grantees » Bernardo Damián Voloj, 1982

Bernardo  Damián Volo, Argentina

Bernardo is from the Chaco region of Argentina, an area characterized by its rich biodiversity, lush tropical forests and peoples’ integration with nature. As the director for global change at the Argentinian Natural Resources Foundation (FARN) until January 2013, Bernardo advised the public and private sector on sustainable development, including sustainable production, responsible consumption and international environmental policy. Prior to his role at FARN, Bernardo served as a legal adviser to the Undersecretary of Human Rights in Chaco, lectured Environmental Law at the University of Buenos Aires and in 2010 was selected as a ‘Climate Champion’ by the British Council in Argentina. He was also invited by The Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA – Spanish  acronym CEPAL) to discuss Latin American civil society and strategies for addressing climate change in the framework of the COP 16 with the Mexican government and other regional actors.

With such a plethora of experience, but lacking key research skills, Bernardo sought help from the JWH Initiative. He wanted to use his grant to explore the viability and applications of the REDD mechanisms in South America and Sub-Saharan Africa, and to fine-tune his research techniques in doing so.

The objective of Bernardo’s study was to determine the real beneficiaries of the REDD fund. In order to carry out his research in Western Africa, Bernardo first completed a 5 month intensive course in French. Then in 2012 he traveled to Senegal, Mali, The Gambia, and Ghana, where he interviewed relevant NGOs (REDD Watch, Center for International Forestry Research and Accra Croad), CSO professionals, community leaders, activists and government ministries. After three months in Western Africa, Bernardo returned to his native Argentina to carry out similar primary research in the Chaco region. During his research experience Bernardo noticed that, “there are many differences between West Africa and Chaco….while Chaco is very poor, I saw poverty in parts of Africa that is unique. But there are also similarities that give hope – the values of cooperation, solidarity, and sharing what little there is- are apparent on both continents.”

As the topic has not been extensively researched, Bernardo has found that his work is generating quite ‘the buzz’ in academic circles and many await the publication of his report – ‘Mirando Más Allá del Árbol’ (See Beyond the Tree).