reclaiming a Lost Heritage: Land-Grant and Other Higher Education Initiatives for the Twenty-First Century, which has been used in teaching Honors Courses and educating others on the heritage of the land-grant system.

John retired from Oklahoma State University in 1999 and returned to Columbia, Missouri to take aim at new goals and opportunities. During this time, he served as a Consultant-Evaluator for the Higher Learning Commission/North Central Association and on the National University of Natural Medicine’s Board of Directors from 1998-2013. He also continued presenting lectures for numerous organizations. Having viewed the need for changes to increase societal perceptions of higher education, he wrote a novel titled Dry Rot in the Ivory Tower: A Case for Fumigation, Ventilation, and Renewal of the Academic Sanctuary, and another textbook, Companion Animals: Their Biology, Care, Health, and Management.

Throughout his professional career, John demonstrated a caring attitude toward and sincere interest in students, their careers, and personal lives. He had the privilege of teaching more than 12,000 students and published more than 100 papers. He accomplished much and left a legacy at each of the universities where he served.

He loved to tell stories and share the knowledge he had gained through his many journeys and discussions with people from “all walks of life” and was quick to extend congratulations to others on their accomplishments. At this time of loss, a smile comes to mind envisioning John sharing stories with those who preceded him in “graduating to heaven.”

U.S. Series- Part IV: Conservation that Respects People and Planet

Summary from Just and Lasting Change by Associate Professor, Noam Schimmel

An article in Britain’s Guardian newspaper recently suggested that as much as 50% of the planet needs to be set aside from human habitation to stave off mass environmental degradation and irreversible destruction of animal and plant species.

The intention behind this argument is a good one: to conserve the earth’s biodiversity and natural life forms.

These have their own intrinsic value, but also ultimately benefit people in ensuring that natural resources are protected rather than exploited to the point of unsustainability; that air, land, and water are protected in ways that promote public health, and that global warming and other forms of environmental harm are mitigated.

But there is a fallacy at the heart of the notion that the primary way to advance conservation is by removing people from nature.

People and nature are not necessarily adversaries. There are many examples, including contemporary ones, of people serving as successful guardians of nature, rather than as antagonists to the environment and its conservation.

The misguided notion that people and nature are adversaries has sullied conservation since the incarnation of the modern conservation movement. It needs to be acknowledged and addressed because it both hinders and slows environmental conservation and can contribute to denying the human rights of people who depend on nature for their livelihoods.

For many people, as individuals and as communities, their lives, values, and cultures are intimately and inextricably bound with nature.

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U.S. Series- Part III: The Green Bay Packers: Community-Owned Energy

Summary from Just and Lasting Change  by Associate Professor, Noam Schimmel

When you think about football, chances are you don’t think about community development, shared resources, a commitment to a non-profit ethos, and a cooperative approach to owning and managing a sports team.

But there is an open secret about one American football team that, while famous for the quality of its players and the passion of its supporters, should also be famous for its communitarian spirit, structure, and values.

As the Green Bay Packers By-Laws state, ‘The association shall be a community project intended to promote community welfare and that its purposes shall be exclusively charitable.”

This challenges the dominant paradigm of what drives sports in America and around the world: profit making. Sports are big business and they are, for the most part, run as big business.

But there are exceptions.

And it turns out that while the Green Bay Packers do make money what they do with that money and how they reinvest it in their community is what is so unique and notable, beyond their sporting excellence.

As Paz Magat, the author of this chapter in Just & Lasting Change, writes,

“The Green Bay Packers are one of the most iconic teams in American football, a team that has won thirteen championships – more than any other American professional football team – and a team that comes from the smallest city of any professional football team. So how is this team a charity? How does it promote community welfare? The answer is that instead of making money, the purpose of the team is winning for the community.”

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U.S. Series- Part II: The Lesser Known Lincoln

Summary from Just and Lasting Change  by Associate Professor, Noam Schimmel

About Abraham Lincoln so much has been written it appears unlikely that there is more to say about him that might be new to readers. But, there is a part of Lincoln’s legacy that is genuinely underexplored and not widely known and it merits attention.

Lincoln was committed to advancing human development in a young United States in a way that was deeply democratic, progressive, and marshalled human resources in innovative ways that were ground-breaking and far-reaching for his time. The legacies of the policies and programs he advanced remain as defining features of American life today, and he had an animating vision of unity in diversity that informed those policies and programs.

We take the holiday of Thanksgiving for granted; it has become one of the defining features of American cultural life. Whatever one’s religion, ethnicity, politics, heritage – wherever one comes from – Thanksgiving is widely celebrated by a huge cross-section of Americans.

What many don’t know is that we owe Thanksgiving to Lincoln, who set it aside as a holiday of thanks that he had the foresight to recognize would unite Americans despite their many divisions. To this day, it continues to do so and to bind Americans across boundaries of difference, both real and imagined, small and profound.

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U.S. Series- Part I: The White Mountain Apache: Reclaiming Self-Determination

Summary from Just and Lasting Change  by Associate Professor, Noam Schimmel

An Example of SEED-SCALE in Arizona

Seed-Scale has been used by Native American communities to explore and assess their communal needs and resources and to advance development that stems from the community and reflects its needs and preferences.

The White Mountain Apache of Arizona have historically had mixed experiences of government neglect as well as government support, with government support often creating unsustainable relationships of dependency that undermined dignity and freedom.

Daniel Taylor reflects upon the history and culture of the Apache of Cibecue Valley:

“The two thousand Apache of the Cibecue Valley, in eastern Arizona, are the most isolated members of the White Mountain tribe. A high percentage of the people still speak the Apache tongue, and they try to keep the older ways alive. Older residents tell of idyllic childhoods spent in the forests with deer and other wildlife as neighbors, when Cibecue Creek still abounded with trout and beaver. They tell of times when women spent their days collecting plants for food and medicines while men and children spent their days on horses. Young people are encouraged to learn traditional stories, dances, and handicrafts and to take an active part in rituals that strengthen tribal identity and values.”

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Rookie Producer’s Take on the Southern Syrup Research Symposium


How many of you know about Future Generations University’s maple syrup program?! Check out this blog by the West Virginia Maple Syrup Producer’s Association’s own Tina Barton and see what she had to say about the related symposium she attended!

Read here:

Bending Bamboo

By Katie Larson


When do we learn about sustainable development?

How do we learn about sustainable development?

Who is this we that I keep mentioning?

Is sustainable development only a topic for development professionals?

Even if we learn about sustainable development as children, which children get access to the “juicy”, life-changing content, produced by the United Nations, climate scientists, and development professionals?

If you speak English, you can easily access this “juicy” content. If you are confident in English, you can go further and sift through this content. If you have cultivated your critical thinking skills, you can go even further and compare the content you are reading with the reality of sustainable development in your context.[1] Think Bloom’s Taxonomy. Then think about how English fluency fundamentally impacts who gets access to the knowledge critical for understanding and meaningfully supporting the health of our changing planet.

Now, what if you are not confident in English? Imagine that you can’t sift through the many amazing resources available on sustainable development. Maybe the only content you can access is general information. You know what I mean, the information that explains that if we drive our cars less then we can stop the polar ice caps from melting and save polar bear habitats. Two very important issues to solve, yet, superficially examined and far from many people’s day to day realities.

Those of us in the development sector know that sustainable development has many definitions and that its diverse definitions, applications, and manifestations are a result of complex contextual realities. Yes, sustainable development is certainly a concept to associate with solutions to climate change. However, sustainable development as a solution must be understood in context, in a way that values local economics, health, infrastructure, and all of the other important topics of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Here is where the study of language and the study of sustainable development are similar. According to the Communicative Approach in language learning, when learning how to communicate in another language, the learner’s context matters. Imagine you are a 10th Grade student living in rural Vietnam with a high likelihood of never traveling outside of your country. You go to English class (a required subject) and open up your textbook (published in London) and scan the lesson. The lesson asks you to imagine you are discussing your recent trip to Piccadilly Square in London. What did you see? What did you eat? How were the British people? Now ask yourself, am I going to be engaged in learning how to communicate with this kind of content? Also ask yourself, will this lesson give me skills for a future career? Students who cannot link content to context and who see no relevance in learning about things they don’t think will help them in the future, are not going to seek greater fluency in a foreign language. With content unconnected to context and irrelevant to the student’s future, English language study becomes a tool only for those few students who think they will travel and/or find employment outside of Vietnam. But the truth is, English is a global language. It can be used in rural and urban Vietnam to connect people, business opportunities, science, and funding from around the world. It can also be used to foster international collaboration on sustainable development solutions for communities.

The process is the same with sustainable development knowledge acquisition. What if the content you access is tooooo unconnected to your context? What if you don’t have the English skills to sift through the content? What if you don’t have the critical thinking skills to compare and contrast content with context? Will your sustainable development education equip you to visualize sustainable development in your context? For many, the answer is no. Arctic ice problems are important. However, if they are presented as an isolated challenge, they will seem like frivolous topics of study for someone living in a tropical river delta…say the Mekong River Delta. And those of us fluent in sustainable development know just how connected the ice caps are to our oceans and the river deltas that neighbor oceans. With superficial sustainable development education, students exit school without understanding the ways in which their actions and future careers might help or hurt Earth’s ecosystems.

Now, I have a BIG question regarding English fluency as a tool to access, sift through, and critically think about sustainable development. Can we drive English language acquisition while driving sustainable development knowledge acquisition?

This is a question that Bending Bamboo is trying to answer.

What is Bending Bamboo you might ask? Bending Bamboo is a process for acquiring intercultural, communicative, competence, confidence and collaboration (iC5) skills in English and sustainable development. Bending Bamboo does this by connecting English and sustainable development to context. It currently operates in Can Tho, Vietnam – the hub of the Mekong Delta. Over a two-year cycle of workshops and online forums, Mekong Delta teachers and professionals work together to acquire their own iC5 skills and then create a curriculum that teaches these iC5 skills to their students and employees. The first deliverable of this cycle is a teacher text. The next is a student text. Both incorporate local research on sustainable development in Vietnam and South East Asia. Both incorporate the knowledge of the teacher, farmer, tour guide, and corporate professional. They both seek to support English language and sustainable development knowledge acquisition.

In its most recent workshop in July, Bending Bamboo began to visualize a concrete answer to this BIG question.

During 60 hours of workshop learning, participants were introduced to sustainable development information and stories from local and global perspectives, in English. Local and foreign experts were brought in to share their science with the participants, in English. As proficient English speakers already, the participants could sift through the content of the workshop. Tasked with reviewing and comparing sustainable development content from here and there, teachers also cultivated their critical thinking skills. For 18 participants, this was their second Bending Bamboo workshop. For these 18 participants, post-workshop evaluations showed that both their communicative English confidence and sustainable development knowledge confidence grew!

That’s good news. Bending Bamboo participants are citizen-leaders in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. They are knowledge bridges for their communities. These citizen-leaders are now critically interacting with local and global sustainable development discourse. Even better, these citizens are, inherently, strategically positioned to spread their knowledge. Bending Bamboo is currently leveraging this strategic positioning through the collaborative creation of the Bending Bamboo Teacher Text for grade 10-12 teachers in Vietnam. Next is the collaborative creation of a Bending Bamboo Student Text for Grades 10-12. With these two tools, participants and the Bending Bamboo team can tangibly impact a student and citizen’s ability to access and meaningfully engage with sustainable development discourse.

As Bending Bamboo continues to answer, through data, its BIG question, it also eagerly and intentionally looks forward to answering the next question. It is a BIG BIG question. Can the integrated Bending Bamboo curriculum not only drive communicative English and sustainable development knowledge acquisition, but also drive sustainable development action?

Now, just for fun, I shall end with two more questions. These are BIG BIG BIG questions to get you excited and thinking about the potential of creating and implementing, context-driven, quality education. Approximately 50% of Vietnam’s population is under age 25[2]. What happens when Vietnamese youth are confident in integrated iC5 skills for English and sustainable development? What impact will this rising generation of Vietnamese citizens have on their provincial, national, ASEAN, and global communities?


[1] Interested in this statement? Read: Powell, Mike (2006). Which Knowledge? Whose Reality? An Overview of Knowledge Used in the Development Sector. Development in Practice, 16(6), 518-532.

[2] From the General Statistics Office of Vietnam

Development Series- Part IV: Advancing Human Development in Kerala, India

Summary from Just and Lasting Change  by Associate Professor, Noam Schimmel

Human development that significantly advances quality of life does not have to be expensive.

It is often assumed that to make major advances in the quality of human well-being development efforts that address healthcare, education, food security, and the well-being of women and children are necessarily extremely resource intensive and therefore dependent on massive outlays of funding to advance human security.

But this is not the case.

Successful forms of development that have been transformative in positive ways and are well documented in development literature show that human well-being can be advanced with basic resources that can be found in most communities, including in countries that lack financial resources and are classified as low income.

Put simply, financial wealth is not a prerequisite for fundamental human development.

More significantly, trust, cooperative communal efforts to pool resources and expand them, careful and equitable planning, and support of local and national government coupled with local grassroots efforts are often sufficient to advance human development.

These advances lead to tangible improvements in life expectancy, improve quality of life and enhance health outcomes, promote the realization of the human rights of children and women and human rights more broadly, expand educational opportunities, and raise incomes and improve food security.

How is this possible and where has this been done? In Kerala, India.

Kerala, a region of South India, made huge advancements in human development without being dependent on external aid for enabling this transformation.

Kerala achieved the best health and education levels of development in India already by the 1960s, and continues to sustain them, while also maintaining the highest rate of political participation in India.

But, counterintuitively, it was also the poorest state in India when it had these dramatic health and education achievements.

In this seeming contradiction we can find vitally important lessons about advancing human development which may be counterintuitive, and for that reason merit attention.

Development research attributes Kerala’s outstanding social achievements to several factors.

Daniel and Carl Taylor, pioneers of community development together with UNICEF, explain that these include political leadership that was largely genuinely interested in advancing the welfare of Kerala’s residents and was not morally corrupt, a matrilineal tradition amongst many high caste Hindus in Kerala, a church that grew in adherents and advanced greater equity amongst its values and aspirations and promoted interreligious tolerance that also received the support of Hindus, and a progressive people’s movement that advanced social reforms.

According to Taylor and Taylor, this social movement initially fought back against caste-based discrimination but continued beyond that, advancing public literacy and education, promoting land reform, and making scientific knowledge broadly available to the public which has also played a role in public advocacy for continued environmental conservation.

Momentum built on momentum in positive interlocking ways: advancing women’s rights, promoting expanded educational opportunity, and providing enhance economic opportunities for trade that were open to a broad cross-section of the population all acted synergistically to advance human development.

The high literacy rate, for example, has enabled the average Keralan to follow newspapers and hold political leadership accountable in democratic elections and in between elections.

The evidence Taylor and Taylor provide is substantive and significant: In 2001 while life expectancy was 74 years in Kerala it was 59 years in all of India. Literacy in Kerala amongst females was 87%, while it was only 39% in all of India. In 2011, Kerala was the only state in India in which there was no preference for male babies; in 1991 its gender ratio was 1,036 females to 1,000 males, compared with 927 females to 1,000 males for India as a whole.

Kerala’s successes are impressive, sustained, and genuinely life altering for individuals and for society.

Taylor and Taylor note that economic wealth did eventually result from these substantial advances in human development in Kerala.

Today Kerala enjoys both high levels of social development and economic growth and greatly increased financial resources.

It is instructive to turn to Kerala’s history to learn that opportunities abound even in places that are initially resource-poor.

Human development can be enabled and derive energy from largely indigenous sources.

To be sure, Kerala’s model is unique to Kerala and its circumstances.

But undoubtedly, it has lessons for all countries seeking to advance human development and to the United States and other countries when conceptualizing and implementing development aid.

These lessons are encouraging in their affirmation of local capacity to advance positive social change from within that draws upon domestic human resources, some – but relatively moderate support from abroad, and the values and social policies that advance equity, social justice, and human emancipation which ultimately can unleash human development and well-being.

Development Series- Part III: SEED-SCALE in Nepal

Adapted from Empowerment on an Unstable Planet: From Seeds of Human Energy to a Scale of Global Change, by Daniel Taylor, Carl E. Taylor, and Jesse O. Taylor

(All photos throughout post taken from various Future Generations activities in Nepal.)

Traditional development has not dealt kindly with Nepal and has not succeeded despite huge investments of both human and financial resources over many decades.

If the best current development practices were effective, then they should have worked in Nepal. Six decades, several billion dollars, and the careers of some of the world’s finest development professionals were invested in the kingdom to reduce poverty, illiteracy, and illness. Yet today, 30 percent of Nepal’s population remains below the poverty line, with one-fifth of the country living on less than a dollar a day; half the population is illiterate, and mortality for children under age five is sixty per thousand live births.

How is this possible and what were its causes?

There were plenty of good intentions in all the right places. Economic growth was to reduce poverty. Education and elections were to build accountable government. Health services were to double life expectancy. For each, targets were set, and programs were generously funded. But while there was progress in many measurable program indicators, in each sector dysfunction grew in terms of how system relationships were functioning. Programs that were started fell apart when funding was diverted to other programs that interested donors. Newly built school buildings and schools a few years after being built by donors looked abandoned.

This dynamic is not unique to Nepal. Indeed, it characterizes the failures of traditional development programs around the world which Nepali development projects typified.

Intentions were good, outcomes were not.

Looking at Nepal as a case study helps to understand why community-based development that is genuinely communally oriented and involves real local participation and implementation is far more likely to succeed and be sustainable than traditional development projects reflecting huge, external outlays of cash and foreign expertise, but without local participation.

Without an integrated role for the Nepali government on national and regional levels to work in a three-way partnership both with local Nepali communities and with external development and aid agencies – and the resources and expertise they bring – development in Nepal was not sustainable.

The Taylors argue that although Nepal lacked financial and human resources initially, in the 1950s, when development projects began, Nepal actually had access to extensive financial and human resources available since that time, for over sixty years. In other words, the failure of Nepal’s development trajectory is not because development was working and was simply underfunded and/or not sufficiently expanded across the country. The problem was and remains that it was not working effectively, and it was not responsive to community needs.

According to the Taylors, by 1999 the bottom fifth of Nepal’s population suffered from greater poverty, malnutrition, and lower overall human development than in 1949. Traditional development programs implemented during these fifty years did not consider how the Nepali economy in the 1950s and through the 1990s was systematically excluding a huge sector of the Nepali population.

The core reason why the quality of life had gone down for the bottom quintile was that the currency of change had shifted. In 1949, a barter economy based on human energies gave employment options to poor people; but by 1999 the monetary economy had removed labor-based options; money was now required to participate in the modern world.

Had traditional development efforts been sensitive and responsive to this reality and the challenges it created for one fifth of the population, Nepal’s development trajectory would likely have been a much different and better one.

But they were not.

Further, even the development efforts they pursued that reached some of the remaining 80% of Nepal’s population, had relatively poor results and often ended in neglect or desertion because they did not link local communities in a meaningful, participatory way with the regional and national government and with foreign aid agencies and were not communal oriented.

Pockets of development would often take place in an isolated, temporally-bound manner creating the illusion of development momentum and positive change. Once the money and human resources stopped coming in, the development projects ended, development indicators declined, and local communities had neither gained in capacities nor resources to advance their own development and sustain it.

By definition, a program of development that relies primarily on external support and that does not reflect local communal needs and participation will eventually peeter out when funding ends and when human resources experts complete whatever block of time they have committed to a particular development project and country. When they leave and when funding ends, projects decline and eventually – often – die out altogether, with no one locally available to maintain and continue them.

Thus, there were decades when it appeared that traditional development was working: roads were being built, schools constructed and staffed with teachers, the economy diversifying, and Nepalis working abroad and returning to Nepal remittances that assisted Nepalis in Nepal to raise their incomes and their human development. Hotels and restaurants opened in Katmandu raising incomes and increasing employment there.

But these economic changes and expansions were not well distributed across the country in an equitable way and many were not long lasting.

The lack of democratic accountability, a rigid and exclusionary caste system, and high levels of corruption all contributed to the failure to advance development that was genuinely and sustainably transformative.

The international community acquiesced in maintaining old-order structures. For example, during these decades not one embassy or aid agency had more than a handful of token low-caste employees in managerial positions or engaged in systematic affirmative action hiring. Development was growing into a world of appearances: outputs were measured and contracts fulfilled, but connections between programs tended to be ignored.

When the monarchy was overthrown what resulted was civil war, mass violence, and chaos. Although efforts were made to write a new constitution and find more effective forms of governance that were truly inclusive and responded to the needs of the people, corruption, dysfunction, inequality, injustice, lack of responsiveness to local and regional needs and preferences, and collapse of the rule of law characterized Nepal.

By 2010, a once-expanding infrastructure built by foreign assistance was crumbling: roads, government offices, clinics, schools, postal services, agriculture extension services, even tax collection. An increasingly corrupt government system could not maintain infrastructure that aid had built. Ancient divisions of caste and tribe persisted, crippling social advancement as half of the national population, women, still were only symbolically included in decision making.

In contrast to the failures of traditional development efforts, Nepal has had substantial success in local, community-based development efforts – though these have not been extensive enough to lift the entire country out of poverty and they have received far less support from both the Nepali government and external donors than traditional development efforts. Many of these efforts are ongoing.

Nepal is filled with such examples [of community based development]: community-based clinics and schools, forests, microcredit schemes, and water supply systems. Even more persuasive proof of people’s energies are the thousands of trails, temples, village waterspouts, and herculean terraces built without any external assistance… Another example of the diffuse, emergent manner in which the people pulled themselves forward lies in Nepal’s ecotourism industry.

But these successes, outside of several select cases such as eco-tourism, have not been able to scale-up and are limited to local, grassroots initiatives.

Nepal is perhaps unusual in that although it has a record of failed traditional development – as many countries do – it simultaneously has a record of successful community based development which many countries do not.

Nepalis knows how to lift themselves out of poverty and advance their development.

SEED-SCALE has been well demonstrated in Nepal in a variety of contexts – from community-based road and bridge building efforts that have been high quality and extremely cost effective – with lasting benefit expanding trade and enabling improved travel for access to healthcare and markets to sell goods and services and produce grown in the countryside – to a sophisticated eco-tourism enterprise and range of extensive tourism related businesses incorporating tour guides, restaurants and hotels.

Many Nepalis have adapted to the opportunities provided by tourism to increase their income and use that income to improvetheir quality of life through better healthcare, housing, and educational opportunity.

While many of these programs have not been able to expand beyond largely localized programs, if the Nepali government on the national and regional level and foreign donors and aid agencies learn from the mistakes of the past and build on the successes of SEED-SCALE, Nepal will be able to advance its own development sustainably and successfully.

Then the community development that is currently taking place on a relatively small scale could eventually characterize the country as a whole for the better of all its citizens and contribute to equitable, expansive, participatory, and sustainable human development.

Development Series- Part II: Community Development from the Grassroots

This week, we’re excited to announce that Professor Schimmel’s second post in the Development Series can be found on McGill University’s Centre for Human Rights & Legal Pluralism blog! Follow the link below to read his assessment on how the SEED-SCALE theory of social change can benefit the larger field of development.

Health Series- Part IV: Community-Based Development in Ding Xian, China

Summary from Just and Lasting Change  by Associate Professor, Noam Schimmel


Go to the People.

Live with the People,

Learn from the People.

Plan with the People.

Work with the People.

Start with what they know,

Build on what they have.

Teach by showing, learn by doing.

Not a showcase, but a pattern.

Not piecemeal, but integrated.

Not odds and ends, but a system.

Not to conform, but to transform.

Not relief, but release.

-Jimmy Yen (yen Yangchu)

Read more…

Health Series- Part I: Communities and Government Learning to Work Together in Peru


Over the next several months, Equity & Empowerment will be releasing entries summarizing some of our earlier work to give a glimpse of the diversity of our organization and the versatility of the SEED-SCALE method which guides us. There will be 3 themed sets (series), and each set will consist of 4 entries. We hope you enjoy the first installment in our Health Series!


Original work by Laura Altobelli, Patricia Paredes, and Carl E. Taylor

Summary by Associate Professor, Noam Schimmel

SEED-SCALE illustrates how the most significant and sustainable achievements in community development typically result from a combination of bottom-up, top-down, and outside-in interventions. When these approaches work together, synergistically, they create a powerful framework for social change.

In Peru, in 1992, when the Shining Path terrorist group was defeated, villages in the Peruvian countryside looked to create healthcare programming that had been neglected during the many years of civil war and Shining Path attacks.

The Peruvian government was initially oriented towards a traditional top-down approach of bringing skilled doctors and other medical professionals to health centers located outside the villages, with the resulting high costs this would entail.

Read more…

Mt. Kinabalu: A Borneo Gem

Text & Photographs by Dr. Robert L. Fleming

“Kinabalu can be rightly considered the botanical crown jewel of Borneo, but no short paper can even superficially cover all the gems.”

Mt Kinabalu, 4095m (13,435 ft) as viewed from near the Kinabalu Park headquarters at 1524m (5000ft)

Stars dimmed as people gathered in the dark on the summit of Mt Kinabalu to quietly await the dawn. If one has climbed the last 600 meters by flashlight, ascending ladders, and guided over the granite slabs by a pale rope that doubled as a handhold, the sunrise can be quite emotional. Those of us who reached the top early could see the dots of scattered flashlights moving slowly upwards. By the time the fluffy clouds below us glowed an orange-pink, a hundred or so people had gathered on Kinabalu’s 4095m, 13,435ft summit.

Mount Kinabalu is the highest peak in Borneo at 743 km2 (287mi2). Its summit is part of a batholith– a huge granite dome that formed deep within the earth’s crust. Then, some ten million years ago, tectonic activity forced the granite up through overlying sandstone and shale. Now, thousands of years later, these sedimentary layers have eroded away to leave a stunning granitic peak, which is among the youngest stand-alone, non-volcanic mountains in the world. And one that is still rising at an average rate of about 5mm a year with growth spurts often occurring during earthquakes, such as the 6.0 magnitude quake in 2015.

Read more…

How to Equip Yourself to Make the Change You Wish to See

From January 10th-22nd of this year, Professor Daniel C. Taylor guided several participants through a unique learning experience in India. Here, they learned about Gandhi’s powerful, non-violent method of social change and how they could apply it to their own work while visiting sites that played key roles in the Mahatma’s own life and journey to becoming a leader for change. One of the participants in this certificate course, Tonny Muteesasira of Uganda, shares his impressions of the course…

“Without action, you aren’t going anywhere.” –Mahatma Gandhi

Working with Professor Taylor, a renowned scholar and practitioner of social change, we explored Gandhi’s approach for motivating others to come together to affect positive social change and Taylor’s theory of SEED-SCALE.

Learning on the front porch of Gandhi’s Sevagram Ashram

Read more…

Greetings from the Western Hemisphere Alumni!

Did you know that upon graduating, every Future Generations University alumni joins a global network of social change practitioners from around the world? Within Future Generations Center for Research and Practice, alumni belong to 3 regions (Asia, Africa, and the Western Hemisphere), and are each represented on the Board of Trustees by one of their own.
This week, the alumni representative for the Western Hemisphere, Ellen Romm Lampert, gives us an introduction to some of its diverse members and their work!


Hi! My name is Ellen Romm Lampert, and I am presently the Future Generations representative for the wonderful and diverse Western Hemisphere Alumni.

Although the Western Hemisphere Alumni group has the smallest number of members, we have by far the largest geographical area. Just look at a map! Western Hemisphere Alumni hail from North America, the Caribbean, Central America and South America, including Canada, the U.S., Nicaragua, Haiti, Guyana, Peru, and Bolivia. We speak English, Spanish, French, and quite a few localized languages, as well. This blog introduces a few of our very dynamic female alumni. A future post will introduce some of our male alumni.

Read more…

Participatory Research and Plant Breeding in Honduras: Improving Livelihoods, Transforming Gender Relations

Did you know that Future Generations University regularly hosts live research seminars with development professionals of all backgrounds from around the world?

Check out the recording of February’s seminar below on participatory research and plant breeding in Honduras, and learn how its being used to improve livelihoods while transforming gender roles!

Follow us on Facebook to keep posted on the dates of upcoming seminars and for information on how to join in!

This seminar is presented by Dr. Sally Humphries, Associate Professor, Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Guelph in Ontario.

Sally was director of the international development studies program at Guelph for 12 years. She has worked with Honduran researchers for 25 years to support a program in farmer participatory research. The Honduran NGO Foundation for Participatory Research with Honduran Farmers (FIPAH), emerged out of this work and is today a well-respected organization, both locally and regionally. Sally worked for the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) between 1991-94 and helped to adapt one of the methodological approaches developed in CIAT, known as the CIAL methodology, to conditions in Honduras, where it is widely, and successfully, used today. FIPAH, Sally, and her students, have published a variety of articles/chapters/reports on this experience.

Alumni Update: Anthony Kadoma

This week, we hear from Anthony Kadoma, a Future Generations University alumnus working in Uganda. Anthony began his MA journey in 2012 with a focus in Peacebuilding. Throughout, he maintained continuous engagement with his existing community work in Kyenjojo district, in western Uganda. Anthony says that learning with and from the community was crucial during his studies, as it was where he put into practice what he was learning. Read on to learn more about Anthony’s work and experience!

In 2014, Anthony implemented a project on developing guidelines for disseminating practicum findings at the community level. During this project, practicum findings on the topic “Adapting Poverty Reduction Strategies at Individual, Household and Community Level: Practicum Research Conducted in Nyamanga Parish, Bufunjo Sub-county in Kyenjojo district, Western Uganda” were presented to the community members.

Listening attentively to issues raised by local community members.

Read more…

Holiday Greeting from the President of Future Generations University


Dear Future Generations Family,


As 2017 comes to an end, we take pause to think about all for which we are grateful. We also look to 2018 and what we hope the new year may bring for our organization and for the world. In both cases, the continued friendship of our supporters is a large part of the answer.


As a world-circling organization, you, our Future Generations family, is what sustains us and knits us together. We’ve thrived over the past year because of your support. Our global team grows with the great work of so many.


We look forward to another year of this partnership as we all draw inspiration from those working around the world to bring peace and sustainability in those places most in need.


Future Generations thanks all who have helped grow a universe of learning for the greater good, and wishes you a joyous holiday season and a new year filled with peace and happiness.


Happy Holidays!




Meet Kelli Fleming: Future Generations University’s new Assistant Professor and Director of Learning Management!


Having grown up in Surkhet, Nepal, Kelli has long been aware of Future Generations from its work there. She went on to pursue a Master’s in Intercultural Relations from Lesley University and has held a number of different roles in higher education throughout the years with her latest being in the online distance learning world. She has focused on the pedagogical approach to this unique field, finding the best ways to teach online in an interactive and engaging manner with her global audience in mind.
For the last 7 years, Kelli lived in New Zealand (as shown in her beautiful photos accompanying this entry) with her husband and their two young boys. There, she took on tailoring the online learning experience to fit mid-career global professionals for a program run by the University of Otago at its medical school in Wellington.
She worked with the aviation medicine program, which was fully online and taught the principles of the subject to general practitioners all over the world. Once a year, the program hosted week-long site visits to learn best practices from major airlines. The emphasis on building learning around these face-to-face interactions shares a purpose very similar to that of Future Generations residentials.
Kelli notes that although the content of her past program is very different from the Future Generations Master’s program, there are many similarities upon which she’s excited to build. Her experience with a fully online program fits very well with Future Generations move to make residentials optional, and she is already very familiar with the learning platforms used here (Moodle and Zoom).


“I knew nothing about aviation medicine,” Kelli says, “but a lot about teaching online isn’t necessarily in the content. Much of what makes it a fruitful platform is the scaffold around which you build the learning. And that’s what I’m here to help facilitate for Future Generations.”
Kelli and her family moved back to the United States in the summer to be closer to their larger families and currently reside in Blacksburg, VA. On what appealed to her about seeking to join Future Generations, Kelli says, “I’ve always lived sort of an international life, so I was excited about being able to live in Blacksburg while remaining involved in the global education world. I also really like the idea of a dedicated non-profit that’s doing some big things from a small place in the U.S. for other small places around the world. I’m looking forward to working with others focused on global community.”
Bringing her background work to play in the Future Generations context, Kelli will be leading project management and tech support for our learning management systems, as well as working with staff on the assessment front to develop innovative learning activities to showcase in students’ e-portfolios.
The removal of mandatory residentials, Kelli notes, changes where the teaching energy goes. She will help maximize online activities so that they remain inviting for students. It’s important in a blended platform like ours that someone be in place to keep that energy going. Some keys to this will be in the development of new teaching artifacts, implementation of effective online simulations, and by keeping up the engagement in online forums.
With online learning, there is an ever-present challenge to create a learning community that keeps students involved through methods other than traditional classroom setting. However in many ways, Kelli likes to think online learning can be made to be even more advantageous than classroom learning. It leads the way to innovation and opens the opportunity to learn from others around the world.
One of the things our new Learning Management Director finds the most rewarding is supporting students that already have very busy, full lives and helping them to work their ongoing education into their life balance.
Kelli looks forward to laying a foundation with the upcoming Class 2019 that will lead to the best student experience possible and to tailoring a learning platform that doesn’t make students feel as though they’re being held back by the technology, but rather guided forward by it.
Future Generations is very excited to be taking this step forward with Kelli leading the charge– please join us in extending her the warmest of welcomes!

Practicing Conflict Management & More in Africa

This week on the blog, Future Generations alumnus Jonathan Tim Nshing shares with us some of the impressive work he’s completed, as well as details a particular project he and another graduate undertook after winning an alumni collaboration grant from the Global Network…

Jonathan’s Background with Future Generations:

Jonathan’s Master’s Practicum Thesis

Recently, I carried out a project with the support of Future Generations University called Promotion of Peace Awareness Among Youths in Cameroon. More information on this work can be found on the Facebook page of the Cameroon Youth Partnership ( This project was funded by the Davis Projects for Peace, USA and was carried out in 2015.


Last year 2016, I and another alumnus, Uchenna Rowland, implemented a similar project entitled: “Documenting and Analyzing Traditional Conflict Management Techniques in Africa. Case Study: Nigeria and Cameroon,” which was funded by an Alumni Frant awarded annually by Future Generations Global Network. This project valorized African traditional methods and institutions of conflict management. We also came up with a procedural manual on traditional conflict management techniques in Africa.


Nexus Fund builds & strengthens local
communities to help prevent mass attrocities

I completed another related project in March of 2017, entitled “Deconstructing the Terrorist Narrative among Young People in Cameroon,” funded by the Nexus Fund, USA. We came out of it with findings indicative of the process of radicalization of young people in Cameroon and produced the working document “Youth De-Radicalization Compendium.”


At the moment, we are implementing another project funded by the Future Generations Global Network on the provision of two hand pumps to the Garyea Community in Liberia and the extension of the Nboung Water Network in Nboung-Nkwen, Bamenda.



Garyea Town is part of the Yelequelleh District, Gbartala, Bong County. It has been in existence as a community for more than fifty years. The community has 11 households with a population of 1350 persons. Of that number, 37% are females. The town has seven satellite villages with a population of 300 persons. Garyea geographical position has remain a challenge for the community for many years. It is located on a mountain of rocks making it difficult for the people to access water for survival. In fact like other communities where water are found in creeks and streams and serve as point for drinking, Garyea source of water comes from the rocks on the mountains which for many reasons are insufficient, dirty, and difficult to get. As the community seeks new source of water for drinking, so are they exposed to many water borne diseases.


The project is designed to rehabilitate a damaged pump and also construct a new pump for the community. The project will provide resources for training of pump mechanics and technicians as part of the Community WASH Committee so that maintenance will be guaranteed going forward. The project will provide training and awareness in the areas of gender, environment, disabilities, and WASH. The project is inclusive of water and sanitation awareness for the community. The project will work with existing leadership on the grounds like the CWC to provide leadership for project implementation. The project is expected to last for one year to be turned over to the community. The project will be implemented using a tripartite memorandum of understanding between DCS, local community and the Bong County WASH Office.


Nboung village is one of the neighborhoods or villages located in the Bamenda III Sub-Division in Mezam Division of the North West Region. It is about 15 minutes drive from Bamenda City, situated along the road from Bambui Four Corners to Nforya in Bafut SubDivision. It has an estimated population of 1000 inhabitants. The village has never had pipe-borne water. The villagers trek for as much as 2 kilometres to access water from open streams and sometimes they rely on wells that are hardly treated and not safe for drinking, as such they are exposed to water- borne diseases such as diarrhea, cholera among others.


This project aims at supporting the extension of the Nboung Water Project Piping network in Nkwen Bamenda. This village does not have pipe borne water but have succeeded to build their catchment and a water storage tank. What is left is the extension of the piping network from the catchment area to the village square over a distance of 1.5 kilometres. The inhabitants of the village will then be able to connect the water from the main water network or grid into their homes. The village water committee will thereafter construct seven stand taps around the village

The following are photos of the project that we are currently doing with funding from Future Generations Global Network, which includes the construction of two hand pumps in Garyea County, Liberia and extension of water supply in Nboung, Cameroon:
Hand pump construction in Garyea County, Liberia
Water supply extension in Nboung, Cameroon
This week’s blog was contributed by Jonathan Tim Nshing, a member of Future Generations University’s Class of 2015. As a school counselor by training, Jonathan has over thirteen years of service, having worked with schools, youth groups and local communities in the North West Region of Cameroon. It is also important to note that Jonathan is the founder of the Cameroon Youth Partnership. Cameroon Youth Partnership is a community-based organization aimed at the empowerment of young people through offering them information and counseling on youth related issues such as jobs, sexuality, HIV/AIDS, drug abuse, peace advocacy, and fighting violence in all its forms.


If you wish to support the work of the Cameroon Youth Partnership, please contact: or You may also contact Future Generations on our behalf. If you wish to specifically support the water projects in Liberia and/or Cameroon, contact Future Generations or Future Generations Global Network.


Graduation Reflections



Today on the blog, our Chief Academic Officer, Christie Hand, takes the time to share with us just how special the last residential and Commencement were for the Class of 2017…
There is nothing quite like the privilege of spending two intense weeks with Future Generations University students on one of their field residentials. I just returned from the Philippines where nineteen students in the Class of 2017 – from the three regional cohorts of Africa, Himalaya, and Appalachia – gathered for their Term IV residential and for the celebration of Commencement. The setting was perfect – the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction’s beautiful James Yen Center in Silang, Cavite, just south of Manila. Dr. James Yen, the founder of IIRR, was passionate about participatory and people-centered development. Likewise, Future Generations students are passionate about making a positive impact in their communities.
The residential began with four days of instruction and practice in Building Bridges through Intergroup Dialogue, facilitated by U.S. Institute of Peace instructors, Dr. Alison Milofsky and Ariana Barth. Students worked on skills in active listening, examining beliefs and assumptions, and negotiating identity as they prepared to facilitate their own dialogue. Building on the trust developed over their past two years together, they were able to navigate sensitive issues which often involved sharing on a deep personal level.


Following the dialogue course, students enjoyed a two-day field visit to Taal Lake and Volcano Protected Area, meeting with the NGO Pusod, which has ambitious goals of ensuring a pollutant-free and sustainable ecosystem of Taal Lake and a disaster preparedness plan for the people on and around Volcano Island. Pusod is run by a small, and very capable, team under the leadership of Executive Director Ann Hazel. One of the highlights was crossing by boat to Volcano Island where we hiked or road on horseback (some of us did both!) up to the crater. Steam escaping from vents at the top reminded us that it is still an active volcano, and is eventually due for an eruption.
Back in the classroom at the Yen Center, students enjoyed four days of Strategic Leadership instruction with Dr. Ben Lozare, Director for Training and Capacity Building at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Communications Programs. Ben has been co-teaching the leadership course with Dr. Henry Mosely since Future Generation’s first Master’s cohort. Henry, unfortunately, could not make it to the Philippines, but Ben had no problem engaging students the whole time with his passion, his stories, and wisdom gained over many years of experience in international development. Particularly appropriate was the recounting of his involvement in the nonviolent People’s Power Movement in the Philippines during the 1980’s, which led to the departure of President Marcos, and laid the foundation to the leadership and communications principles which Ben ascribes to and teaches. Students came away from the course with a deeper understanding of shared vision and the role that socially accepted fiction plays in their community work.
Community-based Disaster Risk Reduction was the final course of the residential, taught by IIRR President Isaac Bekalo and trainer Wilson Barbon. As this is an area of expertise for IIRR, they were able to share frameworks for assessing hazard prevention and mitigation as well as analyzing community vulnerability and disaster risk. A half-day field visit to Rosaria, on Manila Bay, helped students to put the principles in context as this area is in particular danger from typhoons. Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers are trained to respond to typhoon warnings, mobilizing the community and ensuring prompt evacuation to higher ground. They also train youth in disaster preparedness skills and strategies.
And the climax of the residential? Celebrating the graduation of students who, after 20 months of hard work, earned their MA in Applied Community Change. In a ceremony highlighting student diversity and unity, each of the regional cohorts chose a speaker and a song to share. Zerihun Damenu, Director of IIRR’s Ethiopia country program, spoke for the Africa Cohort followed by the song Africa Unity presented by all 12 students representing Ethiopia, Uganda, Sudan, Somalia, and Ghana. Mone Gurung, Program Coordinator for Future Generations Arunachal, spoke for the Himalayan Cohort, followed by the Nepali song Hami Bikaska Sahajkarta Haun (We are development facilitators) powerfully led by Bhim Nepali and accompanied by other Indian (from Arunachal Pradesh) and Nepali students. Ashley Akers of West Virginia represented the Appalachian Cohort with her speech and signing of a portion of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “moving forward” speech: “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” Country Roads was appropriately chosen as the Appalachian student song but was given an international flair with students and faculty from around the globe joining in.


As students crossed the stage to receive their Master’s hood (green and blue lining for the school colors with citron for the field of social work), their diploma, and to shake hands with Future Generations University President Daniel Taylor and IIRR President Isaac Bekalo, we realized that this was not a completion as much as a commencement, or even a continuation. They were recruited into the program as community change agents and they would continue to facilitate transformation in their communities, equipped now with tools and skills that they didn’t have before. As alumni of Future Generations University, they join a Global Network of alumni and community practitioners, who will continue to challenge and encourage them.
So thank you to the Future Generations students for the privilege of working with you, and thank you to the community members, family members, and faculty who have inspired each of our students. A special shout out also to the Regional Academic Directors, Nawang Gurung (Nepal), Firew Kefyalew (Ethiopia), and Luke Taylor-Ide (West Virginia) for guiding and mentoring the Class of 2017 throughout the full two years. May we all continue to move forward in the work to which we are called.
Christie is committed to ensuring that higher education is relevant and accessible to all. The benefits and opportunities available through education should not be for a select few. Towards this end, she is enthusiastic about trying new models and approaches which help to increase the reach of higher education and enable greater success. Her style is that of facilitation, empowering students to take responsibility for their own learning, and becoming life-long learners. Christie has been working at Future Generations University since 2007.


The Future and the Appalachians

For the Central Appalachians, including our home state of West Virginia, the future needs to look very different from the past. The region’s historic reliance on the coal industry to support family livelihoods, and to support government services, no longer works. The future demands a new economic model, but where do you get one? Professor Mike Rechlin weighs in on an innovative way he’s led Future Generations in approaching this task…
Class members on the first day of the Sap Collection Residential

You can start by looking at what works, and build on that success. You can replace the energy found in coal with the human energy to innovate. You can develop partnerships between not-for-profits, government and people eager to see change. If that sounds like part of the mantra of Future Generations University; well, that’s because it is. And maybe that’s why West Virginia’s newest University just might be in the “sweet spot” when it comes to the future and the Appalachians.
Participant Karen Milnes measuring trees
with a diameter tape
When Future Generations Graduate School Dean Mike Rechlin retired from his duties on North Mountain, he planned on moving on up to his home in New York State. Instead he moved his activity up to the backside of Spruce Knob to help establish the Dry Fork Maple Works. Seeing the potential for growth of a new industry in the State, one that sustainably used a renewable forest resource, Mike help organize the West Virginia Maple Syrup Producers Association (WVMSPA). Fast forward 2 years, and applying that mantra of build on success, rely on human energy, and develop partnerships, he is now helping the West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) to develop this growing sector of the State’s economy. It’s also why Future Generations University is partnering with the WVDA and it’s Warriors and Veterans in Agriculture program to offer a course titled Maple Sap Collection and Syrup Processing.
This past September, Mike crisscrossed the State offering seven Maple Syrup Production seminars to over 75 interested participants. Through partnerships developed by Future Generations University with the WVDA, the West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance, the WVMSPA, and West Virginia University, those interested in moving into this industry are now enrolled in the Maple Sap Collection and Syrup Processing Course. Completing this course will require participants to enter into a mentoring relationship with a syrup producer already successfully established within the State. The seminars, the course, and the WVMSPA are all driven by a palpable sense of human energyeager to see change.
As course participant and army veteran Jeremy Ray said last weekend at the courses first residential, “nothing is happening in Nicholas County, where I live (and whose property butts up against a closed coal mine). I just want to get something going, to make it better.”
Crew members recording plot data
When Mike Rechlin told the University’s Director of Research, Mieke Schleiff, about this growing relationship between Future Generations and this maple syrup business, he let her know that the focus of his course was on tree biology, evaporator chemistry, ecology, and math, not SEED/SCALE. Fair enough, but stepping back a bit to look at the big picture, it kind of looks like it is. And, it just might be that “sweet spot” where Future Generations University can apply its unique perspective to the future of the Appalachians.
Alisha and Baby Oriana making use of a Biltmore Stick
Interested in this unique learning and entrepreneurship opportunity? Visit or call the office at 304-358-2000 to find out more pricing and enrollment options!


Mike Rechlin has practiced sustainable foresty and protected areas management in the United States, Nepal, India, and Tibet for thirty years. He has extensive teaching experience and has designed educational programs for many international groups visiting the Adirondack Park of New York State. Presently retired, Mike has held academic appointments at Principia College, Paul Smith’s College, and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He served as the dean of Future Generations Graduate School from 2010 to 2013. He presently resides, and makes maple syrup, in Franklin, WV.





Alumni Feature: Meaghan Gruber


Today on the blog, we hear from Meaghan Gruber, an alumna of the Class of 2014. Meaghan discusses how her Future Generations education has aided her work in her field and how it still comes into play in her current role with Cacao&Terra Nicaragua. Meaghan has also been the recipient of two Alumni Collaboration Grants from the Global Network. Read on to find out more!



Meaghan credits her education with Future Generations University for challenging her to think outside the box in her work. When she started her Master’s, she was working with an NGO that worked towards development across several different sectors. Future Generations’ inherently multi-sectoral approach allowed her to apply what she was learning directly to her work, team, and community, thereby enhancing her success in her work and enabling her team to more effectively evaluate their next steps. The most beneficial aspect of the program for her was the diversity of her fellow Master’s students. She says that this led to thinking about new ideas in different ways, creatively collaborating across the world, and understanding similarities in challenges and how those challenges may be addressed. Most importantly, Meaghan says, “They taught me new ways to see the world—for that, I am forever indebted.”


She again applied this basis to her action research Practicum, which looked at community voice within a proposed health clinic plan in a rural community. Applying her knowledge of the three-way partnership, she provided invaluable research on behalf of her NGO, which was then able to work successfully with the community, other NGOs, Ministry of Health, and government to launch the project. Meaghan says that it’s given her a great sense of pride to know that her practicum work wasn’t just another proposed development project pushed onto a community, but rather a collaborative effort based on community energy.


Most recently, she’s been working on a social enterprise called Cacao&Terra Nicaragua that focuses on reforestation via the planting of cacao, as well as produces value-added fine-quality chocolate. This is completed in partnership with communities, cooperatives, and government. Says Meaghan, “I’m constantly inspired by the organization, determination, and creativity that I witness on a daily basis in my work.”



Of SEED-SCALE, Meaghan makes frequent use in her work, as she feels that many parts of this theory are essential for positive and sustainable community change. In her work, the principles of working with human energy, building from success, and using three-way partnerships are always used. Meaghan had observed that often NGOs or individuals work alone in communities or without fully involving the community or other actors, leading to failed projects. She asserts that working collaboratively with all actors represented ensures a much more sustainable future for the projects and the communities that make use of this approach.


Building from success and learning from the successes of others has enabled Meaghan to take informed next steps that have brought her work to SCALE. From having applied SEED-SCALE in their work with cacao plantations and chocolate making, her team is now working in collaboration with new associations and co-operatives that are working together in chocolate-making and sustainable livelihood alternatives.


One of the most rewarding parts of this process for Meaghan has been seeing how her work has sparked behavior change using SEED-SCALE. By focusing on community change via the planting of cacao and chocolate making in the northern region of Nicaragua and with the award of a Future Generations Alumni Collaboration Grant, Meaghan’s work has not only aided in reforestation efforts, but has also evolved into making value-added products with cacao. The progression towards chocolate-making has given Meaghan the opportunity to work closely with young people from Waslala, Nicaragua, as well as different actors in the area. Meaghan’s position of being from the United States but having been settled in Nicaragua for the last 10 years has also allowed her to aid the company in forging connections, improving communications, and product distribution, thereby further bringing this project to SCALE.


To learn more about Cacao&Terra Nicaragua, please visit:
Or check them out and follow on Facebook:
Meaghan was first drawn to community change work when she travelled to the northern mountains of Nicaragua in the early 2000s. It was here that she began to question how lives could improve in areas such as the one she was visiting; areas that are poor in resources, but infinitely rich in the quality of its people and their collective capabilities. After dedicating her university years to studying the socio-economic and historical contexts that had given rise to the conditions present in rural Nicaragua, she returned and began working with NGOs that were focused on water access, school building, scholarship programs, and alternative income programs. Throughout, she remained the most inspired by the people she encountered in her work and the communities that were working together to improve life for their children. This prompted her to begin her journey with Future Generations. We’re proud to have such an exemplary individual among our alumni and continue to be inspired by her scaling up of her work.


Happy Dashain from Future Generations!

A greeting from Himalayan Regional Academic Director and Assistant Professor, Mr. Nawang Singh Gurung:

Dear respected Future Generations University network and global family members, alumni, friends, and communities around the world,
Future Generations is a globally united family, and it may be of interest to learn about a different culture’s religion, beliefs and values! So, I’m sharing a bit about a very special holiday I celebrate in Nepal, Dashain and Deepawali. Dashain has been celebrated since ancient times as the longest-lasting national festival in Nepal. (Similar traditions are also celebrated in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Malaysia, Pakistan, and parts of India).
Dashain is the most auspicious festival of the Nepalese people. During Dashain, relatives from abroad countries come home to celebrate. It starts from Ghatastamna in last week of September (which falls on today!) The main day of Dashain is Bijaya Dashami (Sept. 30).
After the unification of Nepal by Prithvi Narayan Shah (c. late 1700s), a modern Nepal and a new tradition was set by bringing Phulpati and Jamara to our capital, Kathmandu, from the Gorakhkali Temple by a Magar priest.
According to Hindu mythology, a demon called “Mahisasur” had caused pain and suffering amongst humans. Then the goddess Durga Bhawani killed the demon to relieve the humans. In other myths, it is celebrated after the victory of our god, Rama, over the Ravan (devils). In all accounts, Dashain is a festival symbolizing the triumph of truth over evil.
The worshipping of the Nawadurga Bhawani (Taleju Temple) during the Nawaratra (nine nights of worship) from Ghatastapana  is an ancient tradition. It is mentioned in the Devi-Puran: “Ram had proposed of launching war against Rawan in Lanka on the occasion of Bijayadashami in Ashwin Shukla Nawaratri.” Similarly, it is mentioned in the Padma-Puran: “Rama had killed Rawan on the day of
Chaitra Shukla Chaturdashi.”
People of any caste, whether Hindu or Buddhist, take Tika (blessings of abundance) from senior family members in order of precedence after worshipping the god Durga and all their machines — like vehicles, computers and other gadgets they use daily to earn a living.
Happy Dashain and Deepawali to all our students, staff, and friends who will be celebrating this week! 

Musings of a Naturalist IV: Loango: An Elephant Eden

We were edging along the Rembo Ngowe river in a small outboard, hugging the east bank in hopes of seeing a Giant Kingfisher or the Palm-nut Vulture, when we rounded a bend to suddenly come head to head with a magnificent Forest Elephant feeding on a grassy peninsula, its yellowish and relatively straight tusks nearly touching the ground. The animal stopped chewing, surveyed the situation, and deciding that we were too close for comfort, slowly backed away, disappearing rear-end first into a curtain of green…
We encountered the elephant in Loango, a 1550 square kilometer national park that fronts on the Atlantic Ocean in Gabon and we were here to learn about the Congo Rainforest Biome as well as hear about Gabon’s conservation successes. Loango has been called the ‘Eden of Africa’ and this may be the case, but Eden, like Shangri-La, is an overused word, one that connotes varying images to different people. Eden, to me, brings up a vision of a garden paradise where food supplies are inexhaustible, where plants and animals exist in balance, where animals roam without fearing man, a place of peace and beauty. Such may exist in one’s mind, but certainly not in western Gabon – at least not as yet.
However, if we were to say that Loango is an Elephant Eden we would not be far wrong, for Loango is indeed an elephant sanctuary, a place with a fairly uniformly hot climate, copious quantities of food, and with protection from hunters.
We rounded a bend in a small outboard to suddenly surprise a
Forest Elephant, Loxodonta cyclotis, feeding on a grassy peninsula
poking into the slow-moving Rembo Ngowe river. While this animal
did not show alarm, it did stop eating and slowly backed into the forest.
The white bar at the lower left-hand edge of this picture shows the rim
of our boat and indicates how close we were to this magnificent creature.
As it was, I was surprised that this elephant backed into the forest as I couldn’t remember seeing elephants departing in this way – Savanna and Indian elephants usually swing around before fleeing. In addition, I had never been suddenly this close to a wild elephant without it showing considerable alarm. This morning there was no sign of aggression, no ears tilting forward, no trunk in the air, no trumpeting. This certainly spoke of the splendid protection afforded by the park and that the animal had not had bad encounters with humans.



The elephants that roam in Loango are Forest Elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis), a species that a DNA study published in 2001, showed was different from Savanna Elephants. Subsequent papers have confirmed this separation, and indeed the elephant in front of us did have a distinctive ‘feel’ to it. The tusker, even though fully mature and somewhat aged, did not seem inordinately large even at our close range and it also appeared to be a dark. We had read that the tusks of a Forest Elephant (when compared with a Savanna species), are straighter and yellower and ears are smaller, rounder. A Forest Elephant also has four, not five, toes, but we were so taken with the encounter that we forgot to count. In any case, the toes were well hidden in the grass.
The characteristics of these Gabon elephants are adaptations to a dense forest habitat, where small size would be useful, where relatively straight tusks would help to lift impeding vegetation out of the way, and where ear size, a part of their cooling system, would not be as necessary in forest shade as in open grasslands. In addition, a darker skin would blend with the darks of forest shade. But why four and not five toes? I have no idea.
Furthermore these elephants, as befitting their habitat, do not associate in large herds. During our time in Gabon, we encountered solitary animals, or a mother with a calf, or small groups of four or five animals. The largest gathering we saw was eight individuals clustered around a clump of trees in the middle of a wide, green marsh. Elephants also seek out clearings in the forest, locally called bais, where they are perhaps attracted by the soil’s mineral composition and where they associate with others,
Forest elephants move seasonally, frequenting soggy marshlands during the dry season and moving back into the lowland rain forests when the wet returns and the marshes flood. While in the marshlands, elephants feed on a variety of grasses and rushes, including papyrus, and in the forest they consume a wide variety of leaves, bark, and fruit. Some forest trees benefit from the presence of the elephants as the animals eat the fruit and then distribute seeds over wide areas. Indeed the seeds of some trees, including the 30-meter tall Navel Fruit, Omphalocarpumin the Sapotaceae family, germinate only if they have passed through the animal’s digestive system. In addition, the health of a forest may be assisted by the elephants breaking off branches and trampling the undergrowth to help light reach the ground and foster plant growth. In some parts of West Africa, the original forest composition has noticeably changed following the disappearance of elephants.
(Navel Fruit trees are part of what has been called the Megafaunal Syndrome which theorizes that in past ages very large fruit may have evolved in order to attract very large animals (the megafauna) and thus assist in wide seed dispersal (for more see Megagardeners of the Forest – the role of elephants in seed dispersal, by Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz and Stephen Blake in Acta Oecologica, posted online 22 Feb 2011).)



Any thought of elephants immediately brings to mind the grim straits that the Forest Elephant and all elephant species face. Elephants need space but with habitat loss and fragmentation this is a fast diminishing commodity. Besides space, rampant poaching is a dire on-going threat that will be eliminated only when human needs are adequately met and when there is no market for ivory – or bush meat. There are many on-going efforts to deal with poaching so we retain the hope that elephants will indeed survive in the wild.

Gabon had received little conservation attention and Loango was almost unknown until zoologist Michael Fey’s well-publicized on-foot transect across the Congo Basin, a journey that ended in Loango in 2000. With Longo now on the map, the forward thinking prime minister, Omar Bongo, created the National Agency for National Parks in 2002, and this body decided to protect thirteen areas of special biological interest as national parks. These now occupy ten percent of Gabon’s land area.

While elephants, as a charismatic group, attract special conservation interest, their protection and the retention of their habitat also benefits many other species which, in Gabon, includes Lowland Gorillas, Chimpanzees, Red River Hogs, African Gray Parrots, and Slender-snouted Crocodiles, all indicator species of the Congo Rainforest Biome. And also benefitting from habitat protection are Giant Kingfishers, Palm-nut Vultures, and the African Rock Python, species I had previously encountered in other areas of Africa – but never in these numbers.


The Red River Hog, Potamochoerus porcus, is one of 19 species is the family Suidae. These hogs search the forest floor in tropical rainforests of West Africa and are found from the Congo Basin west to Guinea. Their preferred habitat is good forest as well as open edges of streams and marshes where they search for tubers, fruit fallen from trees, and even carrion. In addition they look for the balls of forest elephant feces which they break apart to feed on the undigested seeds of trees such as Balanites wilsoniana. While Wild Red River Hogs usually roam in small groups of up to ten animals, the large assemblages seen in Loango indicates fine habitat and good protection.
In the bird world, African Gray Parrots are perhaps the most accomplished mimics of the human voice but in the wild they don’t sound like humans at all. On the first morning at the Loango Lodge, I stepped outside my cottage to hear a melodic chorus some distance to the left. Those wonderful, mellow voices at varying pitches, sounded like orioles. But several orioles singing together? Most unlikely. This was a puzzle.


But not a puzzle for long as I was soon told that these were African Gray Parrots talking. Parrots singing like orioles? Seemed most improbable, as members of the parrot family screech and squawk. But sing? No way! So I walked over to the trees where the birds were moving about and sure enough: Gray Parrots.


In the bird world, Grays are perhaps the best imitators of the human voice (Talking Mynas are a close second) and Alex a captive Gray, one of the most famous representatives of its species, was taught to ‘say’ over 100 words. But not only that, this remarkable bird seemed to understand what the words meant. Additionally, it was demonstrated that Alex could count up to six and could recognize seven different colors (for a splendid biographical account see: Alex and Me by Irene Pepperberg, first published in 2008 by HarperCollins).


Gray parrots are much in demand as caged birds – and this poses a dilemma for this parrot, as it does for all cage bird species. In the past the capturing of wild birds (often chicks or eggs robbed from the nest) has been a income source for some but these days with tightened regulations through CITES treaties, heightened publicity of illegal acts, and well trained customs officials, the illegal bird trade has diminished – not finished but much reduced.


One good way to impede nefarious wildlife activities is to recruit the best village ‘poachers,’ and train them as ecotourism guides. When the economic benefit of guiding outweighs remuneration from poaching, the same hunters often make outstanding wardens. We saw this in action in Piaui State in Brazil where income is generated by showing visitors the stunning Hyacinth Macaw.


Iguela Lagoon, a large fresh water lake with brackish water towards the Atlantic Ocean, is a special feature of the northwestern part of the park. Much of the territory immediately around the lake is marshland, waterlogged during the rainy season, but transformed into vast grassy swards in the dry season. Slightly raised terrain inland from the lagoon, often small ridges, support stands of tropical forest in which animals such as White-nosed Monkeys and the Red River Hogs live. Forest elephants are at home in either terrain and when green grasses sprout during the dry season elephants emerge from the forest into the marshes.


Even during the short dry period, the time when we were in the park, the water channels running into Iguela Lagoon remain filled, but with banks exposed enough to host rows of palms, their long leaves often drooping over the water. And with the palm canopy punctuated by tall trees, this is a perfect habitat for the Palm-nut Vulture (Gypohierax angolensis).


The Palm-Nut Vulture (Gypohierax angolensis), a raptor primarily of wet equatorial forests in western Africa, might best be called a vulturine eagle for its head is totally feathered, save for red facial skin, and the bird features acrobatic aerial courtship displays, rolling and diving. Besides the bird sometimes attacks living prey, occasionally picking disabled fish off the surface of the water or eyeing the occupants of a chicken coop. This vulturine eagle does feed on carrion but its primary food source is nuts of Elaeis and Raphia palms.
Eagles and Old World vultures are closely related and the Palm-Nut Vulture looks and acts like a black-and-white eagle, especially in aerial courtship displays and when attacking live creatures such as chickens. Their name is appropriate as these birds feed primarily on the nuts of the palms (especially Elaeis and Raphia), but they also consume dead fish – as do American Bald Eagles and the African Fishing Eagles. During our Gabon visit we did not see this species scavenge and thus the name Palm-nut Vulturine Eagle would be appropriate, or perhaps the alliterative Vegetarian* Vulture would be at least partly applicable.
Gabon is also a stronghold for the Slender- snouted Crocodile Mecistops cataphractus, one of four African crocodilian species. This rainforest reptile thrives best in shaded, aquatic situations and is known from the Congo Basin and surrounding regions as well as living in rainforest patches that extend west along the African coast to as far as Senegal. The crocodiles living in far western Africa may well represent a separate species. Whatever, population numbers are uncertain but the crocodile is usually listed as critically endangered and Gabon likely harbors one of the highest concentration of this species with Loango and its Iguela Lagoon and the shaded waterways is one of the best hopes for this species.
On occasion, most crocodiles like to haul out of the water to spend time on dry land. However, few exposed banks exist along the Mpivie or other rivers in lowland Gabon, so Slender-snouted reptiles often clamber up trunks of dead trees fallen into the river.


This, small, long-snouted crocodile (adults rarely run to more than three meters in length) is a fish eater, the snout slashing sideways when detecting prey. It also supplements its diet with aquatic reptiles (turtles are a favorite) and the occasional bird or mammal. From time to time, crocodiles like to haul out of the water but as very few open banks exist in Loango, the reptiles climb onto protruding logs, often managing to clamber up a dead tree trunk sticking out of the water at a slant of up to 25 degrees. In Loango the reptiles are not hunted for their meat or skins (as they are in many areas of this biome) so the animals we encountered were remarkably tolerant of our approach. However, if our boat floated too close for comfort, the crocodiles suddenly launched off the logs and belly flopped into the water.


This crocodile is a mound nester, and towards the beginning of the rainy season a female will gather vegetation into a pile on the bank and then lay around 20 large eggs in the mound. These eggs take a long time to hatch, one report listed 110 days, during which period the female stays near the nest but does not assist with incubation. However, when the youngsters begin to cheep as the eggs hatch, the female digs into the mound to free her offspring so they can swim out into the flooded marshes.



The slow-moving, shaded Mpivie River is ideal habitat for Slender-snouted Crocodiles as it supports a splendid fish population and there is ample shade from the Eleias palms and other trees lining the channel. This habitat is also much favored by kingfishers as well as the African Finfoot and the large, Pell’s Owl, both rare bird species.
Gabon’s thirteen national parks are the ‘top down’ variety, reserves imposed by officials on areas of special conservation interest. One does need to start somewhere but in the long run, the top-down system has been effective – over the long haul – mostly where initiation has been followed by strong community outreach and where people living in or near the protected areas are incorporated into the economic benefits of the conservation plan. Without community cooperation, and the members assisting in surveillance to help maintain their economic asset, most plans don’t succeed, or succeed only if governments invest huge amounts of money in order to patrol the area.


No two conservation areas are alike so programs need to be flexible and adapt to what works within the given context, and in Gabon we can be thankful both for the government initiatives and also for the evolution of conservation thinking has led to a point where locals are included, not excluded, in plans.


Much of the terrain inland from Gabon’s southern Atlantic coast features a mosaic of lagoons and waterways, and the people living here are masterful fishermen. Hunting in Loango National Park is not permitted but fishing for local consumption is allowed, the operations supervised by park authorities. This mid-afternoon image shows a park ranger recording the ‘take’, which includes catfish and other freshwater species while staff from the Akaka tented camp bargain for dinner.
A multiuse concept covering areas of special significance, initially voiced in the 1970s, works well in many places. This scheme envisions three zones – or adaptations thereof. A core zone is a strictly protected area where entry is granted by special permission. This is surrounded by a buffer zone where limited, sustainable use activities, including low impact tourism and recreation is promoted. And all are flanked by an outlying transition zone in which people live and where sustainable economic activity, such as ecotourism lodges or selected logging, is encouraged and where various stakeholders work together to ensure a long-term, on-going benefit to the people in the area.


Gabon still has a long road ahead to reach the point where their national parks are protected for the long term, but a fine start has been made so future generations of elephants as well as people can be thankful for the vision and the effort that is evident today.
Pictured is Dr. Fleming with a staff member of
Loango Lodge; the photo was taken on‘Gorilla Island’ near the
Loango National Park where there is a rehab center for rescued gorillas.

This week’s blog piece and photos make up the fourth installment in our Musings of a Naturalist series, courtesy of our own Dr. Robert (Bob) Fleming: Professor Equity and Empowerment/ Natural History. Having grown up in the foothills of the Himalayas in India, Bob has long been interested in the beauty of nature. This progressed into a fascination with natural history and cultural diversity, leading him to obtain his Ph.D. in zoology. He has explored many of the planet’s special biological regions, ranging from the Namib Desert in Africa to the Tropical Rainforest of the Amazon, and the Mountain Tundra biome of the Himalayas. He has worked for the Smithsonian’s Office of Ecology and the Royal Nepal Academy and, along with his father and Royal Nepal Academy Director-Lain Singh Bangdel, he wrote and illustrated “Birds of Nepal,” the first modern field guide to the birds of the region. In addition to his work with Future Generations, Bob is the director of Nature Himalayas, a sole proprietorship that he began in 1970. Through this company, Bob has led some 250 outings. He currently lives in the temperate rainforest of western Oregon in the USA’s Pacific Northwest.

Many thanks to Dr. Fleming for another great contribution!

Using the SEED-SCALE Model to Assess Access to Education in Engikaret, Tanzania


To bridge academic research with field research conducted in Engikaret, Tanzania, Taylor Lee presents her findings in regards to access to education and the role it plays there. Using the SEED-SCALE model and associated core principles outlined in Just and Lasting Change, she used her research to evaluate Engikaret’s access to education, operating on her belief in its ability to increase opportunities for individuals living in rural, resource-poor environments. Observation and personal communication led Taylor’s investigation with Maasai community members, government agents, parents and youth of the community, as well as community liaisons operating through or in conjunction with Nyayo Discovery. She primarily focused on the general community’s understanding of access to education and how this pertains to community opportunities and well-being…
7th Year Students at ECPS.
Core Teachers: Sion and Priska.
Guest Teacher:Taylor




Social change within a community can only be sustained when multi-layered partnerships are organized in the context of community empowerment, wherein the needs and wants of the community are center to the movement. Such is the case with access to education in rural Tanzania. The Maasai of Engikaret have been empowered over the last decade through shifting social values to promote access to education for the community’s youth. I bore witness to partnerships between local leaders, regional government, and outside agencies; all of which empower the Maasai of Engikaret to continuously improve access to education to the benefit of the community’s overall health and well-being.

Principle One: Rising Aspirations Lead to Action

The Maasai of Engikaret live in a resource-poor and geographically isolated area, with an estimated population of 4,000. While resistant to overt cultural change, I found the Maasai of Engikaret open and willingly promote formal education as a means to generate opportunities within the community. The community’s openness to supporting formal education (such as enrollment in primary school) reflects Principal One of the SEED-SCALE model, which asserts that when promoting sustainable community programs, such as access to education, assessment leading to action should begin with evaluating the strengths of the community.

Within these strengths, I could see the hopes and dreams of parents wanting their youth to have the opportunity to attend primary school. As evidence, Engikaret has two primary schools. New Vision Primary School is a privately funded, faith-based school whereas Engikaret Community Primary School (ECPS) is a government funded, public school. While there are resource discrepancies between the two schools, the focus of my observations leads me to conclude that within the larger community context, there is a community-driven want to provide access to education for the youth of the area. Further, within the parameters of Principle One, is the need to assess how communities understand education as it relates to community health and well-being.

Officially, the community supports education, at least through the primary grades for the majority of the community’s children. I gleaned this informal information through participation in multiple Maasai community discussions. I had ample opportunities to meet with the mamas of Engikaret, who repeatedly stated that they want their children, regardless of gender, to be in school. While the position presented by the mamas highlights how the Engikaret Maasai have embraced social change through the verbal promotion of education, it is of interest that there are school-aged youth, primarily girls, who are not enrolled in either of the community’s primary schools. This observation led me to inquire about the rates of girl to boy enrollment within the public school system of Engikaret. Interviews with the public school teachers confirmed that more males are enrolled and supported in school attendance than girls. Perhaps this reflects traditions that “might create obstacles to healthy change.”

Evaluating challenges to healthy change does not mean to focus on the negative; rather Principle One acknowledges that when assessing community strengths one should not “ignore problems.” I suspect part of the reason for lower girl enrollment stems from the Maasai’s traditional gender roles. Traditional expectations of Maasai women are focused on marriage, child rearing, and home duties rather than on building gender equality through access to education. It is not to say the community does not embrace healthy change– from my observations of the Level Seven class at ECPS, I saw more female students enrolled than I had initially expected. Within the Level Seven class ,I calculated 43% of students were female, compared to 57% male. This data reflects a 23% increase in girl enrollment rates within the last generation.

Another obstacle I observed with regards to youth accessing education surrounds the initial rollout of education programs by the Tanzanian government. The government mandate requiring youth aged 7-13 to attend primary school was not initiated nor initially supported by the Maasai. Thus it did not stem from a community-driven desire. Because of this, it appears the Maasai had little involvement with the placement of ECPS. The repercussions are that many primary aged school children walk long distances to and from school each school day. According to teachers at ECPS, children may have to walk up to an hour one-way to access the school building. Parents in the community also have concerns with their children crossing the highway to get to the school building; this is especially concerning for the younger students. As the community has come to support formal education, I was able to observe how the community has taken action to help mitigate some of the obstacles students face on the journey to school.


One clear way the community has supported the students’ journey to school is seen in how the students move as a group. Many children were observed arriving at school in groups, comprised of family members and neighbors. Within these groups arriving at school, it was apparent that there were always older children with the younger children. The grouping of students to ensure the safe passage to school proves the community of Engikaret has found a community-based approach to supporting access to education. Further, as school enrollment increases, the government, this time with the collaboration of the Engikaret Maasai, is looking to build a second primary school. The hope is to shorten the journey for students. As the community’s aspirations regarding access to education rise, I believe the Maasai community of Engikaret will show a greater capacity to advocate for the building location of the new public school when the time comes.


Rising aspirations is a strong motivator for social change, a motivator that is conceived from the community’s perceived positive development. I believe that as the community observes how access to primary, secondary and university education improves the quality of life for those individuals, they then will promote the equal access to primary school enrollment for more of their community’s youth. For example, in visiting a boma that showed more development than others, such as solar panels to meet the family’s energy needs and buildings that required less maintenance by the females of the family, I asked Patrick (Nyayo Discovery liaison between the community and global visitors) if this family was considered wealthy. His response was not that the family was wealthy but that the family’s son had completed primary, secondary and university education and therefore had the capacity to take advantage of opportunities that impact the health and well-being of the household. I believe Patrick’s response reflects elements of Principle One; social growth begins with improved conditions for some community members that in turn spark interest and participation in social change by others.


Based on my observations, the community of Engikaret is driven to overcome obstacles presented by their geographical isolation and resource-poor living conditions. The value of formal education is held in high regard and desired by the majority of the Engikaret Maasai. For example, I observed at least one primary school aged child enrolled in school per family. Social change is a slow process. However, as the community experiences more access to opportunities because of education, I believe the community’s interaction and support for the education system will increase.
Mamas of Engikaret


Principle Two: Three-way Partnerships and Malleable Leadership


For large-scale social change to occur, such as empowering communities through access to education, the construct of community needs to be redefined. In the context of empowering people through access to education, “the community” is not limited to the geography of participants. Rather community is defined as a holistic approach involving anyone with a shared vision and capacity to enact change. In this context support for education comes from multi-dimensional partnerships all of which have various degrees of connectedness to the community. I observed how the broader notion of community leads to educational access in the Engikaret area. For example, top-down support is evident through funding for school buildings and supplies by both public and private funders. When evaluating systems as complex as formal, community education, there is a fundamental requirement to have some degree of top-down support. While exclusive top-down support is not associated with community-driven programs, it is associated with a three-way partnership model outlined in Principle Two. The Engikaret region is geographically isolated and resource-poor; thus top-down support alleviates some of the financial strain associated with maintaining a school.


Additionally, Principle Two outlines the need for outside-in involvement as it can spark innovation. This aspect of Principle Two is seen in the observed partnership between Nyayo Discovery and the Maasai of Engikaret. Nyayo specializes in increasing the economic platform of the Engikaret community through increased tourism, cultural awareness and utilizing the human energy of global volunteers. Outside-in support for community development as it pertains to access to education was something I, a participant in Nyayo’s global volunteer and tourism program, was able to experience firsthand.


Because of my affiliation with Nyayo and my background experience as a US teacher, ECPS invited me in to teach several lessons to the Level Seven students. Through this experience, I have come to understand the hardships of educating in the face of adverse conditions, most notably the utter lack of resources. Fortunately, one of the ways outside-in support fosters innovation is through the sharing of ideas, best stated by Taylor and Taylor, “The value of outside-in [support] has little to do with who and everything to do with what.” In this regard, sharing teaching methods with ECPS teachers allowed the growth of resources in the form of easily adopted learning games. In reflection, perhaps this is why the teachers were so eager to learn then employ these games regardless of my presence.
From my point of view, one of the most important aspects of Principle Two is the malleability of roles, specifically leadership roles. A key contributor to the success of any community-driven program is shifting from outside-in or top-down leadership to leadership by those who are directly impacted by the efforts of social change. While I was not privy to evidence directly showing how roles have shifted in the Engikaret community, I was able to observe leaders among the Maasai that allowed me to infer that the community’s affiliation with Nyayo Discovery has generated leadership roles that may not otherwise exist without the outside-in partnership. For example, I was able to work directly with two Maasai leaders, Loshiro and Peter, who serve as liaisons between the Maasai and global volunteers. The work Loshiro and Peter do represent how an outside agency, such as Nyayo, can foster leadership within the community. Community leaders are better able to embody the needs, wants and realities of the community, which in turn promotes social change from within the community.


Lastly, Principle Two highlights the immense importance of social change derived from bottom-up support. Bottom-up support relies on human energy found directly within the community to meet the goals set forth by the community. Within the context of access to education bottom-up support was seen in the employment of Maasai teachers and support staff at ECPS. From my experience, having systems utilize local employment strategies creates a stronger economic platform for rural communities. Additionally, teachers with a deep-seated understanding of the traditions, values, and realities of Engikaret can offer higher equitability to students. As evidence, Maasai community teachers face unique language barriers. Traditionally the Maasai people speak Maa, however schools across Tanzania teach in Kiswahili and English. Having a native Maa speaker, like those I observed at ECPS, allows more students and families to access education, and educational resources comfortably.


Maasai children herding after school and before the enrollment age of 7.
NAU students: Aubrey Babcock and Taylor Lee


Principle Three: Assessing Social Change through Community Perspectives


Assessing the progress of any social change program requires that the assessment use community values and realities, in other words, “locally relevant” evidence. I believe that this may be one of the greatest challenges facing the Engikaret community within the context of access to education. Education often is viewed by distant third parties, with mandates and successes outlined for review by policymakers, stakeholders, or partners who may have little insight into challenges facing the community. In reflection, I have come to understand how outside definitions of success or success marked by goals that may or may not be relevant to the community, may have adverse consequences on social change.


Specifically, the progress Engikaret has made in creating access to education can be viewed in two ways. First, it can be viewed from the community’s perspective, a viewpoint that celebrates increased enrollment, even if it means only one of each family’s children is in school. In turn, this same data can be viewed from a value system not aligned with the realities of living in a geographically isolated and resource-poor environment; a viewpoint that is removed from the idea that the family’s immediate livelihood may be in jeopardy if all school-aged children were enrolled. From perspective two, it could be argued that the community of Engikaret is not providing access to education, adversely partners may pull funding due to low success rates.


However, in support of the community’s celebration of progress, ECPS projects that of the Level Seven class, 60% of those students will be promoted on to the secondary level. ECPS projected data unveils the continued progress at providing access to education as seen over the last decade in the community of Engikaret. I believe that when operating under the guidelines of principal three, evaluators must have a clear and consistent guideline for measuring success, one that relies on the realities facing the community.




The Maasai of Engikaret are operating within a framework supportive of social change, inspired and brought to fruition by organizations that recognize community-driven partnerships relevant to improved access to education, result in increased health and well-being of all community members. Evaluating access to education using the SEED-SCALE model allows partners to highlight community successes and build upon them. Secondly, access to education as a community-driven program, will be a sustainable movement if actions are supported through layered partnerships. The most influential of layered partnerships are those that expose the human energy within the community to generate bottom-up support. Lastly, goals, success, and progress must be defined in terms of community realities. Only then can the markers of success or the addendum of goals be aligned to actual community needs and wants.




This week’s blog contributed by Taylor Lee. Taylor has a passion for promoting equitable education in underserved communities, and is currently teaching in rural Arizona with predominantly Navajo youth. While her work is focused on delivering access to high quality science education at the middle grades, embedded within her classroom work is providing youth and families with meaningful experiences that inspire students to seek post-secondary opportunities. She believes that the cycle of poverty, often associated with under-resourced communities, can be broken when youth have equitable post-secondary options readily available. She works in collaboration with community partners to provide such pathways to her students through exposure at the middle grades level.
In addition to teaching, Taylor is currently completing her last semester for her Master of Secondary Education through John Hopkins University. While this endeavor has take n the majority of her focus, she was able to participate in Norther Arizona University’s Study Abroad program during the summer of 2017. She believes that this opportunity to explore the communities of Africa was a life-changing experience which made her a stronger educator.


Equip Yourself to Make the Change You Wish to See

As Future Generations looks forward to offering a special opportunity, Equip Yourself to Make the Change You Wish to See: Learn Mahatma Gandhi’s Social Change Methods, a chance to study at Gandhi’s powerful Sevagram ashram, this blog posting provides some background. His methods are highly relevant for dealing with today’s challenges…

Gandhi’s ashram in Sevagram, India– participants in the certificate course Equip Yourself to Make the Change You Wish to See spend part of their course time here for an in-depth learning experience

Mahatma Gandhi coined the term swaraj (literally, self-rule, though he preferred to translate it as self-control) to describe the growing capacity of a population to determine its future. Gandhi was in South Africa at the time, and the idea of people rising up with internal nonviolent energy for political independence was a new concept in the world. His idea was that people could take control of their own destiny through taking control of the most basic functions of life. Colonialism was a loss of control, but so too was poverty, caste, and illness. From taking control over lives came true freedom; it allowed people to own their futures.

The Mahatma was not was not internationally recognized when he came to believe in swaraj. He wasn’t even in India or thinking of the independence of India, but wanted to improve a few lives in an intentional community on a very marginal piece of land in South Africa. What would grow into a freedom movement for one-fifth of the world’s population, indeed launch all the freedom movements of the 20th Century, began on a marginal piece of land and freedom for a few.

Swaraj gave part of the answer, “a morality based in Truth” he often called it, a way by which people could define their destiny. His concern as his awareness grew was not simply opposition to the British Empire, but to the discrimination and poverty which underlay oppression. Fundamental social change was the objective, and the physical context for this control of destiny was the sparse land of his utopian South African Phoenix Colony. These then seeded an idea that would scale up into one of the world’s most powerful forces.

In some of his writing after the movement had started to expand in India, Gandhi expanded the term to gram swaraj, which is community-based freedom. Gram swaraj generates sustaining energy for the community from inside and with it self-correcting direction. It is inspired and regulated by satyagraha, the energy of Truth. Gandhi argued that the true forces that bring change in the lives of people come not from the marketplace, not from armies, not from a religion, not from political process, but from knowledge of Truth that is internalized and adhered to so that it continually corrects action. These forces that begin inside each individual then redefine society to bring authentic help to all people.

His spinning wheel visibly conveyed this message on the importance of process and the search for Truth. Each individual turning his or her wheel gave evidence of self-potential and direction. The act of spinning used resources grown in that place, locally-grown cotton, locally-grown wood that made the wheels. When people wore khadi cloth they showed proof that a becoming life could be made by them. Done collectively, homespun khadi showed that India could weave a new life, using threads of local resources from one direction, massive energy of the villages from the other. Actually wearing these clothes of their own making as flags of self-reliance as they marched, India’s people gave evidence that they were dressing in a new way: their way. Do that, and from that other freedoms will grow. Swaraj was to strengthen India with tightly wound new fiber to pull apart deep forces of oppression: caste, poverty, ignorance, fear of leprosy, and gender discrimination.

Today, as military powers send soldiers to distant lands to free people and label the liberators “peacemakers,” and as corporations are freed to cross the world for cheap labor arguing that they create local development by creating jobs that bind people to global labor imbalances, the question must be asked (even if it cannot be answered): what is freedom? While freeing people from oppression and providing jobs are both freedoms, going toward freedom in the way that “peacemakers” and corporations pursue misses a core principle that guided Gandhi: that truth was in the process, the never-ending journey faithful to the operating principles.

Professor Taylor teaching Gandhi’s methods of social change at the Mahatma’s ashram in Sevagram, India

Freedom is not given to people. Freedom is when people come together as communities to rule themselves. Joining together as communities not only liberates from these outside forces, but also it grows a momentum that, in his vision, would reach all. His was a vision for a new justice through new means: “If we are to make progress, we must not repeat history but make new history. We must add to the inheritance left by our ancestors.”

Inarguably, significant differences exist now than those present in people’s lives in Gandhi’s day. As such, it is helpful to focus just on that which Gandhi viewed as foundational: Truth. With information and instant access to anything people want to hear—information is awash now over the world pummeling people with falsehoods and facts. The worship of Truth is possibly more essential now than in Gandhi’s time. The response needed is not to abandon the quest and turn to fundamentalisms and black and whites, but to work with all the nuance that of how what is true in one locale is not in another, how what is true from one person’s perspective is not from another’s. Truth is understood through having a process to engage the facts and falsehoods. And so, a more complex set of principles is needed. To unpack in greater detail the principles Gandhi actually did use; we state them in the context of SEED-SCALE’s four principles:

1. Gandhi made sure every protest was successful. With each, he thought through whether he had enough people, picked his time carefully and understood the temperament of each British commandant, identifying especially those with values that would chafe when confronted with nonviolence. Gandhi wanted imprisonment and beating, but if these were to happen, he made sure that each brutalized person would not be in vain for with each success he knew he built strength.

2. He was a strong believer in partnerships. Top-down he got the liberal British on his side, as there was a growing powerful contingent and sentiment of progressive British. Also Top-down, he got Hindu leaders on his side through using their religious texts. Outside-in, he masterfully used the media to carry his actions to all the world. And Bottom-up, the third aspect and foundation of partnership, three hundred million people, the largest voluntary mobilization ever achieved, not only his soldiers but in giving momentum to nonviolent movements ever since.

3. Fear-filled, timid villagers stood strong against British batons. They stood because Gandhi had given them evidence for each protest—and he made certain that evidence of their protests was clear, with an attention to detail that encouraged people to wear clean white clothes so the dirt and beatings would show well on photographs all over India and the world. He studied what happened each time, treating them as ongoing experiments, then out of that new options turned up.

4. Gandhi changed behaviors among victimized people; to achieve this he taught them that their victimization was a consequence of their acquiescing behaviors. He argued that freedom did not come from killing oppressors (American, French, and Soviet revolutions had until then pointed in that direction.) Freedom comes by changing the oppressor’s behavior. To achieve that, the participant starts by changing his and her behavior. When confronted by wrong behaviors there is a tendency to blame those behaviors of others without realizing that in our behaviors that allow those of others resides a basis for such continuation.

We can all still take inspiration from his perseverance and learn the lessons he left behind in his philosophy and methods. The application is timeless and invaluable in preventing history from repeating itself. By participating in Future Generations certificate course, “Equip Yourself to Make the Change You Wish to See,” you can learn Gandhian social change methods right where the Mahatma himself taught them to his followers, at his Sevagram ashram in central India.

Learn more at

This week’s blog contributed by Future Generations founder and current president and professor, Daniel Taylor. Daniel has been engaged in social change and conservation for four decades with a focus on building international cooperation to achieve ambitious projects. He founded the nine Future Generations organizations worldwide (including the accredited Future Generations Graduate School). He also founded and led The Mountain Institute. In 1985, after providing the scientific explanation for the yeti, he led creating Nepals Makalu-Barun National Park, then, in close partnership with the Tibet Autonomous Region, Chinas Qomolangma (Everest) National Nature Preserve and Four Great Rivers Nature Preserve protecting one-seventh of Chinas forest reserves. He is one of the synthesizers of the SEED-SCALE method, an understanding of social change initiated by a UNICEF task force he co-chaired from 1992-95. Since 1995 he continued to lead global field trials of SEED-SCALE and is senior author of Just and Lasting Change: How Communities Can Own Their Futures and Empowerment: From Seeds of Human Energy to a Scale of Global Change. Among his honors, Taylor was knighted by the King of Nepal Gorkha Dakshin Bau III; was made the first Honorary Professor of Quantitative Ecology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences; and was decorated with the Order of the Golden Ark by HRH Prince Bernhard of The Netherlands.


Cultural Poverty Reduction as a Strategic Policy

Future Generations University believes in the importance of supporting its alumni and creating a community of changemakers. It is for this reason that Future Generations Global Network awards a number of collaboration grants every year for which alumni can apply to implement projects that embody our philosophy and demonstrate the SEED-SCALE method. This week, we hear from Rohan Sagar and Suzanne Munro, who received one of these grants in 2016 to fund their research into cultural poverty reduction…




The Cultural Poverty Reduction as a Strategic Policy project funded by Future Generations Global Network was a response to the ethnic and social landscape of Guyana. This project was conceptualized and implemented by two alumni, Rogan Sagar and Suzanne Munro, of Future Generations University (then the Graduate School), Class2014. The project implementation period commenced in August and concluded December2016, and was built around three main components: (a) Research, (b) Applied Ethnomusicology, and (c) Observations, which was an application of Evolutionary Psychology. Essentially, the project as a research praxis validated the main hypothesis encompassing ethnic and race relations and the outcomes validated the application of Applied Ethnomusicology as a possible bridge between present political structural policies and a culturally based epistemic.



Our research component sought to establish a baseline of cultural knowledge bymeasuring depreciation (of fixed variables or not known by the respondent). According to research articles on Evolutionary Psychology and Music Psychology,”music is the main marker upon which identity is constructed.‘” Therefore, according to the research objectives, the level of knowledge of ethnic based traditional musics will be an indicator of the broader levels of cultural knowledge. The data is clear that interethnic as well as intraethnic cultural awareness exists at very low levels, with less than25% of the respondents actually aware of their own ethnic identity constructs. The majority of the respondents(75%) also indicated lack of awareness of the identity of specific cultural tools indigenous to their specific social group, and could not relate to indigenisable sonic designs. In Evolutionary Psychology this phenomenon could be referred topsychophysicaland provides a referential marker located in the absence of being rooted within ones own identity; this response then became a referential point of departure to locate from the respondents own experiences their relationships to other groups.

To understand and diagnose the openness or receptivity of respondents to multiculturalism and multiethnic universals, the project relied on the principles of Applied Ethnomusicology. Here the process was guided by the alumni and two facilitators: Mr. Somdatt Ramessar and Mr. Handel Neptune. The scope of this component was confined to observation and was tested on the youth demographic. According to new studies on music and its impact on the brain, specific rhythms and melodic designs usually generate psychophysical indicators on which was premised the main hypothesis. What both the investigators and facilitators noted was the presence of genuine positive reactions to rhythms and melodic designs that could be defined as both indigenous and endogenous. We found this behavior not to be surprising given the existence of evidence of cosmopolitanisation within Guyanese society. Two percussive rhythmic pieces identifiable to two ethnic groups, Africans and East Indians, the Patois Hand and Keherwa Taal or(8 beats) as well as two vocal materials, Ba Ta Taa and Harey Krishna were used in this exercise . Additionally, the Amerindian percussion instrument, the Sambura, was used to interconnect as a part of the overall orchestral arrangements.

What the researchers and facilitators did note as an interesting find was the dichotomy between the research findings (the less than25% knowledgeable marker) and the observational high ratio positive response. The research seems to suggest that the demographic in question, the youth, seems to be more susceptible to endogenisation, a process likely to have generated greater traction outside of their primary place of habitat. What is yet to be discerned is the impact of this endogenous experience within ethnic enclaves, additionally the research protocol did not address or clarify this fundamental question. Guyana is often called theland of six raceswhich is often a source of pride and is a benchmark used to establish comparative distinctiveness between the high levels of coexistence here in Guyana and ethnic or race based conflicts universally. From the Amerindians, who it is scientifically accepted were the first settlers in this part of the world, to the other four ethnic groups who were forced migrants as a consequence of European colonial adventures and conquest, Guyanese have found a unique method to coexist.
But this phenomenon is not without its historical antecedent. Historians have commented on preIndependence race relations as always being on the positive side, except of course for a few misadventures which somehow became characterized asracerelated incidents’, until the early1960s when serious race and ethnic violence erupted causing population dislocation, ethnic realignment, and killings. The Cultural Poverty Reduction project being aware of the historical roots of coexistence, as part of the projects declarative objectives, attempted to resuscitate and re-germinate these positive deviances to, as indicated previously, contribute to a cultural epistemic that previously existed. The main results will be included in the policy paper, which is another of the projects objectives and was submitted for publication. It was the studied opinion of many experts that what contributed immensely to the positive race relations in the colonial era was the strong bonding between ethnic groups, perhaps in common opposition to the then colonial authorities, and for which there were many a good reason. However, it is also that thisdiscoveryof theothergenerated significant empathy postrealization that the immediate social conditions demanded coexistence and the presence of any other options were in themselves not only significantly reduced but quite dangerous.

Out of this condition arose evidences of homogenous and heterogeneous communities, mix marriages and relationships, and the interethnic experimentation with the phenomenon, creolization. Creolization was for all intents and purposes a grassroots learning process when ethnic groups were forced to coexist, not deliberatively, but through the many life sustaining mechanisms, and knowledge and awareness essentially blossomed so that each one got to know theotherculturally. Some of these phenomena include social concepts as weddings, celebration of births and deaths, commerce, as well as sharing other ecological spaces. As Guyana progressed towards Independence political selfgovernance awareness was gaining traction amongst the citizenship and in1953 Guyana elected its first form of selfgovernment after winning universal suffrage. But in1962-4 Guyana entered into a dark period as the country descended into civil unrest and riots, largely as a consequence of the fracture of the then single largest political party along ethnic lines.

In their conclusion the Cultural Poverty Reduction, project leaders wish to reiterate that the cultural policy research paper was designed and built in accordance with the 7 Tasks of the SEEDSCALE research method; the full research paper was submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed academic journal; other visual materials are also available on the first authors website: The project leaders wish to thank Future Generations Global Network for its support to help realize this project; additionally, project implementers are pleased to facilitate greater awareness of Future Generations University and its work worldwide.


Rohan Sagar read for his Master’s Degree at Future Generations University, in his thesis he argued for a multicultural approach to music education in Guyana where he resides. Rohan is also an ethnomusicologist presently conducting investigations in the traditional musics of Guyana amongst the Native American, African and East Indian populations. His most recent project was research assistant to the Evolutionary Psychology project with Harvard University.




Suzanne Munro is a graduate from the University of Guyana, where she studied Environmental Studies. Further development of her education took place in the obtaining of a Masters Degree in Community Change and Conservation through the Future Generations Graduate School. Ms. Munro has worked at Conservation International (CI) for over 10 years, where she focuses on grants management, community development, and conservation. Currently, she is with the Government of Guyana as a Procurement Specialist working under the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF). When not at work, she is active in a small group of women that focuses on early exposure and availability to reading in young children.

How Do Communities Experience Peace in Their Daily Lives? Future Generations Researchers in Eight Countries Went to Find Out!


To help people monitor accurately whether their communities are safer (more peaceful) over time or not, this post summarizes the initial experience with a method that Future Generations is testing. If Everyday Peace Indicators (EPIs) prove to be relevant and reliable, then we plan to continue to refine the methodology and utilize it in other sectors, such as conservation and health. The EPIs that are identified span across many aspects of life and may include indicators such as the number of religious and cultural events and rituals that are performed or the number of people who are actively working (men and/or women) in a community.
This map shows the eight countries where research into Everday Peace
Indicators was conducted.


In January 2017, researchers in eight countries (Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Guyana, Nepal, Nigeria, Somaliland, South Sudan, and Uganda) set out to understand how urban and rural communities as well as local peacebuilding experts experience and determine that they can measure peace in their everyday lives.

Typically, methods used to study peace yield complex, scholarly results that are not directly relevant, useful, or sometimes even intended for communities to understand. Through development of ‘indicators of peace,’ this project, through local participation and local ownership, seeks to produce sensitive local understanding of interventions in peacebuilding and conflict transformation. The assertion is that communities are best placed to measure and interpret their own peace. The research methodology builds on prior and ongoing research on Everyday Peace Indicators (EPIs) at the United States Institute for Peace (USIP).

As lead researchers on prior EPI work—Pamina Firchow and Roger Mac Ginty—describe this approach as:[i]

[Developing indicators of peace] is participatory action research that seeks to find out people’s perceptions of their own conflict rather than impose narratives on them. The research asks local people, through focus groups, to develop their own set of indicators.…
Future Generations is also particularly interested in this methodology due to our history of peacebuilding research and our peacebuilding concentration within our Master of Arts degree program. There is in-house research and academic work that the university wants to build on. Development of indicators for peace is consistent with the community change ideals that the graduate school has been teaching. Moreover, development of indicators of peace is in line with what is taught and practiced in SEED-SCALE. The university is keen to pursue a research agenda in developing indicators of peace, an effort that will be augmented by the partnership it has begun to develop with USIP.



This study included focus group discussions in at least two sites in each country. The sites were selected to represent urban and rural contexts within the country and were selected based on communities where our research team had connections and was able to establish and build on trusting relationships in order to undertake this participatory research. A total of 20 sites are represented in the study findings including four sites in Guyana and four sites in Afghanistan and two in each of the other countries.

At each site, focus groups were held separately with men, women, boys and girls—expect in Nepal where the men and women were divided into two groups each based on caste and youth were merged into one group for each site in order to be responsive to social norms and ensure an in-depth, productive dialogue. The purpose of these focus groups was to hold an open brainstorming discussion with each of these demographic groups in each community about how they experience peace—first very broadly and then progressively honing in on tangible and then countable things from their everyday lives that could indicate whether their community was becoming more or less peaceful over time. A total of 80 focus groups were held across the 20 sites.

After the initial focus groups were completed, the researcher(s) at least site compiled all of the discussions into one long list of potential KIs for peace in that community. Then, representatives from each of the initial focus groups were brought together to discuss, refine, and then vote using a multi-voting process on a focused list of about 10 countable indicators that best reflected peace in their communities.

In parallel with the focus groups, a series of key informant interviews with local peacebuilding experts were conducted in each country. Respondents included university faculty, government officials, law enforcement officials, nonprofit organization leaders, United Nations representatives, youth and youth advocates, and others. Between four and seven interviews were conducted with a variety of different respondents in each country for a total of 35 interviews. The results from the interviews and focus groups were compared and contrasted for each site and often showed similar alignment on the priority issues, but different understanding of each one.

Selected Findings

The indicators identified in this research spanned many sectors and nearly every aspect of everyday life as well as the day-to-day experience of some of the large-scale conflicts that often claim center stage in the global media. While peace remains a complex, sometimes intangible, and multi-faceted concept, many of the indicators that were identified were actually related to the ability to do very basic activities necessary for daily life, and of relevance in pretty much every community around the world. Three common themes related to the findings across sites are summarized here.

Employment: Being able to access employment or a way to support and sustain a family was a frequently raised theme. This was important for men, women, and youth and valued at both the household level as well as in larger savings groups or cooperative efforts among community members. One report noted:
Coming together in the form of groups was rare. The groups would become victims of attack by warriors. With peace now, there are many social and economic groups coming up. For instance, there are village savings and loan associations. (Uganda)

Roads and other infrastructure: Access to communities by road as well as other infrastructure such as availability of electricity and internet services was a theme across many sites.

If [the] government is focusing on investment on infrastructure can be an indicator of peace. That means if the government assigns more budget on it… and less on military budget. (Ethiopia)
Infrastructure services…facilitate people’s activities for growth and development thereby contributing greatly towards their presence of peace. (Uganda)


Education: Access to schools, functional school systems, equal opportunity for boys and girls for education, educational attainment of youth, and expansion of fields of study and private school opportunities all featured prominently among identified indicators. One report described the linkage between education and other contributors to peace and conflict:
If the school at least works 4-8 hours a day based on the grades/classes children will be busy with learning and progressing, but if not, children will be at risk of pulling and children clashes which in most cases escalate to parents-to- parents fight. (South Sudan)
Traditional and culture: Often, conflict disrupts traditional practices and rhythms. A theme emerged through this research on the importance of communities being able to carry out traditional festivals, rites of passage, and religious celebrations. Some findings also noted that new cultural practices, such as creating new songs about violence and revenge, could be a sign of worsening conflict.
Cultural and religious sites are the binding factors of social cohesion, but after the 10 year long conflict people believes that people are falling apart and peace can be attained when you go to the temples and be part of the cultural events. (Nepal)



The concept of peace has many different meanings. Even for a number of the researchers who implemented this study are already engaged in some kind of work related to conflict resolution, youth and women’s empowerment, anti-radicalization, and related efforts, they noted gaining additional understandings of what peace means to people in the communities where they work and to local experts around them. Throughout the process of conducting this research, many of the researchers commented on how they gained new, different, or more nuanced and in-depth understandings of peace from talking with communities and local experts. A number of new relationships, potentials for collaboration, and dialogues within communities were also sparked by this participatory inquiry.

One of the recurring challenges within this research study was that the identified indicators were so specific to the local context. In a number of countries, similar or identical indicators were proposed in the urban and rural sites, but their meaning was different or even opposite. An example of this is schools being open in Afghanistan—in urban areas, this was a sign of relative peace that children could attend school but in the rural area where this study was conducted, schools being open indicated that the territory was being occupied and the schools managed by the occupiers and was therefore not a sign of peace.

Next Steps

The research team is developing a full report and also a peer-reviewed journal article in the coming months. In addition, the Africa-based sites are planning to put together a regionally-focused policy brief targeting African decision-makers and something that can be distributed in paper format as well as electronically. Finally, each implementer of the methodology has identified key next steps to directly facilitate that the identified indicators get utilized. Some examples of the kinds of utilization that are planned include:

1. Building the most relevant and salient indicators into community workplans, projects and project evaluations, and organizational strategic plans


2. Advocacy with local leaders, including government officials, religious leaders, and law enforcement, for local peacebuilding priorities and ways to track progress on them


3. Training and awareness-raising among peace-related service providers (law enforcement and other social services) and communities at large about local understandings of peace and conflict and dialogue about how to address local issues


4. Seek additional resources—funding as well as mentorship, time and other resources—to enable communities to work to improve on the indicators that are the most important to them


[i]Mac Ginty, R. and Firchow, P. Everyday Peace Indicators: Capturing Local Voices Through Surveys. Shared Space: A Research Journal on Peace, Conflict, and Community Relations in Northern Ireland.
Post by Dr. Meike Schleiff with input from the researcher team members*
Meike brings a background of community-based mentoring, teaching, and program implementation to Future Generations University. She has worked extensively with communities and young leaders in Haiti through GROW project, the non-profit that she co-founded with Haitian colleagues, and has also been engaged in community development planning, implementation, evaluation, and training in Guyana, Ugandan India, and the Appalachian region in the USA
*Vincent Abura, Chiranjibi Bhandari, Abdishakur Hassan-Kayd, Amanullah Hotak, Fisseha Getahun, Anthony Kadoma, Firew Kefyalew, Omer Marouf, Andualem Mitiku, Sushila Chattergee Nepali, Uchenna Onyeizu, and Rohan Sagar (Picutred as listed from left to right below:)


The Konbit Bibliyotek Project

#KonbitBibliyotek is a community crowdfunding campaign started by Haitian community activists affiliated with Future Generations with the goal of building a library in Cite Soleil, which is Haiti’s largest ghetto. By combining Haitian traditions, such as konbit (cooperative communal labor), with the modern tools of social media, this initiative has spread like wildfire across Cite Soleil and beyond! To date, it has already brought more than 3000 people together to raise around $12,500, with 3,641 books collected. Keep reading to find out how this movement evolved and why it’s so important…


Cite Soleil is a municipality that lies on the northwestern edge of Port au Prince, Haiti’s capital city. As mentioned above, it is known as Haiti’s largest ghetto. Cite Soleil has experienced a vicious cycle of political and gang violence, which leads to economic and social marginalization, which in turn creates the conditions for more violence. The stigma associated with Cite Soleil is significant, which not only reinforces the social isolation of the community, but has been internalized by many of its young people who see that society only expects them to grow up to be criminals.

However, the vast majority of people living in Cite Soleil are ordinary people trying to make an honest life for themselves and their families. Cite Soleil is full of young people with talent, potential, and dreams of a better future. Over the past six years, a social movement named Konbit Soley Leve has dedicated itself to identifying, strengthening, and highlighting all that is positive about Cite Soleil, and working to change the image that the world as of this community. In the past year and a half, there has actually been a truce between the major gangs of Cite Soleil, leading to an unprecedented period of peace that the community would like to build on.

The Library Story

In early 2017, a group of young artists and intellectuals in Cite Soleil decided that it was important to build a library in Cite Soleil. Over the past decade, there had been a lot of investment in youth spaces, but these spaces were mostly for sports. They brought the idea to Konbit Soley Leve, who advised them that instead of writing a proposal to a donor, they should first look for support in their own community. They should give ordinary people in Cite Soleil the opportunity to participate in making this dream a reality, that they should be the first donors. So Konbit Soley Leve and the youth group began to go door to door with a cardboard box, asking for contributions.

For the sake of transparency, each time someone contributes, the donor would take a

selfie and post it on Facebook with the hashtag #KonbitBibliyotek. The funds are counted every Sunday at the local radio station, where everyone was welcome to observe. At the end of the weekly count, a progress statement would be circulated on social media.


The campaign went viral. People across Cite Soleil, many living on less than $2 a day, began to donate, then across Port au Prince, then Haiti, then the world. Schoolchildren gave up their lunch money, strangers who overheard about the project on public transport asked to contribute. A volunteer once drove all the way from Port au Prince to Les Cayes (an eight-hour round trip) just to pick up a single gourde that a little boy wanted to contribute. The idea was to change the perception of who is a donor and who is a beneficiary, and give people a chance to participate in a community vision.

Progress to Date

After 25 weeks of fundraising, 3,123 individual donors have contributed 1,080,771 gourdes (approximately $12,432 USD), and 3,641 books.

An architect from Cite Soleil has designed the plan of the library, which is a grand vision. It is important that the library be an impressive building because people in Cite Soleil are tired of being treated as second-class citizens – they believe they deserve a first-class library. The library may cost as much as 10 times as much as has been raised so far – but given the remarkable success to date and how much the community believes in this vision, there is confidence that the library will be built.

Help has come in many forms. The local authorities in Cite Soleil have already dedicated a space for the library in Place Fierte – the public park in the heart of Cite Soleil. Young Haitians have volunteered to provide graphic design and marketing services, to produce promotional songs and videos. A company performed the land survey for free (which would have otherwise cost $7000), and a construction company has volunteered to build the library without payment. There are already commitments for, once the library is built, furniture, free internet, and language classes. There are groups that have volunteered to train young librarians for free.

This project is called Konbit Bibliyotek for a reason, because it leverages the principles behind the traditional Haitian practice of Konbit: if everyone contributes what they can, we can collectively achieve what no one could achieve alone. The community has already done so much and gone so far – and it is now looking for more friends and allies to join in, and help turn this dream into a reality.

The Impact

If this dream is realized, it will mean many things. First, it will provide an accessible space to promote learning, research, and debate in the heart of Cite Soleil; this will become a new center to provide community services. Second, it will help to change the image of Cite Soleil, both to young people in the community and to the rest of the world. Third, it will provide a new model of community-driven development and a statement of how Haitians can lead the way to a different future.
A community-led effort to build a library in the heart of Cite Soleil is important in several ways: on a practical level, it provides an accessible, neutral space for young people to further their studies, have educational discussions, and learn research and computer skills. It also encourages inter-neighborhood friendships. On a symbolic level, the community is claiming space to promote nonviolence and education; the process itself brings neighborhoods together around a common vision of education.
Ultimately, the project will help to shift perceptions inside and outside of Cite Soleil. Young people in Cite Soleil will see the value their community places in education, which will encourage them to stay in school (along with practical supports the library provides). A prominent community-supported library will also challenge external stigma about Cite Soleil. All of this will help promote social integration, empowerment, and future employment for Cite Soleil’s youth.

How You Can Help:

• Share the story. It’s important for people to know that this is happening, as it will help to change the image of Cite Soleil

• If you are in Haiti, contact to arrange a visit to the library site, or to arrange dropping off books or making a donation.

• If you are outside of Haiti, you can contribute through our Global Giving site:

• If you have any expertise, connections, or services to offer in support of this vision, contact


For more on Konbit Bibliyotek, check out


Louino Robillard is a Haitian community leader who was raised in Cite Soleil, Haiti’s largest ghetto. He has co-founded the Konbit Soley Leve movement, the Cite Soleil Peace Prize, and many other grassroots social change initiatives across Haiti. He graduated from the Future Generations Graduate School in 2013 with a Master’s in Applied Community Change and Peacebuilding.

Future Generations University teams up with AmeriCorps West Virginia!


Volunteer in an Appalachian community while earning a Master’s degree… That’s the vision that Future Generations University has been pursuing for the past 2 years and is now excited to finally begin this fall with a small pilot class. Working in partnership with AmeriCorps West Virginia and its associated organizations (Volunteer West Virginia, High Rocks, and the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area), Future Generations University will craft a unique learning experience focused on Appalachia while building upon our proven and tested pedagogy and curriculum…


Volunteerism can be a gateway to higher education. In exchange for two years of community service with West Virginia’s AmeriCorps, volunteers are now eligible to receive a Master’s Degree in Applied Community Change.


“We’re so excited to share the news that Future Generations University will leverage AmeriCorps service and the Eli Segal Education Awards to attract and keep young talent in West Virginia,” said Heather Foster, Executive Director of Volunteer West Virginia. “As we look to the future, AmeriCorps provides an important opportunity to continue engaging people of all ages in solving problems through service and volunteerism.”


In exchange for a year of service, AmeriCorps volunteers receive an education award of $5800 per year, living-allowance of approximately $12,000, and work experience. Future Generations University will match the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award dollar for dollar. With a $23,200 scholarship possible, AmeriCorps volunteers could complete the program for as little as $1,800.


West Virginia ranks third in the Nation for producing AmeriCorps volunteers. Each year over 1,000 individuals serve as AmeriCorps members in the state. Many AmeriCorps volunteers serve in their hometowns, while others come from across the country to make West Virginia their home for the year. AmeriCorps members change lives through mentoring, respond to disasters -like the June 2016 flooding, increase access to healthy and local food, preserve historic properties, and many conservation activities working with state agencies and non-profit entities alike.


“With 25 years of experience building community capacity and preparing change agents worldwide, Future Generations University is very excited to extend a one of a kind opportunity to our home state of West Virginia! Through this innovative partnership with AmeriCorps West Virginia, we are working with the most dedicated organizations and individuals to offer an unparalleled education to communities in the greatest need,” said Luke Taylor-Ide, Regional Academic Director for Future Generations University.

Read on for an overview of the program!

Curriculum Overview
Introduction to Social ChangeIntroduction to various schools of thought regarding community change and development, with a focus on methodologies for local,
sustainable social change.


Volunteer ManagementSkills-based course on effective recruitment, training, and management of volunteers for project and field managers working in non-profit organizations.
Community LeadershipExploration of leadership styles and strategies for application in groups, organizations, and communities, with an emphasis on leadership development.
Communications for Community ChangeApplied course that surveys various communications platforms and practices and asks students to cultivate skills for effective and persuasive communication.
Financial Administration & Non-Profit ManagementOrganizational management skills and strategies for making effective plans & partnerships as well as basic financial project and program management.
Healthy People, Healthy CommunitiesExamine the intersections between poverty, primary healthcare, and community change, with a focus on finding people-based solutions using available resources.
Community-based Natural Resource ManagementCouples natural resource management & conservation methodologies with approaches to promoting sustainable livelihoods & local ownership.
Advanced Seminar on Applied Community ChangeExamine the challenges and processes of scaling up positive impact to larger regions and/or populations.
Project-based Research in Community
In order to maximize the amount of credits associated with each member’s experiences learning by doing while participating in AmeriCorps service, students enrollment in the MA program will complete continuous Project-based Research (PRC) in their host communities with direct mentorship from faculty culminating in a capstone product that documents their individual learning in an Appalachian community.
· Students complete independently designed projects and research in community with faculty mentorship
· Each term’s Project-based Research is showcased in an online ePortfolio demonstrating formative learning process
· Upon completion of the program, students have a comprehensive portfolio documenting their summative learning journey for their graduate studies
Term 1: Graduate Study Foundations—Establishes the conceptual principles and skills
upon which the curriculum is built. Students discover what it means to be a self-directed learner and master Learning Management and ePortfolio software—tools for critical thinking, analytical inquiry, and reflective practice.
Term 2: Social Research Methods—Demonstrate through project-based research an understanding of and apply concepts and approaches to both quantitative and qualitative community-based data collection and analysis.
Term 3: Monitoring & Evaluation—Conceptual framework and practical skills for monitoring and evaluating community-based projects, reflecting with peers on circumstances and parameters related to the assessment of different social and development projects.

Term 4: Synthesis & Integration—Analyze results of Project-based Research in community from both summative and formative perspectives within ePortfolio. Students are challenged to incorporate lessons learned during their MA studies with experiential-based reflection on AmeriCorps service.


About Volunteer West Virginia
An agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, Volunteer West Virginia is the state’s Commission for National and Community Service. The agency challenges West Virginians to strengthen their communities through service and volunteerism by identifying and mobilizing resources, promoting an ethic of service, and empowering communities to solve problems and improve the quality of life for individuals and families. To learn more about AmeriCorps in West Virginia visit
Visit to learn more about this exciting and innovative program. Sound like a good fit for you? Enrollment is still open! Applications are being accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis through August 21st.


Maple Sap Collection and Syrup Processing in WV


In 2014, after leaving his “deanship” at the Future Generations Graduate School, Mike Rechlin, a forester by training, returned to woods of West Virginia and soon found himself in sort of a sticky mess, requiring long hours at night and creating plenty of steam. Now, I know what kind of mess you’re thinking about, given West Virginia’s reputation for making moonshine, but this time what was evaporating was not corn mash, but tree sap, and the sticky mess was MAPLE SYRUP…
Sap dripping on a good run


In his post deanship years, Mike helped to establish the Dry Fork Maple Works, West Virginia’s largest maker of maple syrup, and further helped to organize the West Virginia Maple Syrup Producers Association. Now Mike is bringing it all back home to North Mountain with a research agenda to help increase the productivity of West Virginia maple producers.


Collecting sap at Principia College

Maple Syrup in West Virginia? Doesn’t that stuff come from Vermont? Good question, and the answer is, well, yes. Ever since the marketing of “Vermont Maid”, an imitation maple syrup product, Vermont has been the state most closely associated with maple syrup. That being said, Quebec Canada is actually the largest producer of the sweet syrupy substance. And, Maine, New York, and Wisconsin are not far behind. What is less well known, is that West Virginia actually has more tappable sugar maple trees than Vermont, and a history of sugaring. All across the state there are place names like Sugar Grove, Sugar Creek and Sugar Valley, places with a history of making maple syrup. The last five years has seen resurgence in interest in “sugaring,” and the establishment of new sugar camps.


Main lines bringing sap to the sugarhouse
at the Dry Fork Maple Works
So, how does this fit with Future Generations? For starters, Future Generations will be leading research efforts, funded through the WV Department of Agriculture, which will be looking at management practices designed to increase the production of maple syrup in Appalachia. Our climate, soils, and the way we manage the sap production process are all different from those of our colleagues up north in the New England states. The research we will be conducting will be a local adaptation of existing practices, and a climate change adaptation of those practices as the effects of global warming take hold.



Typical environmental conditions in a sugarbush

Future Generations is also working with the Department of Agriculture’s Veterans and Warriors in Agriculture Program to offer a certificate course titled “Maple Sap Collection and Syrup Production,” while designed to meet the needs of veterans, this course will be open to anyone wanting to get into the maple business.



The goal of our work is to expand the maple syrup industry in West Virginia, and to design management strategies that increase sap production, which of course increases profitability for our local producers. Increased production of a local, natural, and sustainably grown product from our abundant forest resources means economic development for rural communities, and that leads to community change. True, we are not applying SEED-SCALE directly to the measure of invert sugars in tree sap, but the result of that research will be knowledge that can lead to improvements in the lives of our friends and neighbors; and that is certainly in line with our work at Future Generations.
Whoever said that that 2.5% is the sweetest thing in a sap bucket?



For more on the Maple Syrup Collection & Syrup Processing Certificate, please visit:
Mike Rechlin has practiced sustainable foresty and protected areas management in the United States, Nepal, India, and Tibet for thirty years. He has extensive teaching experience and has designed educational programs for many international groups visiting the Adirondack Park of New York State. Presently retired, Mike has held academic appointments at Principia College, Paul Smith’s College, and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He served as the dean of Future Generations Graduate School from 2010 to 2013. He presently resides, and makes maple syrup, in Franklin, WV.


Bridging the Gap: Peace Development Between the Leprosy-Affected Community and Surrounding Community in Addis Ababa

In 2017, Fisseha Getahun was one of 120 people awarded a Davis Projects for Peace Prize in order to implement a project to help those affected with leprosy in his community in the capital of Ethiopia, entitled: Peace Development between Leprosy Affected and Surrounding Communities. He saw his project as an answer to Kathryn Davis’ call to find ways to “prepare for peace” and to help those most in need where he lives. This made him the tenth student from Future Generations University to receive this award in the past seven years. In this week’s blog post, he shares some background on his project with us.
Fisseha with community representatives from the leprosy-affected
community and non-leprosy-affected surrounding community

The concept of the project came about from my work with those with leprosy in affected communities. In many countries, people affected by leprosy face a number of social and economic problems, such as discrimination and stigma. These issues are even worse for individuals who experience disability due to leprosy. They are more vulnerable to the endless stigma and discrimination than any other form of disability in our society.

Even after someone with leprosy has been cured, they’re unable to lead an ordinary life due to the consequences of lingering complications. Some of the most difficult complications experienced are they forced to live as a colony in specific area and they did not get access for education. As a result of the wide misconceptions that exist about leprosy, many of those affected are forced to leave their birth places and live in segregated groups, known as leprosy colonies. In the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, individuals who have been affected by leprosy are deliberately pushed out of the city and made to settle in a solid waste dumping site with no infrastructure and poor social services.

The leprosy-affected community of Addis Ababa is called the “Zenebework Community.” The majority of early settlers in the area were leprosy victims who largely migrated here from various other parts of the country– mainly Amhara, Tigray, Oromia, and SNNP regions. Their goal was to receive medical treatment for their leprosy at ALERT (All African Leprosy Rehabilitation and Training Centre) Hospital, formerly known as Zenebework Hospital.

After treatment, the leprosy victims were supposed to go back to their place of origin, as direct by the government, but the majority of them refused, preferring to remain in this area where they’d received treatment. This resulting settlement was named after the Zenebework Hospital, which had been established in 1932 and named after Princess Zenebework, daughter to Emperor Haileselassie. In 1949, the Abune Aregawi/Gebre Kristos Church was established in the same area, resulting in this name also being used for the locality. When construction began on the hospital in its present form as ALERT in 1967 and was later inaugurated in 1971, many other institutions, such as schools, followed. This provided a basic infrastructure that the leprosy victims had previously been completely without.

The Zenebework community was unique from its inception as it was a place predominantly inhabited by people afflicted with leprosy. Although family members of ex-leprosy victims are still migrating to this place, the trend has altered, and now people with disabilities have also started inhabiting this location. The community was a highly stigmatized one for many years, often discriminated against by the surrounding areas. Those living here were prohibited to have any contact with other communities of foreign visitors. Members of the Zenebework community were even denied the right to rear cattle or conduct other small businesses for their livelihood, as transmission of the disease to other healthy communities was feared. Nursus and other medical professionals, even the clergy and priests, refused to provide professional and spiritual services there. The establishment of the Koshe garbage dumping site in 1954 in this area further added to the poor image of the Zenebework community.
However, this has changed somewhat recently, and there is less stigma in modern days than existed previously. Although the trend is working on reversing, all of those living in the leprosy colony are still often perceived as less than human and there is still much work to be done. Their livelihood depends on begging and collecting food from the waste dumping site, and they are severely marginalized and banned from entering adjacent non-leprosy affected communities.
Although I came from a non-leprosy-affected family and grew up hearing the negative stereotypes, I had worked as a professional in a leprosy-affected community for four years. During this time, I was initially discriminate against by friends, family, other relatives, and neighbors as the only non-leprosy affected member of the leprosy community. Gradually, however, I changed their attitudes about leprosy and the leprosy affected-community for the better.

My purpose with the Davis Peace Prize has been to continue bridging the gap between the leprosy-affected community, which has been traditionally marginalized in the very worst of ways, and the larger surrounding community. To contribute to the peace and understanding between the leprosy-affected community and the surrounding communities, I incorporated plans geared towards inclusiveness and holistic development. Through this, the local mindset and correction of misconceptions would follow.

Below is an outline of the expected outcomes and major activities set in place to bring about this objective:



Expected Outcomes

Surrounding communities experience behavioral change in their attitudes and practices toward leprosy affected individuals such that community integration is improved

Increase common institutional memberships among leprosy and non leprosy communities

Improved social relations among leprosy and non leprosy communities
Utilization of services at common points is increased

Major Activities

Training of Trainers: Training on conflict management and resolution will be conducted for 20 community members including 10 leprosy affected, 10 non-leprosy affected community members. The participants will be influential male and female community and religious leaders who have the capacity to cascade the knowledge for their followers.

Experience sharing: In addition, experience sharing for 10 community leaders will be facilitated. They will adopt and scale up the initial successes within their community to broader community contexts.

Prepare radio program: Online national radio program is perhaps the best instrument to disseminate information and awareness among the general public. It helps to understand the truth of leprosy National radio program air time will be organized for the purpose of information dissemination and awareness creation.

Organizing football match events: Football team will be organized the mix from both communities to integrate them and foot ball matches will be prepared by blending families of the community.

Panel discussions: A one day panel discussion with community members and professionals will be conducted to respond to community questions and to understand the truth about leprosy.


For more on Fisseha’s project, be sure to visit:


Fisseha is an Ethiopian who has more than 15 years of proven and practical work experience in different organizations. He’s worked in agricultural research institutes and both international and local NGOs, while holding different positions such as Research Technical Assistant, Development Facilitator, Project Officer, Program Coordinator, and Executive Director. He currently runs an NGO called Child of Present a Man of Tomorrow (CPMT) in Ethiopia, which works to promote the wellbeing of women and children. He is also presently studying a Master’s degree in Applied Community Change in Conservation concentration at Future Generations University to complement his backgrounds in agriculture, development and leadership.

Musings of a Naturalist III: QUETZALS AND COSTA RICA


This week, Dr. Robert Fleming transports us to the sight of an impressive ecotourism venture in Costa Rica…


The grounds of the Paraiso Quetzal Lodge. Each bungalow features a bedroom and an attached bathroom with solar-heated water. At 9,0000 feet altitude, nights can be cold (down to 5 degrees C or below) so hot water and extra quilts are much appreciated. The property is landscaped with plants that attract a variety of mountain birds including the Black-and-yellow Silky Flycatcher.

As we sipped hot morning coffee at the Paraiso Quetzal Lodge on the Cerro del Muerte uplift in central Costa Rica, a cloud oozed over the ridge and pushed down the western slope enveloping us in fog. But even through the mist we could make out forms of hummingbirds buzzing by and see the outlines of nearby oaks, their nearly horizontal branches seemingly decorated by a master gardener. Only oaks and similar trees with strong branch attachments can survive these conditions as the weight of the bromeliads, ferns, lichens, orchids and mosses, among others, combined with the moisture from mist and rain would spell disaster for trees with weaker joints. This was a classical cloud forest, a habitat type found at moderate elevations on many mountain slopes and ridge tops around the world…
We had traveled to Costa Rica to learn about the country’s remarkable conservation efforts and to delve into their rich natural history.  And at every turn, whether in a garden or cloud forest, birds vied for attention. Not surprising as the country lists some 900 species ranging from huge-beaked Toucans to the diminutive Green Thorntail, which weighs just 3 grams, 1/10th of an ounce.  Besides birds, Costa Rica hosts mammals, reptiles, frogs and many varieties of butterflies. And in the plant world, Costa Rica is home to well over a thousand species of orchids, including the national flower Guaria Morada (Cattleya skinneri).
One of the grandest of all Costa Rican species is surely the Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno), a bird in the Trogon family. Other species also attract, but this quetzal with its iridescent green upper body and bright red underparts is unmatched. And the males in full plumage sport two elongated tail feathers that shimmer an iridescent green when waving back and forth in breezes of the forest.  
The Resplendent Quetzal  (Pharomachrus mocinno) is the largest member of the Trogons, a family of forest birds featuring some thirty species in the tropical Americas, a dozen in tropical Asia, and three in Africa.  Large trogons, such as this Resplendent Quetzal, feed primarily on fruit while the smaller ones, including the Scarlet-rumped in Southeast Asia, consume mostly insects, including caterpillars and other larva. Trogons are indicator species as they are very sensitive to deforestation, and their presence speaks of good forest conditions as they are cavity nesters, excavating their own nest holes mostly in suitably decaying tree trunks, and thus require trees of a suitable size age and size.
Conservation efforts often center around habitat protection, places where species can feed, find shelter, and locate suitable nesting or denning sites.  And one of the many instruments within the conservation toolbox is the use of a charismatic species to help rally financial and emotional support. The Resplendent Quetzal of Central America, the Mountain Gorilla in Uganda, or the tiger in India fit into this category. But whether or not a charismatic species is present in a region, the key operative is habitat preservation, an effort that benefits all species within that designated territory.  
Costa Rica is one of the world’s leaders in the total area of the country under conservation surveillance with a figure that normally appears to be between 26% to 28% in a patchwork of government sponsored national parks, preserves and wildlife refuges along with a network of private preserve, some quite extensive that often border on government parks. Of the lowland tropical forest, some 80% is now under protection. In addition, there are on-going discussions regarding adding more corridors between protected areas to enhance wildlife travel. While all these areas look good on paper, some have encroachment problems. However, one needs to start somewhere and designating an area as protected is a good way to begin.
It was not always this way.  Between 1950 and 1990, Costa Rica lost 65% of its forest cover due to clearing for commercial crops (mostly coffee and bananas), cattle ranching, and forest exploitation. Conservation endeavors began in the 1950, but much of the groundwork for today’s system was laid after 1960.  Then, in the 1980s, the protecting of Costa Rica’s natural heritage accompanied by publicity fueled an ecotourism boom.   Today programs have become so successful that in some places the flora and fauna that attracts visitors in the first place teeters on the edge of being overwhelmed (for more information see The Green Republic: A Conservation History of Costa Rica, by Stirling Evan; Duke University Press.).
Our visit to Costa Rica included time on the Cerro del Muerte uplift southeast of San Jose, where we stopped at Paraiso Quetzal, a lodge with fourteen bungalows located at an altitude of 2100m (9,000ft). Here we met Jorge Serrano Salazar and learned of his family’s splendid ecotourism effort, a program that involves members of the community living along the Pan American Highway in the Tres de Junio area.  
 Jorge Serrano Salazar (pictured right) is the visionary behind
Paraiso Quetzal Lodge. He is also the general manager and
stands with this cousin, Jairo Serrano, behind the reception desk. 
This is a family run operation with various members assisting as needed.  

Jorge, a member of the extensive Serrano family, grew up in quetzal country and while studying rural tourism at his local high school, realized that showing quetzals to visitors could be a key income generating opportunity for the family – if only they could work out a system.  

Quetzal tours’ were already in vogue in other quetzal hot spots such as Savegre Valley and Monteverde.  Eager to see one of these birds, we visited the Savegre Valley where we engaged Marino Chacon as our driver/guide.  Early one February morning he drove us slowly up the main road from the Savegre Lodge until he heard a bird and then quickly spotted a fine male sitting on a moss-covered branch in the cloud forest. There, in front of us, was an experience we will long remember:  the classical image of a stunning quetzal.
When one party locates a quetzal along the Savegre Valley road, other hopefuls gather. And this morning, with two males spotted in this sector, I noted that forty-seven other participants had assembled, all straining for glimpses of an iridescent green back or a red belly in the openings between oak leaves.  The folks at the front of the crowd were all smiles while those in the back were likely not as lucky until they moved forward.
Thinking about the competition from these semi-zoos, Jorge needed a plan. First, he needed quetzals – which he had. Then he needed an infrastructure – which he did not have.  And finally he needed viewers.
What better way to attract visitors to a special habitat than to build a place right on the spot?  Pooling money, the family opened a small restaurant in 2005. This was so successful that in 2007 they expanded the main building and added three bungalows, enabling visitors to stay longer.  And while constructing a restaurant and three bungalows was all well and good, this was not enough – quetzals do not feed in the dinning room. Jorge needed to develop a system to show quetzals to guests.


And then inspiration hit.

Quetzals live in mountain oak forests but fortunately are quite flexible, as a good portion of the original forest around Esperanza, a small town near the Paraiso Quetzal Lodge, has been cleared for agriculture or animal husbandry. Small holders now privately own this land, often a farming family working from 2 to 10 hectares.  As the altitude around Esperanza is too high and damp for coffee, the farmers raise raspberries, potatoes, and other cold weather cash crops; most farmers also own two or three milking cows.
In a cloud forest, both rain and moisture from clouds is needed for the survival of epiphytic bromeliads such as these found on horizontal surfaces of oaks and other tree branches, usually sharing the surface with, lichens, ferns, mosses, orchids, and other plants. Curiously, bromeliads can occasionally take hold on power lines, a behavior rarely seen in other plant groups. Trees in these mountain forests need to have sturdy branch attachments in order to withstand the weight of the bromeliads, ferns, and orchids  all soaked with heavy rain.  The tree pictured here grew just northwest of the lodge dinning room.

In 2009 Jorge started his scheme by coaxing local farmers to search their property each morning, looking for quetzals, and should they find a bird, report to the lodge on their cell phones.  Quetzals feed on wild fruit – especially wild avocados – as well as on frogs and lizards (during the rainy season) and once breakfast is ingested they usually sit quietly on a branch for extended periods. Thus guests at the lodge who are interested – and have paid a substantial fee – climb aboard a vehicle for a ride of fifteen or so minutes to the selected farm. Once you know where a bird is resting, the chances of arriving guests seeing a quetzal is high.  Another seasonal method of locating quetzals, and one popular along main roads, is to find a nest with chicks and then watch the adult birds coming and going. The nesting season on the Pacific side of the Cerro del Muerte uplift normally begins early in March and lasts into May.

The lodge’s mission statement speaks to the importance
of taking pride in caring for Mother Nature for future generations.

Jorge’s program, started with only two farmers, but now has become so successful that his list of reporting individuals has grown to twenty-two with two more waiting in the wings.  In the high season, the lodge runs three ‘quetzal tours’ a day, each with a limit of ~6 people per group.  It is mportant to limit the number of visitors to any one site, Jorge says, so as not to overly disturb the birds. Evidence of the success of this program is that some farmers are now planting wild avocados and other fruit-bearing trees on their properties.

Most effective ecotourism efforts involve a number of steps and players. And Jorge’s program, while not replicable everywhere, certainly exhibits some components of a successful ecotourism project.  First, a species or an area of special interest (such as a sacred mountain) is identified.  Then a project needs a visionary person to propose a plan and who is willing to devote resources and time to the effort. In addition, there is the infrastructure. Visitors need to be able to reach the site and, where possible, have a place to stay. In addition, personable guides trained in natural history are a must. Also an enticing website is a distinct plus as this is a most useful tool for drawing attention to the site.
Costa Rica is located reasonably near the large North American market. This is fortunate, but an ecotourism program that depends on international guests is not totally reliable as world affairs influences travel.  Thus it is best to cater to a steady stream of local citizens and, as available, add foreigners to the mix. The Serrano family benefits from being only three hours drive from the capital San Jose, and within a six-hour drive of close to half of Costa Rica’s population.
And the family also profits not only from the quetzal but also from the quiet and peaceful nature of its oak forest location, one that overlooks a fine view towards the Pacific. Thus staying here makes for splendid interlude from the hustle and bustle of San Jose, Cartago, and other cities.  Moreover in addition to the quetzal,  hosts of hummingbirds buzz around the grounds and these, along with other mountain species, make Pariso Quetzal an ideal stopover for birders, international or otherwise.

       This Firey-throated Hummingbird (Panterpe insignis), one of 54 Costa Rican hummingbird species, was photographed at the Paraiso Quetzal Lodge. This is a montane resident usually found above 2000m (6,600’) altitude in central and southern Costa Rica and into extreme western Panama.  The Firey-throated is a nectar feeder, sometimes probing for food at the bases of a bromeliad flowers by utiizing holes originally made by bees. Hummingbirds also consume insects and spiders as a source of protein and are so agile that they have no trouble darting into the air to catch a flying morsel
Above all, sustainable ecotourism projects revolve around enhancing the participation of local communities. If the local residents see financial benefits, they are ones who are most likely to best safeguard the resource. And we see in the Tres de Junio area where, thanks to the Serrano initiative, farmers are now aware of the advantage of maintaining their environment and augmenting their quetzal habitat.
Jorge and the Serrano family are to be congratulated on their on-going conservation success.





Dr. Fleming with naturalist/guide Alanzo (pictured right), Quetzal showing
farmer William (left) and Serrano family member (far left); photo
taken by James Regali, Bob’s companion on the Quetzal search.

This week’s blog piece and photos make up the third installment in our Musings of a Naturalist series, courtesy of our own Dr. Robert (Bob) Fleming: Professor Equity and Empowerment/ Natural History. Having grown up in the foothills of the Himalayas in India, Bob has long been interested in the beauty of nature. This progressed into a fascination with natural history and cultural diversity, leading him to obtain his Ph.D. in zoology. He has  explored many of the planet’s special biological regions, ranging from the Namib Desert in Africa to the Tropical Rainforest of the Amazon, and the Mountain Tundra biome of the Himalayas. He has worked for the Smithsonian’s Office of Ecology and the Royal Nepal Academy and, along with his father and Royal Nepal Academy Director-Lain Singh Bangdel, he wrote and illustrated “Birds of Nepal,” the first modern field guide to the birds of the region. In addition to his work with Future Generations, Bob is the director of Nature Himalayas, a sole proprietorship that he began in 1970. Through this company, Bob has led some 250 outings. He currently lives in the temperate rainforest of western Oregon in the USA’s Pacific Northwest.

Many thanks to Dr. Fleming for another great contribution!

Happy Father’s Day from Future Generations!

When thinking how we could give a shout out to fathers on the blog today, my mind immediately went to the Taylors. Daniel Taylor, his father Carl Taylor, and son Luke Taylor-Ide, all worked together to bring the vision for Future Generations to life. Three generations of fathers and sons working together has made this already special relationship even more dynamic. The Taylor family has long worked to promote community-based education, and each has brought their own unique approach to the field.




Carl Taylor founded the academic discipline of international health and dedicated his life to the marginalized people of the world. He was also the founding chair of the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Up until a week before his death, he continued sharing his near century-long perspective with his students while working as the Country Director for Future Generations in Afghanistan.

Daniel Taylor founded Future Generations, as well as twelve other nonprofit organizations. He’s been engaged in social change and conservation for more than four decades with a focus on building international cooperation to achieve ambitious projects, and has received widespread recognition and award for his efforts.  He is one of the synthesizers of the SEED-SCALE method, and since 1995 has continued to lead global field trials of SEED-SCALE and educate the world on this method through the sharing his research and books.

Luke Taylor-Ide has worked to combine academic interest in applied education with a parallel field-oriented approach to social change, having had extended, multi-year assignments in Afghanistan, India, and rural America. His findings affected national health policy in Afghanistan in regards to enabling women, and addressed the impacts of modernization on sustainable living in India. He currently focuses on the intersection of local agriculture economies, community-based preventive healthcare, and entrepreneurship in West Virginia.

I reached out to Luke to help me create todays’ post, while keeping true to the purpose of the blog, and he kindly agreed to help. We hope you enjoy the following post in tribute to fathers everywhere.


Is there a project in particular that you all worked on that really sticks out to you?


Probably the most memorable project that I worked on with my father and grandfather was the “Pregnancy History Project” in Afghanistan and India. Several points are noteworthy about this project, most importantly it was the closest professional collaboration I got to share with my grandfather—it ended up being his last major research and action project. During this time, Bapu (Carl) and I traveled to Afghanistan and India to first launch a research effort to assess the impact of the Pregnancy History Method implemented 2 years earlier in Afghanistan and then also launch a parallel implementation approach in Arunachal Pradesh, India. We were closing our time in Kabul, Afghanistan when Dad (Dan’l) arrived to complete programatic work and we all overlapped for two nights in the guest house of the International Assistance Mission. One night we got into a debate about the appropriate placement and role for the concept of establishing a Shared Vision for change in community within SEED-SCALE. Each of us had a strong opinion and they were all different; we debated that point for hours in the living room until the other guests united and asked us to go to bed—we had no idea how late or opinionated we each had become. I am still not sure that any of us went to bed that night at all convinced of the other’s views—but I expect each of us thought our point had come out on top. 


What’s the greatest benefit to working with your father?


We get to spend a lot of time together! As a result of interacting on a virtually daily basis, usually regarding work, we have learned to adapt our relationship from one of typical father-son to being colleagues and friends. We gain insight into one another’s daily life in a way that most father-son relationships cannot do. While this can be a delicate balance, having an enduring relationship that has evolved throughout the years has allowed us to know one another professionally as well as personally, which for better or for worse has brought us closer together. 



What’s the hardest thing about working with your father?


At times the line between our professional and personal relationship can get blurred which adds significant strain on both. It is often difficult for us to “turn off” work when we are together. While this can have its perks such as working through a complex issue over dinner, it can also easily turn a relaxing evening into a night of work and debate. Unlike many working relationships, we are unable to cut ties completely if we have a disagreement so we generally work out our different views and are both better for it—but getting to common ground is not always the most fun. 



What’s been your most memorable interaction while working with family?

In March of 2008 I got a phone call from my grandfather asking me to come and assist him on the Pregnancy History Project that summer. On the call he stated that he had discussed this idea thoroughly with Dad who had authorized and approved of the idea—“everything has been arranged as long as you are willing to do it,” he said. Obviously when your 92 year old grandfather asks for your help, you say yes, so I did. The next day I spoke to Dad who said that he had just gotten off the phone with my grandfather who reported that I had requested to be involved with the Pregnancy History Project and that I had made a compelling case. By the time Dad and I both spoke to one another to discover that we each had agreed to part of an elaborate plan orchestrated by the family patriarch all we could do was laugh and go along with it. I still chuckle about the fact that my first official employment with Future Generations was the result of orchestration from my grandfather. 
Many thanks to Luke for his contribution to today’s blog, and Happy Father’s Day from all of us here at Future Generations!

The Ecological Footprint of Afghanistan and More: A Comparison of Afghanistan with Iran and Pakistan


As a human, my work, behavior, and future plans all are making an impact on the planet’s finite resources– simply by living , I am using resources.


From the usage of water to caring for nature, building safe environments, creating opportunities for the next generations… The examples go on and on. Simply put, every one of us has a strong direct impact on the planet’s finite resources. And yet there is a huge percentage of the population of humans in this world that can’t get access to clean water. I, in one corner of this world, have more than enough access to this resource. How I am using this opportunity of having unlimited access to clean water, which is not available to others in the world, makes a large impact on our planet’s finite resources.


Comparison of Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan


Examining the similarities and differences of Afghanistan with Pakistan and Iran makes for an interesting comparison; Pakistan and Iran both are economically stabilized countries, maintain armies, industries, and have higher populations. Conversely, Afghanistan has had to grow during more than 4 decades of war, building everything from scratch, dependent upon  assistance from the international community, with very a low economic system, low revenue, and most prevalently, the ongoing threats of insurgency. This creates a large difference between Afghanistan and the two neighboring countries mentioned.






Afghanistan and Pakistan are both in Southeast Asia, which neighbors world super economic power, China. On the other hand, Iran serves as a connecting point between Southeast Asia and the Middle East. At a quick glance, these three countries are all faced with the ongoing threat of insurgency insurgency, however, only Afghanistan is currently involved in actively fighting this problem. The other two aforementioned countries are also involved, but this involvement decreases going from Pakistan towards Iran.


Insurgency aside, the potential for economic growth and power that exists in this region, for all three countries, is similar.  These three countries are located in an important geo-politically strategic location. If we think of the trade of natural gas from Iran to Central Asia, and consider the abundance of Iran’s natural resources, Afghanistan is the only bridge in between the two areas, which creates a big economic impact on the region. The same Afghanistan serves as the in-between for connecting Central Asia with Southeast Asia.
Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, just recently started the TAPI project, which will further establish Afghanistan as a connecting point for Central and Southeast Asia. Through this project, natural gas will be sent from Turkmenistan to Pakistan, via Afghanistan, and then via Pakistan to India. The similarities, from an economic standpoint, can be seen as significant. The contribution from all of these countries, and in general, Central Asia with Southeast Asia, makes a great impact on the planet’s finite resources. This is  especially so in the case of Central Asia’s supply of natural gas, and the high demand for it in Southeast Asia.







Unfortunately, many differences also exist between these three countries. The fight against terrorism in the region, Afghanistan’s long-lasting war, Pakistan’s involvement, Iran’s involvement, etc. all makes a big difference. Furthermore, while Pakistan has access to nuclear weapons and Iran is trying to make it for themselves, or use the uranium for the energy purposes, Afghanistan has no involvement in this regard. All of which makes Afghanistan a strange white elephant in the corner of the room.


Both Iran and Pakistan are well-enough-stabilized countries from their economic and military prospects, while Afghanistan is not even at the initial stage of such a comparison. While Iran and Pakistan are working towards their financial and economic strategies, and thinking of  ways to grow their economies stronger and stronger for their people, Afghanistan struggles to at the very least provide a safe environment for its people, and to avoid the resulting huge migration flows of its populations to European countries.
Another big difference is Afghanistan struggling to bring peace and prosperity to its people. And while Afghanistan has a high amount of natural resources, it has not the facilities to extract or to use them. Meanwhile, Iran produces a significant amount of the oil in the world and the profits put it in a higher position than the other two countries being examined. A further complication: while the international community is trying to help Afghanistan in fighting against terrorism, Afghanistan blames Pakistan and Iran for supporting and creating insurgency in the region.
Economical differences aside, socially and politically, these three countries differ from one another. Iran has a combined version of democracy and religion, which rules the country while ignoring its minorities. Pakistan claims a democratic governance system with the incorporation of Islamic values, and has a categorized public with high, medium, and low incomes. This “normal” people can’t reasonably hope to ever become president, minister, or manager in a government institution as a result.
Afghanistan has tried the new cut-and-paste democracy of the West, with its localized values. Unfortunately, in a similar manner to Pakistan, the society is growing into categorized subsets of people, with the very high and very low income, and the middle class. This greatly limits the abilities of those not in the high income category.
Each of these countries is arguably corrupt and not honest with its people. Additionally, the nuclear facilities in Pakistan and Iran, and the usage of the uranium to build nuclear weapons or as an energy source, has had a very strong negative impact on the planet’s resources. The practices has been damaging to the environment, destroyed societies,  and brought more fear to its citizens. Religions is also a common source of power in each of the three countries, but currently all of these countries are trying to maintain positive relationships with the West.


The Main Factors Subject to Difference:

  • Huge population of Pakistan, and the ongoing fear of poverty in this country
  • The economic crises in Iran
  • The ongoing insurgency and terrorism threats in Afghanistan
  • The ongoing fear and increase in the percentage of poverty in Afghanistan



Conclusion of Differences, Potential Directions to be Taken


To conclude, Afghanistan has the potential to transform into the economic center of Asia. It is able to connect the central and south regions, and to connect Southeast Asia to the Middle East. Pakistan could transform its industrialized economy to one of greater success, using this to aid in the ongoing efforts against terrorism and to bring peace to the region. Iran could make its economy even stronger also aiding in the fight against terrorism so that they can expand their oil business via Afghanistan to China and Southeast Asian countries.


Additionally, Afghanistan’s access to unlimited water can be also be seen as a difference, and so an asset. If Afghanistan gets stabilized and in accordance with international laws and norms, it could seek to set a price for its extra water, which Pakistan and Iran currently use for free. This would benefit the country economically and help it to not rely as much on the international community. 


Personal Footprint




There are many positive things to be said for Afghanistan that rarely get acknowledged. The natural beauty, green landscape, natural mines, rarely seen animals, and things of this nature are among our planet’s greatest finite resources.
Pakistan is a larger country than Afghanistan, with a higher population and more stability.
Iran is well-stabilized economically, due to its abundance of natural resources, especially natural gas, and an industrialized economy.
Living in Afghanistan with limited resources, and low development in terms of transportation, connection to the outside world, education, and employment, are the biggest factors that affect me and millions of others in my country. The struggle of development in the country has been very slow within the last 14 years, however, the current government creates some hope. Although negative points have been seen in the way the National Unite Government serves in Afghanistan. Two major issues: too many political factions, and the level of employment in the country remaining low due to lack of opportunity for an increased workforce.
Development in every corner of the world creates more opportunities for our resources, as well as more manageable and sustainable ways of using them. Sadly, Afghanistan is missing the essential components to follow suit, which creates an uncertain future for millions of people in the country. Education has easily risen in the last 15 years, yet the level of employment has dropped, unable to fulfill the needs of this educated generation. These factors are all directly impacting the development inside my society and overall in my country.
This lack of development and opportunity creates an international problem, consisting of issues such as the flow of migration of Afghan youths to the Middle East and Europe, the government’s struggle with insurgents and against terrorism, reliance upon the international community’s economic support…All of these factors are connected and directly relate towards my personal footprint the developments around me. 


This week’s blog post contributed by Future Generations Alumnus Yasar Ahmadzai. Yasar has more than a decade’s worth of experience in the fields of peacebuilding, community development, democratization, and journalism. Carrying international expertise into the field of positive community change, Yasar was recently featured for his peacebuilding efforts by the Global Peacebuilding Center and the United States Institute of Peace. He previously worked with the Afghanistan High Peace Council, and also has the practical experience of working with different government institutions in Afghanistan and in the ongoing peace negotiations taking place in the country.

Yasar established the Afghanistan Institute of Peace, a think-tank for positive community change and peacebuilding in 2015 (, using methods learned through his practical international experience with Future Generations University in the fields of peacebuilding, bringing positive change. Yasar’s goal is to promote a culture of peace among Afghanistan’s new generations.
Furthermore, Yasar has been working with Democracy International since 2011 for good governance, democratization, positive community change, and anti-corruption.
To know more about Yasar and his various involvements, visit the links below:


Empowering the Forgotten Peacebuilders: Persons with Disability

Using Self-Help Groups and Information Technology to Empower People with Disability in Tanzania: A lesson from the Nyamagana and Ilemela Districts of Mwanza City

Mwanza, Tanzania and Lake Victoria
This work focuses on empowering the forgotten peacebuilders: people with disability (PWDs), and is based on the observation that the majority of PWDs, particularly females, from developing countries like Tanzania are forgotten, uneducated, categorized as passive and unfit to participate in different socio-economic related matters. This creates a cycle of PWDs being unable to advocate for themselves because of poverty, stigma, and exclusion. Discussions around empowerment are commonly limited to activities associated with economic, social, and political empowerment. This blog piece takes the debate beyond and it defined empowerment as processes whereby individuals achieve increasing control of various aspects of their lives and participate in the community with dignity.
The study this piece is drawing from was conducted in the Nyamagana and Ilemela Districts of Mwanza City in Tanzania. It asked whether Self Help Group (SHG) membership and the use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) has the impact of acting as tools of enablement and as a means of empowering and improving the quality of life of people with disabilities. There was no common agreement, as respondents explained mixed feelings about ICT and self-help groups. The positive, negative, and challenges of ICT and SHG were detailed, ultimately, the positive impacts were found to outweigh the negative.
Tusaidiane Disabilities Resources and Charity Organization of Tanzania, the NGO
started by Msafiri to address many of the issues noted in this study
Essentially, the study looked into the possibility of engaging and mobilizing Communities and Technology for Social Change. Attention was placed on PWDs and care givers of PWDs who are members in associations like Village Community Banks (VICOBA), Village Saving and Loan Association (VSLA), and Community Based Organizations (CBO) that involve PWDs as members. On ICT use, attention was placed on the use of mobile phones calls, text messaging (SMS), and the open-source software FrontlineSMS. A total of 59 participants were involved in this study, mainly members in self-help groups. A variety of data collection tools were utilized for a mixed methods approach (face-to-face semi-structured interviews, phone interviews, participant observation, focus group discussion, dialogue, and desktop research methods).
The desire of members of self-help groups to be empowered economically was the major motivation provided by PWDs and care givers of PWDs to join in these groups, especially when driven by the possibility of getting money. Another reason was to exchange experiences and advice on how to deal with different challenges, followed by the aspiration to promote income-generating activities. The next reasons were to get loans, to promote savings, and to repay old debts. To have relationships with colleagues stood as the last reason for joining a self-help group. Only 15% of participants maintained positive views about the benefits of SHGs towards empowering persons with disability. This was aimed specifically at the SHGs’ process of facilitating members in the sharing of experiences and information, in building trust and recognition, building social and human capital through social interaction, sharing ideas and advice on how to deal with different life challenges, and finding ways of solving problems together as a team, rather than individually.
Disability consortium in the author’s community in the Lake Victoria
area of Mwanza
On the other side, almost 85% of participants indicated that their participation in a self-help group does not offer any benefit to them as a PWD. They specified that individual enterprises are better than group enterprises. And despite of the majority of SHG members having the goal of improving their incomes through savings and small loans provisions, it was found that most of the PWDs interviewed have experienced the inability to repay their loans, or they simply make payments after intensive follow-up and pressure through different means. This created tensions and bad relationship among SHG members. It reduced solidarity, friendship and networking. The majority neglected to make a habit of working together as a team as a result of devaluing one another based on ignorance, illiteracy, lack of trust, and inadequate knowledge about SHG benefits, among other reasons. In addition, several SHG members mentioned that it caused a disturbance in certain cases among members when they were required to follow up on untrustworthy members’ loans as they were expected to monitor their peers’ behavior to ensure the loans were being used for their agreed upon purpose as stated in the loan application. Monitoring was both costly as well as time-consuming. Furthermore, rules such as mandatory weekly savings and regular meeting attendance or weekly meetings was a difficult task to be followed, as it sometimes caused members to be absent from their day labor, while earning nothing from SHG to compensate for that loss.
It was then indicated that there are greater benefits to ICT as a connection tool for this communities’ members to help each other. This was achieved by the technology being used to change an environment that is typically disabling into one that is instead empowering, offering flexibility of time and space. ICT is enabling PWDs to be at peace with their surroundings by connecting them to the greater world. They’re operating in this manner with less discrimination, enabling them to unlock opportunities that had previously been inaccessible, their voices being heard, enabling them to live, to build, and create and maintain personal networks as they are no longer isolated as they were when compared to the pre-information period. Moreover, ICT can be used as complementary to SHGs with the purpose of strengthening communication and building networking among its members.

FrontlineSMS software as a tool for handling the SMS-based feedback was used in this project after observing that it is free and open-source software. It turned a laptop and a mobile phone into a central communications hub. Once installed, it enabled users to send and receive text messages using mobile phones. A laptop acted like a hub or server of sending and receiving SMS without requiring an Internet connection. It allowed users to send bulk text messages, stored phone numbers and names of members, and recorded all incoming and outgoing messages. All data was retained on a computer, not on servers controlled by someone else. It was found to be scalable method; messages could be sent to individuals or large groups, and it enabled two-way communication. It also supported most mobile phones handset, including the basic phones (‘dumb’ phones), which support voice and text messages only. FrontlineSMS was noted to be useful software in mobilizing people and giving feedback through SMS. It also made it easier for PWDs to deal with loan defaulters, allowing follow-up on a loan issue as a group rather than an individual follow-up. Overall, the use of SMS (text messaging) was chosen as the most effective ICT method after seeing that it is quite powerful, particularly so when considering the value fiscally, and furthermore minimizes the time required to communicate.


The SEED-SCALE method of social change, 
presented by Future Generations University
The conclusion of this study proposes the development of a SEED-SCALE-based curriculum as the best option to help in forming a base of sustainable empowerment and to assist in the process of repairing the human dignity of PWDs. SEED-SCALE is a useful approach that can be applied to the process of counseling and motivating PWDs, either individually or in groups, to change attitudes that favor charity. It will instead aid PWDs in moving towards observing their own abilities by learning that it is possible for them to rise above their limitations. Ultimately, it will be used to help prevent disability from getting in the way of life, progress, and success. It will accomplish this goal by leading PWDs to feel encouraged to consider how they can turn their disabilities into abilities using the special qualities they alone possess, whether or not it’s seen by anyone else.



This week’s blog content and photos providedby Msafiri Msedi. Msafiri is a Tanzanian who works with the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance in Tanzania, where he is presently responsible for Promoting and Protecting Human Rights. Msafiri is an alumni of Future Generations University, having obtained his Masters in Community Change as a member of the Class of 2015. He is passionate about human rights, disability & diversity, empowerment, and information technology. He has worked as a volunteer with organizations for disabled people, and is a founder of the NGO known as “Tusaidiane Disabilities Resources and Charity Organization of Tanzania” (TDRCT), which is registered to work in mainland Tanzania. The Swahili word “tusaidiane” means “let’s help each other.”  Currently, Msafiri works in the organization as an Executive Secretary.


For more on Msafiri, click here:
For more on Tusaidiane Disabilities Resources and Charity Organization of Tanzania, click here:

Responsible Mining in Ghana

Mention the word mining and an apocalyptic scene pops into mind…

Mirny Diamond Mine in Russia


There’s no denying that mining has an impact on the environment; it affects landscapes, flora, and fauna. Natural species can be damaged or cause significantly affected animals to flee the area to escape the constant disturbance of the mining activity. Leaving a previously mined area unrehabilitated is poor practice, which has changed in most places. This is a story about good practices in mining and the growing number of companies that return the landscape to its original state in an attempt to leave as little permanent environmental impact as possible. We will examine a closure plan in this blog piece, as it works to remedy some of the environmental impact from mining activity with the purpose of leaving behind a legacy of environmental remediation and post-mining land use for the local communities in which the mine was based. 
SIKA Mining (name changed for privacy) is a unique mine. Throughout its development, SIKA has had 10 mines on its property, both open pit and underground, in the Western Region of Ghana. These mining sites are interspersed between many communities which have both benefited from the mining activity as well as have been affected by it. The mine hires local labour wherever and whenever possible, but highly skilled labour is also brought in from other parts of Ghana. Because of the nature of the mine, SIKA Mining shares its roads, utilities and services with these communities and maintains services for them.
A local woman walking back from her farm through the mining concession


This mine’s life is predicted to end within the next few years and environmental remediation programs are already fully underway.  SIKA Mining has maintained a continuous remediation program of unused areas, but this piece will concentrate on remediation of the SIKA Tailing Storage Facility. SIKA Mining’s goals in reclamation are: (1) the desire to remediate the environmental impact caused by mining activity, which can offset loss of forest, by afforestation projects that are at least equivalent to the size and type lost; and (2) to consider end-use purposes regarding socio-economic improvement: re-establishment of native forest cover, creation of varied wildlife habitat (wetlands, vegetation), and finally the creation of tourist and amenity facilities (roads, buildings) through slope stability, as well as water issues.
In 2016, SIKA Mining underwent an information/consultative period with the surrounding communities to discuss the possible uses of land after closure over a series of 9 meetings. Both the Community Consultative Council (consisting of opinion leaders from the various communities) and the EPA led these meetings regarding ultimate end-use of the tailings pond. These meetings were well-advertised open forums and ultimately community members, Paramount Chiefs, Chiefs, Sub-Chiefs, and Queen Mothers attended.  The decisions taken during these meetings found the end use of the tailing pond should be agro-forestry (mainly cocoa farming), firewood, and re-planting of native plants, trees, and shrubs.
Presently, the area is being prepared for planting. Analysis of the tailings has found that the area has a high potential for phytoremediation. In 2015, an extensive study, conducted by external consultants, was performed on the potential for contamination of plant life by the heavy metals in the tailings, and it was found that most of the species did not absorb any levels of trace elements and was fit for human usage.                
Topsoil has been placed on the old tailings. The accumulation of topsoil has a minimum depth of 20cm onto one meter of laterite, to help in the establishment of the crop. This is a mechanized process being handled by SIKA Mining using bulldozers and dump trucks for spreading the topsoil.
North and south view of tailings being reclaimed

 While this is going on, residents from local communities are being employed anywhere from 12-18 months to collect local plants and shrubs for soil control. They will also be the ones employed in the planting process of these plants, as well as in the cocoa tree initiative. The total cost of the operations will be absorbed under SIKA MINING closure plan.

 The economy of the region is based on three elements: agriculture, mining, and timber. Agriculture is by far the greatest employer of the region, involving over 65% of the labour force, with cocoa being the main economic driver of the region. Other cash crops include cocoa and palm oil. Planting in the tailings ponds is based on the guidelines established in the Mine Closure Plan, and state that there should be a minimum density of 1000 stems per hectare.
 Land tenure will be reverted to the former owners for their use. When the mining project began construction in 2000, the land that the mine occupies today belonged to the three Paramountcies and the local chiefs from these communities. The land was loaned to the mining company for duration of operation. This land reverts to these owners once mining activities cease and the land has met the criteria for remediation, ensuring that they will be the ones who benefit of the reclamation. Once the land reverts to the Chiefs, they will lease out the land for exploitation of cocoa farming. The farmers will earn their benefit from their labours.
 SIKA Mining is situated in a nature reserve, and exploitation of timber reserves is a portion of the economy. A proposal for growing trees for timber for export in the reclamation plan was abandoned to better reflect the needs of the communities. Most of the farmers live on subsistence agriculture, and their dependence on the two cocoa harvests a year leaves most of the people hunting for food in the forest. Women have small farms for growing staples and to sell in markets. As firewood is the main fuel used for cooking food and foraging for firewood in the forest reserve is common, it was decided to include a measure to plant fast growing trees for firewood using local labour. The benefits from this will go to the communities closest to the tailings storage facility in question.
Hawk hunting on talings pond

The most outwardly segment of the tailings pond reclamation plan called for re-establishing native plant species. As the mining activity has slowed in some areas, birdlife and aquatic life has already returned. At the tailings ponds each day, over a dozen predatory birds hunt for prey. As for the prey, mice, rats, snakes, smaller vertebrates, reptiles, etc., have re-established themselves, and there are also sightings of antelope returning (frequent) and some monkeys (rarely).  Re-establishing the local flora will further help usher in the return of biodiversity to the area. The collection of the local plants and the planting will also be done by paid labourers from the local communities, thereby simultaneously benefitting both the local environment and the communities.

The final use of this reclaimed land for agro-forestry and firewood appears to be appropriate based on the consultative period in 2016 and by expectations of landowners. Once the property reverts to the original owners, it will then provide economic benefits to those owners and subsequent leases.
 Each aspect of the plan does provide non-financial benefits to the communities, as well. The wood primarily intended for burning will also help preserve the surrounding forest. The planting of the cocoa trees as agro-forestry will be in line with the local communities’ economic reliance on the leaving mining industry. The benefit to planting cocoa is that the knowledge-base on techniques already exists in the local communities, so they won’t have to rely on outsiders to help them establish themselves.
 Soil remediation is a benefit to the community, as well as fulfilling SIKA Mining’s legal responsibilities and ensuring tailings will not pose health threats to inhabitants. The reintroduction of native species in the area is by far the most beneficial to the rebuilding of biodiversity. Mining operations have impacted the area for over 10 years, but with the efforts of restorations have already seen the return of predators and prey alike. This Mine Closure Plan does attempt to mitigate not only the environmental impact mining activities have had on the area but restore the land to its rightful owners for economic growth and help revive animal biodiversity.
Spontaneous re-vegetation on south parameter of the SIKA Tailings Pond (nitrogen-rich plants inserted for soil enrichment)
This week’s blog and photos kindly provided by Gisèle Fortin. Gisèle is a Canadian who has been living in Ghana since 2012. She runs the NGO Sefwi Health Initiative in the Western Region of Ghana, and is presently studying a Master’s in Community Change and Conservation at Future Generations  University.

For more on Gisele, please visit:

The Gender Dimension: Women and Wildlife


What do women and wildlife have to do with one another? Future Generations faculty member Teri Allendorf explains why this is an essential enquiry surrounding the preservation of tigers in Chitwan National Park in Nepal.

Original text and images published in an article by Teri Allendorf for Community Conservation newsletter.

More and more frequently, attention is being given to the involvement of local communities as a factor in the success of conservation efforts around the world. As with all communities, men and women have different relationships with their environment due to the level of involvement that is customarily permitted. How does this factor into wildlife conservation? As put by Teri Allendorf and associate Neil Carter:

“The survival of many populations of threatened mammals depends on the willingness of human communities to coexist with them.”
Allendorf and Carter have found that women generally show more concern for wildlife, humane treatment, and support for species conservation. This is thought to be based from their caretaking and nurturing characteristics, as compared to the value traditionally placed by men on traits such as competition and autonomy. However when presented with contexts of daily negative wildlife impact, such as crop raiding and livestock depredation, women are more likely to have a negative attitude towards wildlife conservation and protection than men.
Experience shapes view. Tigers occasionally prey on livestock and attack people. These negative occurrences influenced the differing in opinion between men and women when asked how they felt towards tigers. Based on Carter’s previous research in Nepal, 84% of men expressed positive attitudes about tigers, while depending on the question, only 64%-73% of women felt similarly. This shift in attitude is proposed to be a result of greater direct costs of wildlife to women, women’s greater fear of wildlife and heightened perception of risk, and women’s lack of information and knowledge about the conservation of wildlife. The gendered division of labor also contributes to this divide. Women are often primarily responsible for the collection of natural resources, such as fuelwood and fodder for the household, and so are disproportionately exposed to dangers from wildlife.

These findings may seem to be contrary to one another, but Allendorf and her collaborators have found that this is a common gender gap driven by differences in belief and experience. Because women in communities such as those near Chitwan National Park in Nepal have traditionally not been included in conservation efforts, they have a lack of knowledge regarding the value of ecosystems and the protection of them. Based on a survey of 499 people, Allendorf and Carter found that the difference of opinion regarding tigers in Chitwan was a direct result of women having less knowledge about the involvement of tigers in promoting a healthy ecosystem. This then lead to less positive feelings towards the tigers in general. Accordingly, Allendorf suggests that addressing the impact of women’s access to information may be one way of closing this crucial conservation gap.
“People who understand interrelationships between natural and human communities value protected areas more.”

Although wildlife conservation has traditionally been dominated by men, the research conducted in Nepal by Allendorf and Carter about tiger preservation around Chitwan National Park shows that the perspectives of women are beginning to merit more value. Their findings present that the importance of women in this effort may be of crucial importance for several different reasons, the most important of which are: (1) women may be more vulnerable to environmental change and so could be more supportive of conservation as a result, and (2) women can be active agents of change for conservation efforts; by ignoring them, half of the population that can actively help to affect change is being overlooked.

This is supported by statistics that show that natural resource management groups that include women have demonstrated greater collaboration, solidarity, and conflict resolution characteristics that those with only men. These factors then in turn contributed to better, more sustainable outcomes. For example, the inclusion of women in forestry groups in India and Nepal has been directly correlated with better overall conditions and faster forest regeneration as a result of the better monitoring and rule enforcement they brought.
In Chitwan, this has held true in a most impressive way. Around 300,000 people live in the valley surrounding Chitwan National Park, and it’s become one of the success stories in tiger conservation for the globally endangered Panthera tigris. The population of tigers there has risen from approximately 50 in 1998 to 125 in 2015. Most importantly, it’s one of only 28 reserves in the world that can support at least 25 breeding female tigers.
“Unlike women in China and Myanmar, women in Nepal are not more negative toward protected areas, despite having less knowledge.”
Allendorf and Carter propose that this may be the case because, unlike with women in China and Myanmar in similar situations, Nepal has made more efforts to include women in buffer zone projects over approximately the last 20 years. Although the gender disparities still exist, Nepal enacted policies that recommended the inclusion of women on elected committees, which in that area often includes community forestry and buffer zone committees. Though arguably not enough to even out the gender divide, these actions have contributed to men and women being equally likely to understand the benefits of the park and what contributions the presence of tigers contribute to a healthy ecosystem.
These findings are important because they highlight potential pathways to increase community support for and involvement in wildlife conservation. Knowledge could be all that underlies the difference in gendered attitudes regarding wildlife management, and access to information is one of the easiest things to increase, particularly when considering the benefit it may yield. This could include initiatives such as outreach programs targeted at women to increase knowledge about particular species and their role in the ecosystem, which could in turn improve the general community attitude towards the species overall. Women could furthermore influence the decisions to poach, as well as create more long-term implications for conservation efforts by influencing their children to have positive attitudes regarding conservation and providing them with the knowledge that supports it. By including everyone in the dialogue, we move forward together for a brighter tomorrow.
Original study presented in Biological Conservation journal:Carter, N.H. & Allendorf, T.D. (2016). Gendered perceptions of tigers in Chitwan National Park, Nepal. Biological Conservation; 202; 69 DOI: 10.016/j. biocon.2016.08.002.


Celebrating Mothers: Health in the Hands of Women

To celebrate Mothers´ Day today, and every day, Future Generations Peru happily agreed to share with the Future Generations community some basic information on their project called  “Health in the Hands of Women” (MAM Project).


The MAM Project was implemented in four rural districts of the Huánuco region in Peru from 2010 to 2014 in a population of 92,000 inhabitants in 180 communities, served by 27 primary health care facilities (HF).  The area is located on the eastern slope of the Andes mountains facing the Amazon basin, nine hours by bus from the capital city, Lima.

The stated project goal was to contribute to improving the health of mothers, newborns, and infants, and to reduce chronic child malnutrition.   We wanted to demonstrate to the Peruvian Ministry of Health that it could effectively and sustainably implement at scale a model of primary health care organization and management in rural areas that could successfully support at scale a community-oriented system of health promotion that would reach mothers in the home to improve their home health knowledge and behaviors and improve maternal and child health status.

The project design centered on two over-arching strategies.  The main strategy was the SEED-SCALE methodology of Future Generations which was used to first develop and then strengthen sustainability and replicability of successful interventions.  As we all know,  SEED-SCALE emphasizes building on successes, three-way partnerships, and using local data to make local action plans.   


The second over-arching strategy for the MAM Project design was the Sectorization Strategy, which guides the reorganization of primary health services to focus on community health.  It was expected that this strategy would be sustained and expanded by the regional Ministry of Health. 

A major component of the MAM Project strategy was the Modular Program for Training Female Community Health Workers (CHW) in Maternal, Neonatal, and Child Health.   This was a behavior change strategy that introduced innovations in the Peruvian health sector for CHW trainers (primary health care personnel), supervisors and supporters of CHW (Community Facilitators who were community members), older community women as CHW, with teaching and training materials (flipcharts and facilitator manuals), and a CHW learning/teaching method (“Sharing Histories”).
The MAM Project team of Future Generations trained the trainers (health personnel) and provided training modules and educational flipcharts for teaching mothers.  We also provided checklist-type tools that we had developed to help guide CHW to conduct home monitoring of mothers and children and to report on their activities.  
In health facilities, health personnel trainers provided monthly training workshops to female CHWs and Community Facilitators.   In communities, Community Facilitators supervised and supported CHWs.    CHWs did home visits to pregnant mothers, newborns, and children under age two to share histories with mothers, teach mothers new information with flipcharts, observe mothers´ practice of new behaviors, and detect any danger signs for referral of mothers, newborns, and infants to the nearest health HF.


A key project activity was the implementation and testing of the innovative teaching method for CHWs, called “Sharing Histories,” that empowers mothers through the sharing their own memories of their childbirth and child rearing experiences, hearing other´s experiences, and learning best practices by analyzing what was done correctly or incorrectly in the past.   Female CHW gained self-confidence to speak in front of others, took ownership of their own experiences, and became more effective in their home visits to other women teach them better health practices.  The MAM project tested the effect of the “Sharing Histories” teaching method as an embedded operations research project using a cluster-randomized controlled trial.

MAM worked to improve the quality of care in health facilities (HFs) by changing health staff attitudes about community health outreach and guided the development of management teams in each HF to work together on community health plans and actions.   We worked with them to do an initial self-evaluation and self-planning exercises for both of those purposes.

The final evaluation studies of the MAM Project in 2014 were compared to baseline studies conducted in 2010, major findings showed major improvements in  knowledge and practices of mothers related to health and nutrition of mothers, newborns, and children.   

Some of the key accomplishments of MAM Project include:
  • Significant reduction in chronic malnutrition in children 0-23 months of age whose mothers received one or more visits from a CHW, among mothers who could read.
  • Significant increases in knowledge of pregnancy, post-partum and newborn danger signs by an average of 16 to 48 percentage points.
  • Significant increase in newborns that were wrapped and dried immediately at birth (76% to 98%)
  • Significant increases in good hygiene and sanitation practices, including hand washing, disposal of infant feces, water treatment at the point of use, and reducing in-door breeding in dirt-floor kitchens of small animals (such as guinea pigs which are served for special meals).
  • Significant increase in the percentage of HF managed by CLAS Associations (43% to 70%).
  • Development of a new cadre of human resources for community health called Community Facilitators.  All 47 of them continue to be paid stipends directly by the municipalities in 2017 for their work to support and supervise female CHW.
  • Community Facilitators and female CHWs are recognized by health workers as being  key components for the HF-community health strategy.
  • Community Facilitators and CHWs are recognized by community authorities and municipalities as playing a critical role in improving community health.
  • The Huánuco Regional Health Directorate officially established a permanent “Center for Development of Competencies in Health Promotion” in the Acomayo Health Center which serves to sustain the new approach to community health promotion by guaranteeing the on-going training of trainers so they can continue the training and support to Community Facilitators and female CHWs on a wider scale.
  • Municipalities are increasing support to HFs by continued financing to the Community Facilitator stipends, training costs for monthly workshops, and non-cash incentives for CHW and Community Facilitators.  Municipalities expanded their investment in contracting extra health personnel, constructing and remodeling infrastructure for health posts, providing equipment, implementing services (laboratory, maternity waiting homes), and providing fuel for motorcycles or bus fare for health personnel supervision to communities.
The strategy for reorienting health services to work in communities was presented in our publication, Methodological Guide to Sectorization for Health Promotion in Co-management with the Community, which was approved by the Huánuco Regional Health Directorate (the sub-national office of the Ministry of Health) and published by Future Generations in September 2012.   A Directorate Resolution declared the Sectorization Strategy as an official policy for the Huánuco region, to be scaled up to every primary health HF in the region (about 400).
The MAM project built on the new CLAS law on collaborative management of health facilities with citizen participation to strengthen linkages between community, HFs, and municipalities. This included incorporation of community priorities in a participatory budgeting process and coordination for additional sustainable health financing from both CLAS and municipal governments.
Future Generations Peru continues with this work in a variety of ways, and currently has the signed support of the Minister of Health to significantly expand this work in Peru in support of the National Plan for Reduction of Anemia and Chronic Child Malnutrition 2017-2021.

*CLAS are Local Health Administration Community Associations – private non-profit community organizations that collaboratively administer primary health care facilities under contract with the government.


This week’s blog post and accompanying photos are kindly shared by Dr. Laura Altobelli, Future Generations University’s Professor of Equity & Empowerment (Health) and Director of Future Generations Peru. She has more than 30 years of experience in research, evaluation, and public policy innovation and advocacy, and uses these skills to bring scalable solutions for strengthening public health systems in developing countries.


Voices of Future Generations: Life in the Isle of Skye

By all counts, the Isle of Sky is an isolated and rugged place. In this episode of Voices, we hear about it from someone who grew up there.

“When people aren’t near services, you might tend to make more of an effort to do things together,” she suggests, while describing the community events and pastimes on the island.

The Treasured Natural Spring at Mount Moroto

Text and photos by Vincent Abura, MA student of class 2017

The Karamoja region of North-eastern Uganda has seen more than violent conflict for 40 years. As part of the Community Based Natural Resource Management Course in the Master of Arts degree program, Vincent looked at how stakeholders in a scarce and treasured water source are working together to protect the resource and share the benefits derived from it.  The spring and its watershed are located in the red shaded area in Uganda below.

The watershed provides protection for the spring water, which feeds an underground storage reservoir supplying fresh water to adjacent communities.  The spring and its watershed is habitat many forms of nature, including trees, grass, birds, and insects. The water and its watershed is used for various human activities including planting tree seedlings, watering animals, construction companies, beekeeping, green housing, and a water for urban and rural population of Moroto. The stakeholders are as below.
The spring has a Water Protection Committee, of which Margaret Lotee is the Chairperson. She manages a Committee of nine members, meeting monthly for the wellbeing of the spring. They monitor the fruit trees planted in the watershed by members. The Committee’s interests in the Spring include, water availability, accessibility, restricting access by big construction companies, sustainable fruit trees to improve on the environment and for human consumption. The Spring Protection Committee conducts monthly monitoring of the spring to ensure sustainability of the flow of water in the watershed. They recently restrained the government from constructing a dam downstream that would have interfered with sustained flow of water. 
Photo caption: Two women are standing right in the protected spring and talking about how they manage it.
At the district level, the District Water Officer, Mr. Musa Lowot, says the Water Department’s interest and responsibility is to ensure human and animal access to clean and safe water, protecting natural resources such as trees and vegetation etc. in the watershed, which ensures sustainability of natural resources and protection. In addition, the District Forest Officer, Mr. John Lotyang, says the Forest Office is mandated to protect and conserve forest natural resources through working in collaboration with Environment Office and police to protect natural resources in the watershed. The interest of the Department is to protect and preserve the natural resources downstream and ensure people with livelihood activities downstream such as beekeeping, vegetables growing, car washers, beer distillers and preserve wildlife, birds and domestic animals that depend on the water shade. The District Forest Department encourages protection of up and downstream for its biodiversity through public media awareness and working with police to apprehend perpetrators of natural resources degradation.

Mr. Joseph Nyimalema, the Area Manager for National Water and Sewage Corporation (NWSC), informed me that NWSC operates under the Ministry of Water and Environment and is mandated to supply water to urban and rural communities. NWSC pumps 15,000 liters of water per hour to supply to the urban-rural populations. NWSC is a strong benefiting stakeholder of the watershed, without which it cannot meet its obligations.  The interests of NWSC towards the watershed is legal ownership of land for its 2 water generators, security and safety of its equipment. NWSC recruited security guards to provide security for the assets and safety of water pumped for public consumption.

Arok Jimmy, the Chairperson of the 20-member Resilience Adaptation Committee (RAC), promotes greenhouse and sack gardening as well as soil and water conservation through terracing. They teach communities to grow vegetables and adapt to dry land cultivation. RAC’s interest in the spring is to access water for the greenhouses and sack gardens in homesteads, also in the availability of land in the watershed to control run-off water through terracing.

A local tree nursery is also interested in the spring. An attendant, Mr. Lokoru Bernard, informed me that they are planting different types of seedlings including: K-apples, Eucalyptus trees, papaws, mangoes, and indigenous species that are adaptable to drought in Karamoja. There are approximately one million seedlings planted this year. When converted to monetary terms (assuming a seedling is sold at UGXs 500) 1 million seedlings would amount to 500 million Uganda shillings, an equivalent of $143,000 US.  The interests of the planters is to raise income for their households, which can only be done sustained spring water, employing as many boys and girls as possible and to seek popularity to attract financial support from various programmes.

Photo caption: The tree-nursery garden where the attendant is weeding the unwanted plants from the nursery.   

Over 2000 livestock drink from this spring on a daily basis. This is the most accessible and available safe water for livestock in the district. Other options include boreholes, which are shared with human populations and are overcrowded. To get the attention of the cattle keepers, I had to walk with them and their herds. According to one, Kotol Patrick, their interest is availability of water for livestock. He strongly asserted that, ‘without this source, there is no life for human beings who depend on animals for survival. We shall do everything possible, including fighting to death to ensure water is sustained for their main livelihood.’

In summary, many stakeholders depend on this spring and its watershed for their livelihoods and wellbeing. Many are actively involved in protecting the water, and each plays a unique and important role in the current use and future availability of this invaluable water source. 

University Launches Multi-Country Peacebuilding Research Study

This study is being overseen by Dr. Meike Schleiff; text and map prepared by Meike in collaboration with Firew Kefyalew
Rationale for the Everyday Peace Indicators (EPI) study undertaken by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and built on by Future Generations University
One persistent challenge to peacebuilding is the extent to which communities affected by conflict can transform their circumstances. Many become passive recipients of prescriptive interventions by external actors, or top-imposed conceptualizations and interpretations. The bottom-up role has immediate benefit to day-to-day lives. But how to measure peace (or, more helpfully, change whether it comes nearer or becomes more distant)?
Typically, methods used to study peace yield complex, scholarly results that are not directly useful (or sometimes even intended for) community use. Through development of ‘indicators of peace,’ this project through local participation and local ownership, seeks to produce sensitive local understanding of interventions in peacebuilding and conflict transformation. The assertion here is that communities are best-placed to measure and interpret their own peace.
What are indicators of peace?
These are signals that communities develop through participatory action research on their perceptions of their own circumstances/conflict – what peace actually entails to them.
As Roger Mac Ginty and Pamina Firchow detailed in their recent article,[1]“[Developing indicators of peace] is participatory action research that seeks to find out people’s perceptions of their own conflict rather than impose narratives on them. The research asks local people, through focus groups, to develop their own set of indicators. …[T]he research questions are identified and designed by local people. …The research is designed and administered by local researchers and communities as a way of encouraging the identification of issues that are relevant to communities at the neighborhood or village level.”
Examples of indicators identified in USIP’s Everyday Peace Indicators project from multiple countries around the world include: 
  • Children are in school without disruption by rebels
  • Being able to hold social events without police disruption
  • How many dogs are barking at night
  • Roads and other key infrastructure get repaired
  • Women feel safe walking in the streets
  • Able to access primary health care center 
Why is Future Generations University interested in EPI?
Peacebuilding is an area that the graduate school has been engaged in for a number of years. There is in-house research and academic work that the graduate school wants to build on. Development of indicators for peace is consistent with the community change ideals that the graduate school has been teaching. Moreover, development of indicators of peace is in line with what is taught and practiced in SEED-SCALE. The graduate school is keen to pursue a research agenda in developing indicators of peace, an effort that will be augmented by the partnership it has with USIP.
Photo caption: This map shows the 12 country sites (listed below) that are included in the current study.

What does the Future Generations University adaptation of USIP’s work look like?

This a very exciting project that currently has twelve country sites—Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Guyana, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Somaliland, South Sudan, Uganda, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe—where study implementers are alumni and current MA students. In addition to USIP’s series of focus group discussions to determine community perspectives on peace indicators, we have added a series of key informant interviews with regional/country experts on peacebuilding in each country in order to triangulate community- and expert-identified indicators with top-down global and regional indices and priorities. The study is in full swing now, and we will complete the first phase of indicator identification, verification, and review of potential uses by the end of June 2017. From there, we are seeking additional funding and avenues to further this work—in the field of peacebuilding as well as across other sectors in our institutional research strategy.

[1]  “Everyday Peace Indicators: Capturing Local Voices Through Surveys” in Shared Space: A research journal on peace, conflict and community relations in Northern Ireland. No date.

Musings of a Naturalist II: Gondwana Gardens

Text and photos by Dr. Bob Fleming

On our first day in northeastern Australia, in the Centennial Lakes Park in Cairns, we found an arrow pointing to the Gondwanan Evolution Garden.

A Gondwana Garden? I’d never heard of such a thing.

Gondwana, the southern part of the ancient supercontinent of Pangea, is a name well-known name in geological circles, but a garden? This was a first.

Then, on our last day in Australia, this time on Bruny Island off Tasmania’s east coast, we again came upon the concept of a Gondwana garden. Here on the 600 hectare (1,500 acre) Inala Private Reserve we explored their Jurassic Garden dotted with plants whose ancestors once grew on Gondwana.

Photo caption: This Hoop Pine (Araucaria cunninghamii) grows on the Atherton Tableland in northeastern Australia and is a representative of the southern ‘pines,’ a group that likely originated in wet and cool western Gondwana. Today, Araucarias occur in an arc from southern Chile around to New Guinea, a ‘strange’ distribution pattern attributed to the fracturing of the original supercontinent.

As Australia is a continent isolated from others, it is quite understandable that many Australians are aware of the concept of plate tectonics and that continents move, ideas that were considered rubbish during my university days in the 1950s-1960s.

But how to explain the presence of kangaroos in Australia when they are not seen anywhere else in the world? The answer lies in the history of our planet.

Earth’s geological record shows that some 250 million years ago (mya) most of the world’s landmasses were melded into one supercontinent, now referred to as Pangea. Later, beginning around 185 mya, rifts appeared in Pangea and the huge landmass gradually split into two divisions, the southern section named Gondwana. In the ensuing millions of years Gondwana also fractured into parts and Australia is one of those remnants.

Today, much of the flora and fauna found south of the equator speaks of Gondwana. For example the Southern Beech, Nothofagus, survives today in an arc from southern Chile around to New Zealand, Tasmania and north into the mountains of New Guinea. Another example is the early cone-bearing Araucaria ‘pines,’ the distribution of which traces a similar arc from Chile around to New Guinea. Thus one now encounters the Monkey Puzzle tree in southern Chile (and as a garden ornamental commonly planted round the world), the Hoop Pine in Australia, and the Klinki Pine in New Guinea.

Both Nothofagus and Araucaria likely evolved in what was western Gondwana as an Araucaria fossil dating to 185 mya and Nothofagus fossil dating to about 135 mya have been found in beds from that region. Later, due to favorable conditions they continued to evolve and today survive on far-flung remnants of Gondwana.

Photo caption: This Protea roupelliaea is found in southeastern Africa and this individual was at ~1220m (4000’) in the Drakensbergs mountains of KwaZulu-Natal. Members of the Proteaceae, a plant family that includes over 1600 known species, predominately grow in southern Africa and Australia. A limited number of other species live in india and additional fragments of the original Gondwana supercontinent.

Another Gondwana connection is seen in the Proteaceae family, illustrated by the colorful Banksias in Australia and the related Proteas from southern Africa. The parrot family is yet an additional link as members proliferate primarily in two areas of the world – Australia and South America. And then there are spiders. The closest relatives of the primitive Tasmanian Cave Spider (Hickmania troglodytes) are seen in Chile.

Species that evolved early may be driven extinct by climate change or out-competed by later arrivals but on isolated continents and islands with favorable conditions, protection may allow them to proliferate. As an example, 13 of the 19 recognized Araucaria species grow only on remote New Caledonia Island.

Kangaroos are the pride of Australia, the symbol of the Qantas, the national airline, and pictured on the Australian Coat of Arms. These pouched mammals (marsupials) speak not so much of a Gondwana connection but of continental isolation. Indeed, the flora and fauna we find today on whatever continent is the result of a combination of factors including genetic and geological history as well as both ancient and modern climates.

On our last morning in Australia, while admiring the plantings in the Inala Jurassic Garden, all arranged in family clusters, and thinking about the biological threads that connect these southern lands, we were watched all the while (albeit from a distance) by a Bennet’s Wallaby and a Forty-spotted Pardalote, representatives of families found only in Australia. The natural history of this continent is very special indeed.

Photo caption: Southern Beech (Nothofagus) trees front the Pia Glacier, an ice river that drops down the western side of the Darwin Range on Tierra del Fuego Island in extreme southern Chile. The distribution of Nothofagus is from here east to Tasmania and New Zealand and then north to elevations above 2200m (7,000’) the mountains of New Guinea. Fossils indicate that Nothofagus orginated in western Gondwana and today’s disparate distribution is attributed to the breakup of that southern continent.


Himalayan Master’s Students Complete Residential in Arunachal Pradesh, India

The Himalayan cohort of the Class of 2017 Master of Arts in Applied Community Change just completed their Term III residential experience in Arunachal Pradesh, India between March 17-27, 2017. Their site visits were facilitated and organized by Nawang Gurung, Regional Academic Director, with help from Future Generations Arunachal, current students who reside in the area, and other local partners.

Himalayan Cohort of Master’s students in Arunachal

Students were able to interact with a number of diverse projects and programs ranging from a school working to increase access to high quality, affordable education to vulnerable children to a program demonstrating the benefits of intercropping to increase income and also health outcomes.

Himalayan students visiting area with cultivation of cardamom, pineapples, and other crops

The main learning and excitement for the group was focused on learning about examples and opportunities for promoting environmental protection, economic opportunities, and community health in tandem. Using human energy and building on local successes and assets, communities have been able to show substantial behavior changes within short spans of time and have been able to be sustain impacts over time.

Programme in China Wins 2016 Top Cummins Global Environmental Challenge Award

Cummins is a powerful global leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines. In order to reach its vision of “Making people’s lives better by unleashing the Power of Cummins” and to foster global environment improvement, Cummins initiated an annual competition from 2009 named as Global Environmental Challenge.

The top winner of 2016 Global Environmental Challenge was a water management programme in China that is being implemented by Beijing Foton Cummins Engine Co., Ltd (BFCEC) and Academy of Fuqun Environment. One of the Future Generations alumni from the MA class of 2015, Yu Xianrong, is the Programme Director at the Academy of Fuqun Environment and affiliated with Future Generations China.

Yu Xianrong in India while on residential as part of the MA degree program

The Programme, named as Source of Life—River Eco-restoration of Shang Zhuang Village (a village 60 km to Beijing city center), aims to realize sustainable watershed protection in Beijing suburb through a comprehensive multi-stakeholder approach on pollution control, ecological restoration, water source protection by action, environmental training and community participation. The programme duration is three years while 2016 is the first year.

Based on solid Need Assessment by using tools including Six Sigma and Participatory Rural Assessment, Academy of Fuqun Environment developed and implemented concrete need-based activities. Six workshops on water safety, health and zero waste were provided with active engagement from both the community and the corporate. A total of 202 Cummins employees volunteered 808 hours in testing polluted water quality, strengthening flood-control dam and clearing up garbage in the river way. Villagers’ domestic waste was reduced by 20% on average. The water quality in river way was improved as ammonia nitrogen was reduced by 26% while total phosphorus decreased by 50%.

Moreover, Academy of Fuqun Environment has fostered the development of village rule “no dumping garbage into the river”, and “rewards and punishment mechanism”. Another policy proposal – to collect domestic wastewater into a treatment plant, will be implemented in 2017 which will means 43,200 tons of wastewater will be safely treatment before discharging to the environment.

This programme has honored Cummins’ pledge that everything they do leads to a cleaner, healthier, safer environment in 2016. There is more to be expected in term of water resources conservation and community development.

Voices of Future Generations: Swami

“God is your soul and you’re always with your soul, right? Without your soul you wouldn’t be alive!”

A young child’s enthusiasm for God is infectious in this clip from Canada. He flips back and forth between chanting and explaining his god – his best friend.

This is the final track in the Voices series. To hear them all, visit our site on SoundCloud.

Voices of Future Generations: Penpal in the Outback

“Where you live, I think, it actually changes your opinion on quite a lot of things.”

Words of wisdom from a child living in the Blue Mountains of Australia.

This episode of Voices is about a fourteen year old girl in Sydney and her penpal – only 70 km away, but in a different world. She talks about what it’s like for her, an urban teen, to learn about life from someone her own age but living a wildly different life. But not so different in some ways as well.

“I suppose that where you live is what you make of it. It’s all about the people and the things that you love,” she concludes.

Musings of a Naturalist, Part 1

All of us are immersed in the natural world. We might reside near a park and be roused in the morning by a singing bird, or awaken on the 26th floor in a structure built of concrete and steel where we are be surrounded by designs and colors inspired by nature. Pictures on the wall inside might harken to the world outside.

Blue monkey at the rim of the Ngorogor Crater in Tanzania

When one notices the natural world, whether in one’s own compound or further afield, it triggers curiosity. A fleeting glimpse of a flower or catching a snatch of bird song can raise the question: what is that flower, or what bird sings? After repeatedly noticing and recognizing individuals, it is natural that one puzzles over the question: how does such a flower or bird comes to be present here? Then, as a familiarity with nature increases, one’s thinking may expand to consider the framework, the bigger picture, of how several species interacting together form a community and what environmental factors govern such groupings. 

An interest in nature, once started, is an ever-expanding realm of discovery – whether it be in nearby parks or exploring in distant lands. Travel is one vehicle that broadens horizons, takes us out of the familiar, and gives us the opportunity to connect with other people and to encounter new species. Thinking about nature around the world may lead to the realization that we all live in one biosphere on this one rather small globe in which the parameters for our survival are remarkably narrow. Thus for the sake of that flower or that bird, or indeed our own futures, we need to be caretakers of our environment.  It is no accident that Future Generations University offers a master’s degree in Applied Community Change with Conservation. If we are to leave a better world for future generations, stewardship of our natural world is essential.

Gull on the Oregon coast

Some thoughts on the usage of the term “natural history”:

At the present time the use of “natural history” has fallen out of favor. The term is very old fashioned. Very 1800s. The American Museum of Natural History, for example, was founded in NYC in 1869 and the British Museum (Natural History) in London in 1881. These days one does not study natural history but majors in fields such as ecology, biogeography, ethology, zoology, plant genetics, or other disciplines.

Yet “natural history” is a useful term and I find it hard to locate a suitable replacement, an umbrella that connotes an all-encompassing look at our world. One might use the terms nature, nature conservation, the natural world, or the world’s flora and fauna.  Nothing, though, quite replaces natural history and I have circled back to using this as a good way to indicate an overall summary of our natural world.

Dr. Robert Fleming is a Professor of Natural History at Future Generations University. This is his first in a series of articles about the natural world.

Cite Soleil’s New Community Library

The Future Generations team in Haiti has recently been mobilizing local resources to create a library in the Port au Prince neighborhood of Cite Soleil. Residents are imagining the new library as a centrally located place where people can find books, study, and share ideas.

The new Bibliyotek Site Soley (Cite Soleil Community Library) got off to a strong start with a groundswell of community contributions such as those depicted in the photos in this post. The library is the newest initiative of Konbit Soley Leve, an organization led by a team of Future Generations students and alumni.

The library is an exciting example of SEED-SCALE in action. Responding to local priorities, drawing on local resources, and building on past successes, the library effort has created a focused platform for community action and solidarity. Not only are resources for a community benefit project being pooled in a transparent and inclusive way, but people have taken to social media to spread the word and share how they have participated. Using the hashtag #konbitbiblyotek, community members created visibility for the effort and built local pride and excitement among those who contributed. Organizers looked to community members for small contributions rather than wealthy donors who might be able to fund the project with one or two checks. “Marathon” is the name the Haitians give to this process of going door to door to collect donations. Money came not only from community leaders and local organizations, but also from school children, motorcycle drivers, and once word spread, from friends around the world.

Using digital methods of sharing community plans and actions, Konbit Soley Leve has harnessed community energy and funds to create the new library—which will serve both as an inspiration and a resource for the community for years to come.

Alumnus Publishes Manual on Traditional African Conflict Management Techniques

The Procedural Manual on Traditional Conflict Management Techniques is a compilation of traditional conflict management mechanisms, actors, institutions, and symbols that have been used in select Nigerian and Cameroonian villages. Jonathan Tim Nshing (Class of 2015) compiled the manual with support from the Future Generations Global Network.


The manual begins with a definition of what conflict management is, and more precisely, traditional African conflict resolution methods. It looks at different types of conflict in a traditional African setting. These include: ethnic/tribal, religious, family, and land disputes, among others. It also looks at the role of each of the actors and institutions involved in traditional conflict management such as the secret society, village traditional council, quarter heads, village development groups, and religious leaders. Nshing explores the roles of common symbols and ceremonies such as plants (peace plants, fig trees, calabash, kola nuts), rituals, animal sacrifices, and the pouring of libation. Finally, he examines the idea of restorative justice – the examination of guilt, remorse, and compensation. These are core concepts in traditional African conflict management. With guilt, for instance, Nshing looks at what it takes for an offender to confess, as well as what it takes for the society to forgive the offender.


The manual puts all of these mechanisms, actors, symbols, and concepts into perspective by looking at their real-life application in the Cameroonian villages of Bafanji, Bambui, Bawock, Ndzah and Oku, and the Nigerian village of Ikwuano. It is not meant to be an exhaustive study, but an informative guide on traditional conflict prevention, resolution, and management in Africa.
The Procedural Manual on Traditional Conflict Management Techniques is available through

Future Generations Graduate Tsering Norbu (Class of 2009) Continues to Develop the Pendeba Society as One of Tibet’s Most Influential Non-Profits

The Pendeba Society, previously known as the Pendeba program, has faced many challenges throughout the years. The original Pendeba program was created in 1996 by Future Generations in Tibet as a method for local leaders to gain skills related to environmental protection, conservation, healthcare, women’s education, sustainable livelihoods, and renewable resources. In 2008, largely due to rapid economic development in China and an unstable political situation in Tibet, the Pendeba program was terminated.

Norbu (2nd from left) meets with pendebas in the Surmang region of Tibet.

Tsering Norbu (Class of 2009), who previously worked with the Pendeba program in Tibet, realized the significant impact felt by locals when the program was discontinued. He faced the same question from people everywhere as he traveled from village to village -“What became of the pendeba program that had captured the profound interest of the community?”  He knew he had to do something. He needed to go local. He decided to take the bottom-up, SEED-SCALE strategy to a new level by seeking the support of the Chinese government.

Norbu faced many challenges and restrictions. He spoke to countless officials, locals, and the movers and shakers in the communities who continually offered him support. One of his supporters included Mr. Gongu Duoji-La, the first Tibetan mountaineer to climb Mt. Everest, who also happened to be from a town close to Norbu’s own birthplace. After countless setbacks, frustrations, and tribulations, on June 26, 2009, Norbu created the Pendeba Society as one of the first civil organizations registered in both China and Tibet. The challenging process also became the basis for his master’s practicum at Future Generations University.

Pendebas meet in front of ancient, eroded towers in the Dingri region near Everest.

In 2012, the Pendeba Society was conferred as a Top Grade Civil Organization by the Department of Civil Affairs of the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Recognition continued, and in 2014 the Pendeba Society won the United Nations Development Programme’s Equator prize and the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection’s Environmental Prize. Although the difficulties of functioning as a community development organization are still an everyday reality, the Pendeba Society stands as an example of what one individual can accomplish if his or her heart is dedicated to the cause.

“As a leader, you should have a strong passion to do something and have infinite patience to do it in many different ways until you realize your dream,” expressed Norbu. Norbu, in all his efforts, is a beautiful example of what a Future Generations University student can accomplish by the SEED-SCALE methodology with passion and local knowledge.

For more about the Pendeba Society, visit

Mapping Community Success

Artisan gallery in Jacmel

Jacmel is a sleepy seaside town on Haiti’s southern coast. In 1925, it became the first city in the Carribean with electricity and it has been a bright place ever since. It has some of the best preserved French colonial architecture, its meandering brick streets are lined with colorful buildings, and its numerous artisans sell handmade jewelry, painted kalbas, ironwork, and other items. Instead of competing for tourist dollars, twenty-seven of these artisans came together in 2009 to form G27. G27 (with many more than twenty-seven members today) is a collective that shares gallery space, advocates for Jacmel’s thriving arts scene, and collaborates on larger projects. As individuals, they are talented artisans. As a group, they are a powerful voice.

G27 is one of over seventy successful community initiatives included on Wozo Ayiti, a success map created by Future Generations Haiti. Wozo Ayiti (from “wozo,” a reed that symbolizes the resilience of the Haitian people, and “Ayiti,” the Haitian Creole spelling of “Haiti) is an effort to map and document the stories of Haiti’s communities and their achievements. It is based on the Positive Deviance (PD) approach. Rather than focus on the needs of a community, PD hones in on the diversity of strategies within a community to cope with common challenges.

Two years after the earthquake in 2010, Future Generations Haiti set out to find examples of Haitians’ ability to overcome devastation and improve their own living conditions. While there was a great deal of foreign aid coming into the country, there was little attention being paid to the ways that Haitians were mobilizing themselves. Staff members consulted community leaders and organized focus groups. They put together a list of fundamental characteristics of successful community-led initiatives. Then, the team traveled the country to find and map initiatives that shared these characteristics. At each site, the local practitioners would recommend another for the team to visit. The project snowballed all across the small Caribbean nation.

Moringa tree seedlings

There is the Association of Valliant Women of Anse a Pitre (AFVA) that protects and empowers victims of domestic violence by teaching them revenue generating skills such as sewing and artisanwork. In the Port-au-Prince community of Bwa Nef, RAJEPRE is an organization that runs a community school to teach children about the importance of environmental protection and neighborhood pride. In the northern community of Limonade, residents have rallied around Basin Mambo. Basin Mambo (Mambo Lake) is a culturally significant tourist draw. The local residents volunteer by reforesting the ground around the basin, maintaining walls and canals, and providing horses and guides for visitors. Haiti is full of stories like this, of community members coming together and drawing on local assets.

Wozo Ayiti uses OpenStreetMap, an open source mapping program that was developed to bypass the restrictions on and limited availability of geographic information in many parts of the world. Future Generations students are trained in the program as part of the MA in Applied Community Change program. They use it to map assets and successes in their own communities, all over the world.

To learn more about success mapping, read Success Mapping: A Brief Guide, available at

Utilizing Community Strength

Through three regions in Liberia, the Community Integrated Development and Need-Based Project (CIDNEP) reached 15,000 people in seven communities. Adolphus Dupley (Class of 2015), Associate Director with Liberia’s Department of Community Services, began CIDNEP after learning the principles of SEED-SCALE.

The influential idea for him was building on local successes and understanding community capacity. The result increased community access to essential services – education, water, sanitation, health, and agriculture – in Liberia’s most densely populated regions. “We created a partnership between all parties so needs are met.” says Dupley.

Prior to enrolling in the Graduate School, Dupley ran the predecessor project to CIDNEP. It used a one-size-fits-all approach. “There was no particular attention being paid to community capacity, knowledge, and involvement,” he remarks.

The Community Integrated Development and Needs-Based Project reached more people in its first year than its predecessor ever did. More than half are women. “We have made interventions in areas of gender where for the first time in some of these communities women are now playing major leadership roles,” notes Dupley. In addition to gender equity, the project addresses underground water pollution, forest resource management, and peacebuilding.

Future Generations Researches and Promotes Social Participation in Primary Healthcare Services

The Shared Administration Program in Peru is one of the successful community change experiences that the Future Generations SEED-SCALE methodology is based on. Co-founder Dr. Carl E. Taylor provided orientation to Peru in 1994 at the request of their Minister of Health to design a new program for primary healthcare with community participation. SEED-SCALE was then in the process of development, so the Peru program was designed on the basis of SEED-SCALE principles, while also soon becoming evidence for further development of the methodology.

Meeting of members of CLAS Las Moras, the original pilot site.

 Peru is now one of the few countries with a governmental health program that features legalized, regulated, and institutionalized community participation. A 1994 government decree gave community entities collaborative responsibility and decision-making power over the management of public resources to administer primary healthcare services. Called CLAS Associations (Local Health Administration Committees), these private non-profit entities work under contract with the state, and the medical chief of a primary care facility is executive director as the public sector counterpart. The three-way partnership involves government, health services, and community.

How does social participation reflect SEED-SCALE through CLAS? When local people identify their needs instead of only central planners, it improves equity and efficiency of public spending. The watchdog role of citizens overseeing use of public resources ensures transparency and reduces misuse of funds. Citizens can exert social control when they pressure health providers to come to work on time and treat patients well, and can make decisions on purchases (equipment, maintenance, extra staff) to ensure better quality of care. Social participation makes local health and development programs more sustainable. The CLAS program scaled-up rapidly to cover 32% of all 2,700 primary healthcare facilities nationwide because of word-of-mouth from satisfied communities. Future Generations was instrumental in development of a law on CLAS approved in 2007 by the Peruvian Congress that enhanced the SCALE-Cubed policy environment.

Future Generations has played a key role over the years in conducting CLAS program research and evaluation, preparing papers for dissemination and advocacy, and providing technical support on the CLAS program. Documents on the CLAS program in Peru are available through Future Generations University’s publications library.

Lifelong Learning

“You stop learning, you start dying,” insists Ruben Puentes, Professor and Director of Partnerships at Future Generations Graduate School. His career reflects his desire to expand – as a soil scientist for a government agency, a teacher for a U.S. university, the leader of a network of researchers in transnational migration, Associate Vice President of the Rockefeller Foundation, and a part-time potato grower on his farm in Uruguay. For Puentes, life is always a classroom.

Puentes (center) listening to a discussion between a farmer and a local expert in Manaus, Brazil.

Puentes’ task at the Graduate School is to strengthen the Master’s Degree in Applied Community Change curriculum along with student teaching and advising. “This is a unique opportunity to continue learning, not only from faculty colleagues but from students themselves.”

Puentes’ students appreciate his global experience that links community development, natural resources management, and agriculture. Most are practitioners themselves with diverse experiences, and their questions force Puentes to continue learning.

“Education is in the learning, not the teaching,” Puentes says. “Future Generations Graduate School is the place to be for those with a passion for learning; it is difficult to find a better place either to start or continue a lifelong learning journey.”

Voices of Future Generations: Puddles

At Future Generations, we often flip the role of teacher and student. Everyone has something they can teach someone else and everyone has something they can learn from someone else. This is the inherent truth in learning communities.

This week’s episode of Voices embodies just that. A father attempts to teach his daughter a lesson and ends up learning one instead.

Voices of Future Generations: Girls from Halifax

Racism. Stereotypes. Job security. These have been contemporary issues in Britain surrounding the influx of refugees and the Brexit vote. They are contemporary issues, but not new issues. In this week’s Voices track, girls from Halifax, England talk candidly about these issues in their own community.

360 Degree Feedback

Understanding oneself and making productive personal changes are difficult but rewarding tasks. Future Generations Assistant Professor Dr. Jesse Pappas, along with a team of colleagues, created the Personality Pad to facilitate these tasks. 
“The Personality Pad’s goal is to assist with self-insight and self-development,” says Pappas. “The tech platform it uses will drive a peer-reviewed process among faculty and will eventually be used among students.” The National Science Foundation has been funding Dr. Pappas’ work on the Personality Pad since 2011. In that time, thousands of individuals worldwide have used it to gain self-insight and set self-development goals. 
Personality Pad uses a system of 360 degree feedback. “Essentially, 360 degree feedback provides insight about how individuals perceive themselves compared to how they are perceived by the people around them,” reads the project’s website,
Dr. Pappas and his team’s goal is to adapt this well-established professional tool for personal use. Findings suggest that a majority of individuals have a greater understanding of their personality after implementing 360 degree feedback. In many cases, this leads to actionable plans to implement personal development. Pappas is also working to adapt the technology to the specific needs of Future Generations Graduate School. “One unique but challenging aspect of the Future Generations cohort module is an extremely diverse group of students, in terms of culture, previous academic training, and learning styles. The Personality Pad could go a long way in improving the teaching effectiveness of our faculty.”

Advocating for Rural Communities

From early in her career, Shannon Elizabeth Bell (Class of 2005) knew that her research must benefit the people she was studying. Bell recently published Fighting King Coal: The Challenges to Micromobilization in Central Appalachia (MIT Press, 2016). Along with her previous book, the award-winning Our Roots Run Deep as Ironweed: Appalachian Women and the Fight for Environmental Justice (University of Illinois Press, 2013), Fighting King Coal brings to light the myriad environmental injustices taking place in the coalfields of Appalachia.
Bell is currently an associate professor at the University of Kentucky. Her books and career build from her Future Generations practicum. Titled West Virginia Photovoice, her practicum bridged activism and the academy through in-depth interviews, participant observation, geospatial viewshed analysis, and document analysis.
One important insight from her graduate work with Future Generations was building from successes. She led fifty-four women in five coal mining communities through an eight month process of “telling the story” of their communities. These stories included the strengths, beauty, and challenges, as well as the participants’ ideas for change. Many ideas became realities thanks to the visibility that Photovoice provided. Roads were repaired, municipal waterlines were built, and a community park and pool were reopened. The project increased participants’ sense of efficacy and empowerment.
To learn more about Shannon Bell’s West Virginia Photovoice project, visit

Sharing Histories

Customarily, mothers are taught health lessons which, even if simplified, are paradigmatic and hard to remember. Dr. Laura Altobelli, Professor and Director of Future Generations Peru, is leading research to advance a method that transforms the training of community health workers (CHWs), leading to faster progress in knowledge and behavior change of mothers who learn from older women whom they know and trust. Through systematic recall and sharing memories of personal experiences, this innovative behavior-change method engages and empowers female CHWs to take ownership of their cultural beliefs and practices, and on those build a new collective understanding for future behavior. Community health workers gain self-confidence and can better convince other women to uptake knowledge and behavior that improve health and healthcare use in the key first 1,000 days of life (conception to age two).
Dr. Altobelli’s prior study in Peru provides preliminary evidence of reduction of child stunting when government personnel used this methodology to teach CHWs, who then taught mothers with similar methods. The earlier study showed it to be low-cost, simple-to-learn, and effective. It enhances current best practice of participatory women´s groups and home visits by providing a replicable interactive participatory method grounded in local knowledge. Findings corroborate empirically proven conceptual frameworks on memory and behavior change.    Future Generations Peru hopes to continue research on the method to demonstrate effectiveness at scale of this maternal behavior change innovation, with reduction in child stunting and anemia, supported and sustained by primary healthcare services and local government, and incorporated into global policy and programs.