Activities and Events 2020

Special annual partnership between City of Bonn and RLC Campus Bonn

The RLC Campus Bonn is the annual partner of the City of Bonn in 2020.

This special partnership celebrates the 10th anniversary of the RLC Campus in Bonn. Read more here in English or here in German.

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New PhD researcher Irene Ojuok writes chapter on women’s participation in FMNR

Irene Ojuok, who has just started her 3-year research project on Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) with Right Livelihood Award Laureate Tony Rinaudo and World Vision Kenya, has written a chapter on women participation in FMNR for climate resilience. Her findings were published in the African Handbook of Climate Change Adaptation.


Despite the fact that land degradation is both natural and human-induced, it is proven that human activities pose greatest threat and these include unsustainable land management practices such as destruction of natural vegetation, overcultivation, overgrazing, poor land husbandry, and excessive forest conversion. Other than reduced productivity, land degradation also leads to socioeconomic problems such as food insecurity, insufficient water, and regular loss of livestock which exacerbate poverty, conflicts, and gender inequalities that negatively impact mostly women and children especially the rural population. Increased efforts by governments, donors, and partners toward reversing land degradation through community-led, innovative, and effective approaches therefore remain to be crucial today than never before!

Farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR) is a proven sustainable land management technology to restore degraded wasteland and improve depleted farmland. This approach has been tested across Africa with high success rates. In spite of the huge local, regional, and global efforts plus investments put on promoting FMNR across different landscapes among vulnerable communities for climate resilience, the implementation of such projects has not been as successful as intended due to slow women uptake and participation in the approach. In order of ensuring women who are mostly at highest risk to impacts of climate change enjoy the multiple benefits that come along with FMNR, the success rate for uptake of FMNR especially among women need to be enhanced.

This chapter seeks to explore drivers and barriers of women participation in uptake of FMNR for climate resilience. Findings will be shared from a 3-year project dubbed Integrated Management of Natural Resources for Resilience in ASALs and a Food and Nutrition project both in Laisamis, Marsabit County, Kenya. The program interventions on natural resource management for livelihoods seek to integrate gender and conflict prevention and prioritize sustainable, market-based solutions to address the persistent challenges. The chapter discusses findings, successes, and lessons learned from the actions and the requirement to position women as vulnerable groups at the center of initiatives designed to address the climate change crisis. The outcome of this chapter will enhance gender-responsive FMNR programing through awareness creation, effective organization/project designs, strategies, and plans together with advocacy and policy influence. Limitations of the study and main recommendations for future programing in similar contexts are also shared.

Read the full article here.

Ojuok I., Ndayizigiye T. (2020) Women Participation in Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration for Climate Resilience: Laisamis, Marsabit County, Kenya. In: Leal Filho W., Ogugu N., Adelake L., Ayal D., da Silva I. (eds) African Handbook of Climate Change Adaptation. Springer, Cham.

Meet RLC Bonn PhD student Irene Ojuok

Irene Ojuok from Kenya was selected for the RLC PhD scholarship 2020. In this interview, she introduces her research objectives and motivation.


How did you learn about the RLC programme at ZEF and what was your motivation to apply for it?

I learnt about the RLC Programme at ZEF through my colleagues and friends who knew my passion in Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) as a holistic community approach land restoration. The RLC research project was totally in sync with my interests and an opportunity to study at a German prestigious institution where there is rich expertise in environment and development issues was my greatest desire.

The RLC scholarship aims at connecting young researchers with Right Livelihood Award Laureates. Which are the partners you will be working with?

My key partners will be Laureate Tony Rinaudo who was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize”, in 2018. I will also be working together with World Vision Kenya who have been a key champion of scaling up community driven FMNR with the support of the Kenyan government.

What is your research topic and why did you choose it?

In light of severe land degradation challenges we face in Kenya, I sought to investigate the socioeconomic impact of FMNR on household resilience to climate change. This will unpack what drives farmers to take up different land restoration approaches and how this is linked to climate resilience.

What are your primary research objectives?

My key research objectives include:

  • To establish how women and men benefit differently from FMNR
  • To identify the link between income and scale up of FMNR
  • To explore to what extent networks and collaboration affect FMNR adoption
  • To establish how local level policy influence uptake of FMNR

Your doctoral programme was supposed to start in August already, but the COVID-19 pandemic rattled the usual timeline. How has the pandemic affected the start of your research and how do you look into the year 2021?

Due to the pandemic, I could not travel to Germany in time. Fortunately, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) offered to initiate online language courses which I was able to undertake while in Kenya. ZEF equally organised our academic programs from October to begin virtually so we started our classes. Even though I already arrived in Bonn, I still study in my room, this maybe the new world we are getting introduced to because of the pandemic. With the rise of COVID-19 cases, we have more limited physical interactions which do not help maximize our exposure and engagements to learn from one another. My hope for 2021 forward is that we may bounce back better and learn from the challenges we experienced from this pandemic.

In Conversation with Tony Rinaudo / VIDEO

On October 8, The RLC Campus Bonn hosted the opening session “Re-Greening the Future: In Conversation with ‘Forest Maker’ Tony Rinaudo” of the @Bonnglobal series at Daring Cities 2020.

During the session, Rinaudo, who received the Right Livelihood Award in 2018, talked about his mission and work.

Here you can watch the full conversation:

Tony took some time to answer some more audience questions which were raised during the session. You can read them here.

Tony Rinaudo answers more audience questions

Re-Greening the Future: In Conversation with ‘Forest Maker’ Tony Rinaudo at Daring Cities 2020

On October 8, Right Livelihood Award Laureate Tony Rinaudo spoke at the opening session of the @Bonnglobal series at Daring Cities 2020.

Rinaudo, who received the Right Livelihood Award in 2018, not just talked about his mission and work, but was also eager to answer questions from the audience. Owing to the time limitation, not all audience questions could be heard. Therefore, Tony took some time to answer some more questions which were raised during the session.

When working in areas with tree planting NGOs, are you working closely with them, or do you work with other local communities or other geographic conditions in the country? (cooperation or complementing?)

It depends on the situation whether we are able to work with them or not. As a rule, when I conduct an FMNR training workshop I ask that as many organizations and government departments as possible and that are interested participate. We do have projects that have partners and both FMNR and tree planting are implemented, and as far as possible I try to design projects which have as an objective to reach and train other organizations, even if they are not formally a part of the project.

What role do you see for policy-makers in this work?

Policy makers can play an important role. In many countries existing policies discourage farmers and communities from taking responsibility for tree restoration and sustainable management. These laws need to be changed. Other countries actually have excellent environmental policies but they are not enforced and few people who need to know about them are actually aware of them. So, the role I see for policy makers is to create ‘enabling’ policies which encourage tree restoration and management, and to ensure that the population is informed about these policies and that they are actually enforced.

As far as I understand, the regenerating reforestation is based on existing roots, right? What do you think, how long can roots in the soil survive? Does the method work also in deserts?

The method is based on regenerating tree stumps and roots and seeds in the ground. When behaviours change such as the way livestock and fire are managed and if and how woody biomass is harvested and the way land is prepared for agriculture (ploughing), then nature will have a chance to begin to heal e.g. when fire is suppressed, or used judiciously, when livestock are not allowed to graze the same area 100% of the time, when people agree not to harvest all woody biomass and when farmers choose not to plough every square inch of land, then seeds and root systems in the ground can grow again. Additionally, this change behaviour gives nature a chance to bring seed in from other areas via wind, water, birds, livestock and wild animals – and when the seed arrives, it will have a better chance of survival.

I do not know how long these tree stumps and roots can survive in the soil, but I believe it could be well over 100 years.

In regards to deserts – it depends on what was there previously. If there was a forest in the past, then chances are that it will work there. In Somaliland, I have seen FMNR work well with as little as 100-200 mm rainfall. The tree stumps and seeds are there. People agreed to keep livestock out of a set area and the trees grew! This does not mean that every desert has stumps and seeds, but in my experience, many deserts are not lifeless wastelands – they are altered landscapes which have had their vegetation removed and the continuous pressure of livestock and biomass harvesting is preventing restoration of the vegetation. I have seen sprouting trees in very arid parts of Jordan, Abu Dhabi and Dubai and friends working in Saudi Arabia have reported living tree stumps there. If you google aerial photos of these countries you will see a surprising number of “bushes” and even isolated trees. This is very similar to what Niger looked like when I first went there. A sentinel begs the questions – where did it come from? How did it survive? If one could grow, why not more? was there once a forest here? What would need to be done to encourage other trees to grow here? And, when I see ‘bushes’ in the desert, I ask myself – are they really bushes, or are they trees which were cut down which have resprouted?

How to deal with topics such as land access, property, and tenancy to implement your reforestation strategy in a context of inequality to access and use of natural resources and land?

This is a very important question and the ‘how’ will depend on the country and context. People need a basic assurance that they will benefit from their efforts to restore trees, or else, in most cases they will not do this unless paid to do so. Thus, a big part of the projects we design is to ensure at the outset that individuals and communities will have either outright ownership or at the very least, legally binding user rights of the trees they grow. This could be as simple as getting village or county level agreements but sometimes it will require policies to change at the national level.

Interestingly, in Niger, policies did not change until 20 years after FMNR began to be adopted! People began to care for trees on the ‘perception’ that the trees now belonged to them. This was related to district level informal agreements, a weakening of the state’s ability to pay forest guards who used to traverse the country side fining people for cutting trees and the advent of democracy, which people interpreted to mean “we can now do what we want”.

Can you tell a little more in detail how to deal with the water scarcity in mountainous areas.

A Permaculture principle is to keep water as high on the mountain for as long as possible. This can be done by restoring vegetation which helps water infiltrate into the soil more quickly rather than flowing downhill immediately after rain, and by over time, building up soil organic matter in the soil. This organic matter acts as a natural sponge holding water longer in the soil profile and releasing it over time.

In addition, people can dig / construct water harvesting structures such as contour banks, small dams, zai pits (small planting pits which catch water) and half-moons (semi-circle holes designed to trap water). All of these structures stop water from running straight down hill and give it more time to sink into the ground. In some hilly areas sand dams have become popular. A dam wall is created and over time, the uphill side of the wall fills with sand and sediment. Even though it does not hold as much water as a dam filled with water, there is still a lot of water stored in the pores between the grains of sand. Sand dams also lose less water to evaporation.

Re-Greening the Future: In Conversation with ‘Forest Maker’ Tony Rinaudo

RLC Bonn at Daring Cities 2020

The RLC Campus Bonn hosts the opening session of the @Bonnglobal series at Daring Cities 2020:

Re-Greening the Future: In Conversation with
‘Forest Maker’ Tony Rinaudo

on October 8, 8:00-8:45 AM CEST

Australian agronomist Tony Rinaudo, who received the Right Livelihood Award in 2018, is known as the ‘forest maker’. He developed the farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR) method which has helped to re-green large parts of the Sahel region, 50,000 km2 of land with over 200 million trees in Niger alone. But FMNR is far more than an agricultural technique: it has also inspired farmer-led movements to re-green land throughout Africa.

This event invites audiences to not only learn more about Tony’s work, but also to actively engage in the conversation with him and other experts.

  • Moderator: Arthur Guischet / Senior researcher at the Center for Development Research (ZEF)
  • Chat moderator: Dr. Till Stellmacher / Senior researcher at ZEF and Coordinator of the RLC Campus Bonn
  • Introduction of @Bonnglobal series: Susanne Nolden, Department of International Affairs and Global Sustainability, City of Bonn

To participate, please register here.

To register for the whole Daring Cities 2020, click here.

The event celebrates the annual partnership between the City of Bonn and the RLC Bonn.

About Daring Cities 2020:

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, the climate crisis continues to impact our cities, towns and regions around the world. Daring Cities is the global, action-oriented virtual forum, designed by ICLEI and the city of Bonn, to empower urban leaders – such as mayors, city councilors, administrators, and urban thought leaders, as well as national government representatives, researchers, technical staff, business leaders, civil society decision-makers and community organizers – to tackle the climate crisis, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Running from 7 to 28 October 2020, Daring Cities features ambitious global action in a variety of time zones, languages, and formats.

Towards a Right Livelihood

A Statement by the Right Livelihood College Campuses in Face of Today’s Multiple Crises

The Right Livelihood College (RLC) is a multicultural, plural and global capacity building initiative of universities and the Right Livelihood Foundation. Since 2009, the RLC aims to make the knowledge and work of Laureates of the Right Livelihood Award accessible to all through linking academic work with grass-roots activism and cross-cultural learning around the world. With the following statement the signing RLC Campuses share their reflections on the current global crises. 

A situation of urgency 

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented hardships for many people around the globe, exposing the flaws in our current globalised economic and political system and the existing societal structural inequities. The virus has exposed the structural weaknesses of our public health system, especially in relation to the most marginalised and vulnerable people – refugees, migrants, daily labourers, women and others. The overexploitation of natural resources, the destruction of natural habitats and ecosystems and the overall disregard for nature’s inherent value, that cannot be grasped in economic terms, lie at the root of many interconnected crises: the current pandemic, destruction of our natural environment, the loss of biodiversity, global injustice and more. 

Thus, the Covid-19 pandemic is not a singular, isolated event, but acts as a catalyst for many of these pre-existing crises, further widening the inequalities in society. It cannot be solved by isolated means and much less by unproportional measures aimed at safeguarding corporate interests rather than people’s health and livelihoods, further hurting the poorest and weakest members of society. Most important of all, the pandemic has been used as a pretext by some governments to institutionalise authoritarianism and emergency decrees that violate the rights of civil society activists, journalists, students and human rights advocates in many countries.

There is a need to rethink how things are done 

The acuteness and urgency of these crises exhort us to pause and revisit our ways of living, of organising societies and our relationship to nature. The utilitarian misconception of so-called free markets that dominates the current economic system and guides policy making has shown great deficits when it comes to creating a just and peaceful world. The most urgent problems that humankind is facing cannot be solved by applying the very same ways of thinking that lie at their root causes. Economic growth cannot and should not serve as a dominant political paradigm in the same way that narrow economic indicators should not be the only measure for the well-being of societies.

We are witnesses to an alarming growth of inequality 

We live in a global system based on over-consumption and extreme wealth on the one hand, and strategic exploitation of people and the environment on the other. In the globalised world, the poor all too often bear the burden of the rich and their standard of living. Many ongoing practices show a contempt for these problems and the rights of future generations, amongst others: the privatisation of public goods and services; prioritisation of corporate interests over people’s well-being; financial speculation with the only goal of short-term profits; the destruction of natural ecosystems and habitats that will inevitably lead to further pandemics; culmination of power and economic wealth in the hands of a few.

Set new priorities 

Such relations of power, inequalities and dependencies can no longer be ignored or perpetuated. The measures that some states deployed in the face of the Covid-19 crisis show that, given the political will, swift and far-reaching action is possible to face a crisis. As the question of our handling of such crises is a question of global justice and the well-being of all humankind, the systemic threats outlined above must be taken more seriously in our responses and leaders must be held accountable to the people. 

Human Rights must be prioritised over corporate rights, a clean and safe environment over corporate profits. Questions of public health cannot be tackled without recognising the strong link to the issues described above. Mental health problems must no longer be marginalised, but rather recognised as an important factor for the well-being of a society. 

While the above issues demand taking action to find lasting solutions, it is equally important to refrain from activities that have produced them in the first place or are making them worse. The dominant paradigms of success and productivity are a heavy burden on many people. Non-productivity, just as non-consumption, must also be a valid option.

The stories we tell 

The way we think about such issues are key. Our imagery of society and nature forms our beliefs about what it means to lead a good life, to have success and true wealth. The stories we tell will shape our societies and the world of tomorrow. We do not live as isolated individuals, but are part of societies and natural environments. A good and broad education enables us to reflect and cherish the richness, diversity and complexity of life. But the pandemic has laid bare the glaring inequalities embedded in societal and educational systems worldwide. 

Taking the commitment further: A call for Global Action 

The RLC network recognises that there are no easy solutions to the challenges outlined above. We are committed to create the possibilities for all humankind, current and future generations, to pursue a Right Livelihood. We have endeavoured towards building a global knowledge network focussing on collective reflexivity of thought and action. This innovative space of knowledge across the Global South and Global North emerges from a synergy between the activism of the Laureates, the academic and field endeavours of the RLC campuses. We thus propose the following from our commitment to Right Livelihood and the implicit understanding of social justice, social inclusion, solidarity, solidarity economics and environmental sustainability as mentioned above. 

Our reflexive thoughts and suggestions have a twofold aim: A) reaching governments, international organizations, civil society groups, movements and people in general and B) building a collective and co-produced global knowledge as emerging from the RLC and Laureates’ research and practice. To this end, we hold three points to be vital. 

  1. Understanding the interrelationships between society, economy, polity and environment and to act on the same. The need of the hour is not to look at development alternatives but alternatives to the paradigms of development. The work of the Laureates and the RLC explicates this path.
  2. Building global solidarities. There is a need to focus on solidarity networks to ensure the spirit of cooperation and solidarity within and between nations, communities and groups for a more sustainable future and global justice. 
  3. Strengthening local practices and being mindful of diversity and inequities. There is a need to focus on non-hierarchical and inclusive local and innovative practices. This is to ensure social value creation for well-being at one end and addressing the structural inequities that leads to manifestation of inequities and injustice (as is being experienced during the current pandemic) on the other.


Signatories of the RLC network 

Prof. Dato’ (Dr.) Anwar Fazal, Director Right Livelihood College 

Dr. Victor Karunan, RLC Special Advisor Bangkok 

RLC Campus Bangkok, represented by Hans van Willenswaard 

RLC Campus Bonn, University of Bonn, represented by Dr. Till Stellmacher 

RLC Campus Lund, Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS), represented by Dr. Elina Anderson 

RLC Campus Mumbai, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), represented by Prof. Dr. Swati Banerjee 

RLC Campus Port Harcourt, University of Port Harcourt, represented by Dr. Fidelis Allen 

RLC Campus Santa Cruz, University of California, represented by David Shaw 

RLC Campus Valdivia, Universidad Austral, represented by Prof. Dr. Felix Fuders 


Dr. Till Stellmacher
Coordinator Global Secretariat, Right Livelihood College
Center for Development Research (ZEF)
Genscherallee 3, 53113 Bonn, Germany

Alexander Repenning
Education Manager, Right Livelihood Foundation
Maison de la Paix Chemin Eugène-Rigot 2E, Building 5
1202 Geneva, Switzerland

Download the statement as PDF here.

Special annual partnership between City of Bonn and RLC Campus Bonn

The Board and the Mayor of the City of Bonn invited the RLC Campus Bonn for an annual partnership in 2020. The RLC Campus Bonn is the first university programme that was invited for such a significant partnership.

Since 2000, the City of Bonn annually invites an international organization based in Bonn to form a special one-year partnership. The organization has the opportunity to represent itself and its thematic foci in various public events.

This special partnership will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the RLC Campus in Bonn. Read more here in English or here in German.