United Nations accepts student's $1 million proposal

Tomm Mandryk.A fourth-year Environment student’s project proposal to the United Nations requesting $1 million to address environmental and developmental issues in a Botswana community received the green light this month.

Tomm Mandryk is currently completing his eight-month work placement for the International Development Studies (INDEV) program in Botswana, Africa, where he is working for the Ngamiland Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (NCONGO) as the Assistant Sector Coordinator of Conservation and Livelihoods Sector.

During his placement, Tomm was asked by his executive director to act as project-lead on “The project for sustainable natural resources management and improved livelihoods in Ngamiland.” This macro project spanning across three regions, strives to address both environmental and developmental issues. After meetings, consultation, research, field visits and reviewing land management plans, Tomm personally designed a component of the project that focused on Lake Ngami.

Fish resources are being unsustainably exploited and the lake polluted through poor fishing methods. Many that rely on the lake for its resources are poor fishermen from rural communities across Botswana. As such, they do not have the means to acquire proper fishing equipment. They use such things as car batteries to weigh down their nets, causing leakages and in most cases, permanent deposition of batteries in the lake. By doing this, they adversely affect the very resources they seek to exploit. – Tomm Mandryk

Tomm credits the International Development program for preparing him for this experience, in many ways. Being in the Faculty of Environment allowed him to undertake an interdisciplinary education and thus helping him to develop a passion for conservation ecology and environmental studies. He also credits one of his professors, Dr. Larry Swatuk, for illustrating the connections between the private sector, NGOs, and the government, early on in his studies.

We have a phenomenal group of faculty with various backgrounds that each bring their own unique course to the program. The INDEV program also provides its students with various forms of non-academic support. The program's partnership with St. Paul's University College is especially in the interest of students. Through fundraising efforts and various other streams, St. Paul's provides us with a scholarship during the year of our placement to help with associated costs. It further provides us residence during the four month spring term prior to embarking on field placement. This not only provides us with free meals and a free place to live, but also acts to bring the small cohort of about 25 development practitioners closer together, and develops life-long relationships. - Tomm Mandryk

Tomm’s performance in his role was so outstanding that he was offered a two-year contract to continue overseeing this project. Tomm has turned down this offer.

By not taking this job, it speaks to something profound… that in this fast developing southern African country, there is great ownership and accountability of projects, natural resources and heritage. Employing a Motswana (singular of a person who resides in Botswana) ensures greater ownership of project activities and provides a vital career path for an upcoming individual. There is a great knowledge bank here. Sometimes it's just a small kick-start or boost that is needed to make things happen. I got the ball rolling - now it's someone else’s turn to take it and run with it from here. – Tomm Mandryk

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