Students coming together to solve climate change challenges

1 March 2019

The American University of Beirut’s Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, and Banque Libano-Française (BLF) Climate Change Student Competition, in partnership with IHE Delft and Wageningen University and Research (WUR) have recently congratulated the winner during the award ceremony. The goal is to encourage interdisciplinary research on climate change adaptation and water scarcity solutions, and to transform it into a policy brief. In addition, it helps students to become more involved in policy making and to provide information to policy makers to help them understand and visualize which sector is going to be the most impacted by climate change in the long run.

ABOUT THE COMPETITION

The first American University Beirut’s Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, and Banque Libano-Francaise (BLF) Climate Change Student Competition, which occurred in the academic period of 2017-2018, focussed on climate change and land degradation and was only open to graduate students from the American University of Beirut (AUB). Three students were chosen as winners and presented their proposals during the award ceremony on March 14th, 2018. The second annual American University Beirut’s Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, and Banque Libano-Francaise (BLF) Climate Change Student Competition, launched on September 3rd 2018 was opened to Master and PhD students from all universities in Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Iraq, as well as from IHE Delft and Wageningen University and Research.

The students presented the proposals based on the theme “Water-Energy-Food Nexus approach from theory to implementation in adapting to climate change and water scarcity challenges”, under the topic of “Climate change adaptation in the Levant Region (Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine)”. According to Jasmine El-Kareh, the project coordinator, from Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, at AUB, the Levant Region was chosen because “it is an area that is critically affected by climate change, population growth, food insecurity, and water scarcity”.

The students submitted their proposals on November 01st, 2018, and since it was opened to more participants, there was more diversity in the topics than last year’s competition due to the different backgrounds and cultures of the students, said Jasmine. In order to have a fair and transparent competition without having the winners being chosen by biased decision the judges received the proposal anonymously. Based solely on their projects a total of six winners were chosen out of the 18 proposals that were submitted. The names were announced on December 26th, 2018 and the award ceremony took place on January 9th, 2019, in Lebanon. The students are expected to submit a final version of their paper in the second semester of 2019 and present this at a conference. The students and their mentors will also get a training and have an opportunities to meet and discuss among each other.

AWARD CEREMONY

The award ceremony occurred in March and it was covered by the local media. The ceremony began with a speech from Dr. Tarek Mitri, Director of the IFI, where he “emphasized on the importance of this competition which aimed to incite graduate students to think of practical solutions and not only theoretical approach in their research on the Water Energy Food Nexus”. He was followed by Banque Libano Francaise General Manager Ms. Raya Raphael Nahas and the first secretary from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands in Lebanon Mr. Floris van Slijpe, who spoke on climate change and on the topic of the competition. Later, four of the six winners were present at the ceremony and explained their proposals to the audience. In addition, videos from the previous years were exhibited and policy briefs were distributed to inform what the students had done in the past and how they have contributed to solve climate change issues.

IMPACT OF THE COMPETITION ON THE STUDENTS

One of the winners of this year’s American University Beirut’s Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, and Banque Libano-Francaise (BLF) Climate Change Student Competition, Christelle Moussa, a masters’ student at AUB in Ecosystem Management, but with a background in landscape design, said that the competition helped her realize that she could have the best of both studies, as her proposal was related to how she could use native vegetation to help alleviate the urban heat islands, which is the heat that is created by energy from all the people, cars, buses, and trains in big cities. In addition, another positive outcome of this competition, in her opinion, was the fact that she understood that once she put her mind and her heart into something, she could achieve great things.

Furthermore, for Amani Matar, an IHE Delft masters’ student in Water Management, whose proposal on alternative uses for water in the Litani River basin secured her the first place, one of the best things was to see so many people engaged in working to improve the water management system whilst bringing awareness on climate change. According to Amani, participating was “encouraging and motivating to contribute to something big, such as taking care of natural resources”.

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE FUTURE?

For both Christelle and Amani, the participation influenced their ideas for their future. Amani, originally from Lebanon, came to the Netherlands to pursue her masters in water management and to get experience of studying and working outside her home country. However, during the field recording for her project, she realized that she might want to go back to Lebanon after she graduates, to work and try to implement her project there. Regarding Christelle’s experience, she said it assured her that the path she has chosen to follow on Ecosystem Management was the right one for her future career.

Ideas for a future competition are still being discussed. However, Christelle already shares a piece of advice for students that might be interested in participating in a competition, whether it may be this one or any other competition related to their interest: “make it as a challenge for yourself! Not as just one more thing that you can do, but do really make an effort to deliver something good”. As for Amani, she encourages students to “go for it, as it is always nice to see that you are contributing to something great that can help to save our future!”

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THE WINNERS!

  • 1st Place: Amani Matar (IHE-Delft) – Proposed Research: Modelling the allocation of water for food, energy and domestic water supply in a closing river basin - the case of the Litani River
  • 2nd Place: Moises Perez Covarrubias (WUR) – Proposed Research: The Urban Nexus: Environmental Flows and Networks of Water-Energy-Food
  • 3rd Place: Mariam Rabaa (BAU) – Proposed Research: Development, Design, Construction and Testing of a Stand Alone – Renewable Energy Agriculture Greenhouse- Desalination System; Self Sufficient of Energy & Irrigating Water and Controlled Microclimatic Conditions
  • 4th Place: Christelle Moussa (AUB) – Proposed Research: Vegetation as a UHI mitigation measure in arid contexts: The case of Dubai
  • 5th Place: Sana Al Sayed (Muta’a University in Jordan) – Proposed Research: Developing a Psychological Counseling Program to Adapt with Drought and Water Scarcity in a Sample of Women Working in Agriculture in Jordan Valley
  • 6th Place: Jad Saade (NDU) – Proposed Research: Impact of Climate Change on Flow and Sedimentation in Nahr El Kaleb River

 

This story was written by Deborah Martina Lemos Correa, DUPC2 intern from January - May 2019, in collaboration with Jasmine and Christelle, from AUB, and Amani, from IHE Delft.

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