Supporting Myanmar’s future conservation leaders: Aung Tun Oo's story



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© Aung Tun Oo
Today’s conservation challenges are more complex than ever before and require advanced skills and knowledge to tackle. This is particularly true of Myanmar, the second most vulnerable country in the world to climate change. Unfortunately, access to higher education in the country is still limited, preventing many committed conservationists from reaching their potential. To reduce these barriers, WWF-Myanmar’s Education for Nature (EFN) program provides fellowships to rising leaders to pursue advanced degrees in conservation-related fields.

EFN fellowships support future conservation leaders like Aung Tun Oo. As a child, Aung Tun Oo experienced first-hand the effects of climate change. Both of his parents are farmers, and he grew up in a rural area close to Myanmar’s dry zone, where water scarcity and changing weather patterns are already a reality.

“My father always loved his land, but his crop production started becoming unstable. When I was growing up there were times when we didn’t have enough water to grow crops, and my father would worry about how we would survive,” he says. “In my region people who rely on agriculture for their livelihoods are already facing difficulties because of climate change. I want to help farmers like my father by finding effective solutions.”

With funding from EFN, Aung Tun Oo is now pursuing a PhD in agriculture and climate change at Ghent University in Belgium. When he completes his studies he will return to Myanmar, where he aspires to influence environmental policy by advising the government on climate change resilience measures. He also hopes to become a lecturer, to share his experience with other committed conservationists.  

“By providing this fellowship WWF isn’t just supporting me: It’s supporting a better future for Myanmar. When I’ve completed my research I’ll go home and share my knowledge to contribute to the development of my country,” he says. “Countries like Myanmar have to tackle the challenges of climate change by ourselves: WWF is just helping us to do that.”

EFN’s goal is to provide access to improved education opportunities and to help conservationists utilize these experiences to advance their conservation work. After completing their studies, 85 percent of fellows worldwide are working at a higher level than before receiving their grant. By creating strong conservation leaders, WWF is building a secure and sustainable future one fellow at a time.

By providing this fellowship WWF isn’t just supporting me: It’s supporting a better future for Myanmar. When I’ve completed my research I’ll go home and share my knowledge to contribute to the development of my country

Aung Tun Oo, EFN Fellow