Winrock International Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer, Robin Vora, recently retired from the U.S. Forest Service in Oregon and traveled to Burma (also known as Myanmar) in February 2016 to provide training to local, non-profit staff with FREDA (Forest Resource Environment Development and Conservation Association). The objective was to improve knowledge and capacity of FREDA members and field staff on environmental conservation and climate change so they could:
- train local communities and reach more beneficiaries (train the trainer approach)
- apply the new knowledge effectively during project identification, design, and implementation to improve environmental sustainability
Vora was accompanied by FREDA and Winrock staff on a 3-day trip to the Ayeyarwaddy River Delta and a 3-day visit to the “Dry Zone” near Mindon. Following the field visits, he conducted a workshop in Yangon on environmental conservation and climate change, and related topics including an introduction to land-use and project planning, biosphere reserves, environmental education, and disaster response.
The workshop was a success with 31 participants, including eight media reporters. Participants discussed conservation issues in Burma, and Vora provided an introduction to climate change science, projected climate change in Burma, and potential impacts of climate change in Burma. As climate change is expected to exacerbate present conservation-related problems, Vora presented an introduction to climate change adaptation and participants identified adaptation strategies (objectives to achieve) and tactics (types of projects to achieve strategies) to better protect resources from anticipated climate change. Participants especially enjoyed a role playing exercise where proponents of adaptation strategies and tactics acted as FREDA staff and worked to explain their ideas to villagers (training participants).
Vora also provided brief introductions on biosphere reserves, environmental education, and disaster response. Several participants informed the group of their environmental education efforts. As part of the disaster response introduction, participants learned about the standardized Incident Command System used to respond to disasters in the United States and they enjoyed briefly role playing the key positions on an Incident Command Team assigned to a cyclone, tsunami, earthquake, or flood.
Personally, Vora was impressed by the good natured demeanor of the people in Burma and he enjoyed the personal contacts he made. He also enjoyed visiting villages and small cities to see a simpler and more traditional way of life and learning about Burmese history and geography. Professionally, it was rewarding for Robin to learn about ecology, forestry, and climate in Burma. He said it is an interesting challenge to work to develop techniques to manage forests and other natural areas to adapt to a changing climate.