The second part of the first UNESCO Biosphere Excursion, a binational programme in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Ethiopia, took place in April 2016. A group of sixteen inspired students and young professionals from Ethiopia and the UAE met on 6 April for an excursion to protected areas in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Fujairah and Sharjah. The same group had previously travelled to Ethiopia in November 2015 to learn about environmental management issues in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserves of Kafa and Lake Tana.

The two parts of the Biosphere Excursion enabled participants to carry out multiplier projects designed to disseminate knowledge throughout their own communities. The projects included awareness-raising activities and exercises with school and university students on waste segregation, reforestation activities with schoolchildren, artistic outreach activities using sand sculptures to create awareness of marine pollution, and projects with local communities to improve wetland management. On 21 April 2016, the UAE National Commission for UNESCO in cooperation with the Ministry of Education coordinated an experience-sharing session with outstanding secondary school students in Fujairah to discuss the importance of environmental protection.

The group of participants together with experts from the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi on Bu Tinah Island within the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Marawah ©Sami Majeed

Experts from the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency, the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, the Emirates Wildlife Society in association with WWF, the Fujairah and Dibba municipalities, the Global Green Growth Institute, the Sharjah Environment and Protected Areas Authority, and Zayed University shared their knowledge with the group, including through on-site sessions. A visit to Bu Tinah Island – one of the core zones of the Marawah Biosphere Reserve in Abu Dhabi, which is accessible only for research and monitoring activities – was a highlight of the trip. In Wadi Wurayah National Park (Fujairah), the group verified camera traps used for wildlife monitoring. In addition to training sessions, participants also had the chance to meet local stakeholders during research assignments in the aforementioned locations.

This educational and cultural exchange was made possible by the generous funding from Global Citizen Foundation and  in-kind support from the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, the Emirates, Fujairah Municipality and Zayed University, as well as other Ethiopian donors.