Tropentag 2019: A class reunion of idea generators
Population growth, urbanisation, climate change – these global phenomena will define our future and increase the strain on natural resources. More than 700 participants from 74 countries gathered at Tropentag 2019 in Kassel to discuss collective sustainable solutions.
At Tropentag, everyone is given a platform to present their research findings – not just eminent experts. “Young students and researchers come here and learn how to present their findings to an audience. Representatives of large institutes also take part in the conference, of course,” explains organiser, Dr Eric Tielkes. “This results in a productive exchange of information and ideas.” For many of the participants, the event feels like a large school reunion: “You see people again, engage in discussions and are inspired”.
Tropentag is an inter-disciplinary conference focussing on the current state of research into tropical and subtropical agriculture. Particular emphasis is placed on networking between international participants.
Solving global problems
The exchange of resources and knowledge transfer are essential for solving global problems – this is also how Eva Seifert from the Alumni Projects team sees it. Her tasks include coordinating the Alumni Special Projects at the DAAD. For the last several years, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has organised an Alumni Special Project as part of Tropentag. It is aimed at academics and executives from emerging and developing countries who have studied or done research in Germany. Through the project, the alumni are able to further their knowledge and network with researchers, government leaders and other stakeholders. “The workshops, seminars and poster sessions give our alumni the chance to meet other participants and share information and ideas – I see lots of potential here,” says Eva Seifert.
Alumniportal Deutschland spoke to four alumni about their experiences at Tropentag 2019. Were their expectations met? Were they able to make valuable contacts? What new ideas are they taking back with them?
Liza Melina Meza Flores
Project Coordinator at Fondo de las Américas del Perú in Peru
“I want to use my knowledge and make it useful for others.”
“I have a master’s degree in Rural Development and I am an environmental engineer and project coordinator at the NGO “Fondo de las Américas del Perú”. Currently, I am working on my PhD proposal which focusses on the need for policy changes in order to create communities and establish a human to human relationship between the different stakeholders in the agrifood value chains – especially with regards to the conservation of native biodiversity. One of the most incredible people I met was keynote speaker Daniel J. Hawkins. He explained how he used his scientific work to actively drive change in Colombia. That is exactly what I am aiming for. I talked to him after his speech about the challenges in my work at an NGO and he clearly explained to me that to cultivate change you need both activism and science. Following our conversation, I am surer than ever that I want to get started on my PhD. I already met a couple of professors at the conference, who would be potential supervisors for my dissertation. Ultimately, I want to use my knowledge and make it useful for others.”
Dr. Ines Ksentini
Assistant Professor at the Institut de l’Olivier in Tunisia
“Now I know that I am on the right track.”
“Networking with other researchers is part of my job. In some ways, we researchers are opportunists, because we are always looking for cooperation with others or an opportunity to compare our results. My area of research is plant protection against insect pests, especially on olive, pomegranate, almond and apple trees. We try to develop organic and affordable ways to control the insects. We may achieve this through bacteria or fungi, which are bad for the pests but good for the environment. Unfortunately, a lot of farmers in Tunisia and all over the world still go for chemical products because they are cheaper. During our week of seminars at the University of Göttingen prior to the Tropentag, we visited a family-run company which is carrying out organic treatments on maize. It was really pleasing to see that organic treatments can work. I want to stay in touch with the researchers and maybe invite them to Tunisia. This experience was reinforcing: Now, I know that I am on the right track.”
Dr. Trung Duc Tran
Researcher at the Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences
“When you do research in a developing country, you depend on exchange because back home our resources are limited.”
“One thing I am sure about is that not one person can solve all the problems in the world on their own. We must work together and bring different people to the table. That is exactly what happened at Tropentag. The conference participants displayed posters all about their different projects in the event halls and this made it clear how diverse our research fields and challenges are. But we can find solutions together. Especially when you do research in a developing country, you depend on that kind of exchange because back home our resources are limited. At the moment, we are not so concerned about the nutritional value of our crops or the environment; for most people back home it’s about profit. But during our workshops organised by the DAAD, I learned how important it is to consider all the aspects. Different cropping systems have different effects and it is important for us to find the right system in Vietnam.”
Dr Trung Duc Tran won a Poster Award from the „Ecoland“ association at Tropentag 2019.
Value Chain Officer at Micro Enterprises Support Programme Trust in Kenya
“Meeting people who are passionate about their research and who are unapologetic about it – that inspires me to be the same.”
“I cannot function as a person or a researcher without connecting with other people. That is why I came to Tropentag. One presentation really struck me, it was from Carla D. Martin, a keynote speaker from Harvard University. The speech was called “What is the Flavour of Good Intentions?”. She talked about interest divergence and moral responsibility in the cacao-chocolate industry. The pure scope of her research and her approach fascinated me. She was very passionate about it, looked at many countries and analysed the whole picture. I believe that is what these things are all about: Meeting people who are passionate about their research or work and who are unapologetic about it. That inspires me to be the same.”
Alumni Special Projects
In the Alumni Special Projects programme professionals from developing countries who have been trained in Germany have the opportunity to come into contact with German representatives from academia and business at important trade fairs and conferences.