A new year and a new start

Published: 2023-01-31

Whaw, what a year 2022 was! After having survived and structurally addressed COVID-19, the world was faced with Putin’s war and the crises that started from there. Here in Sweden, foreign policy evolved in the direction of the country’s integration into NATO, but a change in government also put international development cooperation further under pressure. In the midst of this turmoil, IFS continued to ‘provide’ to the best of its capacities thanks to its very committed staff – you will see from the report the figures and numbers that testify of this.

Nighisty Ghezae, IFS DirectorIn 2022, we also celebrated our 50th Anniversary, together with representatives of our global constituency. Workshops inspired us for our way forward, including trying to secure new sponsors, and alternative sources of finance to support our activities. All these ideas should soon materialize in what we have called the IFS 2.0 new strategy that will be shared during 2023 with our community at large.

During the November anniversary event and in December’s blog post, we featured our grantees monumental efforts that are a living proof of IFS unique mandate and position when it comes to supporting early-career scientists from the global South. Be assured that we, at the secretariat and board, will continue to further IFS’ mandate in the coming transition year/s.

However, at the end of the year we had to say goodbye to our long-serving Director, dr. Nighisty Ghezae, who retired. For more than 15 years, she worked with and for, and contributed a lot to IFS, fulfilling IFS’ vision and mission, first for eight years as Head of Programme and then seven years as Director. I think you have known Nighisty for her unwavering enthusiasm, collaborating with the Board, staff, SAC members, partners, donors or supporters, and supporting our many grantees over the globe. Let me express our gratitude to Nighisty for her long-lasting commitment, and hereby also wish her all the best for her post-IFS life: vive valeque !

Her departure did not come as a complete surprise so that we had ample time to develop a ‘coping strategy’, and plan for the two remaining years. So, I am confident that at the level of the secretariat we remain focused and committed to help further the career of early-career researchers in Low- and Lower-Middle-Income Countries of the Global South. I am sure that we will succeed with your help and support !

On another albeit similar note, a number of things seem to be moving on the international ‘aid’ front. Indeed, both COP 27 (climate change) and COP 15 (biodiversity) seem to have raised the interest of a number of donor organizations on the need to focus on indigenous and local communities as they are the first hit by changing climatic conditions and loss in biodiversity. On the other hand, these communities have also developed and acquired a variety of coping strategies that, in numerous cases, have been forgotten, and ignored by both scientists and development organizations. Documenting these strategies, and starting from them to further develop them, integrating them with newer techniques, might well provide the missing links to try and cope with climatic change, and increase local communities’ resilience.

In the past, IFS has financed lots of grantees that were (and still are) working on the broad thematics of climatic change and biodiversity. Even more so, a number of IFS’ board members have a past and present in ethnobotany (dr. Assobadjo, dr. Moraes and myself), in ecology and botany (dr. Moraes), ecology and the water environment (dr. Beveridge),… Moreover, a number of them have benefitted in the past from IFS grants (bolded names), being a clear sign that IFS has been ahead of current developments by supporting cutting edge and ground breaking research on the ‘themes of-the-day’. In the specific case of ethnobotany, or when supporting studies on traditional water harvesting techniques, IFS has also been close to the local realities of traditional and indigenous communities. Even more so, through its direct support of early-career researchers from the South that are often coming from or have a close contact with these local, indigenous communities, IFS has a wealth of experiences to share with those organizations, such as FAO (!), that want to start engaging with this type of communities. Let these few lines inspire and motivate them to contact us to collaborate with IFS !

This being said, and with the present state of affairs where we are in a two-years phasing out period (with SIDA’s financial support ending by the end of 2024), we had to come up with efficient way of distributing the workload over the different remaining staff members. In this respect, it was decided that I would take up the function of interim director helping out with day-to-day management of the organization, and trying to find these much-wanted external funds to help us continue in what we have called IFS 2.0. I must admit that I can only do this with the continuous and enthusiastic support of IFS’ staff, but also of its Board of Trustees. Let’s make this a successful year ! 

For the rest of 2023’s blog posts, we will follow a pick from UN Calendar days to highlight research by IFS grantees who contribute significantly to changes worldwide through their commitment to scientific advancements and their enthusiasm to learn and to work with others.

With thanks 

Dr. ir. Patrick Van Damme
Chair of the IFS Board of Trustees
Interim-director of IFS


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