I just came back from a three-week long sustainability fellowship in Israel.
My participation in the Global Sustainability Fellowship, a program offered by the U.S.-based Sustainability Laboratory, became not just about augmenting one more experience of a workshop to my resume or one more stamp to my passport. Rather, it became a very insightful experience that changed my perception about the meaning of "sustainability" itself and the sustainable world we all are dreaming to achieve.
Being selected as one of the top seventeen sustainability professionals from all over the world and as a representative of my field agriculture was something exciting and intimidating at the same time. The workshop started with an online pre-curriculum program providing the general overview of what fellowship was going to be about and the things that were expected of us. It was an opportunity to learn about inquisitive leaders from all walks of sustainability, their works and their apprehensions about sustainability. Later we all gathered in the hot Negev desert at the Arava Institute of Environmental Studies and stayed there for three weeks to enrich our knowledge on Sustainability.
"Sustainability", the buzzword of our time, used at every possible instance with one common understanding- "meeting present needs without jeopardizing the needs of future generations" has a deeper implication which for me was the major takeaway from the fellowship. The systems perspective was a whole lot of new idea for me and understanding sustainability through systemic reality became complex at first.
However, the approach became clearer with the advancement of the fellowship period which was an integration of thought-provoking lectures from lecturers like the founder of The Sustainability Laboratory, Dr Michael Ben Eli, the founder of Engineers without borders, Prof. Dr Bernard Amadei, Senior Critic/teacher of the Rhode Island School of Design, Peter Dean and many other, amazing and adventurous field visits as well as participative group works. The concept of sustainability put forward by Michael Ben Eli has given below bestowed a new understanding in me at the end of the third week.
"Sustainability is a dynamic equilibrium in the process of interaction between a population and the carrying capacity of its environment such that the population develops to express its full potential without producing irreversible adverse effects on the carrying capacity of the environment upon which it depends."- Michael Ben Eli
The final week was dedicated in a survey in one of the "Kibbutzs"- collective communities in Israel that were traditionally dependent on agriculture named Neot Semadar. Visiting and learning about this self-sustained community where people live as an extended family sharing works, benefits, joys and sorrows was something like seeing how we want this world to be, through our own eyes. On the final day of our stay in the Arava Institute of Environmental Studies, we shared the findings of our survey being inclined to the five domains of Sustainability.
Being a student of agriculture and visiting the hub of modern agriculture- Israel enthralled me with the agricultural practices that are being done there. I got to visit modern agricultural farms, to learn about projected modern agricultural technologies like computer operated micro-irrigation systems, to see the works being done by Israelis to make the desert bloom and to witness an extraordinary initiative of Wadi Attir establishing a sustainable farm leveraging traditional Bedouin values.
The weekends of the three weeks we spent in Israel were even more exciting as we got to visit renowned places in the world like The dead sea- the lowest point on earth, the Red sea, Jerusalem- the cacophony of three prominent religions of the world, to camp whole night out in the middle of the Judean desert and to live as a Bedouin community for a day.
The Sustainability Laboratory's GSF program is so far the most beautiful experience I have ever had participating in international opportunities like this. It was also a chance for me to contribute perspectives from my field of sustainability. I also shared about my research on the topic "effect of storage methods and botanicals on damage by Maize Weevil (Sitophilus zeamais) on stored maize grains in Rolpa, Nepal" and my experiences of interning in Rolpa under the Prime Minister Agriculture Modernization Project.
Photo credit: Global Sustainability Fellows Program