Biodiversity and nature conservation: University of Bayreuth strengthens higher education in and for Tanzania

Biodiversity is a central ecological and economic resource for Tanzania, thanks to its extensive nature reserves. For its long-term preservation, the East African country needs experts who can develop and implement effective strategies and measures. As part of a new project funded by the EU to the tune of up to € 790,000, the University of Bayreuth is working towards establishing commensurate courses of study at universities in Tanzania. In doing so, it will work closely with European and Tanzanian partners in research and on the ground.

International meeting at Nkweseko research station near Mount Kilimanjaro. Photo: Claudia Hemp.

As part of the new international network, the University of Bayreuth is responsible for the coordination of all project activities. Focal points are the development of study programs in terms of content and organization, the establishment of e-learning infrastructure, the organization of workshops, and the coordination of practical fieldwork. Within Europe, the University of Florence, the Science Museum of Trento, and the Natural History Museum of Denmark, which is affiliated with the University of Copenhagen, are also involved in the project. Partners in Tanzania are the University of Dar es Salaam and Sokoine University of Agriculture, as well as Mweka, the College of African Wildlife Management on Mount Kilimanjaro.

“Five years ago, the Tanzanian government already launched a program on biodiversity that defines a national strategy and includes a concrete plan of action. This clearly shows how urgent it is to preserve East African ecosystems and their biodiversity. However, it has now become apparent that, in much of Tanzania, there is a lack of skilled workers with the necessary skills. The EU project now offers the opportunity to close this gap with scientifically based study and further education programs. In Bayreuth, we have been working on new formats for digital knowledge transfer for several years, which has gained unexpected significance as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. We will draw on this experience in Tanzania when we launch cross-university, online ‘biodiversity’ courses there, and set up the technical infrastructure necessary,” says Dr. Claudia Hemp, member of the project team at the University of Bayreuth. As a research associate of the Senckenberg Institute in Frankfurt am Main, she is also involved in the research network “Kili-SES”, which analyses the interactions between humans and nature in the Kilimanjaro region.

View of Nkweseko research station. Photo: Andreas Hemp.

The project team of the University of Bayreuth consists of four members of the Department of Plant Systematics: Prof. Dr. Sigrid Liede-Schumann and Dr. Ulrich Meve, as well as Dr. Claudia Hemp and Dr. Andreas Hemp, both of whom have been studying the flora and fauna on Mount Kilimanjaro in the context of ecological and climatic change for decades. During this research work they have established a large network of contacts with East African research and educational institutions. Nkweseko research station on the southern slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro has developed into an important hub for the national and international exchange of experience. In future, it is to be used in the EU project for practical training in climate and nature conservation. 

The joint project is funded by the EU program “Erasmus+ – Capacity-Building in the Field of Higher Education”. The program is designed to strengthen the quality of higher education in terms of content and organization in transnational cooperation, to promote access to higher education, and to establish suitable governance structures for this purpose. The International Office of the University of Bayreuth, headed by Dr. Arnim Heinemann, was also involved in the original application to the EU.