TUD Photo Contest Winner at Tropentag 2020

A focus group discussion with farmers involved in eucalyptus planting. (©J. Scheler)

Jakob Scheler, a forestry student at the TU Dresden, won the international photo competition in the category of photo stories, organized by the non-profit organization Let’s plant e.V. in cooperation with the Tropentag conference 2020. Jakob presented a series of photographs capturing the life of tree farmers and communities in northern Ethiopia. All pictures were taken during his research stay for his BSc thesis in July 2016 in Wogera District and Gondar City, Amhara Region. He researched on the impact of social capital on farm establishment, management and wood marketing in Northern Ethiopia.

Jakob with his Ethiopian friend Alex from Gondar (©J. Scheler)

He decided to submit pictures with people in them, as he explains “Humans are an environment making species and thus, at the heart of the topic of land improvement and degradation. During my research, I interviewed people of different gender, economic and social status. All of them were involved in eucalyptus planting. Smallholder woodlots help to upgrade and improve degraded land in the area we studied. The local people are closely connected to the resources gained from it and use the wood in all areas of their life.”

Jakob tells the story of his photo series not only through a human, but also scientific lens:

“The Ethiopian highlands had experienced massive deforestation, forest and land degradation for a prolonged time. The expansion of eucalyptus farm woodlots marks a turning point in this ongoing process. Across scientific literature many positive effects such as securing rural people’s livelihoods, securing tenure rights, provision of fuel wood, combating environmental degradation, erosion control and less pressure on natural forests are named in favor of the establishment of such woodlots. One farmer we interviewed explained to us: ‘Eucalyptus is everything to us! We use it as fuel wood, built our fences and houses, make tools for the household and farming from it.’

Besides the positive impacts of eucalyptus for people and improving degraded landscapes its planting also leads to conflict among farmers. Eucalyptus is a water competitor for agricultural crops and has negative effects on crop yield if planted in close proximity due to its allelopathic traits. Eucalyptus planting has repeatedly led to conflict between neighboring farmers if crops were effected.”

Jakob has been linked with the Chair of Tropical Forestry since 2015 when he worked as a student assistant in the Welcome to Africa project (BMBF, 2012 – 2015) and supported the organization and running of a summer school with students and staff from four East African countries. In 2016, he conducted his BSc research in within the Chair’s project CHAINS (CHAnces IN Sustainability – promoting natural resource based product chains in East Africa, BMBF, 2013 – 2015).

All of Jakob’s photos can be viewed in the slide show or on the official photo competition website of Let’s plant e.V.:  http://www.lets-plant.org/node/43

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Congratulations, Jakob!

By Maxi Domke

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