To Italy’s Po Delta and back - with insights regarding our very own biosphere reserve

Plett native and NMU George nature conservation student JESSE WILDEMAN responded to a call for applications from the youth in biosphere reserves globally to participate in an international seminar on the subject recently - this is her story

ON Saturday September 16, I began my journey to the Po Delta Biosphere Reserve in the north of Italy. I arrived with no idea of what to expect and high levels of nerves and excitement, having never travelled out of South Africa before.

The Po Delta welcomed approximately 300 young people from many countries around the world to take part in the first-ever Man and Biosphere (MAB) Youth Forum.

The aim of this gathering of youngsters from all over the globe was to explore and find answers to the question: “How can young people be more effectively involved in the MAB programme and in the biosphere reserves’ life?”

The forum kicked off on Monday September 18 with a series of introductory workshops, and an official opening ceremony in the evening, which included an orchestral performance by the Municipal Theatre of Adria.

The following day saw participants engaged in workshops discussing the opportunities and threats within their respective territories, and presenting to the MAB programme coordinators the most recurrent possibilities and issues from reserves around the world, from the perspective of the youth.

In the days that followed, further sessions were held addressing the outcomes of the previous workshop.

Ultimately, we wanted to ascertain how young people could get more involved in the biosphere reserves they represented.

From these workshops, a final declaration for the forum was drafted by the participants with the help of coordinators, which is to be submitted to Unesco’s MAB Programme, and eventually made accessible to biosphere reserves around the world, including our very own Garden Route Biosphere Reserve… Watch this space!

We were lucky to enjoy multiple excursions that gave a better insight into the Po Delta, and how the communities living there are dependent upon and integrated with their biosphere reserve.

These excursions also highlighted the specific challenges and goals for the Po Delta. Participants were taken around the Delta by bicycle, canoe, on foot and by boat, making the most of the beautiful scenery.

Most memorable about the MAB Youth Forum was the potential for youth involvement within biosphere reserves, and I was greatly encouraged by hundreds of my peers from all around the world who have similar values, interests, and hopes for our beautiful planet and the amazing cultures around the globe.

I brought home from Italy a deeper understanding for the need to educate people about Earth’s finite resources, and how we could possibly develop and thrive on our planet in sustainable ways.