The Amazon Security Agenda (ASA) & Nexus Dialogue

One of my most interesting consultancy jobs in Brazil was a short contract for the Global Canopy Programme (GCP). I participated in a scoping study on the connection and interdependence (the ‘nexus’, as it is also called) of water, energy and food security in Latin America. I focused on Brazil, in which these interdependencies became utterly clear over the last year. A lack of rainfall in the south caused water crises in the area of São Paulo, the economical heart of Brazil. This had a major impact on the food and energy industry, as 80% of the country’s electricity is generated by hydro power dams. And what actually caused this lack of rainfall? Suddenly the attention for deforestation of the Amazon and global warming rose, and the connections between water, energy and food security became clear to a people that were generally used to see these as isolated issues. This video below is a great illustration of the nexus concept.

Through a desk-based stakeholder mapping and in-depth interviews with a range of stakeholders across government, civil society, academia, and the private sector, we got more insight in the key challenges, trade-offs and opportunities in this space. I found it very interesting to speak to the different Brazilian stakeholders, each of them told me about their experience on the subject, their projects and vision, they all spoke with a lot of passion. The results were used in two parallel initiatives:

  1. The Amazonia Security Agenda (ASA) , a collaboration between FFLA and GCP that seeks to provide support to the governments of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru as they explore opportunities for public policies that strengthen water security and the nexus of water, food and energy across Amazonia. <to website> 
  2. Nexus Dialogue on Water Infrastructure Solutions, a global initiative convened by IUCN and IWA on nexus dialogues that is defining a new framework to understand the interconnections between water, energy and food security.  <to website> 

The latter resulted in a publication in April 2015, “The Water-Energy-Food Nexus in Latin America and the Caribbean”, by IWA and IUCN. Click here for the Report [PDF]

Exploring the world leading nature hiking trips

SNP Nature Travel is the biggest Dutch tour operator that is specialised in activity based tourism all over the world. In 25 years they have developed over 300 group trips and 700 FIT packages – with activities ranging from walking, hiking, cycling, wildlife, bird watching, Arctic adventures, desert tours, cultural tours, to landscape photography courses. SNP is a strong and innovative company. They have a green and nature oriented image, and take special care in selecting small scale, preferably privately owned accommodation (campsites, hotels, tented lodges, safari camps, trekker’s lodges i.e.). Authenticity, respect for the environment and expertise are keywords that typify the travels they offer.

I guide trips for SNP since the summer of 2011. Not full time, but when I have time; after my studies, during holidays, in between jobs. I have traveled a lot and never seem to get tired of experiencing new cultures and environments. Traveling brings insights, experiences, things to discover about others and yourself. One of the most amazing things I`ve done is making a trip for two months with an overlander truck from Cape Town (South-Africa) through Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. We crossed several deserts and explored the Okavango Delta. I slept on the top of the truck, falling asleep under the stars every night, awaking with the sun. At the end I found myself in a local minivan, completely held together with duct tape, going from Victoria Falls to Harare, buying bananas from the window. This trip I made on my own, but experiences like this made me eager to travel more, and made me want to share the experiences with others. This is my main motivation to work for SNP Nature Travels.

I developed a lot of skills with SNP. Guiding with SNP means not only you should be on top of the organisation of the trip; you are also the guide of the treks, the expert, and `the mama`of the group. You safeguard a good atmosphere; deal with minor issues such as snoring people to bigger issues such as giving mental support to someone that gets seriously injured. You navigate the walks with map and compass, always keeping a good eye on the weather conditions and the fitness of the people in the group. You give information about the area, vegetation, history and sights. To do all these things at the same time requires a lot of a person. Yet, with experience it becomes easier and more natural. The first trip I guided was amazing, but nerve-wrecking. As I developed my skills, I became more self-secure, flexible and relaxt. I hope that many more trips will follow.

Click here to visit the website of SNP Travels.


Increasing charcoal production sustainability in Mali

NOTS is an entrepreneurial development organisation that invests in renewable energy products for developing countries. It is a frontrunner organisation in developing sustainable business models for renewable energy applications. NOTS has two major projects: The sales and distribution of PV LED lights with solar panels, and the Sustainable Charcoal and Agroforestry project. I worked for NOTS during one year as Project Manager on the development of a business model for Sustainable Charcoal and Agroforestry. I set up the first pilot in Mali, and worked on the formation of a local NOTS Mali Charcoal team, that currently works full-force on completion of the pilot.

The Sustainable Charcoal and Agroforestry project
In many developing countries charcoal is the prime energy source for cooking and heating. The global production of wood charcoal is estimated at 50 million metric tonnes, with an annual growth rate of about 2%. Africa accounts for over 60% of this production. Consequences are large-scale deforestation and desertification. For a country like Mali, poor and largely arid to semi-arid, this trend is potentially catastrophic. Parts of the country such as the legendary Timbuktu are currently more Sahara then Sahel, and food scarcity is a serious issue.

The business model NOTS developed consists of two main pillars: (I) efficient charcoal ovens (retorts) for increasing efficiency of production; these retorts require only 3 kg of wood for 1 kg of charcoal instead of 7 using the traditional method; in addition the combustion times of the retorts are much shorter, 2 days instead of 14; and (II) an agroforestry system for the production of wood (80%) and food crops (20%). It is a community project, in which a part of the profits that are generated by the project are reimbursed to NOTS until the initial investments are covered.

Implementing the business model generates the following results:

  • Charcoal-driven deforestation is stopped.
  • Sufficient charcoal is produced.
  • Sufficient food for the participating communities is produced.
  • Income of the participating community increases by at least 20%.
  • In addition the business model is financially sustainable: the required investments are recuperated within less than 3 years.

Current status of the pilot project
The first pilot projects are situated in the villages Seranikoro and Moribougou, located about 60 km northwest of Bamako. A test retort is built in each of these villages, and a tree nursery established. The current status of the project (as to date September 2012):

  • Two test retorts constructed and tested with excellent results! Exact numbers still need to be published, but the expected efficiency seems to be feasible.
  • The nursery is successfully established and trees are transplanted to the agroforestry area.

You can click here to < Download a one-pager of the project [PDF] >*

For more information, visit the NOTS website.


*One-pager speaks about another pilot area. The pilot location changed shortly after I created this one-pager.