Gabriela Dragne

About Me!

It all happened at the end of my last year of university. As I was about to graduate, all the worries and insecurities of a fresh graduate kept popping up.

My big dilemma was what am I supposed to do next? What is the career that I want? Should I apply for a masters program or should I start looking for a job?

 For quite some time I was working for an Romanian NGO dealing with deforestation, which in my opinion is one of the biggest threats to biodiversity and to humanity itself, and it occurred to me that maybe there are other NGOs working to eradicate this plague called deforestation, so I started searching to see if I could find an internship in order to improve and share my knowledge.

            As I was looking for something to boost my professional experience I tumbled upon the WWF YVP and immediately applied. To be honest I had scant hope that I would get selected, but after a few months, I surprisingly received an email with the proposal of traveling to Paraguay for six monthts and getting involved in a WWF Project within The Atlantic Forest of Alto Parana. It was a “love at first sight” scenario.

The first email exchange was followed by a few more, a couple of interviews, then the final acceptance letter!

 

Everything was set, a great adventure was awaiting me!

 / ©: Giovanni Pirelli Cubas
Being one of the Pandas for the first time
© Giovanni Pirelli Cubas
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Bahia Negra
© Gabriela Dragne

Paraguay, what a lovely surprise.

I landed in Asuncion on the first of November and summer was about to begin. I bet I looked stupid wearing my winter jacket as I was leaving the airport.

Most of my time in Py I lived in Asuncion, the country’s largest city and capital, but every two weeks I traveled to the countryside as part of my job.

Asuncion is nothing like European capitals.

 At first glance there is not much that catches one’s attention, but at a closer look, when getting to know the locals, the city unveils its unique mix of subcultures.

If you take your time to wander around the city streets you wll be surprised about how many things are there to see and how easily it is to miss them if not paying attention.

            Despite its troubled history, the dictatorship, the wars and the poverty, Paraguayan people are amongst the warmest and most welcoming I’ve ever met. 

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Asuncion
© Diego Fleitas Campuzano

Asuncion has a slightly romantic air, both colorful and decaying; it adorns Rio Paraguay’s banks.

One of the city’s symbols is without doubt “El Mercado Quatro”, the municipality’s biggest market.  No matter if you are looking to buy something or not, this is for sure a good place to wander and get in touch with the local spirit.  Such as the market is the entire city, an effervescent mix.

All in all Asuncion is a busy city, not like the other busy cities I know,  with its mango trees, the river, the old and the new,  the pedlars, altogether made me enjoy each and every day of my stay. 

Being part of WWF Py

In Romanian we have a saying “ Buturuga mică răstoarnă carul mare”,  translated into English by “A little stone in the way overturns a great wane”, which in my opinion describes the WWF Py Team best.

WWF Py staff is an amazing mix of experts in so many fields, from biology to forestry and even environmental communication and I am very pleased to have met them, they were all professionals, and all willing to help me in any aspect.

I had lots to learn from them, many were true models for me, people who after spending many years abroad came back to Paraguay to work as conservationists even if the circumstances were not that great within the country.

There were many rewarding aspects of the time I spent in Paraguay, but by far the most important of them all was being part of a wonderful, motivated team that totally inspired me to do my best in my future career as a conservationist.

 / ©: Cesar Balbuena
Meet the team
© Cesar Balbuena

BAAPA / Alto Paraná Atlantic forest

 The Atlantic Forest is considered amongst the most biological diverse places on Earth, with an incredible variety of flora and fauna, home for species found nowhere else on the planet. Once covering huge territories across Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay is now divided in discontinuous clusters due to massive illegal deforestation.

 

WWF Py mission is to stop the deforestation, advocating for  the extension of the Zero deforestation Law.

The main plague working against WWF mission is unsustainable soya production.  Vast woodlands are burned to the ground and turned into agricultural land by the soya producers at the border with Brazil.

 
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BAAPA Cluster
© Gabriela Dragne

In order to eradicate these practices, WWF works at many levels and takes many actions according to the targeted groups.

What I found absolutely amazing is the effort the team makes in order to find the best solutions for approaching all stakeholders.  For my six months in Paraguay I worked together with my colleagues with various audiences, such like: local authorities, local communities, farmers, small and medium-scale producers, entrepreneurs, we also worked in schools with students of all ages, partner NGOs, etc.

            Dealing with so many stakeholders is nothing but easy, it requires a huge effort, in terms of team work and patience. I found particularly difficult working with the local authorities,  which showed little interest and receptivity.
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Field Team
© Gabriela Dragne

During my stay I got really keen on the “Field Team”,  these people carry on such a meaningful, though challenging work, ranging from holding workshops,  organising events, planting sessions, working closely with farmers, assisting public debates to planning strategies in order promote WWF’s mission across the country.

 

 

 

 

Getting around Py is not always easy, but quite the contrary I would say, but The Field Team does a brilliant work

 

Here I attach the proof 

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Floating Bridge
© Gabriela Dragne

Earth Hour

 Probably WWF’s best known project, meant to be a friendly reminder on the scarcity of our planet valuable resources.

At its third edition in 2013, the event was a total success, gathering thousands of enthusiasts in front of “El Cabildo”, one of Asuncion’s most emblematic buildings. Everything was made possible thanks to the numerous volunteers taking part at the event, volunteers that I helped training and recruiting along with my colleagues in the Communication Team. 

 / ©: Gabriela Dragne
WWF Volunteers
© Gabriela Dragne

WWF Volunteers Team

 Earth Hour 2013

Que siga y se cumpla

 Que siga y se cumpla is WWF’s latest success against deforestation and was designed more as an awareness campaign with the main goal of extending the Zero deforestation Law that would have had expired by the end of 2013.

 

The communication strategy had such a powerful impact on the National Government, that the extension of the law passed before the campaign reached its deadline in December 2013.

Through a great effort, WWF managed gathering more than 12000 signatures so far. Over 3000 people signed the petition for the Earth Hour festivities only.

I can proudly say that I’ve been part of the Communication Team, joining forces with the others in developing and conducting this campaign.  

Besides working together  with the advertising agency, I have also been in charge of the volunteer team.

 

I knew back from Romania that The Placards Campaign in the city’s parks will work, and I was right. 

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Placards Campaign
© Gabriela Dragne

Trip to The Pantanal

 The Pantanal is one of the world largest wetland, located mostly within Brazil, but it extends into Paraguay and Bolivia as well.

 

During my last month in Paraguay I was invited to take part to a unique cruise downstream Paraguay River to the Pantanal, a massive freshwater wetland, considered amongst the best places in South America for experiencing wildlife. Along with a team of experts, scientists, photographs, guides and a small crew I spent a week in the pristine Paraguayan Pantanal. The place is atypically deserted for its beauty, we haven’t seen any tourists during the entire cruise, anything but pure wilderness.

 

Even if  so far The Paraguayan Pantanal managed to maintain its beauty unspoiled due to the low tourism rate associated to the lack of tourism facilities and access roads, we have no guarantee this is going to be preserved the same forever, unless we take real measures.

Our goal was to assess the ecotourism potential of the area and to determine the best practices to be applied for developing a sustainable tourism network. 

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Sunset over Pantanal
© Gabriela Dragne

Puerto Abierto

 Puerto Abierto is a cultural event, taking place monthly along Paraguay River Waterfront during the last Sunday of the month. The event gathers all sorts of people, such as local artist and artisans, sport fans, nature lover, healthy eating enthusiasts, etc.

 

Due to its friendly nature, the event represents such a great opportunity for introducing WWF’s initiatives to the wider public. 

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Group of WWF supporters taking part in Asuncion cycling tour
© Gabriela Dragne

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