Youth in landscapes



The Youth in Landscapes Initiative unites young innovators (aged 18 – 35) to develop real-world solutions to land use challenges in partnership with organisations working on the ground.

Alessia Portaccio

The Italian high school graduation exam is very hard and the first trial is the test of Italian which is equal for all the high schools of Italy. The task consists in writing an essay on one of the topics given by the Ministry of Education, which remains secret until the morning of the exam – when a hermetically sealed envelope is opened in all the high schools of Italy in the same time. Normally, few weeks before, even on the newscasts, anticipations (which are rather guessworks) on the probable topics are given.

Obviously they never guess the right ones, but the year of my diploma, 2007, they forecasted that, among others, a technical-scientific essay would deal with Kyoto Protocol issues. I feverishly started to collect information about it, because I was actually interested: it was something going beyond the normal Earth Sciences or Biology subjects we learned about from our school desks: more active, forward-looking, complex.

At that moment I recognized that I should be at the forefront to safeguard our natural environment, be part of the movement. Actually, I have always been passionate about nature and what it is related to it: since I was a little child I had in mind to become a veterinary (it was the only thing I could imagine close enough to nature’s safeguarding). I have always been delighted by watching the documentaries about nature and as a gift for one of my birthdays I asked for a subscription to the main Italian naturalist magazine of that time.

I am strongly convinced that environment can influence us more than we can impact it and I have been lucky because I have lived in a place in Italy where I could easily reach different landscapes: volcanic hills, Dolomite peaks, big lake with Mediterranean microclimate, seaside, ponds and wetlands, big rivers’ deltas. How could I not fall in love with each peculiar item of landscapes?

Only now I recognize that these were like little seeds growing up into me, growing up with me, until letting me become what I am: a forest and environment scientist! I attended my Bachelor and Master courses in Forest and Environmental Sciences at the University of Padova and I had the great possibility to enlarge my horizons doing the Erasmus experience at the Environmental Management of Ecosystems and Tropical Forests Centre (AgroParisTech, FR), where I strengthened socio-political knowledge.

My approach to forests during the studies has been as more holistic and interdisciplinary as possible, since I managed to focus on different topics that really interested me, trying to follow their interlinkages. I therefore worked on several topics like the sustainable wildlife management, ecosystem services assessment and evaluation, climate change and sustainable forest management.

My master thesis consisted in the monitoring of a small-scale REDD+ project in Brazil and I experienced that local community’s successful involvement is one of the principal strengths of such projects. I confirmed this afterwards, when I dealt with local stakeholders, realizing that no process can be envisaged without their empowerment. This is the reason why I applied for the ‘Rights and tenure challenge’ in the Youth in Landscape initiative.

As I said, I always loved nature, but I have been even more fascinated when I realized how people are strictly related to their habitat. I believe each one is an important tile in driving the change, in embracing the willingness of sustainable development in order to live in harmony with our planet.

I come from a nation where the average age is increasing more and more and the ruling class is mainly composed of people over 50 years. Sometimes it feels like there is space for the youth only in the future, whereas we can be a precious resource right now. Therefore, I am definitely excited to have the possibility of representing the youth of my nation and of all over the world, and I am really keen to be part of the solution while collaborating with young brilliant people and experienced experts of the sector!


Alessia Portaccio is one of the 10 young champions who will work on the “ Rights and Tenure” Landscape challenge with Youth program’s partner: CIFOR.

Learn more about the Global Landscapes Forum’s Youth program, meet our 50 youth champions and discover the 5 Landscapes challenges they will take up, in December, in Paris.