ARUA-CD supported two PhD students to learn transdisciplinary approaches to sustainable development in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in Schorfheide-Chorin, Germany. 

Sylvester Yiadom Agyei-Boachie from the University of Ghana and Purity Rima Mbaabu from the University of Nairobi, along with other university students from Germany, Canada, and South Africa, are participating in a Transdisciplinary International Learning Laboratory (TILL) organized by the Transdisciplinary Education Collaboration for Transformations in Sustainability (TRANSECTS), a partnership between the University of Saskatchewan-Canada, Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development-Germany, and the University of South Africa.

“I feel incredibly lucky to participate in TRANSECTS-TILL 2023. In addition to enriching intercultural encounters, I have learned that reflective, collaborative engagements, learning, and research can sustainably promote biodiversity and nature conservation in forest ecosystems while also meeting other development goals. Many thanks to ARUA-CD for the financial support,” explains Purity Mbaabu, one of the two students attending the program.

Brief background on TILL 2023

The TILL training began on December 5, 2022, with a two-week online foundational course, followed by an eight-week on-site foundational course, field visits, and group work (January 13, 2023, to March 10, 2023). The training aims to enhance students’ intercultural competence and give an introduction to the effective application of transdisciplinary collaboration in addressing complex and wicked sustainability challenges.

At the in Schorfheide-Chorin UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, 2023: TRANSECTS participants during an excursion. © Lucas Ignacio

Training and capacity building 

The students have participated in lectures and field trips in Brandenburg’s Schorfheide-Chorin Biosphere Reserve to acquire knowledge and practical skills on sustainable forest ecosystem management. Additionally, they are engaging in intercultural exchanges, conducting research, particularly research question framing, transdisciplinary methods and stakeholder identification. The practical skills training involves forest assessment (tree species composition, diversity, use; forest ownership types and management; biodiversity and ecosystem services identification). They are also engaging stakeholders on how to manage the Biosphere Reserve collaboratively for sustainability, with a special emphasis on biodiversity conservation, climate change, livelihood empowerment, and forest management.

”I have learned through the TILL program how forest landscapes improve ecological factors but also how they can empower livelihoods by involving all stakeholders in identifying and implementing collaborative solutions to forest management problems.” states Sylvester Agyei-Boachie, the second student attending the program.

Background of the ARUA-CD sponsored students 

Sylvester Yiadom Agyei-Boachie is currently pursuing a PhD in Environmental Science at the University of Ghana’s Institute for Environment and Sanitation Studies. His research focuses on the impact of human activities in forest reserves on climate change, community livelihoods, and biodiversity conservation.

Purity Rima Mbaabu is pursuing a PhD in Climate Change and Adaptation at the University of Nairobi, Kenya. She is applying transdisciplinary approaches to examine the spread of invasive alien tree species (Prosopis juliflora) in savanna ecosystems, their effects on land use and cover, biodiversity, ecosystem services, and livelihoods. In addition, she is modelling the impact of climate change on the geographic ranges of native and non-native species in Kenya.


By: Sylvester Yiadom Agyei-Boachie and Purity Rima Mbaabu