Three more doctoral students join ZEF’s alumni network

January 02, 2008.  

Hong Ching Goh from Malaysia


Hong Ching Goh had a BSc in Urban and Regional Planning, an MSc in Tourism Planning and some years of professional experience in a private property development company when she joined the ZEF graduate program in October 2004. She received her doctoral degree in December 2007 from the Faculty of Mathematic and Natural Science of Bonn University.


She did her PhD research on the influence of privatization on protected area management in Kinabalu Park, Malaysia, in meeting the socio-economic principles of sustainable tourism.




Q.: Why did you come to ZEF and what do you consider the main benefit of having done your PhD here?


A.: I came to ZEF because I was interested in the interdisciplinary idea promoted by the institution. The international and intercultural community of ZEF has helped me to widen my perspective on the concepts of development in developed as well as in developing countries. To be honest, the three-year program is tough. The whole package of attending interdisciplinary and disciplinary courses, preparing your research proposal, doing field research and writing-up your thesis was very demanding.


Q: Could you tell us something about your research on sustainable tourism in the Kinabalu Park in Malaysia?


A.: It is essential that sustainable tourism in protected areas financially supports ecological conservation and tourism impact management, benefits the local communities through job opportunities and capacity building, and enhances visitor satisfaction. My research assessed the influence of privatization on the management of Kinabalu Park with regard to these socio-economic principles. This assessment can help decision makers to evaluate the role of privatization programs in facilitating sustainable development. The study concludes that the privatization program has enhanced visitor satisfaction in the park but has not shifted the focus of the public sector to nature conservation or to increasing the benefit for the local communities. Thus, the role of the public sector in securing the welfare of local communities and nature conservation may have been overestimated and rated.


Q.: What are your plans for the future?


A.: I quitted my former position in a private company when I

joined ZEF in 2004. Now I am looking for a position preferably

in research, consultancy, or management.



Paul Guthiga from Kenya


Paul Guthiga is an agricultural economist from Kenya who started his PhD research at ZEF in October 2004. He received his doctoral degree from the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Bonn in December 2007.


Paul Guthiga wrote his PhD thesis on “Economic Assessment of Different Management Approaches of Kakamega Forest in Kenya: Cost-benefit and Local Community Satisfaction Analysis”.





Q.: Why did you come to ZEF for doing your PhD?


I was attracted to do my doctoral research at ZEF by several things: The international outlook of the PhD program, its interdisciplinary approach and focus on developing countries. The BIOTA-East project under which I carried my research was implemented in my home country, Kenya.


Q.: What do you consider to be the main benefits of having done your PhD study in the framework of ZEF’s doctoral program?


A.: The program opened me to the concept of an interdisciplinary approach to research. It also gave me the opportunity to learn how to live and work in a multi-cultural and international setting.


Q.: Can you tell us what your thesis was about exactly and about your field research?


A.: I carried out my field research in Kakamega, in western Kenya and my research topic was to compare the existing three approaches of management of the forest in terms of costs and benefits and also community satisfaction.


I have to point out that the Kakamega forest is unique. It is the only remaining tropical rain forest in Kenya, with a diverse and unique flora and fauna, some of these being endemic. It is recognized as a biodiversity hot spot and is ranked as a high priority conservation area by IUCN. The forest is divided into three different parts each under a distinct management approach: a state-led incentive-based approach of the Forest department (FD), a private-owned incentive-based approach of a local Quakers church mission (QCM) and a state-led protectionist approach of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). My study compared the three management approaches from an economic point of view (i.e. costs and benefits) at local, national and global scale. In addition, my study also compared local community satisfaction with the three management approaches. The results indicate that from a global point of view, the three management approaches were economically efficient. However, from the local and national perspective, the opportunity costs of conserving the forest outweigh the benefits under KWS and FD management. QCM was economically profitable at all levels. QCM manages a small forest and a large number of people are benefiting from it by extracting huge amounts of forest products. However, this economic profitability is realised at the expense of ecological sustainability. The protectionist approach was ranked highest overall for its performance in forest management by the local communities. My research concludes that the largest share of benefits of conserving Kakamega forest are enjoyed at the global level but the local communities carry the largest share of conservation costs. So if the international community has an interest in conserving biodiversity as a global common good it has to compensate the local users for joining for the sake of sustainability.


Q.: What are your plans for the future?


A.: I will begin on a short post doctoral position here at ZEF. I will focus on the broad subject of reducing carbon emission from avoided deforestation and degradation.



Nhamo Nhamo from Zimbabwe


Nhamo Nhamo is a soil scientist from Zimbabwe. He started his PhD research at ZEF in November 2004 and defended his doctoral thesis in December 2007. He received his doctoral degree from the Faculty of Agriculture from Bonn University. He gave an interview before returning home to Zimbabwe.


He did his research on Conservation Agriculture in Zimbabwe in the framework of a cooperation between CYMMIT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center) in Zimbabwe, ZEF, and the University of Hohenheim. The research was funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).





Q.: Could you tell us something more about your PhD research on “The contribution of different faunal communities to improved soil health: A case of Zimbabwean soils under conservation agriculture”.


A.: In my doctoral research, I focused on four aspects: The first one was the concept of soil health, which implies the continued capacity of a soil to support plant and animal production, diversity and environmental services. It is measured by the following five soil organisms: beetle larvae, earthworms, nematodes, mycorrhiza spores and termites.


I compared the impact of, respectively, the practice of conservation agriculture and conventional agriculture on the quality of soil. The result clearly showed that soil quality improves by applying the techniques of conservation agriculture. The second aspect of my research tackled the question of agricultural management practices. Farmers in Africa often take away the residue left on the fields during winter (winter soil cover) and use it as fodder for their livestock. However, leaving the residue on the field would mean improving soil quality. But in Africa, having livestock means being wealthy and livestock constitutes a kind of insurance. Thus, management recommendations have to take this fact into consideration. The third component of my thesis dealt with the perception of the farmers on soil organisms and its interaction with soil health, as well as with their perception on the difference between conservation agriculture and conventional agriculture. And, finally, I looked at yields, involving livelihoods questions. My research showed that there was a considerable increase in the yields of maize and soy beans after applying conservation agriculture during a period of two years. This means improved food security for the farmers. Whether they also make profit from this depends on other factors like pricing of the crops grown. This is a further research question touching upon socio-economic conditions.


Q.: What do you consider the main benefit of having done your PhD at ZEF?


A.: I worked on a thesis that is inter-disciplinary in terms of both approach and tools used during the study. In addition, I was introduced to a wide range of concepts, which are useful for addressing real life problems in projects and at the work place. I also benefited from my experiences during my field research. It gave me the opportunity to interact with international professional staff and to work on issues broader than those that are site specific. This experience strengthened my research skills and broadened my networks as well as professional contacts.


Q.: What are your plans for the future?


A.: I am really glad that I could do this interdisciplinary research at ZEF. I will continue my research at CYMMIT in Zimbabwe within their Conservation Agriculture Program. I am looking forward to seeing some of my research results and recommendations put into practice!.