It’s no secret that we have problems in Egypt — economic, political and social — which sends a topic such as biodiversity down to the end of the list of priorities. However, one of the most important natural resources in Egypt is biodiversity and it is in continual loss and degradation. Biodiversity provides key resources for the population: food, shoreline protection and stabilization, and economic benefits from tourism. It can be greatly enhanced by human activities; however, it can also be adversely impacted by such activities due to unsustainable use or by more profound causes linked to development models.

Egypt is highly dependable on tourism as a source of foreign income. Yet due to unsustainable development, the ecosystem has been disrupted causing loss of biodiversity. Hence, the need for biodiversity conservation — the practice of protecting and preserving the wealth and variety of species, habitats, ecosystems, and genetic diversity on the planet — is important for our health, wealth, food, fuel, and services we depend on. It plays an integral role in supporting many sectors of development.

Unfortunately Egypt lacks biodiversity studies either in schools or in universities — even in my Masters program there is no biodiversity related courses, therefore there is lack of experts in this topic to help conserve our ecosystems… which brings us to the reason behind my joining an SFS program. The program was a great addition to my studies, knowledge, and experience, which will be an added value to my Masters program and will bring me one step closer to my career goal, which is raising awareness about sustainable development through education.

Studying Costa Rica’s biodiversity conservation model helped me understand how a fellow developing country was able to do so and how we would be able to replicate such a model in Egypt, taking into consideration the cultural and biodiversity differences between both countries. I was able to bring back home significant hands-on experience in an area that is still to be explored at the Sustainable Development graduate program at The American University in Cairo.

The structure of the summer course was very compact with field trips, readings, research, and experiments, which was very interesting and challenging. Also, on a personal level it was a challenging month, since the location was very different from my hometown. I think I have conquered my biggest phobia in life (insects), and I also feel I was able to withstand a lot of living circumstances that I didn’t know I could. Furthermore, living sustainably added a simpler perspective on life and gave me the tools and experience in order to be able to implement it back home.