PhytoWood-Synergies – a new project has started (and a new staff member, too)

Fig1Hi, I’m Jens Weber. Since beginning of October, I’ve got the great chance to join the staff at the Chair of Tropical Forestry in Tharandt, with the main task of coordinating a new project called PhytoWood-Synergies.

After having graduated from the TU Dresden with a forestry diploma 26 years ago, I spent most of my professional life in nature conservation projects of all kinds here in the region of the Eastern Ore Mountains – mostly on freelance as well as voluntary basis. 

Besides that, I have been involved in several projects in the rainforest region of eastern Madagascar organized by a small Dresden-based NGO named Ranoala. The core of this group are some alumni of Tharandt. In the last ten years or so, the main focus of their activities has shifted from pure afforestation support to youth empowerment.  The commitment of young people can really be a source of hope.

During extensive travelling with some hands-on work in different parts of the world, I decided to raise my involvement in social and ecological projects in developing countries to a more professional level. To this end, attending lectures at the Chair of Tropical Forestry in Tharandt as a “guest auditor” seemed to be a perfect way. And it really was! From day one I have enjoyed the cosmopolitan and creative atmosphere. What a stark contrast to the – all too often – limited horizons in Saxony nature conservation!

Now there is the opportunity to work on an interesting project regarding medicinal plants in Ethiopia.

 Phytowood-Synergies …

Fig2… aims to identify ways to reduce the widening gap between the increasing demand of a growing population and the dwindling supply of biological resources, due to deforestation and destruction of other natural habitats. It’s a joint project with the Institute of Pharmacy at the Martin Luther University in Halle, as well as the universities in Addis Ababa and Hawassa/Ethiopia. Together with partners at praxis level, we will try to examine the conditions under which the cultivation of important medicinal plants on small agroforestry farms and home gardens can be feasible.

The combined knowledge of pharmaceutical experts and forestry scholars of profound socio-economical background, as well as local people with wealth of practical experience, offers a unique chance to raise traditional medicine to a new level of quality, to bring new pharmacological insights, to preserve biodiversity, and – probably first of all – opens new opportunities for rural economies based on small-scale farms.

 

It’s a big challenge but also a great pleasure to be responsible for such a multifaceted project! I will be grateful for all kind of support and advice. In any case, the working atmosphere here at the Chair of Tropical Forestry is very stimulating. Thank you so much!                                                  (Jens Weber)

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