Darlington Tuagben, a Liberian student studying at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana, has become the 1000th person to receive hands-on training in the field as part of Earthwatch's thriving Capacity Development Programme.
Darlington achieved this landmark in Earthwatch history when he joined the project Cocoa Farming and Biodiversity in Ghana in June 2007. This two-week Cadbury Schweppes-funded team run by Dr. Kwasi Ofori-Frimpong, is looking at ways to produce cocoa in a sustainable manner in the Fanteakwa district of Eastern Ghana. Darlington said the training had increased his confidence and taught him about proposal writing, communication, team working skills and research techniques.
He added: "Due to the unsustainable use of our environment, we are now faced with serious problems ranging from the depletion of our natural resources and the ozone layer, to global warming. I recommend that there be more than 1,000 new participants trained. I believe this will go a long way to reducing the problems we are facing today."
It was back in January 1995 that Dr. Berhanu Abraha Tsegay became one of the first people to benefit from the birth of the Earthwatch Capacity Development Programme, joining a team from Eastern Africa on the Earthwatch project Kenya's Wild Forest to conduct an intensive survey of the little-studied insect populations of the region. Dr. Tsegay recalls the beautiful Kakamega forest and the great teamwork, adding: "As a botanist it was the jungle that impressed me most. I will never forget it."
Dr. Tsegay is currently Associate Professor and Head of Research and Publications at Bahir Dar University in Ethiopia. He says: "Since the Earthwatch project I have developed a love for nature and am trying to contribute to the rehabilitation of vegetation in my home country. This year, my team has established a nursery on campus and produced more than 98,000 tree seedlings. We distributed them free to the local community to plant as part of the millennium celebrations."
With initial funding from the European Union, the Capacity Development Programme has gone from strength to strength, with a wide array of funding partners and an expanded portfolio of projects.
The programme is fast becoming a key mechanism for training the next generation of environmental scientists, primarily in Africa, but now also in Eastern Europe and Asia. Earthwatch is fielding more people than ever; since November 2006 more than 130 people have benefited from an Earthwatch training project and still more will go into the field before the end of the year.
'I recommend that there be more than 1,000 new participants trained. I believe this will go a long way to reducing the problems we are facing today.'
Images (from top): © Roberta Koku, © Caroline Campbell