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Give One advisor: Linda Engström

The first member of our newly established advisory board, whom we are proud to introduce, is Linda Engström. Now, take a deep breath; with a Ph.D. in rural development and an MSc in ecology, holding a position as a researcher and as a senior environmental advisor to the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, with Swedish roots (like us) and extensive global environmental experience, Linda couldn’t be better qualified to advise the Give One initiative. 

We managed to take up a few minutes of Linda’s busy schedule to find out a little more about the person behind the qualifications.

So, Linda, first of all, we would like to know where your interest in science and the environment originated. From the age of 15, I decided to study apes in the rainforest after watching the movie about Dian Fossey and the mountain gorillas in Central Africa. When I was 25, I was granted a scholarship to fulfill my dream and study the impact of logging on orangutans in the Indonesian rainforests. I stayed there for two years, working closely with people from local villages. That was an immensely important experience for me, both professionally and personally. That was when I truly grasped the importance of understanding people, poverty, and power relations to protect vital ecosystems and species. 

Since then, I have gradually shifted towards social sciences that resulted in my Ph.D. thesis studying how donor-supported, large-scale agricultural investments affected local communities in Tanzania. Broadly, understanding how such global development policies play out on the ground in rural Africa has remained my focus of study.  What attracted you to the Give One mission and a role on the advisory board? It was the opportunity to impact where funding for conservation, climate, and human development is directed, both generally and particularly in the context of Africa. In my research, I have seen a great need for alternative ways of working with conservation that Give One is envisioning, trying to avoid some of the pitfalls of “mainstream” development aid. I hope to assist Give One by sharing the knowledge and experience from my research, field experience, and practical insights into Swedish and global development policy.

What excites you about the future of environmentalism, and what gives you hope for the future of our planet? Many of my colleagues worldwide hold amazing, in-depth knowledge about conservation and climate-related dynamics from various local contexts and understand the interplay with local social, cultural, and political factors. The vision to integrate such rich knowledge to change policy and practice excites me. I feel hopeful and optimistic about our future when I teach university students from all over the world. They are such engaged, well-prepared, and critically thinking individuals with lots of relevant experience to enact change in the future. What one piece of advice would you give to individuals concerned about the environment? Always consider the human dimension of environmental work if you are truly concerned with achieving a lasting impact.