Fellowship promotes young researchers and climate protection

SDG Ziel 13: Maßnahmen zum Klimaschutz
Symbol for climate protection: hand protects the globe from harmful influences
© Gettyimages/RomoloTavani

The 's enables propective leaders and postdocs with climate expertise from emerging and developing countries to advance their research on climate and resource protection in Germany. This not only promotes exchange and understanding, but also helps the environment.

Climate change is a global challenge that affects every country in the world. Good international cooperation is key when it comes to finding solutions together, such as at the recent in Dubai. This is where the International Climate Protection Fellowship of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation comes in. Since 2009, the foundation has been granting 20 fellowships per year to young people from emerging and developing countries outside Europe.

Promoting communication and exchange

The fellows spend between 12 and 24 months in Germany to realise a project of their choice in the area of climate and resource protection, in cooperation with a host organisation. The goals of the programme are to promote communication and exchange and to support future leaders.

Programme manager Judith Schildt describes the initiative as follows: “We help thinkers to expand their expertise during their stay in Germany, to build a network with German partners and ideally to take this back with them to their countries, where they will use their knowledge to help tackle climate-related tasks, whether in research, administration, business or politics.” The Federal Government provides funding from its international climate protection initiative for the programme.

Regina Ruete from Argentina is one of these young future leaders. She was taking part in a postgraduate programme in environmental management at TU Dresden when she heard about the fellowship programme. “I met a number of scholarship holders during my studies, and I really enjoyed their stories,” she says. “I thought it was a great opportunity to meet people from other parts of the world who focus on similar issues as myself.” 

International Climate Protection Fellowship | For next-gen leaders & postdocs with climate expertise

International Climate Protection Fellowship | For next-gen leaders & postdocs with climate expertise
International Climate Protection Fellowship | For next-gen leaders & postdocs with climate expertise ©

The International Climate Protection Fellowship enriches participants' work to this day

Ruete is doing research at the German Development Institute in Bonn, exploring the following question: how can nature-based solutions be used in river basin areas in a sustainable way? She has fond memories of her time in Germany: “I met wonderful people who enhanced my experience and perspectives with regard to environmental conflicts across the world.” These encounters gave rise to friendships as well as joint projects.  

Back in Argentina, Ruete is continuing the research work she started in Germany, and she is now working as an environmental consultant for the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF. “Climate change is one of the key issues that we are dealing with,” she explains. 

Adam Ceesay from Gambia also had a very positive experience in her year as a fellow. She is an expert for tropical marine ecology and did research on mangrove degradation in Tanbi Wetland National Park in Gambia at the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research, exploring adaptation strategies that can help people locally. Owing to climate change, the region is affected by that causes salinisation of coastal areas. Remembering her time in Germany, Ceesay says: “I was surrounded by an amazing international team, a very straightforward supervisor and helpful co-workers. It was also a very rich and diverse programme.”

Participants continue research in Germany after the end of the fellowship

Three training courses are part of the fellowship programme: a three-week introductory seminar, a study tour and a final seminar. The participants get to know each other as well as representatives of politics, research, business and NGOs. “This allows for plenty of dialog, communication and opportunities to learn from each other,” tprogramme manager Judith Schildt explains. “The young prospective leaders also have the chance to establish lots of contacts.” 

Following her stay in Germany, Adam Ceesay returned home, where she first worked for the national environmental authority and eventually for the environmental organisation Wetlands International in Senegal’s capital city Dakar. At the moment she is back in Germany to continue her research work with a three-month sponsorship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. 

The programme helps to restructure international cooperation

“The programme facilitated enormous professional and personal growth for me,” says Cholpon Aitakhunova. The social scientist from Kyrgyzstan conducted research at the Collective Leadership Institute in Potsdam, exploring ways in which Central Asian countries can cooperate in water management. "There is cooperation, but there is still potential for further development when it comes to improving water relations in Central Asia. The same applies to climate protection. There are some joint measures and efforts, but they are still very much in their infancy." she says. As part of her project, she has drawn up recommendations and solutions to allow for more successful collaboration. 

Aitakhunova feels that the contacts she established in this time are very helpful. She describes the year she spent studying in Germany as follows: “It was a unique experience for myself and my family who accompanied me on my stay. I would like to work in the area of sustainable transformation for the next few years to come, and I am excited to be able to continue my work at the institute in Potsdam and to participate in its worldwide projects.”

The fellowship programme is open not only to researchers but to practising professionals, too. One of these is Veeresh Anehosur. He is an expert for photovoltaic system installation from India, and came across an ad for the fellowship programme in a local newspaper from Bangalore. “I visited the programme website and thought it was interesting,” he says. So he applied and came to Germany. Here he looked into the question, how used lithium batteries can be reused to establish a circular economy.  

A start-up promotes more sustainable mobility in India

“Batteries of electric cars must be replaced after a few years, as their performance decreases,” Veeresh Anehosur explains. “However, these batteries can still be used, as their performance is still good enough for a photovoltaic system or a tuktuk. We call this second life.” He received support for his research work from a German-Indian start-up. “Our cooperation was fantastic,” he says: “I learned a lot and was also able to contribute my own experience, so we learned from each other.”

Regina Ruete from Argentina had a rather similar experience in her year as a fellow: “I have no doubt that this experience is key to promoting international cooperation between our countries and Germany. This is really important nowadays, and something that needs our dedicated work.” 

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