NbS: Nature-based Solutions alternatively, Notta-bad Summer

Ha noi means between rivers. That was clear when crossing over the bridge from Noi Bai International Airport into the capital of Viet Nam, Hanoi. While the location name of my fellowship was clear, the work I would be doing was less well-defined.

The Terms of Reference outlining the details of the project I would be working on were broad, though intentionally, as the project was just beginning. After a few days of UN onboarding modules, I got settled into a scoping project for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to submit to the Global Environment Facility (GEF) 8.

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GEF finances projects aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change. The UNDP’s GEF8 proposal is looking to harness nature-based solutions (NbS) in the Mekong Delta. These NbS use “soft” or “green” infrastructure to leverage the power of healthy ecosystems to protect people and safeguard a stable and biodiverse future. It has been fun having the time to deep dive and focus on a project that has the potential to become a reality; accessing the tradeoffs and feasibility of different “blue carbon,” coastal and ocean ecosystems, such as mangroves, corals, seagrasses, and mudflats which are all endemic to the region and then synthesizing that information into reports. The proposal feels like the perfect intersection of my Environmental Science bachelors, my International Environmental Policy masters, and past research. In addition to the work, everyone is incredibly welcoming and supportive. It has also been exciting that, in Viet Nam, all of the various UN agencies are in the same office, so stepping into the elevator one can speak (briefly) to someone from UNICEF, UNESCO, FOA, etc. Being in this amalgam has allowed me to participate in UN-wide learning programs, webinars, and events.

I haven’t had too much free time; people here work late! But I’ve explored a bit of Hanoi’s food scene, become obsessed with <3 coconut coffee <3, and last weekend took a trip up to the northern region of Sa Pa. I stayed in a homestay and the two sisters (Mau and Sou) took me trekking through the rice paddies where we saw water buffalo, views of other villages, and some agroforestry with green tea!

All in all the CBE fellowship with the UNDP working on NbS has felt surreal. I’m so grateful that I have this opportunity and look forward to what I will learn the rest of summer. 

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