By Adrien York, student writer, Global Affairs
The 2019-2020 Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows arrived in Davis in August 2019. As visiting scholars, they collaborate and exchange within UC Davis, the Davis community, and the state of California.
While orientation was filled with technical and professional content, the group took a break to better understand and experience American culture, and enjoy the California summer. They traveled to nearby Raley Field (now Sutter Health Park), home of the Sacramento River Cats, to participate in a classic American pastime: watching a baseball game
Many fellows have career experience working in conservation and/or NGOs at home–they also actively learn about counterpart activities here in the U.S. The fellows got hands-on with a local organization, Putah Creek Council, to help give back to their new community by participating in a seasonal creek cleanup. They removed solid waste and invasive plant species that were causing harm to the ecosystem.
During the UN General Assembly and Climate Week NYC 2019, Fabrice Inkonkoy, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), had the honor to meet both the president of his home country, Mr. Felix Antoine Tshisekedi, and to translate an in-depth meeting between Tshisekedi and World Wildlife Fund – International (WWF) Director General Marco Lambertini to discuss environmental issues impacting DRC. During the Assembly, leaders spanning four continents pledged their commitment to addressing climate change and mounting threats to global biodiversity. WWF was among agencies calling for an Emergency Declaration for Nature and People with the aim to secure a sustainable future for people and nature. Inkonkoy, himself an employee of WWF in DRC (on leave for the fellowship) working on biodiversity protection and communities abutting conservation felt this was a historic event. He remarked, “[The] declaration would provide the necessary political drive to make 2020 a turning point for people and planet, with nations taking individual responsibility for their global environmental impact.”
Fellows enjoyed the great outdoors on a retreat and visit to the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC). There, they explored environmental research and learned about conservation efforts taking place, which is highly aligned with the environmental work many of the fellows do in their home countries.
As the academic year officially began at UC Davis, the Humphrey Fellows formally introduced themselves to the campus community—many of whom were eager to engage and network with the visiting scholars—by giving public presentations involving their backgrounds and goals for the fellowship.
The month began with coursework and professional development and transitioned to professional and cultural visits in Washington, D.C. along with the annual Global Leadership Forum hosted by the Institute of International Education (IIE). While in the nation’s capital, they presented at and attended meetings at a multitude of departments, including the office of Hon. Representative Ami Bera, U.S. Forest Service International Programs Office, World Resources Institute (WRI), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), U.S. Green Building Council, the World Bank, and more.
In conjunction with the Global Leadership Forum, Humphrey Fellows presented professional work at the U.S. Department of State.
They rounded out their trip by visiting historic sites in the area, including the Smithsonian Museums, the White House and a tour of the U.S. Capitol Building.
Upon returning to Davis, fellows rejoined coursework and professional activities along with presenting on campus, volunteering in the community, and taking part in Global Aggies Day at a UC Davis football game.
Fellows participated in a community multilingual reading of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at International House Davis in honor of Human Rights Day. Each of the thirty articles in the declaration was read in English and another language, which highlighted its global significance. It was a great time to reflect on this powerful document and the continued need for it in our world.
The Humphrey Fellows rounded out 2019 with a multi-day trip highlighting conservation in practice. Starting at Muir Woods National Monument, one of the most visitor-dense sites in the park system, fellows discussed with park managers the merits and disadvantages of various management practices, such as allowing a fallen tree to decompose in place versus using or selling the lumber. The trip also highlighted community conservation efforts. The Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) provided an in-depth look at land trusts as a model, which was paired with a farm and creamery functioning under MALT guidelines, the Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co.