In action

“And: Action!”

DAAD alumnus receives awards for two documentary films.

Issue 2 | 2022

Our use of natural resources tends to have a nega­tive impact on biodiversity, whereas sustainable consumption leads to better protection of this ­diversity – this is a well-researched correlation. But how can this message be conveyed to people more successfully in concrete situations? In 2020, the Mexican ecologist Dr Víctor Ávila Åkerberg had a rather unusual idea: he produced two documentaries – a film in 2020 about wastewater management, and another in 2021 about the importance of the so-called “Water Forest” in Central Mexico. Both documentaries have meanwhile been shown and won awards at relevant film festivals around the world. One even came first in the National Competition for Scientific Images in Mexico.

A team of committed DAAD alumni worldwide

Ávila Åkerberg and his wife Tanya González ­Martínez, who graduated with a master’s degree from Kiel University, are not the only people behind the films “Agua pasa por tu casa” (“Water flows through your house”) and “Xänthe Dehe” (“Water Forest”). The director Adrián Arce and the inter­disciplinary and multicultural SSiABioS network (Scientists and Soci­ety in Action for Biodiversity and Sustainability) also played a key part. ­SSiABioS is made up predominantly of DAAD ­alumnae and alumni from Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa who met for the first time at a summer school in Berlin in 2016. The network of experts is committed to make available the scientifically founded information needed to ensure the sustainable use of natural resources and to advise society and policymakers. With the support of the German Academic Exchange Service, Ávila Åkerberg had ­organised two alumni seminars for this group – one in 2020 and one in 2021 – on the subject of ecological sustainability. Each of the meetings resulted in a documentary film.

“Thanks to these documentaries, which have been shown all over the world, our research work on sustainability and biodiversity is now enjoying a much higher profile,” says Ávila Åkerberg. The DAAD alumnus did his PhD in Freiburg im Breisgau and today researches and teaches at the Institute of Agricultural Sciences at Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México, a state university in the State of Mexico. The documentary “Agua pasa por tu casa” highlights the importance of better wastewater management even in rural settings. The film about the Water Forest (“Bosque de Agua”, known as “Xänthe Dehe” in the Otomí language) is particularly close to Ávila Åkerberg’s heart. “This large region supplies water to around 25 million people.” He believes it is extremely important to protect this resource, to communicate the region’s signif­icance to society and policymakers and to better educate people about what would happen, for example, if the sensitive cycles in the Water Forest were disrupted to such an extent that it would no longer rain there. “The films, which we made with the DAAD’s support and are now being screened at festivals worldwide, are helping us hugely with this work.” —

“Xänthe Dehe” (“Bosque de Agua”) 2021

Agua pasa por tu casa Español (only available on YouTube)