International Training Centre
for Environmental Research

ITCER e.V. (2017) and ITCER Kenya (2018) are non-profit, privately sponsored partner organisations in the tertiary education sector, focusing on scientific research, teaching and outreach in an international training centre in Siaya County in Western Kenya (see Location)

Background

East Africa’s natural ecosystems are rapidly degrading due to unsustainable exploitation and mismanagement resulting from an unprecedented human population increase combined with land use practices that are not sufficiently adapted to the adverse effects of climate change. Identifying solutions to the environmental problems requires a new class of managers with practical skills that enable timely identification and assessment of current and emerging indicators of unsustainable land use practices, which lead to land degradation.

Biodiversity in eastern Africa’s is globally significant, not only for the exceptional number of species, but also for the high level of reliance on these species by local communities. Biodiversity is under threat in Kenya for the same underlying reason as anywhere else in the world. Three quarters of the population and 80% of the forests reside in one fifth of the total land area. Biological resource wealth and alternative human land use are strongly correlated creating potential conflict in interest.

Kenya has biological and physical resources that are of considerable domestic, international, economic and intrinsic value. It is estimated that the country has 35,000 known species of animals, plants and microorganisms. This wealth is fundamental to Kenya’s prosperity in many ways for example as a source of employment and foreign exchange earnings. Life and economy are based on natural resources such as water, rocks and soils. These and their ecosystems are increasingly under pressure from unsustainable use resulting in erosion, pollution, and depletion. Biological resources, which are sources of medicine, food, income, shelter and fuel, are only assured if sustainably used. The level of institutional awareness is encouraging. There is therefore need to educate and raise awareness of the general public on these matters. To meet the challenges and requirements of protection, conservation, and management of biodiversity, whilst containing and preventing the loss of biodiversity, the government is already addressing itself to specific management policies and measures, enforce current laws on biodiversity, formulate land use plans/ tenures and develop systems for rehabilitation and restoration.

Climate change, combined with reduced resilience (amongst other things) exacerbates the already existing challenges and increases pressure on mountain people and ecosystems in Kenya and it’s neighbouring countries. Climate change further leads to flooding, droughts and soil erosion. Hence, there is need to mitigate climate change effect by promoting grass-root actions to build community resilience.

ITCER’s role

  • To offer high quality, use case-based training in environmental sciences for postgraduate students (MSc and PhD level) from Kenya and neighbouring countries.
  • To act as an outreach centre for concepts and materials to implement up-to-date environmental knowledge in tertiary institutions as well as to inform key actors and the local community in Kenya and its neighbour countries.
  • To improve the long-term conservation and sustainable use of natural resources
  • To generate income for the sustainability of its members
  • To promote community development through resource self-sufficiency
  • To carry out sustainable agriculture planning and development activities within the community.
  • To sustainably cultivate indigenous mushroom species and sensitize communities on mushroom and tree conservation, mushroom identification and uses.
  • To encourage group farming especially in food crop production, animal husbandry and fish farming and other self-help activities.
  • To work in close collaboration with related organizations, village development committees and other NGOs.
  • To enhance capacity building of its members by organizing and attending training workshops and conferences.
  • To carry out scientific research in related fields to improve on production skills and facilities.



Environmental Science Research and Training

Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: integrate sustainable management of natural to enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services for community livelihoods and human well-being.

Climate Change: facilitate regional mechanisms for assessing and addressing the impacts of climate change and promote grass-root actions to build community resilience.

Sustainable Agriculture: work with communities to promote sustainable agriculture.

Strategic approaches

Engaging strategic partnerships with leading players and facilitate regional collaboration and networking for better environmental, climate and  conservation action as well as community empowerment

Development of a regional reference centre for information on environmental, climate change, biodiversity conservation and sustainable development

Partnering with and empowering grass-roots community-based groups; and, working with responsible industries and companies to promote corporate social and environmental responsibility

Actions

Many higher education curricula focus more on theoretical aspect and have a gap in teaching of practical skills in newest methods. ITCER will fill this gap by providing relevant training units that combine theoretical and practical expertise with skills for field sampling, ecological modeling, detection, quantification, sequencing and analysis of environmental variables critical for sustainable ecosystem management. ITCER will launch a locally and internationally accredited training programme with courses designed to address current and future environmental and ecological challenges of the region, such as Biodiversity: Sustainable Use and Conservation; Water Quality and Soil Management; Climate Change and its Consequences; Landscape and Hydroscape Restoration; Human health and Ecosystem Services; Pollution and Remediation; Environmental Data Management; and many more. In general, the addressed topics are defined around the Sustainable Development Goals and the regional government agenda, including Africa 2063.

In a nutshell,

  1. ITCER facilitates networking with local, national and international players to enhance sustainable development through information and experience sharing.
  2. ITCER empowers it’s network through policy dialogue, capacity building and policy engagement when implementing it’s work. ITCER works with all kinds of organizations including NGOs/CBOs, academic institutions, governments, industries, companies and business.
  3. ITCER’s activities on the ground take an integrated landscape approach focusing mainly on environmental science research and training, protecting biodiversity and enhancing ecosystem services, mitigating impact of climate change, and building shared vision among stakeholders to address threats.

Organizational Structure

ITCER is a regional organisation, registered in Germany and Kenya as an international NGO. ITCER has a Board of Directors comprised of elected Board members. These Board members include representatives from Kenya and other international experts from different countries. Within the Board of Directors, a Management Committee is responsible for overseeing and reviewing ITCER progress. The Management Committee is comprised of the Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Treasurer and Secretary to the Board, plus the Executive Director. In terms of staff capacity, ITCER has a team of 10 professional staff headed by the Executive Director.

Members and memberships

The members of ITCER e.V. and ITCER Kenya have so far been recruited mainly from members of the universities of Maseno and Bondo (JOUUST) (Kenya) and the universities of Bayreuth, Hohenheim, and Karlsruhe (Germany), as well as private individuals with a connection to environmental diagnostics, environmental protection, and public relations.

ITCER e.V. and ITCER Kenya themselves will become partners and members in various other organisations, which will be listed here.

ITCER’s role

  • To offer high quality, use case-based training in environmental sciences for postgraduate students (MSc and PhD level) from Kenya and neighbouring countries.
  • To act as an outreach centre for concepts and materials to implement up-to-date environmental knowledge in tertiary institutions as well as to inform key actors and the local community in Kenya and its neighbour countries.
  • To improve the long-term conservation and sustainable use of natural resources
  • To generate income for the sustainability of its members
  • To promote community development through resource self-sufficiency
  • To carry out sustainable agriculture planning and development activities within the community.
  • To sustainably cultivate indigenous mushroom species and sensitize communities on mushroom and tree conservation, mushroom identification and uses.
  • To encourage group farming especially in food crop production, animal husbandry and fish farming and other self-help activities.
  • To work in close collaboration with related organizations, village development committees and other NGOs.
  • To enhance capacity building of its members by organizing and attending training workshops and conferences.
  • To carry out scientific research in related fields to improve on production skills and facilities.

Environmental Science Research and Training

Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: integrate sustainable management of natural to enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services for community livelihoods and human well-being.

Climate Change: facilitate regional mechanisms for assessing and addressing the impacts of climate change and promote grass-root actions to build community resilience.

Sustainable Agriculture: work with communities to promote sustainable agriculture.

Strategic approaches

Engaging strategic partnerships with leading players and facilitate regional collaboration and networking for better environmental, climate and  conservation action as well as community empowerment

Development of a regional reference Centre for information on environmental, climate change, biodiversity conservation and sustainable development

Partnering with and empowering grass-roots community-based groups; and, working with responsible industries and companies to promote corporate social and environmental responsibility

Actions

Many higher education curricula focus more on theoretical aspect and have a gap in teaching of practical skills in newest methods. ITCER will fill this gap by providing relevant training units that combine theoretical and practical expertise with skills for field sampling, ecological modeling, detection, quantification, sequencing and analysis of environmental variables critical for sustainable ecosystem management. ITCER will launch a locally and internationally accredited training programme with courses designed to address current and future environmental and ecological challenges of the region, such as Biodiversity: Sustainable Use and Conservation; Water Quality and Soil Management; Climate Change and its Consequences; Landscape and Hydroscape Restoration; Human health and Ecosystem Services; Pollution and Remediation; Environmental Data Management; and many more. In general, the addressed topics are defined around the Sustainable Development Goals and the regional government agenda, including Africa 2063.

In a nutshell,

  1. ITCER facilitates networking with local, national and international players to enhance sustainable development through information and experience sharing.
  2. ITCER empowers it’s network through policy dialogue, capacity building and policy engagement when implementing it’s work. ITCER works with all kinds of organizations including NGOs/CBOs, academic institutions, governments, industries, companies and business.
  3. ITCER’s activities on the ground take an integrated landscape approach focusing mainly on environmental science research and training, protecting biodiversity and enhancing ecosystem services, mitigating impact of climate change, and building shared vision among stakeholders to address threats.

Recent Publications

The activities within the framework of ITCER research on site and in the surrounding area are resulting in the first publications:

  • Gkoutselis, G.M., Rohrbach, S., Harjes, J., Obst, M., Brachmann, A., Horn, M., Rambold, G: Microplastics accumulate fungal pathogens in terrestrial ecosystems, Scientific Reports (2021). doi:10.1038/s41598-021-92405-7

Organizational Structure

ITCER is a regional organisation, registered in Germany and Kenya as an international NGO. ITCER has a Board of Directors comprised of elected Board members. These Board members include representatives from Kenya and other international experts from different countries. Within the Board of Directors, a Management Committee is responsible for overseeing and reviewing ITCER progress. The Management Committee is comprised of the Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Treasurer and Secretary to the Board, plus the Executive Director. In terms of staff capacity, ITCER has a team of 10 professional staff headed by the Executive Director.

Members and memberships

The members of ITCER e.V. and ITCER Kenya have so far been recruited mainly from members of the Kenyan universities of Maseno, Bondo (JOUUST) (Kenya) and the universities of Bayreuth, Hohenheim, and Karlsruhe (Germany), as well as private individuals with a connection to environmental diagnostics, environmental protection, and public relations.

Activities

Educational Concept and Planning

ITCER bases its educational programme on lecturers mainly from Germany, but not exclusively, who voluntarily share their specific expertise in particular state-of-the-art methods used in environmental research to students from Kenya and its neighbouring countries. Courses are short-term and will take place at the training centre including lab and field work. The lecturers will provide detailed information on their courses offered, which will be assessed by a management committee comprising Kenyan and German ITCER members for conforming to the ITCER statutes and for quality control. Interested students are welcome to apply for a certain course and are selected based on their background. For needy students, fee structure may be subsidised based on need and available funds. Accreditation of the course programme by the Commission for University Education (CUE; Nairobi, Kenya) is strongly aspired to issue certificates showing credit points that are recognized by the students’ home universities. Evaluation of the actual course programme and student admission is constantly administered by the management committee.

Programme

The envisaged academic learning programme is three-fold, as we will offer

  1. Teaching modules over a period of 2 weeks with up to 15 MSc and PhD students per course: these training courses will combine diagnostics and measures by conveying skills in newest methods and their application in particular use cases.
  2. One-day educational seminars to target groups informing and sensitizing them on state-of-the-art methodologies and approaches, and on relevant scientific outcomes.
  3. Selected scientific talks and engagement with the local community to encourage participation in ITCER’s work on socially relevant issues of conserving and restoring the natural environment.

In addition, based on demands arising from the targeted training and the cooperation with universities in Western Kenya and beyond, scientific projects may be identified driving the use cases-based training approach to a further, more intense level of capacity enhancement in Kenya and its neighbouring countries.

Examples of Training Courses

ITCER courses offer training and skills in the fields of vegetation science and conservation, plant pathology and parasitology, omics-driven microbial ecology, soil science and hydrology, biological informatics and data management, GIS-analysis and remote sensing.

  • Biodiversity and Conservation (cellular, species, and ecosystem levels) ... more
  • Soil and Water Conservation ... more
  • Plant Pathology will address mycology, bacteriology and nematology. The training is intended to focus on sample collection from infected crops and plants and morphological, cultural, molecular studies and control measures will be demonstrated. This training will provide solutions to ensure food security and provide basic knowledge on the pathogen biology.
  • Environmental Data Management ... more

Apply for a Course

(Functional as soon as training courses are announced)

Donation

Membership and Donations

ITCER welcomes everyone interested in contributing to the training and communication of environmental science relevant for local communities in East Africa. As non-profit organisation in the tertiary education sector, ITCER’s functioning depends on a lively community of active, academic and non-academic members and on financial support by the members and by donations. Financial resources are required for site management, further construction and equipment, as well as the support of training course participants.

Photo Gallery

© JO

Main Building 25.11.2021

© JO

Water tanks 09.02.2021

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Water tank tower 25.05.2021

© JO

Building I 25.05.2021

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ITCER staff to start activities 14.11.2020

© JO

Veranda 20.05.2021

© JO

Secretary room 20.05.2021

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Office 20.05.2021

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Seminar room 08-10-2021

© JO

Laboratory 12-11-2021

© JO

Demarcated plots on site 09-10-2021

© DM

Measurement devices on site 09-10-2021

© JO

Insect hotel on site 24-04-2021

© JO

Water pond on site 27-11-2021

Roadmap

The ITCER facilities are developing with time. While the plot of land was purchased in 2016 and construction of the first building (hosting lab and seminar room) started in June 2018 (both financed via private financial means), the final finishes to the building are expected for mid-2020. This allows us to now begin developing and arranging for the academic learning programme in collaboration with universities in Western Kenya and with responsible governmental bodies. In order to run the courses (the first foreseen in 2nd half of 2020), first donations are sought for equipping “Building I” with IT and scientific laboratory equipment. In addition, more funding will be required to build a dormitory and later also a lecture hall (see Donation).

Location

LOCATION OF TRAINING CENTRE

ITCER is placed in Ng’iya along the road leading to Nyang’oma Kogelo. As such it is located in Siaya County in Western Kenya, 60 km by road from Kisumu at Lake Victoria (see Site map).

The location is characterised by a developed public infrastructure (transport, water, electricity). The site can be reached by public transport, and internationally from the airport in Nairobi with domestic flights to Kisumu. ITCER is placed in proximity to diverse natural ecosystems such as savanna, rainforest, and wetlands, which serve as training grounds for the field work.

Contact

ITCER e. V.

A non-profit association according to the German law
Seat of the association in Bayreuth, Germany
Registered by Amtsgericht Bayreuth in July, 2016

Raabestraße 3
95444 Bayreuth, Germany
Email: ITCER@gmx.net
IBAN: DE02 7735 0110 0038 0896 11

ITCER Kenya

A non-profit NGO according to the Kenyan law
Seat of the association in Siaya, Kenya
Registered by NGO Coordination Board Nairobi in September, 2017

P.O. Box 300
Siaya 40600, Kenya
Email: ITCER-Kenya@gmx.net