Drawing on Danish sustainability practices to inspire solutions in African countries

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During a NIRAS-facilitated course and related field visits in September, participants from five different countries familiarised themselves with Danish sustainability approaches and NIRAS’s tools

October 14, 2021

The Danida Fellowship Centre (DFC) manages and implements support of capacity development in Danish-funded programmes and projects worldwide. Since 2008, DFC has contracted NIRAS to  develop and implement a number of its learning programmes, which senior NIRAS consultants, Henrik Borgtoft Pedersen and Annegrete Lausten, have managed. The programmes are directly linked to Danish engagements across the globe, specifically capacity-building in partner countries.

50 courses

have been arranged by NIRAS since 2008

around 1000

people from around the globe have participated

You can read more about the Danida Fellowship Centre here.

Aimed at inspiring 14 participants from Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya and Mali to focus more on climate and environmentally friendly solutions  in their daily work and in policy and business development, the ‘Green Growth, Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability’ learning programme took place in September.

With the aim of showing that consideration of climate and environmental issues is not just a requirement for authorities, the course illustrated how this area holds opportunities for new businesses to develop and prosper; it can result in cost-savings in the production process and is fundamental to the sustainable development of a country.

Site visits as catalysts for learning

During the course, excursions were arranged to a number of destinations including Østergro, which is a rooftop farm in Copenhagen’s climate neighbourhood, as well as to Damhusåens waste water treatment plant, which combines waste water treatment with biogas, heat  and electricity production as well as environmental education for schools.

The participants also paid a visit to Solrød Biogas plant ‒ which produces biogas from a number of different “waste” products from industries, households, farms, and even from seaweed from the beach ‒ and the town of Lystrup’s sub-urban climate adaptation, among many other places. In between the trips, there were classroom teaching and group work.


“We do these excursion-based courses because we don’t think it makes sense to fly people to Denmark if they will be spending most of their time in a class room,” says Henrik who has been involved in training activities throughout his career. “We then use the excursions in our case-based learning – that way, they become catalysts for learning, no matter what background you come from.”

For more than 10 years, Henrik Borgtoft has been responsible for implementation of several learning programmes for the Danida Fellowship Centre, all within natural resource and environmental management. Participants were from developing countries and countries with transitional economies and representing national institutions, NGOs and international development programmes. The learning processes have been characterised by being highly professional organised and at the same time practical and practice-oriented. Therefore, the participants have always achieved large and relevant learning outcomes.

Arvid Sloth, Capacity Development Advisor, DFC

The participants also visited a waste water treatment plant that often hosts students, where they learned about hydraulic cycles, energy production and the circular economy. “A visit like that also shows how the broader public can be engaged by and get involved in sustainability practices . So whether you are interested in waste water treatment or not, you could gain something from the visit.” says Henrik.

Learning for the future

One of the 14 participants on the course was Antony Okeyo - a research fellow and trainer at the Kenya School of Government. He really enjoyed the case-based learning: “It enabled us to see the Danish best practices in terms of green growth, climate change adaptation and circular economy – and it points to what we can borrow from Denmark in terms of policy but also practical application, technical assistance, and capability building; what we can replicate in our various countries as well as customise to our contexts, when it is not possible to replicate completely.“

Antony also learned a lot about what Danish institutions are doing in terms of sustainability practices, as well as the way the Danes themselves embrace related policies and practises related to circular economy – for instance the cyclist in the streets, energy efficient vehicles, and planning for future climate events.

Zerihun Estifanos who works as a monitoring and evaluation expert at Ethiopia’s Ministry of Finance also found citizen engagement interesting: “People’s awareness here is really strong – and therefore, the cooperation between actors, both public and private, is strong. And it is clearly paying off. Another highlight of this course is that we, the participants, share experiences from our own countries. We make linkages which might lead to partnerships in the longer term. Overall, we are learning for the future!”

From left to right: Nader, Antony and Zerihun during a group work session.

Nader Mohamed Lotfy, who is a mechanical engineer at Egypt’s Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy agrees: “In terms of how such learning programmes contribute to change and influence development work, we can be inspired and use different systems from here as we see them to be applicable in our countries. With some modification to the context, I am quite confident that we can foster actual change.”

The programme provided the participants with:

  • An understanding of the concept of and the rationale behind Green Growth and its links to climate change and environmental sustainability;

  • An improved ability to identify good practices for climate change adaptation and mitigation through case studies;

  • A better understanding of the benefits of integrated approaches and environmental mainstreaming in the planning and implementation of development engagements;

  • An improved ability to identify and critically analyse environmental problems and opportunities in relation to sustainability;

  • Concrete knowledge about green solutions to environmental challenges;

  • A strengthened knowledge about planning and educating for sustainability and how to involve the public and private sector, as well as civil society, in the process;

  • A network and a knowledge platform for promoting green policies and strategies in the public system.

The next group of participants took part in the programme ‘Climate Change: adaptation, mitigation and resilience’ throughout the month of October. For this course, the DFC has granted more resources to action planning, specifically to follow up efforts six months after the course has ended. Watch the video below, where course participants talk about their experiences.

Furthermore, DFC offers the participants to become members of Danida Alumni Network.

Get in touch

Henrik Borgtoft Pedersen

Henrik Borgtoft Pedersen

Project Manager

Aarhus, Denmark

+45 8732 3281

Annegrete Lade Lausten

Annegrete Lade Lausten

Senior Consultant

Aarhus, Denmark

+45 6040 5651