Hello everyone, my name is Pablo Urbina Aviles, and I am a Nicaraguan living in Dresden since January 2020, the year of the infamous COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2021, I started my international climate protection fellowship doing research, alongside Professor Jürgen Pretzsch, called: Participatory Guarantee Systems: Agroecological Certification to Enhance Small-Scale Family Farmers’ Adaptive Capacity to Climate Change.
To understand how I ended up here is necessary to share a little background story first. I studied Environmental Quality Engineering at Universidad Centroamericana. After completing my degree, I started working in the private sector with Bio Latina, an organic agriculture certification agency. This was a marvelous experience indeed, where I got the chance to learn a lot about sustainable agricultural practices and the mechanism and dynamics behind certification processes. I got the opportunity to visit other countries in Central America as clients were spread in the isthmus. Although I enjoyed working for Bio Latina, I felt that what I was contributing to society was a bit limited by the nature of working for the private sector. And so, I decided to set my eyes somewhere else.
In 2017 I moved to Lima, Peru to work with a local NGO, Red de Agricultura Ecologica del Peru and other local partners on a project called Feeding Lima from Within, here I developed a certification mechanism for agricultural products for urban and peri-urban farmers. I got the chance to develop a certification system from scratch and train farmers on how to comply with the indicators of the standard developed for the system. The project was a success, and we manage to pilot the certification mechanism and improve it to a 2.0 version. At the end of the project over 100 farmers had been certified and re-certified.
As part of my ongoing desire to acquire new knowledge and contribute to society I applied to the International Postgraduate-Program in Environmental Management for Developing Countries offered by CIPSEM at TU Dresden. Here, I got the opportunity to meet Professor Jürgen Pretzsch and learn about his studies, especially in climate change adaptation topics. This learning helps me realize how I could link agricultural certification with climate change adaptation, especially community or participatory certification. And so, I applied to the international climate protection program of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to explore how participatory guarantee systems contributed to improving farmers’ adaptation towards climate change.
Although 2020 was a bad year for everyone, and to be honest not the best way to enjoy my first long stay in mainland Europe, but being stuck in Dresden during such times was the best thing that could happen to me. Dresden is a particular place; it has a lot of the features of a city like museums, theatres, places to eat, drink, and party heavily, but it is arranged in a way that does not quite feel like your usual city. It has a lot of green areas, palaces, walking and cycling infrastructure. It has a huge river (Elbe) that split the city into the Altstadt and Neustadt (old and new city in German) and, most importantly, is not that busy with people and cars as your usual city.
I am enjoying my time here so far and I have no doubt I will continue enjoying it until I finish my research in March 2022. So, if you want to know about the work I am doing, do not hesitate to contact me at pablo_rafael.urbina_aviles(at)mailbox.tu-dresden.de, I’ll try my best to answer you ASAP or at least when I find some time in my agenda.
By Pablo Urbina Aviles