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Area studies of the Minor Sustainable Development in four countries

Every January, students of the Minor Sustainable Development have the opportunity to put what they’ve learned over the last few months into practice in a choice of exciting and practical courses called Area Studies. This year, for the first time, there was a choice of four locations: The Netherlands, South Africa, Indonesia or the Philippines. In the overseas area studies, the Minor students are joined by a group of local students to work on local sustainability challenges.


In Indonesia, the Area Study takes place in the form of a winter school on tropical biodiversity and sustainability. The theme of this year is marine biodiversity and the challenges involved in maintaining and restoring marine biodiversity.

Over the past two weeks, student groups composed of students of the Minor Sustainable Development of Leiden University and of biology students from Universitas Indonesia have been working on a variety of sustainability challenges.

Topics varied from coral bleaching to the question whether mangrove restoration causes increases in the number of mosquitoes and whether collecting of clams and rare shells by the local population for the market has affected the coastal biodiversity.

On Thursday 25 January, the six mixed student groups have presented their results in a seminar that has been advertised throughout the biology institutes of all universities in Indonesia as well as some universities in Malaysia. The seminar have been opened by key note lectures by. Prof. Peter van Bodegom of the CML Leiden and Dr. Nicole de Voogd of Naturalis Biodiversity Center.

Group picture of Winterschool Indonesia
Group picture of Winterschool Indonesia

The Netherlands

In the Netherlands, six groups of 4-5 students work as little consultancy agencies on real and current challenges that the councils of Leiden and The Hague face regarding the implementation and attainment of their sustainability agenda.

This year, topics for both cities cover the themes of circular economy, energy transition and climate adaptation. Many of the questions relate to the barriers that stakeholders experience to taking part in the transition to a more sustainable future, as well as identification of opportunities for the council to encourage this transition.

On the 2nd of February, the students will present the findings of their 4 week research project to representatives of the councils and other experts.

South Africa

Area studies in South Africa centres around the topics biodiversity, nature conservation, sustainable tourism and sustainable livelyhoods. A wide variety of lecturers introduced the various challenges that South Africa is dealing with, including the importance of biodiversity, threats poaching and related paramilitary actions, emergent and endemic diseases,  hunting as a sustainable tourism and effects of current land claims on nature conservation.

During the last weeks, students from various backgrounds (Leiden University, Utrecht University and the University of Kwazulu-Natal, Mbombela and witwatersrand) have used this knowledge to design a research proposal with topics ranging from effects of global warming on vulture populations to effects of rhino removal from natural ecosystems.

On Thursday 25 January, six mixed student groups have presented their results during a seminar at the Southern African Wildlife college and have been introduced by Maarten Schrama (CML, Leiden) and Cleo Graf (Southern African Wildlife College, Hoedspruit).

See also the Blog

White Rhino

The Philippines

Every year in January, since 2011, the international course on water and water management ("the water course") is organised in the Philippines. 28 students participate in this one month course: 14 European students through Leiden University (Minor Sustainable Development) and 14 Philippine students through Isabela State University. The students visit (inter)national organisations in Manila and Los Banos to learn more about environmental issues. In Isabela Province, mulit-displinary, intercultural teams conduct a short field study on a theme related to water management. The goal of the course is for students to learn about water issues and to gather practical experience with fieldwork and working in interdiscplinary, international teams. The background of the students is diverse and includes anthropology, biology, forestry, agriculture and civil engineering among others.

See also Facebook blog

Students of the Area Study in the Philippines 2018
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