Fighting climate change

Maasai tribe member Valentin Olyang’Iri, from Tanzania is working to protect the habitat that he calls home. Thanks to a Josie Rowland donation, he is now a researcher in land rights issues in Tanzania.

When did you first become interested in conservation? 

I grew up herding cattle in rural Tanzania, so have experienced first-hand the challenges facing my community. I have seen and experienced how farmers and pastoral communities become internally displaced and how conflicts over resources arise. These conflicts occur due to depleted resources in some areas, causing many to move from one place after their environment becomes degraded. In addition, the realities of climate change are increasing tensions and unsettling communities.

What motivated you to apply for the scholarship?

I have a degree in Geography and Environmental Studies from the University of Dar es Salaam. My degree was important, but it became critical for me to undertake further studies. I needed to understand and integrate the theories of environmental governance and to understand how this information could work for local communities.

How did you find the University?

I was so impressed by the talent and commitment among the University’s staff. I had the opportunity to learn from world-class lecturers with different academic and ideological points of view. I began to understand how environmental problems can be looked at completely differently when you keep local communities at the core. We had in-class debates involving both lecturers and students, too. I grew up believing that the lecturer’s position is always the right one, but one year in Manchester completely changed my view of the world.

What did you get from the course?

The course gave me a solid understanding of the relevant theory, and equipped me with the analytical and negotiation skills needed to lobby and advocate for proper environmental policies. My year in Manchester has taught me to be the change I want to see in the world. 

What are your plans for the future?

My ambition is to fill the gaps that exist between communities and policy makers by raising public awareness of environmental governance issues. I also want to be a policy analyst, advising the government to harmonise existing policies to protect the environment and local communities. I hope to disseminate the knowledge I gained in Manchester to the community through media programmes, as well as through formal and informal networking sessions with community leaders, decision makers and NGOs.