New Book: Sustainable Rural and Urban Ecosystems

Sustainable Rural and Urban EcosystemsDesign, Implementation and Operation

The vision of a truly holistic ecological university was the aim of a joint German-Ghanaian program carried out at Valley View University (biggest private university in Ghana).

Gunther Geller (IOeV, Germany) and Detlev Glücklich (Bauhaus University, Germany), both directly involved in this project, now summarize their experiences in a “Manual for Practice and Study”, published in June 2012 by Springer.

Scope of the book:

These days human beings have a profound influence on aspects of the planetary ecosystem, e.g. on climate change and biodiversity, to name only two. This manual is intended to help practitioners, who are dealing with human-based rural and urban settlement-ecosystems, in the key steps towards their realization (design, implementation, and operation) and helpful for all, who are concerned about ensuring their practical sustainability. The ecosystem-approach is holistic and integrative, encompassing various disciplines like architecture, landscape architecture, environmental engineering, social sciences, life sciences, ecology, and management. It also considers issues such as energy-savings, ecological cycles, reuse, natural resources, socio-cultural background, real participation, and holistic quality management. Thus it not only explains the general concept, the steps of realization and the respective involved stakeholders, but also gives hints and tools for practitioners.

The book:
Details the holistic and integrative design, implementation and operation of human-settlement ecosystems
Concisely introduces the subject of human ecosystems, via an integrative approach
Proposes recommendations, methods and easy adaptable tools for practitioners
The information, recommendations and tools are directed to the following target groups, among others:Local planning authorities (giving hints for the procedure and the involved stakeholders)
Designers (holistic approach, procedures, tools)
Regulatory bodies, licensing and financing authorities (requirements for approach and procedures)
Construction and implementing firms and institutions (recommendations, tools)
Operating bodies (hints for operation, tools)
Bibliographic information:
Sustainable Rural and Urban Ecosystems: Design, Implementation and Operation Like Manual for Practice and Study
Geller, Gunther; Glücklich, Detlef (Eds.) 2012, 2012, X, 159 p. 76 illus., 60 in color.
Hardcover ISBN 978-3-642-28260-7
Price: Euro 106.95


Source: G. Geller via Email

Constructed Wetland on a Roof

Frank van Dien of the Dutch company ECOFYT took part in the Dutch Green Building Award 2012 with his remarkable project “Constructed Green Roof at Berkel-Enschott” – treating domestic wastewater on the roof of the building.

He writes about the project:
“This project is really unique, it’s about purifying waste water on your own roof.
But without odors. With the aid of a green roof (with all the climatic advantages thereof). In a place where people usually do not spend much attention. Without maintenance being required very much (almost everything is automated …)”.

The project was realized by ECOFYT with the client (v. Helvoirt Groenprojecten) and the project partners (SHFT, UNESCO-IHE, contractor Roger Michels, Klostermann Nederland, v. Delft installation, Reytec Innovation Projects, GLC Timber Structures, Équipe for Architecture and Urbanism)”.

Winners of “Reinventing the toilet” challenge

In a move to promote new and affordable dry toilets, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation issued a challenge to universities one year ago. 22 universities took part. The aim was to design toilets that can “capture and process human waste without piped water, sewer or electrical connections, and transform human waste into useful resources, such as energy and water, at an affordable price”. In a press release of August 14, 2012, the winners were named.

The California Institute of Technology in the USA received the 100’000 dollar first prize for designing a solar-powered toilet that generates hydrogen and electricity.

The other three winners were Cranfield University (UK – membranes/vaporisation), Eram Scientific Solutions Private Limited (India – eco-friendly), Research Triangle Institute (USA – biomass energy conversion) and the University of Colorado Boulder (USA – solar toilet producing bio charcoal).

The Swiss team of Tove Larsen (EAWAG) wins a recognition award of USD 40’000.- for their prototype.

This article is based on the press release of August 14, 2012, by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and on an EAWAG press release .

Mukura Forest – an almost lost treasure

Battle against many oddities by an IEES-related organisation.Battle against many oddities by an IEES-related organisation.

The Mukura Forest is located within the Albertine Rift Region in Rwanda’s Western Province, within the Congo-Nile crest. It used to be part of a continuous mountain forest from Nyungwe to the Volcanos Park. Today, this ancient forest range with areas of endemic species in Africa and the world is split in four important protected areas in Rwanda from south to north : the Nyungwe, Mukura and Gishwati forests and the Volcano Park.
Mukura Forest’s mean annual temperature is 15 °C, the average altitude: 2600 m.a.s.l and the mean annual rainfall is 1500 mm (erratic). As the relief is very accidented and the tree cover very low, there is a high risk of sol erosion and thereby land degradation.

Mukura Forest has reserve status since 1951: it then covered 3000 ha. Until today about 50% of the forest’s surface are lost due to deforestation, paralleled with high loss of biodiversity (highly disturbed). Currently, 1600 ha are left. This amounts to an alarming situation which arose for several reasons. The population pressure is high: up to 600 inhabitants per km2 ; this aggravates deforestation and consequently erosion. The level of poverty is high: the monthly income of households is 3 US$ and there is a high vulnerability of children (20% are not going to school). Finally, the current climate variations are increasing the stress on the natural resources which are already overused by the local communities

In this difficult situation the local organisation ARECO-RWANDA NZIZA (Association Rwandaise des Ecologistes), whose national coordiantor is Ms Dancilla Mukakamari, is engaged in several projects aimed at saving the precious rudiments of Mukura Forest to:

  • raise awarness of the local population and schools for sustainable conservation of Mukura Forest reserve
  • promote community based conservation and
  • elaborate a Mukura Forest Management Plan
  • organize workshops e.g. together with REMA (Rwanda Environment Management Authority)
  • support women in agroforestry and fruit trees production.

ARECO works with limited funds from the Netherlands (1999/2000), IUCN (2002-2006) and UNEP (2006).

Main lessons learnt so far :

  • Working with local communities especially women, youth and schools is a key way of sustainable biodiversity conservation and secure livelihoods;
  • Secure livelihoods promotion is a key condition for sustainable conservation;

Future actions

Validation workshop of Mukura Management Plan (2007-2011)
with the following main priorities:

  • Buffer zone creation and management (115 ha) with bambous species;
  • Rehabilitation of 120 ha inside the forest.

Conclusion and recommendations of ARECO-RWANDA NZIZA

Supporting women and youth groups for sustainable conservation is ARECO’s priority;
Donors assistance is highly recommended for sustainable achievements.

Comment by Brigitta Züst

IEEC works on many environmental problems all over the world. But are we able to help preservimg an ancient forest with endemic species? If such forest are lost, it is lost forever. Get in contact with Dancilla, with ARECO-RWANDA, show interest, go and visit, it is thouroughly worthwhile.

Text based on informations from

Dancilla Mukakamari, National Coordinator, Kigali Rwanda. email :
Urs Bloesch, Natural resource management, CH-2502 Biel, email:


Dancilla Mukakamari, National Coordinator, Kigali Rwanda.
email :

Room for Urban Agriculture in Rotterdam

Since 2007 a group of citizens in Rotterdam (The Netherlands) has been active under the name Eetbaar Rotterdam (Edible Rotterdam). Coming from different disciplines this expert group has been stimulating and initiating urban agriculture in Rotterdam, because they believe urban agriculture can greatly benefit the city.

This independent research was recently presented to a wide range of local and regional actors. The English summary of this highly interesting work is available here:

Interesting TEDx Talk on Aquaponics

In a TEDx talk on Aquaponics of March 2011, Charlie Price of Aquaponics UK explores the role aquaponics can play in the future of our collective food supply. His nice, clear and interesting presentation is available on YouTube!

Cool design: The Phyto-Purification Bathroom

Phyto BathroomJun Yasumotos Phyto-Purification Bathroom is a nice design draft of a very small, very local, very closed-cycle, ecologically engineered private bathroom system. The aim of it was, to “bring to public knowledge this kind of water recycling process and eventually start a debate over the possibility to integrate it inside our houses”, he writes.

I like his draft a lot, because it gets me thinking. It looks beautiful! Can this possibly work? It looks so simple…

Well, for working properly, the system would quite obviously require people without any hair that aren’t really dirty. But that does not matter. It is a wonderful, intriguing test piece for students of all ages to discuss with them the basic principles of ecological engineering. It is a “communication project”, in Jun Yasomotos words. I am looking forward to trying it out as case study in the classroom!

Thanks to Jun Yasumoto and I’m hoping for some more design of this kind.

Andreas Schoenborn

Comment on: Can nuclear power be part of the solution?

In its recent edition, The Solutions Journal asks this question in the context of the Fukushima disaster (Vol. 2, Issue 3, Apr 05, 2011 ).

The authors R. Costanza, C. Cleveland, B. Cooperstein and I. Kubiszewski argue that the external costs of the nuclear need to be reflected in the prices for electricity generated by all power plants. Costs for the risk of accidents, the safe disposal of waste and for climate impacts. They conclude that the market mechanism will help to find out “whether nuclear power plants, or some subset of nuclear power plants, should be part of the energy solution”.

The proposal is somewhat convincing on the economical level. However, it completely overestimates our ability to imagine or even control the development, the needs, wishes and abilities of human societies in the future. If Nebukadnezar would have had nuclear power plants, we would still have to keep a watch on his nuclear wastes, with absolutely no benefit for us.

Is there any good reason at all to burden our descendants with such a task? Economical or not?

Andreas Schoenborn
IEES News editor

Fish production in the “city of the future”?

Small AquaponicThe potential of urban farming to help feed future generations is more and more recognized today. Rooftop- or backyard gardening, small and medium-scale aquaponic facilities run near waste heat sources, urban community gardening or even multi-stories farming in urban areas are going mainstream (again).

In this article we are introducing some of the work in this field that has been done at the Institute of Natural Resource Science (INRS) of the Zurich University of Applied Sciences in Waedenswil, Switzerland.

Vertical Farming – an update in “The Economist”

“The Economist” of Dec. 9, 2010, critically analyzes the Vertical Farm concept, as it is being promoted by Dr. Dickson Despommier. The authors highlight the claims and difficulties of this daring vision and point ways how parts of it could be realized in our inner cities.

Full article:
More about the Vertical Farm concept: