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Masters in Ecological Economics

Study Tour

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The MSc programme in Ecological Economics is one of only two that has a mandatory study tour in the School of GeoSciences. Further, to my knowledge there is no other programme in applied economics in the UK which has a mandatory study tour element.

As Programme Director I consider the study tour to be an essential element of the Masters programme. It is important to see, discuss and promote the practical implementation of ecological economic tools at local level and to evaluate the challenges and conflicts that need to be addressed. This is also the ethos that underpins the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity D2 global study, for which I am European coordinator. Although some course options in the first two semesters offer shorter (half-day) field trips these are in Edinburgh and its surrounding areas. The main study tour lasts for around 10 days and is usually overseas and in the developing world. This provides an alternative perspective. It normally takes place in April or May.

In previous years the study tour has been in Wales, Greece, Morocco and lately to Kenya and Tanzania. Kenya is an ideal destination:

  1. Issues such as water catchment management, development-conservation conflict (and conflict resolution) are of critical local importance;
  2. I have developed contacts that I can trust to facilitate the discussion of these issues;
  3. I can be sure that appropriate Health and Safety measures are in place. The learning outcomes (coined in terms of what students should achieve from the Kenyan tour) are as follows:
  • demonstrate an understanding of the context for water catchment management across the Mao river basin;
  • synthesise and assess conflicting viewpoints from stakeholders affected by differing models of management of protected areas (semi-private/NGO, community-based, state-regulated);
  • assess through consultation and questioning the impact of conservation measures on sustainable rural livelihoods;
  • consider the application and applicability of payments for ecosystem services through Coasian bargaining.

Although not a learning outcome, I consider the development of social cohesion and informal discussion in a relaxed and convivial atmosphere ('group bonding') to be an important outcome of the study tour. Learning and companionship from within the student cohort is vital and is stimulated by having 10 days together. Many students have elected to stay on in Kenya/Tanzania after the study tour to go on holiday together.

The study tours to East Africa have evolved over the years. You can download a synopsis of the 2006-7 study tour. This synopsis links the content of the tour with some of the theoretical analyses discussed in the two semesters of taught courses. A sample of the academic presentations that provided a context for our visits and discussion during the 2008-9 tour to Kenya is also available:

In 2007-8 we travelled to Tanzania. We were located in Mwanza in the north, near the Serengeti and on the shores of Lake Victoria. Issues that were discussed with local stakeholders, policy-makers and NGOs included:

  • community fisheries management and property rights regimes;
  • trans-boundary management, conflict-resolution and payment for ecosystem services in Lake Victoria;
  • micro-credit generation and gender issues in rural development;
  • micro-generation of energy;
  • economic incentives for the management of the Serengeti as a protected area.

Daniel Koros from WWF Lake Nakuru (Kenya) once more coordinated the trip and so we were able to compare management strategies across the two neighbouring countries. A sample of the presentations that provided a context in Tanzania is also available: