If protecting one of the most precious ecosystems in the world is your daily work, you probably have a lot of interesting things to tell. Indeed, during her interactive lecture in Amsterdam, Farwiza Farhan showed us how complex her work is, but even more how important it is to conserve the last place on earth where rhinos, tigers, bears, orangutans and elephants roam together.
Farwiza is the founder of the HAkA, an organisation that defends local livelihood and the nature in the Sumatran Leuser ecosystem. The thing that struck me most are all the different things Farwiza and her organisation do to protect the Leuser ecosystem. It’s not just about doing research or patrolling the forest, conservation also involves lobbying, informing, listening to the voice of local people and actively restoring parts of the ecosystem. All of these are part of Farwiza’s daily activities.
During her talk, Farwiza stressed that despite the many setbacks, there is still a spirit of conservation optimism. Amongst many setbacks, there is successes to be celebrated. People in the western world are more and more aware of the problems that the consumption of palm oil is causing. Also, Farwiza explained that after a couple of weeks after the palm oil plantation is brought down, the first elephants already return to the area! Restoration is possible. However, for orangutans this takes much longer, she said. It is incredible to see the amount of effort they all put in the HAkA organisation, but this shows that there still is a lot of work to do.
Farwiza showed us that conservationists can really make a difference and I think that I speak on behalf of all other visitors if I say that we all truly felt inspired by her talk.
By Ruben Hoekstra
In the afterglow of the Future for Nature Academy Day, the FFN Academy members and all the buddies were granted the opportunity to attend the Future for Nature Award Ceremony of 2017! After a guided tour through the Burgers Zoo in the morning, the award ceremony started. Accompanied by His Majesty King Willem-Alexander, the guest of honour, the three fresh Future for Nature Award Winners of 2017, Shariar Caesar Rahman, Farwiza Farhan and Hana Ridha presented their truly inspiring stories. Deserved winners! Despite encountering many real-world obstacles and challenges, the winners’ work represents their boundless effort to save the species and ecosystems that they are so passionate about. Each of winners is handed the beautiful Future for Nature Award, a symbol that acknowledges the importance to conserve our precious environment. After the ceremony, the buddies are ready and excited to represent the Future for Nature Award winners, provided with banners and flyers and there is time to talk conservation over drinks and bites. The winners managed to convey their passion for conservation to the crowd, who eventually returned home, fuelled with inspiration and confident of an optimistic ‘Future for Nature’.
By Sofie te Wierik
The big day we’ve all been looking forward to had finally arrived: the (first) Future for Nature Academy Day!
On Thursday 30 March, at half past three, a bus arrives in Wageningen, carrying 25 Future for Nature Award winners. The day prior to the ten year anniversary of the Future for Nature Awards, we are lucky to have invited all the FFN winners of the past decade. Upon arrival at the GAIA building in Wageningen the winners are welcomed by their ‘buddies’; more than 30 students who were selected for a special Meet&Greet and will take on the role of spokesmen for the winners at the ceremony Award show the next day. Prior to this day, the buddies worked hard to make beautiful and informative flyers about their conservation heroes, to spread amongst students and other people who are interested.
The winners and buddies meet over a cup of tea and, excited as they are, the buddies are eagerly listening to the motivating stories of the winners. In the meanwhile, the GAIA hall is filling up with almost 200 enthusiastic participants. At 16:00 o’clock, everyone is warmly welcomed by Rascha Nuijten, co-founder of the Future for Nature Academy, and Louise Vet, director of NIOO (Netherlands Institute of Ecology). With her words “So, I think it is time for a movement”, Louise Vet sets the tone for an inspiring and optimistic event.
During various workshops the winners, buddies and all other participants discuss important topics in conservation. The role of science, communication, finances, policy making and engaging local communities in conservation are topics covered during lively debates. The first-hand examples from the FFN winners were inspiring and food for thought for all participants. We learned that what is taught at University provides a good foundation, yet when it comes to hands-on conservation work in the field, there is much more to learn and we need a broader toolbox. There is no ‘Blueprint for Conservation’ and many challenges to be dealt with occur along the way, such as almost ineradicable corruption. “This is not a 9 to 5 job”. “There are no holidays in this job. It’s a passion” are Patricia Medici’s (FFN Award Winner 2008) closing words for the evening. Is there a Future for Nature? “It’s tough, very tough. But we have to. And yes, there is hope if we all work together”, according to Ofir Drori (FFN Award winner 2011). He adds that by working together “we all get to do what we love”. Conservation is not a job, it is something you are.
By Sofie te Wierik
On 21 February 2017 we were fortunate to present Wietse van der Werf at a FFN Academy lecture in Utrecht. Wietse is founder of the Black Fish and won an FFN Award in 2016 for his efforts to counter illegal fisheries in the European seas. The alarming rate of illegal fisheries and lack of legal enforcement to protect marine resources now demands conservation to take an innovative approach. Accordingly, Wietse is ‘changing the game of environmental enforcement’. During his lecture, Wietse elaborated on how he involves a wide variety of actors across society to actively engage in marine conservation. His talent to engage in unconventional collaborations make his projects a success. This unique approach enables him to mobilize people and resources needed to set up the Sea Ranger Service and the Wildlife Air Service. Enthusiastic students and young conservationists from various cities across the Netherlands listened carefully to his inspiring stories and a lively discussion afterwards followed afterwards. We closed the evening with drinks and adequately served a vegetarian Tuna Salad from the ‘Vegetarische Slager’, a perfect alternative for eating fish!
By Sofie te Wierik