Marwa has a thing for big cities and in particular she has a thing for Berlin and it seems that Berlin has something new and interesting every year for Marwa. This year Marwa returned to Berlin on a DAAD scholarship to attend both the University of Potsdam summer school on international nutrition: Future Food and FENS 15, the International European Nutrition Conference.
Berlin stands on the vast European plain in North Eastern Germany on the banks of the river spree. Its history has been one of triumph and tragedy, tyranny and transformation. Brought to her knees by two world wars and then divided throughout much of the cold world; Berlin has re-emerged blossoming into one of the world’s economic and creative powerhouses. With a population of only 3.5 million, Berlin enjoys an air of spaciousness not found in many other European capitals and is an incredibly green city both physically and politically. At times it feels to me as if the city was built just to fill in the gaps between its many parks, forests and lakes.
A legacy of Berlin’s checkered history is a cityscape of every imaginable architectural style. From the gothic to the baroque, from the socialist to the futuristic yet somehow it all works MAGNIFICENTLY.
The Brandenburg gate rose in the 18th century as a symbol of peace, it was battered in the Second World War, then isolated by the division of Berlin before becoming the rallying point during the joyous days of the reunification.A block to the north -the Reichstag, is also a symbol of a Berlin reborn. Gutted by fire in 1933 and reduced to rubble during the fall of Berlin, today the transparent dome provides its visitors with a bird’s eye view of the city. On her last day in Berlin and while strolling the streets of Berlin ,Marwa saw the German Chancellor Angela Merkel arriving at her office steps away from the Reichstag.
The summer school agenda was very interesting and diverse. We attended lectures by professors, researchers and professionals who spoke to us about their efforts -each within his field- in how to diversify food production systems and increase food quality and production scalability. We, the DAAD Alumni were also given the chance to tell others about our current research activities. Of course Marwa had to tell them about her good old friends: the black soldier flies 🙂 I was happy that my talk was well received and has given the people to think of insects from another perspective rather than just being yucky unwanted creatures.
During the summer school, we went to the cinema to watch the documentary 10 Billion – What’s on your plate? By Valentin Thurn and the best thing is that we had the whole cinema for ourselves. Valentin Thurn through his film seeks for global solutions to the greatest challenge of the 21st century which is how to feed the 10 billion who are expected to live on planet Earth by 2050.He looks into futuristic visions and solutions such including artificial meat, insects and industrial farming as well as trendy self-cultivation. To be honest, the documentary provoked many questions rather than providing me with simple answers and it made me visualize the challenge we are facing when it comes to producing more food in a sustainable and cost effective way.
The summer school’s interesting agenda also included an excursion to Berlin’s EFC farm, the largest European urban aquaponics farm. EFC is a unique farm that combines agriculture with hydroponics. The plants and vegetables are fertilized by the water in the air and the resulting harvest known as microgreens are sold at the farm shop. We had a tomato’s taste session at the farm shop and believe me those tomatoes tasted really good. Although the system is environmental friendly and efficient in terms of water and nutrients consumptions, Marwa has doubts about affordability and scalability and whether such a system would be useful and sufficient to meet up with the growing demands.
Following our excursion to the farm, we had a paleo lunch at Berlin’s Eat Performance. Paleo food is a diet based on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans, consisting chiefly of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit, and excluding dairy or grain products and processed food. To be honest, the lunch was delicious and the staff were very friendly and we had a great time. The restaurant itself housed in what seemed to me like an abandoned warehouse building and it has a very distinctive atmosphere.
Following the summer school, we got the chance to attend FENS 15 which was a chance to learn more about nutrition’s direct influence on human health. Many talks and workshops were taking place at the same time and Marwa wished if she had some spare replicates to attend the whole program on her behalf J Marwa was keen on attending talks related to food regulations, policies and consumption patterns. She believes that science alone can’t solve issues and therefore scientists should work side by side with policy makers, legislators and behavior social scientists in order to allow humans make profit out of scientific innovations and explorations.
On her last few days in Berlin, Marwa started having some mixed emotions. She was ready to return back to her work and routine yet it was difficult for her to leave a city that she has so many beautiful memories in almost every famous quarter of it. She met up with some of her good old friends who happened to be in Berlin too and they had hot chocolates, Russian honey cakes and pizza bites too. Although the weather was cold and foggy, she had to take a walk in Tempelhof which happens to be a deserted airport turned into a public park. She doesn’t know when will Tempelhof be developed into a perhaps housing estates project but all what she knows that she won’t get the liberty and privilege of walking along an empty runaway everyday.
The flight back to Nairobi was smooth and fast. Marwa spent most of the time rejoicing the great time she had in Berlin and kept on wondering: why can’t everywhere else on this planet be as organized as Germany?
Marwa is very thankful to Prof Dr. Florian J. Schweigert and his two wonderful helping hands Dr.Ina Henkel and Ms. Katrin Kuehn for their hospitality and the great program they organized for us and to the DAAD for financing this participation.